After your first year of undergrad, there is an abundance of time to practice (not). However, there is more allocated time to practice, and efficiently using this time to practice is a skill that is most useful post-grad.
In this week’s entry I will set a baseline for general practicing habits as a college student (from both the perspective of undergraduate and graduate) and then the transition to full time teaching whether that be private lessons or public school.
Collegiate Practice Time
As an undergraduate student, there is a fairly inflexible block schedule that your practice time has to fit into. Gen Eds, Core Requirements, Lessons, Ensembles, Electives….
As far as practice time goes, it is more or less built into your schedule as “free time”.
This time gets spent on lesson material (scales, etudes, repertoire), ensemble repertoire and chamber music. There isn’t much time for exploration and playing things outside of school music aside from part-time gigs.
Towards the last year of undergrad, but more so during graduate studies, there is A LOT more “free time”. Classes run into the night – if you are working part or full time that may vary how much time you have allotted to practice. However, this variability leaves a few open ended questions:
- How much time do you need to practice? School material? Outside school?
- What do you practice? What are you working towards?
Grad school is where you have the freedom to hone whatever skills you prioritize.
One of the secrets of adulting 101 that most graduate students and full-time workers will tell you is that you have to schedule a social life. The same becomes true for practicing. If you don’t make time for it, it can slip through the cracks and before you know it you have missed a week a practicing.
There is not set # of practice hours. Everyone is different: work/school schedules, physical and mental health, upcoming projects, etc. However, being consistent and seeing through that you practice when you tell yourself you are going to practice. As well as having a plan for what you want to get better at each time you play – or if you are playing for fun (set time aside for that as well!) – but those times that you are practicing to journal it and reflect every week or so on the small achievements you’ve made.
Post-Grad – Working Full Time:
When you are teaching, the freedom that you had in graduate school is altered. Life changes, workload, etc. However, the key differences is now you are in the driver’s seat. Without regular lessons, you have the freedom to decide how you practice and maintain your skills.
Preparing and planning lessons – ideally you would be working on the repertoire your students are doing, so any personal projects are put on hold to review and refresh for teaching.
Finding balance between maintaining personal goals versus teach goals can vary; and it is important to model a viable career that blends both teaching and personal growth.
How do you practice? Let me know in the comments below!