Practicing vs. Over practicing


                 “It is vain to do with more what can be done with less.” -William of Occam


My teaching style is based on Pareto’s Principal (also called the 80/20 principal), which , if you know me, you’ve heard me reference a lot.


Having a refined, organized routine, or checklist, ensures that you always work on the most important stuff regardless of how much time you have. If you do this right, you won’t have to cram 10 hours of practicing in on days that you have more time to make up for the days that you didn’t.


For example, if you have a 45 minute routine that you do before your 5 hour rehearsals, then you probably won’t need to practice any more that day. Only doing the 5 hour rehearsal probably isn’t good enough since you probably won’t hit every aspect of playing, nor will you be able to hear yourself closely enough to work on things in extreme detail. On other days, your 45 minute routine is a great start to the day, then you can play music as long as you want, stopping when you are tired physically or mentally.


The short answer: have a plan so you don’t have to over practice, and listen to your body/mind so you never get to that point of diminishing returns.


There is an important balance a musician must keep between practicing fundamentals, practicing repertoire and listening to music.

You might not strike a perfect balance daily, but every week you should have almost an equal amount of each.


Looking back when I was at school, the most useful thing I did was sight read difficult bach keyboard works with other eager students (trombonists, mostly), and hang out with people that loved renaissance music and sing through motets in the hallways. Ahh, how I loved music school! This developed my ear WAY beyond my colleagues who only practiced sight-singing in/for class. As a result I can learn music quickly and AWAY from my horn.

Effective mental practice skills is an essential skill for busy musicians. Its another tool that can be used to prevent over-practicing.


I’d love to know what you think.

Leave your comments below!