There are many reasons why your practice time is limited. It could be because of work, school, other extracurricular activities, or simply your own well being. In any case, you don’t have a ton of time to practice, so you have to make the most of the time you do have.
When your practice time is limited, you have to learn how to work well in a short amount of time. You can’t waste time setting up your instrument or tuning or doing countless exercises.
So, in this post, I’m going to share my tips for how to practice when you’re under a time crunch.
Rapid Warm Ups
While I do not advocate for rushing through your warm up routine, sometimes you do have to slim it down. If your normal warm up routine takes 20 minutes but you only have one hour to practice, that’s a third of your time gone.
Instead of taking a full 20 minutes to warm up, try and condense it down. Do you really need to play all 12 major scales and all 36 forms of minor scales? Stick to the scales that are relevant to what you are working on. For example, if you are working on the first movement of the Mozart Concerto in G, work on your G major scale.
Is your full long tone routine really necessary or can you choose a few exercises? Instead of using a long exercise to work on tone, try some harmonics exercises. They are simple and they warm up the lips in less time.
Part of my technique practice includes some of the daily exercises from Taffanel and Gaubert. If I am short on time, however, I will find some more technical parts from my repertoire.
Using the Mozart Concerto as an example, I will work on the scales in thirds at measure 60. I can also work on the broken arpeggios in measure 127-134. That way, I can still practice technique, but I don’t have to feel like I am “wasting” time. I can both practice technique and work on my repertoire.
Look for short bars or phrases in your repertoire that are particularly technical. Then isolate them and use them for technique work. Make your repertoire do double duty for you.
Plan Your Practice
If you know you only have 30 minutes to practice, try and plan how those 30 minutes will go. Is there a particular piece you need to work on for a concert? Did you come short of achieving a certain goal during your last practice session?
Write down what you want to do in your practice and determine how long you would like to spend on each thing. The time does not have to be set in stone, but it can give you a rough estimate of what you can accomplish.
Then, determine what is most important. If you have a concert in the next week, that music is probably going to be more important than the music for a concert next month.
Do the most important stuff first so that you know you will have time to practice what is of the highest priority.
Split Your Practice
If you only have 20 minutes in the morning and another 20 minutes in the evening, don’t be afraid to use all of that time for practicing. You don’t have to practice all at once; in fact, having multiple practice sessions can be a good thing.
You can focus on one thing for your morning practice and another for your evening practice. Not only does that mean you are practicing more, but it means that you can stay focused on the task at hand. You can set one goal per practice session as opposed to two or three different goals.
If you do practice multiple times a day, be sure to use my tip for rapid warmups. Yes, you want to be warmed up for each practice session, but you should spend the majority of your time actually practicing, not just warming up to practice.
Listen to Recordings
If you don’t have much time to physically play your instrument but you have time to listen to music, listen. Find recordings on YouTube, Spotify, or Naxos. Listen to recordings while cooking, driving, or cleaning the house.
I’ve written about the importance of listening before, and it is still true. Music is like a language, and the more you listen the more you will understand it.
Listen to recordings of the same piece by different performers. Figure out what they do differently. What do you like or dislike about a particular recording? Use these findings to help your own interpretation.
What you practice each day will depend on what your goals are, your playing level, and the amount of time you have. These tips are a good guide for anyone who does not know what to start working on.
If you have any other tips for practicing on a time crunch, leave them in the comments below!