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.



  1. HLT

    I agree with the previous comment. Unless you come from a wealthy family or someone who supports you financially giving you time to devote solely to practice and study and daily living, it’s very difficult to pursue one’s art without acquiring decades of debt. Even in the early 1990s when tuition wasn’t as much as today, I was working to put myself through school in addition to paying my mother rent (tough love, i guess), my car, insurance, etc. I lived frugally, didn’t go out much, had a used car, didn’t put my money in frivolous places and gave up on music to pursue a more lucrative career. It paid off and though money does not buy happiness all the time, it sure makes life a little easier. It is important to follow one’s dream but you can make other dreams or put one off to another time in your life. I am now 48 and re-discovering music after years of raising family and working, and with grown children I NOW have the time to practice and really enjoy it. I think the above writer was correct that you begin to resent your art when all other areas of life are pressing in.

  2. Mark

    Why I will never recommend music as a major to a student that must keep a job while in school, and why I will never recommend going to a liberal arts university.

    Between classes , the recommended 3 hours of practice for primary instrument, the hour of piano profencincy practice, one hour need led for ensemble practice, the three hours needed to study for general education classes, the 2 hours needed to write drafts of one paper… you’re now at 9 hours of practice and study. Classes will take 5 hours a day..You’re now at 14 hours.

    Walking to classes or commuting… add 90 minutes.

    15.5 hours

    Lunch/Dinner – if you’re fast, you can do this in 1/2 hour max, if you always eat on campus or eat out.

    16 hours

    Laundry/cleaning/household chores- 30 minutes

    16.5 hours

    Showering/bathroom breaks/getting dressed/brushing teeth/etc…. 30 minutes

    17 hours

    Medically recommend sleep-

    7.5 hours


    24.5 hours… let’s make that 7 hours of sleep for 24 hours.

    Didn’t mention work, or making enough money to pay the bills, but if you work weekends you might can get in 8-12 hours at $10-15 per hour. Oh… wait, marching band on Saturdays; there goes one day!

    This is exactly what my time log showed for one semseter; it is not an exaggeration. This was also a compromise because if I followed all the minimum study/practice recommendations, I would be at 12 hours, not 9. I somehow managed to keep a 3.38 GPA.

    At the mid-term point of the semester, I was told the solution was to get a private loan. I’ve stockpiled enough debt, I’ll pass.

    The result was extreme anxiety and a unhealthy case of imposters syndrome. No wonder the music world is filled with divorces, and drug use. I’m not surprised that public schools are seeing a reduction in music students.


    It’s a joke. Instead of enjoying the art, you become a slave too it.

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