In my last post I offered some starting questions for developing a practice routine. Now I continue the discussion with some practical example suggestions.

In this example routine I will be working from the idea that this is a working plan for a beginning level piano student that is ambitious enough to spend 60 minutes a week in practice (4 days of 15 minute sessions). Think of a student that is maybe in Piano Lab or KAB and still in the Group Books (or the adult all in one book for teens), or a private lesson student that is in 1A-3.

What are your weekly and long range goals as a musician?

  1. For a student in this place in the journey, you are probably still working on learning your major scales; maybe you have gone on to minors. A good weekly goal (short term goal) is one new scale a week in either case, at a slightly slower pace, maybe one new scale every two to three weeks or even a month. This really depends on your desire to learn, time willing to spend on practice, and your personal discipline level.Additionally, you should be working weekly through your method books.Lesson Book: A good goal is one song in your lesson book per week. Again, a slightly slower pace might be one every two to three weeks or even a month.Technique Book: For students that are also working with a technique book a good goal is one group per week. Again, a slightly slower pace would be one every two to three weeks or even a month, maybe one technique exercise per week as there are usually four.       Long Range Goals: Some long range goals might be: in this year I want to master ALL of my scales (Major, Natural, Harmonic, and Melodic Minor). This is a great goal! And how about finishing an entire book, or two? These are good long range goals. At this stage I would make my long range goals no more than 6 to 12 months.

    For a student that is slightly less motivated or maybe just insanely busy, maybe all 12 of one scale type in one year, and maybe half way through a book would be a reasonable goal.

    How many days you will set aside each week to practice?

    You’re busy. Your family is busy. Trust me, I get it, I understand, I sympathize, and I share that reality. Can you spare 15 minutes a day for at least four days a week? I bet you can. And if you play video games, watch TV, or do any sort of fun, relaxing, entertainment kind of thing (social networking for example), you probably can—even if it means 15 minutes less of Netflix and chill or gaming. I would suggest a great starting goal for the student at this stage is 15 minutes four days a week. That’s 60 minutes of practice time! You can accomplish some goals in that time for sure. You can grow, and you can get way more familiar with music and your instrument!

    Maybe you aren’t quite as ambitious as a 60 minute a week routine, or maybe you really are just super busy and you can only find three days. Three days at 15 minutes a day is still a good start. In my next post I will offer an example for Routine B, which may be a better fit. Some students just haven’t yet caught the vision for practice as an important and even enjoyable ritual of life. Maybe two days a week for 10 minutes is a lot to ask of them. It is 20 minutes they didn’t have before! I will follow up the Routine B example with Routine C.

    Based on 1 & 2, how can you reasonably divide what you need to work on each week?

Routine A: 60 Minutes Total (1 hour and 20 minutes if adding the five minutes of purely for fun music making at the end). Routine B Routine C
One new scale (15 minutes) In the next blog post… In the next blog post…
One new song in Lesson Book (20 minutes)    
One new technique group (20 minutes)    
Work on already known scales (5 minutes)    
     

Routine A Example Practice Routine

15 minutes a day four times a week with an optional 5 minutes of purely for fun music making

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4
One new scale (3 minutes) One new scale (3 minutes) One new scale (3 minutes) Already known scales and the new scale in the circle of fifths a few times if time permits (5 minutes)
One new song in Lesson Book (5 minutes) One new song in Lesson Book (5 minutes) One new song in Lesson Book (5 minutes) Run the new song through without stopping two to three times (5 minutes)
One new technique group (5 minutes) One new technique group (5 minutes) One new technique group (5 minutes) Run the new technique group through (same as above)
Work on already known scales (5 minutes) Work on already known scales (5 minutes) Work on already known scales (5 minutes)  
2 minutes running already known scales in the circle of fifths.  

2 minutes running already known scales in the circle of fifths.

2 minutes running already known scales in the circle of fifths.  
For the ambitious, willing, and wanting to enjoy music, add five minutes of fun music making! This could be improvisation, composition, playing along with a recording, playing some favorite music, etc. for another five minutes. End your practice routine feeling good and celebrating, you did it!  

For the ambitious, willing, and wanting to enjoy music, add five minutes of fun music making! This could be improvisation, composition, playing along with a recording, playing some favorite music, etc. for another five minutes. End your practice routine feeling good and celebrating, you did it!

For the ambitious, willing, and wanting to enjoy music, add five minutes of fun music making! This could be improvisation, composition, playing along with a recording, playing some favorite music, etc. for another five minutes. End your practice routine feeling good and celebrating, you did it! For the ambitious, willing, and wanting to enjoy music, add five minutes of fun music making! This could be improvisation, composition, playing along with a recording, playing some favorite music, etc. for another five minutes. End your practice routine feeling good and celebrating, you did it!

What motivates you and keeps you on track with goals and plans?

Again, I can’t answer this question for you, so I am going to offer a hypothetical. Let’s say that you really like rewards of some sort and a favorite treat is ice cream. Maybe ask mom and dad if they can buy a tub of your favorite ice cream (I love spumoni) to place in the freezer. If you finish your routine successfully at the end of the week and you met your goal, celebrate, and reward yourself with a nice big bowl of spumoni!

What if you didn’t make it? Did you get close? Did your routine move along better than it did last week? Celebrate that you are making progress, and maybe you still get ice cream for effort.

Did the week seem like a total bomb? Maybe you only hit one day. Don’t punish yourself. Remember that we are human, and progress and discipline take time and patience. Ask yourself what you can do differently to make your goals happen or at least take a few steps closer next week, and start again! If you need to, ask the questions again and modify the goals. Maybe you need to move to Routine B. There’s no shame in that. You have to start somewhere!

Hope that helps! Questions? I’m here to help! Drop me a line at seandavid@thetunedinacademy.org

Happy practicing!

2 Responses

  1. Jordan Nylander says:

    Really great article. I love the detail of each daily practice plan. Also ending with an improvisation, or other fun activity, is a great idea. Looking forward to the next posts!

    • Thanks Jordan! Yes, I always suggest five minutes of fun, experimental, improvisation, or playtime music making for every fifteen minutes of serious activity. It is a fun way to end each 15 minute session.

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