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Thread: Effectiveness with practice durations and frequencies?

  1. #1

    Effectiveness with practice durations and frequencies?

    Time that was earmarked for vacations, or doing stuff out of town or into the evening has been cancelled, so I've been free to practice nearly every day of the week. However, due to usual shenanigans of time management (or lack thereof), getting distracted, or sometimes being genuinely busy, my practice has varied wildly.

    There are some days where I just cut my losses, figuring I'll play more later the next day (so 30 minutes on the 2nd day, 0 on the first). Other times, I figured something constant might be the ticket (so something like 15 minutes per day). Are there any studies to indicate what's effective and what's not? All I know of is if you're going to "go marathon" to build up endurance, then take breaks. For example, or 3 hours of playing, take a 15 minute break after each hour or so.

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by ackmondual View Post
    Time that was earmarked for vacations, or doing stuff out of town or into the evening has been cancelled, so I've been free to practice nearly every day of the week. However, due to usual shenanigans of time management (or lack thereof), getting distracted, or sometimes being genuinely busy, my practice has varied wildly.

    There are some days where I just cut my losses, figuring I'll play more later the next day (so 30 minutes on the 2nd day, 0 on the first). Other times, I figured something constant might be the ticket (so something like 15 minutes per day). Are there any studies to indicate what's effective and what's not? All I know of is if you're going to "go marathon" to build up endurance, then take breaks. For example, or 3 hours of playing, take a 15 minute break after each hour or so.
    Practicing is more about frequency. You are far better to use multiple shorter sessions throughout the day than 1 long one. "Marathon" anything is good way to injure yourself. People that paice for hours have spent a lot of time building up to this. For a recreational player it is not a good idea.

    Mike

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by mbrooke View Post
    Practicing is more about frequency. You are far better to use multiple shorter sessions throughout the day than 1 long one. "Marathon" anything is good way to injure yourself. People that paice for hours have spent a lot of time building up to this. For a recreational player it is not a good idea.

    Mike
    Building up endurance aside, would there be significant differences between practicing 10 minutes a day, vs. 45 minutes spread out over the same time period?

    I'm also guessing that a "rule of thumb" is to practice for as long as you can, without wearing yourself out? So if you're fatigued at the 45 minute mark, or 1h15 minute mark, then take a break, or call it a session?

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by ackmondual View Post
    Building up endurance aside, would there be significant differences between practicing 10 minutes a day, vs. 45 minutes spread out over the same time period?

    I'm also guessing that a "rule of thumb" is to practice for as long as you can, without wearing yourself out? So if you're fatigued at the 45 minute mark, or 1h15 minute mark, then take a break, or call it a session?
    If I understand your first question correctly, practicing 45 minutes a day should produce better results than 10 minutes a day, assuming it is quality practice.

    Regarding the second question, I do not think practicing to fatigue is a good idea. When you tire, things tend to break done and you start practicing being tense and pick up bad habits. Better to stop before fatigue. That is why it is better to break things up. Better to do three 20 minute sessions than one 60 minutes where you are dead at the end of the session. Bud Herseth (principal trumpet of the Chicago Symphony for 51 years) recommended not practicing more than 40 minutes at a time. Of course, for many people, multiple sessions may not be feasible. In that case, I thinks it's better to under-practice than to over-practice.

    Mike

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by mbrooke View Post
    If I understand your first question correctly, practicing 45 minutes a day should produce better results than 10 minutes a day, assuming it is quality practice.

    Regarding the second question, I do not think practicing to fatigue is a good idea. When you tire, things tend to break done and you start practicing being tense and pick up bad habits. Better to stop before fatigue. That is why it is better to break things up. Better to do three 20 minute sessions than one 60 minutes where you are dead at the end of the session. Bud Herseth (principal trumpet of the Chicago Symphony for 51 years) recommended not practicing more than 40 minutes at a time. Of course, for many people, multiple sessions may not be feasible. In that case, I thinks it's better to under-practice than to over-practice.

    Mike
    On follow up, is 10 minutes a day worth bothering with (still better than nothing I'm sure), or should I just cut my losses? Is there some minimum length for a practice session (with or without breaks) we should strive for? I just want to make sure that if doing 10 minutes doesn't really add any progress, then I should strive to up that (while still maintaining the quality ofc).

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by ackmondual View Post
    On follow up, is 10 minutes a day worth bothering with (still better than nothing I'm sure), or should I just cut my losses? Is there some minimum length for a practice session (with or without breaks) we should strive for? I just want to make sure that if doing 10 minutes doesn't really add any progress, then I should strive to up that (while still maintaining the quality ofc).
    Sorry, I don't get your question. If all you have is 10 minutes, then focus on one thing for 10 minutes. If cutting your loses means not doing anything, then you answered your own question If you have more time than use it.

    Mike

  7. #7
    10 minutes is not really enough, but if that is all you have use it effectively. Even while your chops are getting warmed up, your fingers and brain can learn stuff. Each day do several scale versions (octave, partial scale, etc.) in one key. Next day do that key a couple times then move up a half step. As your tongue gets to feeling good, work in double-tongue actions on those scales, even if they are easily slow enough to single-tongue. See what I mean?
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
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  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by davewerden View Post
    10 minutes is not really enough, but if that is all you have use it effectively. Even while your chops are getting warmed up, your fingers and brain can learn stuff. Each day do several scale versions (octave, partial scale, etc.) in one key. Next day do that key a couple times then move up a half step. As your tongue gets to feeling good, work in double-tongue actions on those scales, even if they are easily slow enough to single-tongue. See what I mean?
    Thanks for this, sir! Reading your reply, I suddenly realised I should be more intentional in doing scales. Been just taking 2-4 random scales to do each practice session. But probably picking 1 or 2 specific scales and do different exercises on them each practice would be more beneficial and going random!
    "Never over complicate things. Accept "bad" days. Always enjoy yourself when playing, love the sound we can make on our instruments (because that's why we all started playing the Euph)"

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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by ackmondual View Post
    On follow up, is 10 minutes a day worth bothering with (still better than nothing I'm sure), or should I just cut my losses? Is there some minimum length for a practice session (with or without breaks) we should strive for? I just want to make sure that if doing 10 minutes doesn't really add any progress, then I should strive to up that (while still maintaining the quality ofc).
    I suppose the length of time you practice (or devote to practicing) is somewhat dependent on your goals, expectations, participation level in ensemble music and your own unique circumstances dealing with available time and space to practice. If you are serious about playing or perhaps improving your playing, and want to or currently are playing in groups, then 10 minutes a day is woefully insufficient IMHO.

    I am a professional level player, and to keep my chops in shape and play with the level I expect for myself, I need to play usually at least an hour a day, more if working on something particularly difficult and where there is a pending performance coming up. To just stay in shape to play well in whatever ensembles I am in, I need a very minimum of 30 minutes daily, with perhaps skipping a day or two now and then, but still usually more than 30 minutes.

    If 10 minutes is the total amount of time you can devote to playing, then I would question what your goals are and if you want to be a serious musician (nothing wrong with not wanting to be a serious musician, but if you want to be, then 10 minutes is not the right number).

    As far as length of practice for effectiveness, I think 30 minutes with breaks is good, but also as much as an hour with breaks could work for some (me, for instance). You just don't want to play until your chops are shot. When you can't play above an F above the staff (bass clef) without really struggling, then your chops are tired. Don't play past this, preferably, don't play until you get there, rest sooner.

    Some people are able to really be effective and efficient with their practice. They know exactly what to play to warm up and then what to practice to get the biggest bang for the buck in the time allotted for practice. I can warm up pretty effectively and practice fairly efficiently, but I also "goof off" frequently while playing. I sometimes just like to play nice melodies, play them with different tempos, phrasing, dynamics, etc. to make them sound nice. That pleases me. I will work on a piece where there may be difficult parts. The key here is to work on the difficult parts and not "waste time" with the part of the piece that is easy and you can already play well. But, again, I sometimes "goof off" again and play the whole piece, the easier parts and the hard parts just because I like to. If I am time constrained, then I will practice more efficiently and effectively. But I have the luxury of a lot of available time, so my situation is more one of when I should stop and not overdo it.

    There are a lot of tricks to practicing. One is with fingering. To get really good at scales, major and chromatic, and music that uses these, always practice scales and runs. I like to be able to really move on chromatic scales, so during warmup I will practice chromatic scales, going faster and faster. But, if you keep doing this for several minutes, your fingers will get all in a bunch. So, you have to know when to back off and take a break. But consistent attention to runs and scales every practice session will result over time in much more dexterity, speed and accuracy. Just like playing high notes. You can't spend 30 minutes nonstop playing all the notes ever written above high Bb or your chops will revolt. So a high chops limit, fingering limit, etc. Slurs, the rapid type like trills, same thing. You can get faster by doing it frequently and gradually gaining speed over time. Same with multiple tonguing. Do it consistently and over time you will build up a rattlesnake tongue (that means fast).

    This was longer than I intended. Short message, 10 minutes a day is hardly enough time to practice, IMHO. But if that is absolutely all the time you have, then use it well.
    Last edited by John Morgan; 09-15-2020 at 12:08 PM.
    John Morgan
    The U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own) 1971-1976
    Adams E3 Custom Series Euphonium, Wessex EP-100 Dolce Euphonium, 1956 B&H Imperial Euphonium
    Adams TB1 Tenor Trombone, Yamaha YBL-822G Bass Trombone
    Wessex TE-360 Bombino Eb Tuba
    Rapid City New Horizons & Municipal Bands (Euphonium)
    Black Hills Symphony Orchestra (Bass Trombone), Powder River Symphony, Gillette, WY (Tenor Trombone)
    Black Hills Brass Quintet (Tuba)

  10. Quote Originally Posted by John Morgan View Post
    I suppose the length of time you practice (or devote to practicing) is somewhat dependent on your goals, expectations, participation level in ensemble music and your own unique circumstances dealing with available time and space to practice. If you are serious about playing or perhaps improving your playing, and want to or currently are playing in groups, then 10 minutes a day is woefully insufficient IMHO.

    I am a professional level player, and to keep my chops in shape and play with the level I expect for myself, I need to play usually at least an hour a day, more if working on something particularly difficult and where there is a pending performance coming up. To just stay in shape to play well in whatever ensembles I am in, I need a very minimum of 30 minutes daily, with perhaps skipping a day or two now and then, but still usually more than 30 minutes.

    If 10 minutes is the total amount of time you can devote to playing, then I would question what your goals are and if you want to be a serious musician (nothing wrong with not wanting to be a serious musician, but if you want to be, then 10 minutes is not the right number).

    As far as length of practice for effectiveness, I think 30 minutes with breaks is good, but also as much as an hour with brakes could work for some (me, for instance). You just don't want to play until your chops are shot. When you can't play above an F above the staff (bass clef) without really struggling, then your chops are tired. Don't play past this, preferably, don't play until you get there, rest sooner.

    Some people are able to really be effective and efficient with their practice. They know exactly what to play to warm up and then what to practice to get the biggest bang for the buck in the time allotted for practice. I can warm up pretty effectively and practice fairly efficiently, but I also "goof off" frequently while playing. I sometimes just like to play nice melodies, play them with different tempos, phrasing, dynamics, etc. to make them sound nice. That pleases me. I will work on a piece where there may be difficult parts. The key here is to work on the difficult parts and not "waste time" with the part of the piece that is easy and you can already play well. But, again, I sometimes "goof off" again and play the whole piece, the easier parts and the hard parts just because I like to. If I am time constrained, then I will practice more efficiently and effectively. But I have the luxury of a lot of available time, so my situation is more one of when I should stop and not overdo it.

    There are a lot of tricks to practicing. One is with fingering. To get really good at scales, major and chromatic, and music that uses these, always practice scales and runs. I like to be able to really move on chromatic scales, so during warmup I will practice chromatic scales, going faster and faster. But, if you keep doing this for several minutes, your fingers will get all in a bunch. So, you have to know when to back off and take a break. But consistent attention to runs and scales every practice session will result over time in much more dexterity, speed and accuracy. Just like playing high notes. You can't spend 30 minutes nonstop playing all the notes ever written above high Bb or your chops will revolt. So a high chops limit, fingering limit, etc. Slurs, the rapid type like trills, same thing. You can get faster by doing it frequently and gradually gaining speed over time. Same with multiple tonguing. Do it consistently and over time you will build up a rattlesnake tongue (that means fast).

    This was longer than I intended. Short message, 10 minutes a day is hardly enough time to practice, IMHO. But if that is absolutely all the time you have, then use it well.
    Great advice from John, I can remember a conversation I had with the Black Dyke legend that is James Shepherd he felt the best way to keep
    his chops in shape if you find yourself with only a short time to practice is by using lip flexabilities, I personally find I
    need 10 minutes to warm up so my minimum practice duration is 30 minutes.

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