As a music school, we get questioned all the time about how often to practice music and for how long. The truth is, it depends on a number of factors, including what level you’re at, how serious you are, what type of music it is, and what musical performances you have coming up. But there are some general rules of thumb that should help you no matter what.
How Often Should I Practice?
High frequency of practice sessions tends to be more effective than long-duration of practice sessions. It’s almost always better to practice every day, even for 5-10 minutes, than it is to practice once a week for 70 minutes. Your brain needs time to process the material in between practice sessions, and as with exercise, your body needs to build strength and agility slowly. When it comes to guitar, your fingers need to callous and build up strength, which won’t happen with longer, less frequent practice sessions. When it comes to singing, especially if you’re new, you’ll just wear your voice out if you practice too long and too infrequently. When it comes to piano, your fingers need a chance to build up strength. Often, if you let too much time elapse, you’ll pretty much be back to square 1 when you start up again. So that being said, try for almost every day. If that isn’t realistic, shoot for as many times a week as you can. Be honest with yourself though. If 3-4 times a week is possible, and 7 days a week isn’t, don’t tell yourself it’s 7 days a week or nothing. That’s just a recipe for getting derailed. Anything is better than nothing, especially if you’re consistent.
If you’re practicing every day, giving yourself a day off once in a while can actually be helpful as well. It’ll give your muscles a chance to recover, particularly in some more muscular forms of singing, like belting.
How Long Should I Practice?
As I mentioned, shorter, more frequent sessions are better than longer, less frequent ones. The length of time you spend depends on your level. If you’re just starting to learn an instrument, 15 minutes might be plenty for you. In fact, playing guitar longer than that before your fingers are calloused flat-out hurts. Doing your vocal exercises 10 to 15 minutes a day will also give you a huge leap forward. As you get more advanced and your music gets harder, practice sessions should get gradually longer. If you’re working through a repertoire of advanced Chopin, Mozart, and Bach pieces, 15 minutes probably won’t scratch the surface, and you’re looking at at least an hour to see some real improvement. When it comes to advanced singing, listen to your body. If your voice is getting tired, it’s usually time to wrap up the practice session, or at least start to use the time to mark through music instead of singing full out. If your voice is feeling great, by all means, the more singing the better.
How Should I Practice?
Your music teacher is the best one to help you with this question, but most importantly, you should combine taking apart the hard parts with practicing all the way through a song. If you know you can play a song perfectly except for the 4th measure, don’t keep playing through the song over and over again and making the same mistake on the 4th measure. Just play that measure until you have it down. If you’re singing through a song and can hit every note perfectly except for that last one, give some special attention to that last note instead of just singing the song again and again. But playing or singing through the whole song has its purposes too. Building up the physical and mental stamina to make it through a song is extremely important for your musical growth.
If I Can Leave You With Just One Thing
If I can leave you with just one piece of advice from this entire article, it’s that something is better than nothing. If all you can manage is singing along with your radio in the car every day, I promise, it’s better than nothing, and your voice will benefit from it. You might not be ready for your Broadway audition in the next few weeks, but your voice will still improve over time if you keep it up. If all you can find time for is playing through the guitar chords in a verse of the song you’re learning a few times a week, you’ll eventually have that verse down and be able to move to the chorus. You’ll still be learning chords, developing finger strength, and building up muscle memory. I’ve seen students with very little practice time make remarkable progress over the years by just doing what they can.
Molly is the founder of Molly’s Music. She is a dedicated singer and pianist whose musical journey spans 2.5 decades, with stops along the way to sing for the pope, pass Certificate of Merit at the highest level, study with Gwen Verdon and Ben Vereen, and record an original album.