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How often should you practice a musical instrument?

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

Practice does indeed make perfect

To get better at anything, practicing regularly is an absolute must. Whether it is for sport, for art, or for music, the only way to get better is to keep doing it.

Dr. K. Anders Ericsson says that to become expert at anything you need 10,000 hours of practice

How often?

Any internet search will provide you with 1,000's of results - almost all of which will say exactly the same thing. You need to practice every day! Or at least 5-6 times a week. There no set rules, but most would agree that a shorter session each day leads to better results than cramming a single long session the day before your lesson.

How long for?

The more practice you do, the better you will get. But we recognise that most people have busy lives. Those under 21 will have school or college. They will have other hobbies and they will want to spend time with their friends. For those of us over 21, swap school for a job.

10-20 mins a day

At an absolute minimum, you need to be practicing for 10-20 minutes a day.

For new music students, simply doing any practice is a good thing. In the early days, it is about making music practice part of your routine. As it becomes routine, you can start to increase the amount of practice you do.

20+ minutes a day

Some articles will tell you this is an absolute minimum if you want to get better. Indeed, if you agree with Dr Ericsson, you will need to put the hours in to get to that expert level. At this point, let's go on a different track.

It is not the amount of time you spend practicing that counts. It is what you do and when you do it that really makes a difference.

When you are feeling energetic

There is little point in practicing when you are tired. You won't put the effort in and you will want to finish as quickly as possible.

If you're practicing after school, take a short break to relax after walking in the door and before starting your practice. That way you won't be still thinking about school. Doing your music practice before your Maths (or any other subject you don't like) homework will also ensure you are in a good mood. At the weekends, early in the day is better, so you have the maximum energy levels, both physical and mental, will mean your music practice will be better.

With Structure

Just blowing your trumpet or pounding your piano keys is not going to generate progress. Split your practice into individual parts:

  • warm up - just as sportspeople do, you need to warm up

  • scales - practicing the basics makes them second nature and generates muscle memory

  • technique - again about creating muscle memory. Practice the techniques that help improve your playing

  • your favourite piece - do something you love doing to get the positive vibes going

  • your practice piece - time to work on the piece your music teacher has set you

Set yourself goals

Long term and short terms goals will help you measure your progress and work out just how much time you need to schedule for practicing your musical instrument. Whether it is to simply get a piece of music right, to be ready for your next grade or to become 1st violin in your orchestra, goals help you to focus and to achieve what you want to.

Music practice is not simply about the amount of time you practice and that is one of the core beliefs behind the development of Sweetnote. Sweetnote will remind you to practice every day, but it will also help you set your goals, record your tasks and liaise with your music teacher more effectively. To see more of how the app can help you improve faster, simply click here.

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