Probably many times in your life you have wondered how much you should really practice your instrument. And that is indeed an important matter. Unfortunately, although your question seems basic, you won’t get a simple answer in this article. However, I encourage you to read to the end, because today we will find answers to questions that you may not even dare to ask yourself before.
How much work is too much
Let’s start from the beginning. Perhaps practicing instruments is not the only activity you do during the day. Aside from the basics like eating, drinking, and meeting your physiological needs, I’m sure you have a lot of work to do. We all have. Therefore, the starting point for the discussion should be how much we should generally work. When our own instincts and judgment fail, we can always turn to science.
There are many studies that confirm or contradict several myths so eagerly told one another. Today, however, we want to focus on the time aspect of working. One of the most interesting studies in this area is the study conducted by John Pencavel of Stanford University. His analysis shows that employee productivity drops sharply after a 50-hour working week and drastically after 55 hours so much so that someone who works 70 hours per week produces nothing more for those extra 15 hours. There is plenty of evidence that overwork can cause problems with both physical and mental health, increase the risk of heart attack or stroke and limit the cognitive resources people have.
However, it is difficult to give an unambiguous number of working hours, optimal for each person. 30-35 hours a week seem to be both reasonable and possible, but it is not the only option. It is best to plan your week according to your requirements and plans, bearing in mind that too much work can cause health problems.
Taking breaks while practicing
If we are talking about time, we cannot ignore the importance of breaks. This discussion simply cannot take place without it. Breaks can increase productivity and creativity, restore motivation, and above all, are extremely important for your physical and mental health. It is difficult to fight the evidence on this, so I urge you to accept it and make breaks a part of your practice routine.
Start by applying the Pomodoro technique. Work for 25 minutes and take 5 minutes for rest. During break time, try to do something pleasant or go outside for a moment. After four practice sessions – 2 hours, take a longer 30-minute break before you start playing your instrument again. It may not seem like much, but it is easy to implement and you can quickly see the result.
When should you practice your instrument?
That’s not all. When we talk about productivity, we must also consider the time we work. It would be a mistake to think that you can be effective at any time of the day. The human body has its own circadian rhythm. Of course, it will vary from person to person, but you can observe certain patterns that occur for most people. Taking these generalizations into account, most of us reach our peak of productivity at 11 am. If you plan to practice, the hours from 9-11 am might be the best for you. Research has also shown that the most productive time of the year is autumn.
This does not mean that you can only practice your instrument on an October morning. However, you should at least start observing which time of the day would be the most optimal for you. It may turn out that the evenings are more beneficial for you, and there is nothing wrong with that. The most important is to adjust the time of practicing to your needs.
How much should you practice your instrument?
It depends, of course, on the instrument and the time capacity of each person. Research proves that practicing over 4 hours is often ineffective. Over practicing can cause burnouts, sometimes resulting in a change of profession. If you can practice systematically, take frequent breaks, and remember not to overwork, playing the instrument can be extremely rewarding. Musicians often think in the short term. “Learn the program as soon as possible, participate in many concerts, workshops, and competitions.” This seems like a good solution at the moment. After all, knowledge is priceless, it should help us to win this musical race. Unfortunately, our health and well-being have a limit. If we don’t think about it now, we may lose what is most precious in this life.