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What on Earth are You Supposed to Practice for 5 Hours???

Zlata Brouwer

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Published: July 2, 2014 at 5:07 PM [UTC]

Valyncia asks...
I see every so often to practice 5 hours daily... what exactly are you supposed to practice for 5 hours???

Good question! I can imagine that practicing for 5 hours sounds like a mission impossible.

First I will give you a kind warning...

When you are used to practicing about half an hour or an hour daily or you aren’t used to practicing at all (for example when you are a beginner)... don’t suddenly practice for 5 hours when you have a day off or something and feel like it.

You can compare this with sports: you have to build it up slowly. You can’t run a marathon without proper training.

I see everywhere that people are encouraging others to practice more and more, to study hours and hours. That’s not the whole story. You won’t be a good violinist when you only ‘make the hours’ like a machine.

Do you know many people brag about how much they practice and exaggerate the number of hours? The number they mention might not even be true.

Please consider the quality of your practice first. Focus on studying smart, awake, inspired, relaxed, concentrated and focussed. Don’t just make hours and hours without these factors.

You can compare playing a musical instrument with sports in some areas, but music is not a sport. It’s not all about building stamina and learning motor skills. Music is way more interesting as an art than as a sport.

Even in sports you can overtrain: you can ruin your results by training too much, while you can better train in a thought through way.

I’ve seen many people start hating their instrument because of too much practice or being pushed to practice. Also I have seen people getting injuries caused by too much practice or tensed practice. I don’t want this to happen to you :).

Now let’s go back to Valyncia’s question: what should you do when you practice many hours?

With my private students I create a so called ‘package’ with them and for them.

It can contain:

  • scales with assignments

  • technical exercises

  • etudes

  • pieces below your level (to easily perform when someone asks you to play)

  • pieces on your level

  • pieces above your level

Creating this package you should consider that all elements are connected, that the package is not a mishmash of things. The scales and etudes should match the technical difficulties in the pieces and should help playing the pieces.

When you have build up to playing 5 hours, this is how that can look like (just as an example):

  • 1,5 hours scales with variations and exercises

  • 1,5 hours etudes

  • 2 hours practicing on pieces

Consider the difference between practicing and playing/performing.

Practicing is identifying difficulties, taking it out and playing it in different ways. Just playing through a piece is not really practicing.

I hope this is an answer to your question. Please ignore big stories about how much other people practice. Just think about your goal, the steps to achieve your goal and the smartest way to make them.

Is this useful to you? Please let me know in the comments below!



PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!

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