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I've been realizing over time that it's very useful to set a minimum amount of time which you'll spend on various kinds of practice each day. In the past, I used to obsess over certain aspects of my practice and neglect others. I'd work a lot on technique while disregarding sight reading for a few weeks, or vice versa. For the most part, this wasn't intentional -- instead, it was because I would use up a lot of my time and concentration trying to work on one thing, and I'd end up tired before I could work on the next. It just seems natural to want to spend a lot of time trying to master something, and I still feel like practicing longer hours at the piano can be a good thing. I'm experimenting with trying to set goals, and aiming to work on specific, tangible improvements in small sessions, and also trying to put more thought into short-term vs long-term motivation.

https://blizzardpiano.wordpress.com/2022/05/11/day-3-practice-minimums/

Let me know what you think!

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Just a question:
Is your focus on learning to play better or is your focus on writing?
5-10 min per practice session working on repertoire is not enough to recognize any real improvement in playing the piano.

It appears like you may be devoting as much, or more, energy in writing and music is just a topic to write about. If this is correct, that is certainly ok, but knowing your primary goal does affect how the blogs are perceived.

Is this an inaccurate conclusion?


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In my practice I don't measure things in minutes, or hours. As a memorizer, most of my weekly practice involves playing through my repertoire, and I aim to play every piece twice, so that is my main way of quantifying piano effort: number of times each piece has been worked on. In this regard it helps that almost every piece is about the same length.


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Originally Posted by dogperson
5-10 min per practice session working on repertoire is not enough to recognize any real improvement in playing the piano.


Good observation! For me, repertoire is the most important part of my piano practice. In 5-10 minutes a day, pieces would take me months!

Instead of setting time minimums, I have a loose schedule. I start my practise sessions with repertoire and more repertoire. My last session of the day, when I am more tired and more prone to make mistakes, I do scales and short studies (which is my substitute for sight reading). But, if I get tired during an earlier session, I may do a scale instead.


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My repertoire range from intermediate to advance. Naturally I’d play for an hour a day minimum. I’d divide a piece into sections and work on each individually. Some pieces are difficult enough that learning the notes require over an hour. I’d focus on learning 1 section at a time fixing wrong notes, counting issues, dynamics etc. Even a 2 min. piece would take a few hours to learn properly.

There are pieces I enjoy and can keep going all night. Have to set a maximum to give my hands a break. Playing music is more than an exercise to kill time. When you actually enjoy your pieces, you can sit in front of the piano / keyboard for the whole afternoon without watching the clock every few minutes.

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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
There are pieces I enjoy and can keep going all night. Have to set a maximum to give my hands a break.

I have a rather large (but beautiful) hourglass that takes half an hour. When the sand is down, it is time for a break. It is nice to have something that measures time without sounds and without me having to remember at what time I started to play. cool


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OP - I don't think there's enough time on repertoire, but I **do** like that you've included everything. I think 20 minutes would be more productive for you.
Possible tweaks that still gets you done in an hour
- Practice sight-reading and ear training on alternating days, rather than daily
- Cut the scale time to no more than 5 minutes

As for what gets done in the "repertoire" slot, even 20 minutes isn't a lot depending on what you're working. You'll need to alternate days when you work intensely on sections/passages with days when you go for a broader review. I'd try to work so that you did a SLOW play through at the end of each rep session.

Hope this is helpful.


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Thank you for your comments!
Originally Posted by dogperson
Just a question:
Is your focus on learning to play better or is your focus on writing?
My focus is on learning to play better -- I'm not particularly focused on writing. I feel writing allows me to structure my thoughts, and this helps with figuring out what to do at the piano as well. That's why I typically write about things I'm learning at the moment.


Originally Posted by QuasiUnaFantasia
In my practice I don't measure things in minutes, or hours.
I used to be this way as well, but I'm thinking of reconsidering my opinion on "time management", so to speak.

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This is the advice I have been trying to follow recently: https://www.pianistmagazine.com/blogs/struggling-to-structure-your-piano-practice-heres-our-advice/

"Your practice schedule in a nutshell:

Warm-up – 10 minutes
Scales and arpeggios – 20 minutes
Your pieces – 20 minutes (repeat with more pieces if necessary)
Sight-reading – 10 minutes
Aural and Viva Voce – 10 minutes"


All of that only applies if I have at least 1 hour available to practice in the morning. I generally alternate scales / arpeggios every day. How many pieces I practice depends on how much time I have, but I try to set timers now of between 15-30 minutes to keep me focused on practicing my pieces more diligently. If have less time, I skip the scales / arpeggios and only work on maybe 1 or 2 piece or just specific passages from them. Re: sight-reading I like to try to find a new piece to try every day, or exploring new pieces I want to take further. Sometimes this happens later at night though, not connected to my main practice time.

I have no idea what "aural and viva voce" is though. I haven't done that.

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Originally Posted by BlizzardPiano
My focus is on learning to play better -- I'm not particularly focused on writing. I feel writing allows me to structure my thoughts, and this helps with figuring out what to do at the piano as well. That's why I typically write about things I'm learning at the moment.

Expressing your thoughts ... conveying in words for others to read, and others to learn .... and 'self reflect etc' is pretty good too.

If you aim to improve an aspect ..... then just write down that aspect. And work on it.

Even though it's not the same as the importance of a balanced diet .... we know that there can be benefits and advantages in having a balanced piano skills learning and development diet. Rounded ... or well rounded does have its benefits. But that also depends on the aims/goals. If somebody is happy with the stage that they are at, then that's fine too. They can always choose to keep developing later if they can, or want.

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Originally Posted by QuasiUnaFantasia
most of my weekly practice involves playing through my repertoire
I'm surprised to read that from you? Do you maintain a large repertoire? I only play my learned pieces as a warm up at the beginning of my practice and only have about 15-20 mins of properly learned music to play. The rest is in various work stages and I rarely play through any of those pieces.

In any case, most teachers would agree that repeatedly playing through is not very efficient as a practice method.

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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by QuasiUnaFantasia
most of my weekly practice involves playing through my repertoire
I'm surprised to read that from you? Do you maintain a large repertoire? I only play my learned pieces as a warm up at the beginning of my practice and only have about 15-20 mins of properly learned music to play. The rest is in various work stages and I rarely play through any of those pieces.

In any case, most teachers would agree that repeatedly playing through is not very efficient as a practice method.

Maybe I should clarify that a bit. Currently I have 26 pieces that I either have in my repertoire, or work towards having in my repertoire. The total length is just over an hour. The old pieces I play twice per week, often without any repeats. This is to keep them fresh in mind. The new pieces I devote a lot more time to than the old ones, but since there are many more of the old ones, they do take more time. I should probably spend more time on the new pieces, but that would require upping my overall practice time. That will likely happen over the coming weeks.

I could probably get away with only playing through the repertoire once a week, but I like these playthrough's, so for the time being I'll stay with twice a week.


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26 pieces?! 😲 Why so many? Do you all love them so much you want to keep them?

I only keep pieces I really want to keep and they only become permanent repertoire the second or third time I learn them, never on the first time. Pieces like that will stay "in my fingers" forever even if I don't practice them. I just play them because I like to not because I need to in order not to forget them.

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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
26 pieces?! 😲 Why so many? Do you all love them so much you want to keep them?

Yes, precisely. smile Each is chosen with great care, and only rarely does it happen that I loose interest in a piece (although sometimes so much work is required in order to learn a new piece that I postpone it indefinitely out of sheer loathing). smile

Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
I only keep pieces I really want to keep and they only become permanent repertoire the second or third time I learn them, never on the first time. Pieces like that will stay "in my fingers" forever even if I don't practice them. I just play them because I like to not because I need to in order not to forget them.

I believe there is a lot of good to be said about re-learning works that were previously forgotten. This has happened to me quite a few times (mostly because I did not maintain these often enough). With each re-learning, it tends to get better than it was on the previous occasion.


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Originally Posted by Seeker
OP - I don't think there's enough time on repertoire, but I **do** like that you've included everything. I think 20 minutes would be more productive for you.
Possible tweaks that still gets you done in an hour
- Practice sight-reading and ear training on alternating days, rather than daily
- Cut the scale time to no more than 5 minutes

As for what gets done in the "repertoire" slot, even 20 minutes isn't a lot depending on what you're working. You'll need to alternate days when you work intensely on sections/passages with days when you go for a broader review. I'd try to work so that you did a SLOW play through at the end of each rep session.

Hope this is helpful.
I've definitely made an effort to include everything! I used to spend a lot of time on repertoire, say around 45 minutes to an hour each day. I'm now realizing that a lot of that practice was unfocused and somewhat ineffective. Instead, I'm trying to focus my effort to observe more of the details in the score. For this, I'm dialing back on the amount of time spent on repertoire.

I've kept a minimum of 5-10 minutes on repertoire. I find that this is enough to practice one passage I'm familiar with, of say 4 measures, a few times while paying attention to various aspects. But this is a minimum -- if I find I can focus, I will go up to around 30 minutes. Otherwise, I'll stop and work on something else. What I have listed isn't a practice regimen, it's simply a minimum amount of time I'm trying to dedicate to different things so that I make sure to cover everything without losing focus.

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Originally Posted by QuasiUnaFantasia
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
26 pieces?! 😲 Why so many? Do you all love them so much you want to keep them?

Yes, precisely. smile Each is chosen with great care, and only rarely does it happen that I loose interest in a piece (although sometimes so much work is required in order to learn a new piece that I postpone it indefinitely out of sheer loathing). smile

Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
I only keep pieces I really want to keep and they only become permanent repertoire the second or third time I learn them, never on the first time. Pieces like that will stay "in my fingers" forever even if I don't practice them. I just play them because I like to not because I need to in order not to forget them.

I believe there is a lot of good to be said about re-learning works that were previously forgotten. This has happened to me quite a few times (mostly because I did not maintain these often enough). With each re-learning, it tends to get better than it was on the previous occasion.
That's fantastic! Something I'll look forward to once I acquire a big enough repertoire. smile

Last edited by BlizzardPiano; 05/11/22 06:49 PM.
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I have never let my practice sessions be dictated by the numbers on a clock.

I decide what I am going to work on each time I go to the piano, and I work on that/those until each has achieved some sort of progress (to be continued next time) or until I realize that further practice on one particular aspect is no longer as productive as it should be.

Then I will switch to something else: technique, improvising sight-reading, etc.

As most of my practice sessions are / were geared towards monthly amateur performances among friends and colleagues, most of my practice in recent years has focused on repertoire.

I don't think that a practice schedule which works for one person's musical and technical growth necessarily works for another's. Similarly, what one practices and how intently depends upon individual long- and short-term goals.

Regards,


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Reading the responses here I seriously doubt I have ever truly practised at all. I have always had a clearly formed, overarching imperative of purpose and function but so many minutes of this, so many of that ? No, I just do whatever I fancy in the moment. The only thing I have ever done regularly for years is the physical aspect on the silent Virgil Practice Clavier for a few minutes night and morning. Listening to scales and exercises every day ? No thank you, at least never in the usual way. Most of my small repertoire, with the curious exception of ragtime, has long since ceased to move me. Perhaps I’d be a better player if I had organised myself but at seventy-four it’s a bit late in the day.


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Have you read Kenny Werner's "Effortless Mastery"? He argues, convincingly I think, that you should focus on one thing until you master it. Part of what makes that approach work is limiting the scope of what counts as "one thing". If your one thing is learn to improvise like Chick Corea, that's probably too big a bite. But if your one thing is a nugget like learn the altered scale over a dominant chord, or learn bars 32 through 40 of this tricky piece I'm working on, then it's a manageable chunk.

If I understand Kenny's point, which is by no means a certainty, it's better to spend enough time on one thing and master it, rather than try to cover five different things every practice.


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In around 67 years of piano practicing I have never used some kind of time schedule and have never warmed up. I have never "practiced" sight reading although I've done a tremendous amount of sight reading. Whatever amount of time one practices, I think the bare minimum for working on repertoire should be 50% but would recommend more like 75%. i actually spend 100% of my time working on repertoire.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 05/11/22 08:38 PM.
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