🙋🏻♀️ “I will cut my piano practice time in half🗡 and double my results!” One morning in 2018, I got out of bed and made this decision!
I have had enough with dreadful, mindless, and long hours of practice and decided to change my strategy.
Several years before that morning, I began this crazy practice journey by carving out a CHUNK of time of the day for practicing piano.
I was ambitious and determined–I wanted to learn everything possible on the 🎹!
I sacrificed so many things in life for practice, locking myself in my piano room for 5 hours STRAIGHT every day 😱. (FYI, I was teaching 35-40 private lessons per week!)
I was disciplined and committed 😤–got up at 5:00 am on weekdays, read and exercised, then started my 5-hour piano practice until I had to teach.
On the weekend, I got up at 6:30 am, did power yoga, then onto pilates, taught for a few hours, then did my 5-hour (and sometimes longer) piano practice. (my friends used to tease me that I was living like a Samurai! LOL).
The first few weeks of this crazy routine were so tough. I kept looking at the ⏰ to see if it was the time for me to end my practice session of the day.
After a month into this lifestyle,
- I started to feel that those 5 hours went by so quickly that I was in the flow🏄🏼♀️.
- I was learning (thinking back, it was more like sight-reading) more and more new repertoires–how fun is that!
- In addition, I was experiencing this ego-boosting “seize the day” moment–I felt like I could conquer the world 🦸♀️.
So, I decided to stick with this crazy lifestyle, which went on for several years–sheesh, talk about being determined and committed…yup, I was!
But despite all the good things happening,
Several issues were starting to emerge…
First of all, I stopped living and receiving any inspiration from life outside my practice room: no socializing, cooking, walking in nature, etc.
Secondly, I was physically and mentally exhausted all the time. I even strictly set aside the time for sleeping 😴 to have plenty of rest, but I was still tired. (It was so hard for me to have a good night’s rest because I was too stressed out!)
Thirdly, I was not practicing effectively. I could not fully focus during the practice and pay attention to details due to exhaustion from 5-hour, non-stop practicing. I started practicing mindlessly by repeating the same passages without thinking or strategizing for hours.
Then, my playing quality got plateaued 😑–I did not see the progress in my playing. I was having such a hard time playing through one piece of music–I have never had this sort of issue before!
Then, I began to feel a bit depressed and asked myself:
- “Why do I keep practicing for hours, isolating myself from the world, if my playing is a plateau?”
- “Everything is becoming a chore and not enjoyable.”
- “Where do I get inspiration to be musical and motivation to hone my skills if I have no connection to life outside of the practice room?”
So, I reached out to one of my close friends, a pianist, and shared my struggles and frustration with him.
He suggested reading books like:
📗 Train Your Mind for Athletic Sucess by Jim Taylor, Ph.D.
📙 Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool.
📚 and more!
Wow, these books changed my life!
Then came the fateful morning of the year 2018.
I stopped practicing 5 hours straight and began exploring so many ways to break the habit of mindless practice.
As for time management for practicing, this is what I decide to do:
- From Monday to Thursday, I do three 50-minute practice sessions per day in a 4-hour window (having at least a 10-min break) until I teach, then I do a quick review session for 30 minutes after teaching.
- On Friday, I do two 50-minute sessions.
- On Saturday, I do two 50-minutes sessions in the afternoon and two 50-minutes sessions in the evening.
- On Sunday, NO PRACTICE.
Then as for the quality of practice, I incorporate three things: focus, intention, and vigor–a purposeful practice.
- Begin each session with at least three rounds of a breathing exercise.
- Set a specific intention for the session.
- Then start playing a passage, then evaluate.
- Adjust if necessary, then try again.
- Repeat nos. 3 and 4 several times till it’s time to move on.
- Keep track of my practice and progress.
- Move on to the next item and go through similar steps.
At first, it was really challenging because it was not automatic like before. I thought that the mindless practice was so much easier.
After six weeks or so with the purposeful practice, however, I began to notice the difference in my playing:
- 🧐 I was able to focus and pay attention to the details better while practicing!
- 😃 I could see the progress weekly because I strategized my daily practice.
- 🤩 I was much happier with the quality of life.
Now in 2022, I am using a purposeful practice not only for my own but also for my students–helping them prepare to perform on stage “in the flow.”
I must confess, though, I have not been successful in cutting down my practice time per day by half of 5 hours as I promised myself in 2018;
Yet, the overall positive results are evident. My piano technique is improving, and I am living life and *enjoying practicing/playing the piano. *Enjoyment is not the same as pleasure, FYI.
Of course, as a pianist, you have to practice a lot–I NEVER encourage you to believe in shortcuts.
Through this new way of practice, I have learned to devote myself to practice with such a deep focus and intention with a shorter amount of time, which means I am spending my precious time wisely and effectively.
I still have to work on my socializing aspect of life, but I am putting some effort and getting better, I think 😆.
📥 Send me a message to learn my system of purposeful practice to help you build solid practice habits so that you can perform on stage without anxiety!