I believe the effectiveness and efficiency of your practice regimen is more important than the amount of time you put in. This isn’t to say quantity of time isn’t important–it is. It’s just very common to find that students aren’t being efficient with their practice time, which often causes bad habits to form. It’s better to practice efficiently for 30 minutes a day than practice poorly for two hours.
I’ve developed a music practicing quiz to help you discover if you’re getting the most from your practice time. Use this quiz to evaluate a recent practice session. Rate yourself on a scale from 1 (poor) to 10 (excellent) for each of the following:
Music Practicing Quiz
[___] Your instrument was in tune.
[___] You were in a place with few (or no) distractions.
[___] You worked carefully on drills for at least two minutes.
[___] You worked carefully on technique and hand position while playing scales.
[___] You worked on an exercise piece, focusing specifically on difficult areas.
[___] You practiced challenging passages slowly and worked on your intonation.
[___] You worked specifically on rhythms.
[___] You considered bowings and slurs.
[___] You worked on a piece that is “too hard” for you, one that challenged you musically.
[___] You had an optimistic mindset, and considered what you’ll tackle in your next practice session.
Take your score and add it up (the best score is 100, the lowest is 10). This is your practice efficiency rating.
100 Efficiency (Perfect): It’s possible to get here, but it’s not easy. You have to be extremely focused and disciplined in your practice sessions.
80-99 Efficiency (Great): This is where you want to be on most days. In this range, you can practice 30 minutes a day and be extremely effective.
50-79 Efficiency (Acceptable): This is considered “good practice.” Try to push yourself to be more efficient, and you’ll progress at a faster rate.
40-49 Efficiency (Average): This is probably the most common range. Most students practicing at this level don’t realize how much more effective they could be until they evaluate themselves.
30-39 Efficiency (Below Average): This level needs improvement. If you’re here, make it a priority to leave this level behind. You may be forming bad habits!
20-29 Efficiency (Needs Improvement): This is an area where you are most likely building many bad habits. Consider getting some help from a teacher (or perhaps try a new teacher).
15-19 Efficiency (Fail): This area is teeming with people who will soon quit playing altogether. Progress is slow, and frustration high. If you’re here and you truly want to improve, it’s time to get some help.
10-14 Efficiency (Why bother): Danger! You either need to be happy with your current playing or get some help from a new teacher. This efficiency level will bring you no progress, and your skills may actually decline.
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