Friday, July 30, 2010

Maximizing Your Practice Time

When I was a student at Musicians Institute I practiced anywhere from 5 to 8 hours a day (not counting classes and band rehearsals of course) 5-6 days a week. I was fortunate to have the physical stamina and mental focus to be able to keep such a rigorous practice routine throughout my stay at Musicians Institute. Nowadays I don't have the luxury of that much time to practice. Between my teaching, recording, mixing and occasionally sleeping schedule there simply isn't enough time in the day.

I find this to be a common scenario amongst working musicians and musicians that also hold part-time (or full time) jobs to support themselves. There just simply isn't enough time in the day to fit 4 or 5 hours of practice. That's ok, all is not lost!
Staying Focused
On the flip side what good is having 5, 6, 7 or 8 hours a day to practice if you can't stay focused for the entirety of your routine? Trying to maintain a practice routine after you have lost focus can be very counterproductive. It can also take the enjoyment out of playing your instrument and quite possibly music itself. The good news is that for the most part this is avoidable. Yes, we all have our "off" days but if we take a few moments to analyze our practice routine we can maximize the time we do have (to help maintain focus) and limit how "off" our "off" days are. The first step in achieving this is to simply understand our own limits. Physical and mental.
I see this a lot with my students. Student A has the ability to practice for 6 hours a day while student B loses focus after 2 or 3 hours. Student B then thinks that because he can't practice for as long as Student A that they are, in some way, not going to be able to achieve the same level of mastery of the instrument. While this may seem logical I don't believe that this is always the case. Simply put it's "quality" or "quantity". Now if you have the ability to practice 6 hours (or more) a day and stay focused I say go for it but if you don't it's not the end of the world.
Get Organized!
I find that knowing what, and for how long, I'm going to practice before I even sit behind the kit helps me to stay focused for my entire routine. A lot can be achieved with 1 or 2 hours of focused and consistent daily practice. Conversely much time can be wasted and little gained with 6 hours of unfocused practice. Consistency is the key! 1 hour a day 5 or 6 days a week is much better than 5 hours a day twice a week.
Here's what I recommend trying. Before your next practice session make a list of the things you want to work on (if you're like me that list can be quite large). Next, whittle your list down to the most important areas that you want to focus on. Maybe it's improving your time, learning a new fill concept, bass drum technique and working on 4-way coordination. Now figure out how much time you have in each day (remember consistent daily practice is the key here!) and divide that up between each individual exercise.
If I had only one hour a day to practice those 4 areas of my playing one way I may divide my time up would be:
10min - Bass Drum Technique
20min - Groove Practice
15min - Fill Concepts
15min - 4-way Coordination
That may not sound like much but if you did that every day, 6 days a week, you can really make some progress. The bottom line is that you have to develop a routine that works best for you. It won't just happen overnight but it's definitely worth spending a little brain power on. Once you develop a good routine I guarantee that your drumming will improve and that you'll have a lot more fun too!
Get Organized and be consistent!
Until the next time, keep it loud, proud,and above all make it groove!
Charlie Waymire

1 comment:

  1. AS the years have gone i can practice less and less but i do make sure that i do some quality practising and give myself a goal to achieve!