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How much do you NEED to practice?

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How much do I need to practice?

We get this question often when students sign up for lessons at my music school in the SF Bay Area. The short answer is from 15 - 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.

One way to think about “how much practice is needed” is by looking at your goals and your level.

As a beginner there's not that much to practice in the early stages. This makes it harder to practice for long periods of time. Usually, beginners practice a little less. As you get more advanced you get a lot more stuff to practice and it's actually a little more fun... so you're probably gonna want to practice longer.

When thinking about your goals, a lot of students want to play for a hobby or personal enjoyment. Another way of thinking of that is as a form or personal development. You want to feel like you're progressing at something that you enjoy doing.

Practice regularly so that you're making steady progress.

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The most important thing, in the beginning, is to practice regularly so that you're making steady progress. What that means is that if you feel like you're not going anywhere you're gonna get discouraged. No matter how “talented” you are eventually you're just gonna quit.  

For a lot of students 30 minutes a day is great... but even if you practice 10 or 15 minutes a day you'll feel like you're making progress. Sometimes you’ll want to practice more. Maybe you want to jam with friends in the near future and they're kind of waiting for you. You'll want to put a little more time.

If you have aspirations of becoming a professional musician you're gonna have to spend quite a bit more time. That's another ballgame because that involves not only more practicing but probably more aspects to your education.

There's nothing wrong with starting from a beginning stage. Practice regularly and ratchet it up as your progress.  

One thing I've found over the years is that you don't have to practice the same either things or the same amount every day.

I have kind of a varying schedule that changes depending on what’s going on. I have a maintenance schedule where I practice daily to keep up my dexterity. Then, when I'm working towards a recording session or a concert, I deliberately schedule more time to practice up to that event.

All said and done it's best to practice a little bit each day and to get in the habit of practicing. One of the biggest deciding factors of success in learning an instrument is developing that habit of practicing so you both feel steady progress. It also gets easier and easier to practice once it becomes a habit rather than always struggling to get yourself to sit down.

For that reason, I recommend setting aside a specific time each day to practice even if it's just 10 or 15 minutes. And arranging your environment so you have a place to practice that you feel comfortable with. Have all your things ready, and make sure everybody in your environment is in line with that so they're not gonna disturb you or make it hard for you.

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  1. Thanks for explaining that you can practice an instrument for only 10 or 15 minutes a day and still make progress. My husband and I want to find a virtual music program so our son can start taking guitar lessons online. I'm glad to hear we can encourage him to practice in small increments and still have his lessons be effective.

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