Practice Six, Rest One: An Ideal Weekly Routine for Piano Students
As a piano teacher, I am often asked how much a student should practice. The question can be thought of two ways: how many days a week to practice, and how many minutes per day or week?
This post will explore how many days per week is best. [See my blog post entitled To Time, or Not to Time (Your Music Practice), That is the Question---in the September 2017 archives---for thoughts on the minutes-per-day aspect.]
Practice Six, Rest One: A Philosophy for Growth
If you've read some of my blog posts about practice, perhaps you've seen references to practicing at least five days a week. It's a reasonable minimum standard because then practice happens most of the days in a week.
(Of course, four days of practice yields more days at the piano than not, too. But that's barely half the week, and any progress will likely be slow, and not especially fulfilling for the student.)
Let's work our way up from there. Later in this post, I will briefly discuss when five days of practice can be a good option. But now, let's focus on what I consider to be the ideal: six days of practice a week.
What is so good about this plan?
1. There is a built-in day of rest.
Why is this important? Because periodic rest is revitalizing. Going non-stop without rest wears a person down.
Too many rest days, though, hampers progress.
Choose a day of the week for your break, and let that be as important a part of your schedule as your practice days are.
2. Six days of practice gets the student to the piano every day but one.
Obvious, of course, but why is that so great?
Because routine is built. A new day dawns, and a new day to practice your craft emerges. It becomes a habit---something natural to do with your day.
No need to decide: Should I practice today? Or should I skip it? The decision is already made. If it's not your chosen rest day, it's hello piano!
A Couple Caveats
Let me emphasize that an ideal is just that: ideal when it works, but then there's real life.
Real life: I want my day of rest to be on the weekend, but there's a weekday (maybe piano lesson day?) when I'm always too busy to practice.
Solution: Aim for five practice days a week, with two days off: your rest day, and your hectic day.
Real life: My kid is sick, and not feeling well enough to practice.
Solution: Take as many days of rest as are needed. A practice schedule is for the usual days, not those times when things beyond your control happen.
A Happy Dilemma: My Kid is Super Excited About Piano and Wants to Play Every Day!
Far be it from me to say, "No! You must not play all seven days of the week!"
Here is where I distinguish between practicing and playing.
It is good to take a rest day each week from practicing your assignment. However, simply playing favorite pieces for your or your family's enjoyment is a wonderful way to spend part of your day of rest.
And if your or your child's favorites include something from the current assignment, it's okay to play that, too. :-)
A Vision for Piano Practice
The phrase "practice the piano" may have negative connotations for some adults who might rather want to forget their childhood experiences at the piano.
For some of us, practice might have been unpleasant because we didn't get to the piano often enough to progress in a pleasurable manner.
Let's give the new generation of piano students---whatever their ages---a fresh perspective about practice. Let it become a part of their daily lives by establishing a routine for the days and time of day that practice happens.
In time, making music at the piano through regular practicing and playing for enjoyment---and taking a little time for rest!---can become a cherished tradition in the family.
Whether you are the pianist or the listener, happy memories are in the making with skilled playing acquired through an effective weekly practice routine.