Ah, the age old question “How long should I practice?” Here’s the thing, the amount of time someone should practice is going to have many variables and will potentially change drastically from person to person. I know—that’s not the answer you were probably hoping for.
What I will say is that, if anything, we need to reframe the question from “How long should I practice?” to “What do I want to accomplish?” What I’ve found is that when I set a time duration for how long I want to practice, I end up watching the clock more than I’m paying attention to what I’m actually practicing.
“Okay, half way through” … “15 more minutes” …“5 more minutes”… And so on.
When you’re focused on the time, it’s easy to develop bad habits. When you play on auto-pilot, you’re not improving and end up wasting the valuable time you’re putting into practicing in the first place.
Instead, I would suggest setting a goal for the day.
What do you want to accomplish during that practice session? Get specific! For example, “I want to make sure to get through my warm-up and etude. I also want to memorize the first page of XYZ piece that I’m working on.” You can estimate how long it will take to check off your goal, but don’t get hung up on it. The most important thing is finishing what you set out to accomplish each and every session.
A great way to formulate a daily practice goal is to look at what you want to learn that week, then break it down into manageable steps. This way you can knock off tiny little goals on your way to your overall objective for the week. In Practice Note, there are boxes to fill in everything you want to practice for the week—there are boxes for warm-ups, scales/etudes, repertoire, and even a blank space to customize with anything else you may want to practice.
Now, what happens if you finish your daily practice goal and want to keep going? Let me tell you, this is a great problem to have! At this point, go ahead and practice anything else that you want to practice.
Let's backtrack and talk about the actual duration of time you should practice. While it’s much more valuable (and most people will advance in their musical studies much quicker) by focusing on goals opposed to time, that’s not to say there isn’t some importance to the time you put in. Depending on how advanced you are, you do need to log consistent time on your instrument in order to improve. If you only practice for 15 or 30 minutes a session, that most likely won’t be enough time for you.
I would highly recommend coming up with a game plan with your teacher if you have one. They will be able to provide insight into a rough estimate of practice duration for you as well as help you start creating daily practice goals.
Now, off to that practice session! You got this.