In order to be a successful teacher you need students who can demonstrate a balance of enjoyment and progress. One great way of telling if your students are enjoying their music lessons is by how much practice they do!
However, we can’t simply just rely on our students to know how many practice sessions to do and you will find that your students will progress more if you guide them with their practice schedule.
What is the ideal amount of daily practice
It is a regular question from parents and pupils ‘how much should you practice your instrument’ and truthfully, deciding the ideal amount of practice time required will vary between each pupil. Beginner students for example will need to practice a little less in comparison to professional musicians. As a teacher you will encounter multiple different levels and it’s important to set the practice expectations accordingly for achievable goals and to avoid bad habits.
The most important thing with beginners is to encourage them to create good habits and of course to keep it fun. By building good foundations and a daily routine at this early stage you will find that students stay focused.
At this early stage I find that it is ok to simply state a length of time required to practice and how many days a week i.e. 20 minutes four days a week.
Setting a small and achievable goal will ensure that as the pupil progresses so too can their practice schedule without it being too much of a shock! Requiring too much practice from the beginning could put students off (unless of course you have a super enthusiastic student that is!), because it can be tiring and a tad overwhelming when you realize this is a regular thing!
When I refer to intermediate students I am thinking from Grade 5 and above. When students get to this level, you should expect much more deliberate practice. I think at this stage you can expect up to between 30 minutes to one hour a day from the average student. Practicing technique is still being learned so it is important to still suggest and dictate what, when and how they should practice.
Quick example of a practice session for an intermediate flute student
- Tone warm up – long notes
- Technique practice – scales or scale exercises
- Focused work on a piece
Obviously this is very basic, it is hard to set a practice schedule without knowing the pupil in question! But having a structure that can be followed will make the practice sessions most optimal. As you can see there is no mention of length for the practice and this is because it is up to you and the student to decide how much time should be used for practicing.
Advanced students have shown you that they want to take it seriously and you can expect a lot more here. Up to two hours a day and if they are purely studying music can expect more than three hours or even more than four hours a day.
At this stage it should not be necessary to suggest how many hours a day. Your student should be aware of the need to practice their instrument each week and be able focus themselves – after all they are a true musician now!
An advanced students life schedule may vary more than a beginners. They will most likely have many more commitments outside of playing their instrument as they will most certainly be older.
However, even with life commitments you should expect your student to have practiced for a certain amount of hours a week as naturally they will have a fair amount more music to master than someone who has just started.
Why is practicing important?
As a teacher you don’t really need me to say this but each practice session increases progress on the instrument. You will see an improvement in tone, skills, note reading, muscle memory and as teachers we will see our students accomplish so much more.
More Practice Tips
Make sure to practice smarter, mindless practice although can be good for technique exercises and keeping those fingers strong is not the best way to go.
A deliberate practice session that is well structured and thought out will keep a student interested and allow them to achieve so much more with their playing.
Can you do too much practice?
It is very hard to do too much practice but you can 100% do too little practice.
Practice sessions can be kept more efficient if they are well planned, so ensure to set exactly what you want your student to spend practicing time on. Ultimately it is not about the hours a week that are practiced (although this obviously still important). It is about how effective the practice session is.
Most people can end up over practicing if they do not ensure that they define what it is they want to achieve.
Each instrument is different and will require a different length practice. As the teacher taking lessons, this is something you can advise. My main instrument is the flute and I will always advise a student to stop practicing if they begin to ache or feel too tired.
It is also worth mentioning that age can be a factor in the amount of time spent practicing. A 6 year old for example will certainly not be able to manage four hours practicing their instrument, probably even three hour or two hours.. at this age you will most likely be expecting a matter of minutes as you will be wanting to keep it fun!
However, for an older student in high school for example or even in university you can expect the practicing to be to be within the hours region! Often students at this stage will be aiming for a performance or an exam and so will have more music to learn.
The only time I would suggest limiting the practices is if perhaps you are having many rehearsals. However, by having rehearsals all day, although not specifically practicing what you are doing in lessons is still improving your skills on the instrument. It is important to take a break when you are playing this much as without a rest you can do more harm than good. If you get an injury this will definitely limit your progress!
Where Can I Practice Playing an Instrument?
Finding somewhere to spend your practice time is really important. It is a great idea to set up a special area to do your practice.
In order to get the most benefit out of each practice session, it is extremely important to have somewhere where you can focus. By having somewhere that is associated with practice you will find it so much easier to spend hours practicing!
Practicing is extremely important for musicians and should be a commitment that is taken seriously. Finding the joy in practicing your music is key!