Making Time for Music Practice

It’s early November and you are well into the fall semester in school. You have commitments like
sports practices, meets, other extracurriculars, maybe even a theater class or part-time job
multiple nights per week. On top of all of that, your music teacher keeps encouraging you to make
sure you get some practice in so you can start preparing for the upcoming recital. Does this sound
like your current situation? Maybe not exactly your current situation, but do you ever feel like you
are struggling to make time for music practice?

In elementary school, most students have more than enough time to practice every single day of the
week. When middle school hits, and into high school, there are a lot of other after-school
commitments, not to mention school homework, that can make you feel like it is difficult to find
time to practice your instrument.

Speaking from my own personal experience, and from conversations with students, it is clear to me
that if students change the way they practice AND how they think about practice, it will be much
easier to actually get some beneficial practice in each week.

For music students (and for all of you supportive parents out there), here are the two main practice
scenarios students run into, and some suggestions for students so they can keep doing all of their
after-school activities AND make progress with their instrument:

Scenario 1: A lot of students feel that if they don’t have a good 20-30 consecutive minutes of
free time for practice at night, that they don’t actually have time to practice. I ran into this
scenario a lot in high school, especially when I was in a show and had hours of after school activities
AND hours of homework each night. What my teacher told me, and what I realized through putting
her advice to use is, even 5 minutes of practice is better than none. Now five minutes may seem
like a ridiculously small amount of practice time in 1 session, BUT if you were to take a 5-minute
break in between doing homework for let’s say 3 different school subjects, that equals 15 minutes
right there of practice time! The other added benefit of a 5-minute music practice session, is that
playing or singing actually decreases your stress levels and provides an enjoyable and mentally
beneficial break. Remember that learning a song is all about muscle memory. The more you do it
the better you get at it, and the easier it gets to do it without so much attention and focus. It is
MUCH better to have multiple mini-practice sessions in a day that 1 LONG practice session.

Scenario 2: Some students will put music in an entirely separate category than other school
subjects. These students will do all of their school homework for the night and then when they are
done, spend the last couple hours of their night on their phones, on YouTube, watching tv and/or
gaming to just relax and give themselves a break before bed. As we all know, once you get on social
media or Netflix for the night, you can easily get sucked in for hours! For these students, I always
say to get your instrument practice in BEFORE social media/tv time. If you give your music
practice the same importance as your other school subjects, you WILL make time for it each night
before relaxing. And BONUS…learning an instrument has been proven to reduce stress, anxiety,
and depression, which is something that all of us can really benefit from in our fast-paced lives.
When you consider that almost 60 percent of 11 to 19-year-olds have experienced a mental health

issue or are close to someone who has, you can really see the amazing benefits of music for our
students.

If you find that you fall into one of these categories, don’t despair, try these practice suggestions
and in no time, you will feel much better about your music progress!

Tiffany Sullivan
APA Music Director

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