What's your experiences optimizing practice time?

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twang
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What's your experiences optimizing practice time?

Post by twang » Sun Jul 30, 2017 2:21 pm

I've been thinking about the relationship between three things...

1) The time per day that you practice any one phrase/section/piece on a given day,
2) The total time you spend practicing to mastery, and
3) The total elapsed days to mastery.

I expect you can tune #1 to optimize either #2 or #3, but probably not both at the same time. Certainly you can goof up #1 and optimize neither.

I find it hard to tell on any given day how much I should keep working each bit. In general I try getting each thing right 5 times in a row before moving on. But sometimes I'm having fun and feel like working it more even though I suspect I'm just using up energy and practice time so other stuff will get "cheated". Other days, I feel impatient to move on, but still feel like I haven't done enough for the day to get the most value from the day's work. Maybe it's one of those things that it should vary each day depending on mood but average out somewhere?

I'm interested to hear people's experience with this. What sort of guidelines seem to work for you? Have anyone tried to measure this? Do folks practice by time, number of attempts.
"An amateur is he who takes up the study of an instrument as a relaxation from his serious occupations." -- Sor

Rasputin
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Re: What's your experiences optimizing practice time?

Post by Rasputin » Sun Jul 30, 2017 7:14 pm

It's hard thing to optimise, because you have no way of telling when you have got it right.

I plan it by time. I have core practice areas which are supposed to get so many minutes, but this is worked out to give me quite a bit of time to spare. The idea is that once I've ticked everything off I can do more of whatever I feel like, or just play for the sake of it. If I tried to schedule all my time in advance, I think practice would end up feeling like more of a chore than it needs to.

I find that recording my time (I use an iOS app) helps me stick to the plan.

Rognvald
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Re: What's your experiences optimizing practice time?

Post by Rognvald » Mon Jul 31, 2017 1:05 am

T,
My time blocks are 1 hour to 1 1/2 hour depending upon my progress and concentration. Now, I am playing 2-3 hours daily but am rebuilding my hands after a long, unavoidable layoff. Four hours daily is optimum practice time daily if any real progress is to be achieved. I start my practice session with scales, RH finger alternations, LH alternations, rasgueados, and tremolo. I then move to RH/LH fluency problems(technique) that I'm dealing with in certain pieces and end with whatever I'm working on at the moment--presently, Beethoven's Symphony Pathetique. I don't play what I play well, I play what I'm improving. At the "end" of the session, I work on some Jazz/Brazilian pieces playing mostly by ear after I memorized the melody/chords. I don't waste time and if I'm having problems with focus, I play scales and work on technique and sight reading. Hope this helps. Playing again . . . Rognvald
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

Henny
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Re: What's your experiences optimizing practice time?

Post by Henny » Mon Jul 31, 2017 9:41 am

Like Rognvald, i do the same, as my time is limited. i try to profile my exercises to my needs, i check my result and will change to another exercise if i see no positive result in a short time lapse.
i keep on changing my exercises depending on what i focus on, this keeps my energy high, my motivation up and works fine for me.

botswanajohn
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Re: What's your experiences optimizing practice time?

Post by botswanajohn » Mon Jul 31, 2017 12:21 pm

I start with scales, concentrating particularly on tone production once I can play a scale fluently. Then sight reading. Then pieces I am working on. Then playnig pieces I know well just for fun.

I aim to spend no more than ten minutes at a time on amy one thing. I go on to something else and then go back to it later if it still needs more work.

And of course the obvious thing, but often ignored...never play anything wrongly. Take passages you are having difficulty with slowly and accurately until they are right and then work up to speed. Glossing over difficult poassages innacurately only sets up muscle memory that has to be unlearnt later. I wastes a lot of time.
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twang
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Re: What's your experiences optimizing practice time?

Post by twang » Mon Jul 31, 2017 1:59 pm

Rasputin wrote:
Sun Jul 30, 2017 7:14 pm
It's hard thing to optimise, because you have no way of telling when you have got it right.
Which of course is why I asked :-)

And to clarify the question in my OP, my interest here is more on the micro-level of practice time decisions-- that is, for any one item (measure, phrase, etc...) what do you find as the optimal time/effort per day to work on it. I expect the answer isn't a simple number of minutes, or attempts, but rather something more qualitative.
"An amateur is he who takes up the study of an instrument as a relaxation from his serious occupations." -- Sor

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Rick Beauregard
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Re: What's your experiences optimizing practice time?

Post by Rick Beauregard » Mon Jul 31, 2017 4:23 pm

twang wrote:
Mon Jul 31, 2017 1:59 pm
Rasputin wrote:
Sun Jul 30, 2017 7:14 pm
It's hard thing to optimise, because you have no way of telling when you have got it right.
Which of course is why I asked :-)

And to clarify the question in my OP, my interest here is more on the micro-level of practice time decisions-- that is, for any one item (measure, phrase, etc...) what do you find as the optimal time/effort per day to work on it. I expect the answer isn't a simple number of minutes, or attempts, but rather something more qualitative.
Yes because each day you bring a different attitude and focus to your practice. Some days, like you, I feel like I could go on productively forever. Other days, after about 5 minutes on a segment, I feel bored or off. Pushing any further in this session may be counter productive, so I move on to something else or go take a walk. When I come back to it later, I usually have a completely different attitude.
All this time I thought I was making music; it was making me.
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Rasputin
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Re: What's your experiences optimizing practice time?

Post by Rasputin » Mon Jul 31, 2017 5:40 pm

Yeah attitude is massive.
twang wrote:
Mon Jul 31, 2017 1:59 pm
for any one item (measure, phrase, etc...) what do you find as the optimal time/effort per day to work on it. I expect the answer isn't a simple number of minutes, or attempts, but rather something more qualitative.
I keep at it until I feel I am not doing it like I mean it, or until I feel that if I carry on, I won't do the rest of my core practice like I mean it. How long that actually is varies from day to day. One aspect of trying to optimise practice time is keeping your energy levels up. I struggle here, must admit.

Lawler
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Re: What's your experiences optimizing practice time?

Post by Lawler » Mon Jul 31, 2017 6:49 pm

Balance your practice time between work that

1) gets your hands to do what you want, and

2) develops your musical sense regarding understanding the music you're playing - its lines, texture, harmony, form - and knowing exactly how you want it to sound, expressively. One of the best things you can do to get the feel for this way of working is to go to an orchestral rehearsal and listen to the way the conductor works with the orchestra. This is a good example:
Youtube
Last edited by Lawler on Tue Aug 01, 2017 7:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

Peskyendeavour
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Re: What's your experiences optimizing practice time?

Post by Peskyendeavour » Mon Jul 31, 2017 9:11 pm

This is a difficult question since I don't look at the clock when I practice, and I just play what I fancy doing and feel like it's making progress.
So very un-optimised practice I'm sure, but I'm not in a hurry to get anywhere...
I like to think of practice as experiment, so most of the time I fall into the self set trap of trying out this way of doing things then that way, and think of it differently and doing it again. If I get bored I move onto another piece, exercise... A new attitude. If I feel I'm getting stuck I stop and come back to it later or another day, when most likely I see something new in the way I'm doing it wrong or something I didn't see before. Mostly, however I play till I get told to go to bed.

So optimising my practice I guess it's keeping my brain active and my interest level up. Not interested in scales today? Forget it, try tomorrow.

Of course I'm amateur so who cares.

Guitar Nut
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Re: What's your experiences optimizing practice time?

Post by Guitar Nut » Wed Aug 02, 2017 5:11 pm

As well as duration, something else that might factor in here is the time of day you practice. There seems to be some evidence (e.g., here) that an early morning session and a just-before-bed session might give some extra benefit, making use of the positive effect sleep has on memory. What I try to do every day is play for half an hour first thing in the morning and half an hour last thing at night (as well as anything else I can cram in). A difficult passage the night before often becomes considerably easier the next day. But if I simply practised it for an hour straight, I wouldn't expect it to feel as easy in the second half of the session as it does the next morning. So considering time-of-day, or frequency, as well as sheer volume of practice might be worthwhile.

dtoh
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Re: What's your experiences optimizing practice time?

Post by dtoh » Wed Aug 02, 2017 8:03 pm

Peskyendeavour wrote:
Mon Jul 31, 2017 9:11 pm
This is a difficult question since I don't look at the clock when I practice, and I just play what I fancy doing and feel like it's making progress.
So very un-optimised practice I'm sure, but I'm not in a hurry to get anywhere...
I like to think of practice as experiment, so most of the time I fall into the self set trap of trying out this way of doing things then that way, and think of it differently and doing it again. If I get bored I move onto another piece, exercise... A new attitude. If I feel I'm getting stuck I stop and come back to it later or another day, when most likely I see something new in the way I'm doing it wrong or something I didn't see before. Mostly, however I play till I get told to go to bed.

So optimising my practice I guess it's keeping my brain active and my interest level up. Not interested in scales today? Forget it, try tomorrow.

Of course I'm amateur so who cares.

+1000

CactusWren
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Re: What's your experiences optimizing practice time?

Post by CactusWren » Thu Aug 03, 2017 11:02 pm

twang wrote:
Sun Jul 30, 2017 2:21 pm
I've been thinking about the relationship between three things...

1) The time per day that you practice any one phrase/section/piece on a given day,
2) The total time you spend practicing to mastery, and
3) The total elapsed days to mastery.

I expect you can tune #1 to optimize either #2 or #3, but probably not both at the same time. Certainly you can goof up #1 and optimize neither.

I find it hard to tell on any given day how much I should keep working each bit. In general I try getting each thing right 5 times in a row before moving on. But sometimes I'm having fun and feel like working it more even though I suspect I'm just using up energy and practice time so other stuff will get "cheated". Other days, I feel impatient to move on, but still feel like I haven't done enough for the day to get the most value from the day's work. Maybe it's one of those things that it should vary each day depending on mood but average out somewhere?

I'm interested to hear people's experience with this. What sort of guidelines seem to work for you? Have anyone tried to measure this? Do folks practice by time, number of attempts.
The good news is it optimizing one also optimizes both two and three. Practicing if you practice enough that you have a feeling of Mastery in your hands that is it feels easy and you can play over and over without messing up then you have achieved Mastery over a particular section. Practicing more than that is counterproductive because you will reach a point where you start making errors and going backwards. Take up the same section tomorrow and repeat the same process. Do this until you have it feels easy whenever you pick it up. You don't need to spend any more time on the section after this. If you choose the right size sections probably smaller than you expect this is the most efficient way to practice. The process should take about 15 minutes to 20 minutes for each Passage.

RonT
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Re: What's your experiences optimizing practice time?

Post by RonT » Sun Sep 17, 2017 7:42 pm

Practicing with a purpose was always my approach. Having a progression in mind to everything that you were going to work on. I used/ still use my metronome for everything and I use it in many ways to help with progressing in time. I also had a method to my practice time no matter how much time I was able to get in and it always started with just running what Segovia called touch every note. When I had unlimited time I'd literally do every Segovia scale in every key. Before playing any piece I was learning I would first learn to voice every chord and then slowly work through the piece noting trouble spots then working those by themselves. Again starting very slowly with the metronome. I would then start to speed the metronome up and if I found a time that I broke down...I'd go back it up a few beat per minute and work it back up. Most of the time I would take these difficult parts far past the required speed to play in the piece.

If there were certain techniques required..tremolo....hammer on...I would take time to practice those techniques...Then I would practice my pieces and be more free in my playing at that time...again starting slowly with the metronome and building the piece up to full tempo over days/weeks/months.....going through the process of noting trouble spots and working those harder than the easy parts. I would also just read a few easier pieces to warmup for my more difficult pieces. The amount of time doing each of these would depend on the block of time I had available and each part would dynamically change based on priorities and finding the most difficult things and always working on those if time is limited.

A warmup
Some scales
Chord voicing's
Technique building
Work on Piece's
Note trouble spots
Work trouble spots

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twang
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Re: What's your experiences optimizing practice time?

Post by twang » Mon Sep 18, 2017 10:49 am

RonT wrote:
Sun Sep 17, 2017 7:42 pm
... work through the piece noting trouble spots then working those by themselves... Most of the time I would take these difficult parts far past the required speed to play in the piece.
I've been continuing to experiment. Along the lines of what you suggest I've been starting a piece by working the difficult sections first and working them hard:
  • Keep the section small enough (two or three notes if necessary) so in one session I have a good chance to work it past target speed. Expand the length of the section as it makes sense to do so.
  • Keep a mental dialog going to build an automatic thought-train along with the muscle memory. (This seems huge and needs more experimenting.)
  • Once some fluidity develops start alternating between fast and slow playing. During the slow runs give extra attention to every detail trying to build a good mental model. Then a fast trial or two to see how it's working, and back to a slow trial for reinforcement or correction.
  • Begin working in material from before and after the section
I'll might spend the whole practice time for a piece on one or two sections. By the end of the second or third day on the section I can have it working at tempo with minimal practice. I continue to work it at alternating speed until I can nail it the first time at tempo, and then for a few days after that.

Each day a section needs less time and I'll start working the next difficult section. When I finally put it all together the whole thing takes shape really quickly and I'm able to starting working on the feel and dynamics really quickly.

The pieces I've been experimenting on have only had maybe three or four difficult sections; but I've been able to get them to tempo is less than a week. The other nice thing about doing it this way is there's a motivational boost the comes from making rapid progress.
"An amateur is he who takes up the study of an instrument as a relaxation from his serious occupations." -- Sor

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