What! More Practicing? Key Questions

How much practicing do music majors actually do? Where and when do they practice? How do they juggle a rigorous practice schedule with all the other demands of classes, rehearsals, performances (not to mention eating, sleeping, doing laundry, and having a social life)?

Rules of Thumb

1. Practice time generally increases as music majors progress through their programs. Aspects of practicing that seemed boring or unnecessary in high school now make sense. Immediate feedback on the benefits of extended practice comes from professors and through participation in ensembles, orchestras, bands and choirs as well as through solo rehearsals and performances.

2. Parents say on College Confidential that their music major kids are practicing between two and five hours per day (with vocal majors on the lower end of that range). One parent points out, “It’s not how long you practice but how smart you practice.”

3. Texas Tech University School of Music flute professor Lisa Garner Santa suggests that music education majors practice two hours a day and that successful performance majors practice four hours a day (see link below).

4. Learning more efficient and effective ways to practice opens up more time for everything in your life. (See “Practicing the Art of Practicing”)

Key Questions:

  • What has your relationship to practicing been like up to this point?
    (?Think: How much time do you spend practicing? Why?)
  • Did a parent or teacher ever have to force you to practice, and if so, have you been increasingly able to take that responsibility on yourself?
    (?Think: Is there a connection between your practicing and performing?)
  • Does the thought of being responsible for practicing on your own seem overwhelming or does it feel like a natural next step in getting to where you want to go?
    (?Think: Can you see yourself spending even more time practicing than you already do?)
  • Are there time management or other skills you could learn to help you extend your practice time?
    (?Think: Is it worth learning how to practice smarter?)
  • Are there changes you could make in the way you stand, hold your instrument, breathe, use your voice, etc. in order to prevent injury through increased practicing?
    (?Think: Do you have pain in your arms, hands, back, neck, shoulders, throat, or legs? Does it relate to playing your instrument or using your voice?)
  • Are you protecting your hearing adequately? (See “Use Protection!”)
    ?Think: Am I doing what I can now to protect my hearing for the future?)

If you’ve answered “yes” to the last three questions, it’s a good idea to get some help now before you dive into an extended practice schedule.


Jazz trumpeter Brian Lynch talks about his personal tips for practicing, highlighting the importance of including scales and mouthpiece exercises. Brian Lynch – NYU Steinhardt School



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