• How to Rate Your Practice By Its Duration

    in Piano,Self-Improvement

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    Warning: This post is only for serious and extremely passionate players who see themselves playing music at a professional level for the rest of their lives. If you’re a casual player, this post will likely scare you. It will come across as “out of touch.” The figures will seem unreal or unrealistic.

    I assure you, however, that all hours quoted in this post are real and accurate. There are no misprints. These are the types of hours it takes to become the best at what you do. Enjoy.

    There are so many ways to rate a practice routine.

    Rating your practice by its duration is one of the main ways to rate your practice as it can help you forecast when notable growth and positive changes will take place in your musicianship.

    Indiscriminate Practice Schedule

    A vast majority of musicians get started by practicing indiscriminately. I’m talking about practicing at random times, without daily goals that will help you meet up with weekly goals that will help you meet up with monthly goals that will help you meet up with yearly goals.

    However, in the nick of time, getting organized will become extremely important. My case was not an exception. Just like everyone else out there, I started out indiscriminately. But over the years, I eventually saw the need to get organized in my practice. I remember the day I said to myself, in frustration, “Onye, unorganized practice is taking you nowhere. There’s gotta be a better way. Get organized!”

    And that’s exactly what I did.

    “Getting Organized

    I took the first step by creating a practice journal where I itemized what I practiced daily. My practice journal helped me keep a daily record of the number of hours spent on each item. It also gave me a convenient place to record ideas and concepts that nest in my mind while practicing.

    The practice journal was a guide to my practice routine because it allowed me to know exactly what every practice routine would consist of. Itemizing what to practice helped me stay true to my goals because I found it impossible to work on anything apart from what I had recorded in my practice journal.

    With time, I had many items in my practice journal. My warm up with scales and arpeggios, alone, took 4 hours. I discovered that the regular 6-hour practice duration was not enough for me any longer. I increased from 6 hours to 8 hours and it still wasn’t enough. I kept increasing my daily practice schedule until I got to 12 hours daily and eventually 18 hours daily for 4 days out of the week. 18 hours accommodated all my items and gave me so much time to dwell on each item and even do warm up twice daily.

    I realize 18 hours can be very intimidating for most. Do realize this was during a time in my life where I could devote every waking hour to my passion. This is not realistic for most. But what I have found, is if you’re really passionate about something, you’ll find the time. You’ll take it away from other meaningless activities and tasks and put it towards the things that matter.

    Standard Ratings for Practice Schedules

    After a couple of months, I tried sticking to my whopping 18-hour plan but it got overwhelming so I decided to create a duration-based rating for my practice schedule.

    This rating may not be conventional, but it helped me rate every practice schedule by duration and I’m doubly sure that it’s going to help you and others out there. My rating, just like every other rating system, has 5 stars.

    1-Star Practice

    The duration of this practice schedule is 2 hours, 24 minutes. Highly recommended for all beginners. Practicing below this duration does not reflect any level of seriousness, whatsoever. This duration is actually one-tenth of a day. This is a good duration to start with but if you don’t upgrade your practice duration, it will take 11 years and 5 months for you to become an expert piano player. That’s 110% of a decade and quite a long time, especially if you’re pursuing a career.

    *An additional 2 hours 24 minutes will upgrade you to a 2-star practice duration.

    2-Star Practice

    This practice duration takes one-fifth of your day and is recommended for those who want to take their practice duration a notch higher. This practice duration is suitable for beginners who want to skip baby steps. It lasts for 4 hours 48 minutes and can make you an expert in approximately 5 years, 8 months and 2 weeks.

    *An additional 2 hours 24 minutes will upgrade you to a 3-star practice duration.

    3-Star Practice

    Do you want to be an expert in 3 years, 9 months, and 2 weeks? Then this practice duration of 7 hours and 12 minutes daily can help you get there. It takes three-tenths of a day to do a 3-star practice. This is one practice duration that can translate anyone from Boyz II Men. If you start a 3-star practice during an election year in the US, you’ll get there before another election year.

    *An additional 2 hours 24 minutes will upgrade you to a 4-star practice duration.

    4-Star Practice

    Are you in a hurry to improve? Do you want to cover lost grounds as fast as you can? Then go for the 4-star practice. It lasts for 9 hours, 36 minutes daily and has what it takes to propel you to the expert level in 2 years, 9 months, and 2 weeks (less than three years). However, you must sacrifice 40% of your time daily.

    *An additional 2 hours 24 minutes will upgrade you to a 5-star practice duration.

    5-Star Practice

    Ready to offer 50% of your day to nothing but practice? Then, you’ll be sure to become an expert in 2 years, 2 months, and 2 weeks. Investing 12 hours daily literally means that sleeping, eating, bathing and every other activity will occupy 50% while 50% will be dedicated to practicing alone.

    *An additional 2 hours, 24 minutes takes extraordinary effort and will yield extraordinary results.

    Before you think, “this is not possible,” I’m reminded of the day I was inspired by hearing that Charlie Parker practiced 12-15 hours per day. “Well, if he can do it, I can too!” I thought.

    So this is how you can rate your practice duration. You can now forecast where you want to be and how long it will take you to get there by the length of your daily practice.

    Our founder and president, Jermaine Griggs, spoke about the 10,000 hour rule to becoming an expert in music (which applies to every other facet of life). Your practice duration determines the rate at which you’ll exhaust the 10,000 hours.

    Final Words

    I’ll end by saying that it’s not entirely about the duration of practice but the quality of practice. The estimations above can only apply to you if you do a perfect practice. Perfect practice is simply the art of practicing the right things the right way. You can do a 12-hour (5-star) practice and still be stuck where you are – little or no improvement.

    It’s also worthwhile for you to know your practice threshold. Your practice threshold is the number of hours you can practice before mental and physical fatigue will set in.

    If your practice threshold is 5 hours, and out of zeal, you find yourself doing a 12-hour practice, you’ll discover that you actually spent 7 hours doing nothing (it’s called diminishing returns). It’s not bad to stretch and extend your threshold but a good way to do it is to settle for a 2-star practice (4 hours, 48 minutes) and gradually increase it until you get to the 3-star practice level (7 hours, 12 minutes).

    After all, remember how I exceeded my threshold earlier to put in 18 hours, but I couldn’t cope with it?

    Here are the few things that you can incorporate into your practice time so that when it extends to 12 hours, it won’t be boring.

    Practice. You can practice (that’s acquiring new techniques).

    Rehearsal. You can rehearse. Rehearsal here means repetition of the things you previously practiced to maintain them. Remember, if you don’t use it or maintain it, you lose it.

    Study. You can study (if you have books and resources). If you lack what to practice, you can visit our online catalog to purchase courses you can energize your practice schedule with.

    Research. In the process of studying, you might come across one or two unfamiliar terms (or even familiar terms you will want to know more about). You can proceed to do online or offline research.

    Meditation. This is an important aspect that drives what you’ve learned into your subconscious. Meditation is associated with the arts. It is in the process on meditation that you can have a sublime experience that will enlighten you on certain things that can’t be found in books, dvds, audios, etc.

    Shed Session. There’s nothing wrong with occasionally making one or two friends part of your practice schedule. You can form discussion groups, take turns to show off on your instrument in such a way that at the end of the day, everyone will be inspired.

    I want to highly recommend at least a 3-star practice to all serious hearandplay students across the world. Doing more or less than that is still okay (especially for beginners who can start with the basic 1-star practice). If you’re a casual player and simply cannot put in the time intervals discussed in this post, that’s fine too. Do what you can.

    The key is consistency. Your skills will compound.

    Until next time.

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.



    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 David Brakes

    Hello sir I have asked this question severally and I’ve gotten no valid reply.
    “How can we nigerians purchase hearandplay CDs, materials, e.t.c??”


    2 Carolyn

    Thank you for this valuable information about Getting Organized. Also
    keeping a journal of what i practice will definitely keep me focus on what
    i am suppose to practice, this help me eliminate all the wasted time of practicing
    without a plan.My goal is to go for the 5 star.Thank you for carefully putting this together.
    Now i can practice the right way and succeed in perfect practice.May God continue
    to bless you in your ministry.


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