The Importance of practice duration: How to Improve Your Skills

Tips and guides to determine how long to practice

As a classical pianist and piano educator with years of immersing in the piano world, I’ve encountered numerous students and parents pondering the question, ‘How long should I or my kids practice the piano?‘ While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, having a general rule of thumb can be a helpful starting point. In this article, we’ll dive into the guidelines that offer more direction than practicing piano without any self-motivated goals to ensure effective optimization of your piano practice

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced pianist, maintaining a regular piano practice routine is vital. It not only helps you retain the knowledge you’ve acquired, but also provides you with a foundation for growth. Consistency is key– without it, there’s a risk of forgetting what you’ve learned, and wasting the time you’ve invested. Think of your piano skills as muscles that need exercise to stay strong and create lasting muscle memory.

Defining Your Practice Duration: 4 Key Questions

1. What Are Your Goals?

It is really important to analyze your own goal on this piano journey. Piano goals can vary from recreational goals to high-achieving goals, with a lot of gray area in between these two types, to determine how long you should practice piano.

Recreational goals might involve students who want to learn the piano to play duets with family members or friends, to be able to play their favorite music, or to use the piano as a way to unwind from work. Most often, these students enjoy music and simply want to keep their interest alive through piano lessons. For this type of goals, we recommend students to practice 3-4 days a week between 15-30 minutes and build their practice days and times from that.

Achievement-based goals might be pursued by students who want to major in music in college and need to prepare for auditions, those who want to enter piano competitions or festivals, or those who aim to master classical music and become proficient in playing advanced piano pieces. This goal clearly requires more practice. While 30 minutes of practice a day might suffice on some days, it might not be enough to achieve your personal goal.

2. What’s Your Skill Level?

For a piano beginner, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to expect whether they’re a child or an adult to practice for 30 minutes a day.

Beginner piano songs often take one minute or less to play through the whole song, even when the student plays them very slowly or stops to work on difficult spots. It’s unlikely that students could fill 30 minutes by playing a one-minute song. In the early stages, 10-15 minutes is enough time to help the student reach their personal goals. During the first several weeks, it doesn’t take a huge amount of time to practice. Trying to do too much early on can lead to fast burnout or overpractice of poor techniques.

For early intermediate to advanced levels, repetition is crucial. The higher your skill level, the longer your music will be, and with the repetition and fixing the sections that need to be corrected, you might need a longer practice time. In addition to practicing your music, it is important to include finger exercises in your daily practice. At this level, it will likely require 1 to 3 hours.”

3. How Much Time Do You Have?

It is obvious and incredibly important to set realistic practice goals that are feasible and achievable for your household.

In this busy world, with school and work schedules, many families are away from their homes for much of the day. There might even be a couple of days each week when students are away from their piano all day, leaving little time for piano practice. Consider the logistics of your weeks and plan practice times during practical and productive moments of the day. Efficiency is equally significant. If you don’t have much time to practice, make sure to focus on the part you are struggling with the most, work on new sections, or perhaps concentrate on certain sections instead of using your limited practice time to play your music from beginning to end.

4. What should I do to form a consistent routine?

Consistency is the key for every pianist, regardless of whether they are a beginner or an advanced player. It’s almost more important to focus on getting to the piano as many days as possible than to worry about how much time is spent once you are there.

For both kids and adults, forming new habits can sometimes be the most challenging part of practicing—just carving out the time or finding the motivation to sit at the piano chair. Make it a priority to reach the piano every possible day. If there are times when students truly can’t find any time to practice, don’t worry. However, don’t let practicing slip on the other days when you could practice. We recommend our students spread out their practice sessions instead of cramming everything into the day before their piano lesson.

My piano teacher told me in the past that missing one day of practice is something only you know. Missing two days, your piano teacher notices. Missing more than three days, everyone notices.

Discover ways to incorporate piano practice into your daily routines. Parental involvement plays a significant role in kids’ progress. While parents may expect kids to practice on their own, the abundance of distractions nowadays often requires a little push and constant reminders. Perhaps practice in the morning before school or work, or after dinner. Consider including piano practice as part of your homework routine or set a daily timer to establish a routine. Weekends might serve as key practice times. Identify what works best for you or the students and stick with it!

Thinking through these four questions should help the student start to understand what is realistic and reasonable for everyone’s own situation. Happy Practicing!