Piano Practice – How Much Can You Learn In One Week?

Piano Practice – How Much Can You Learn In One Week?

Piano Practice Girl

If you have ever taken lessons on a musical instrument I am sure you have heard the following advice many times before;

• Practice regularly

• 20 minutes practice every day

• Piano practice cannot be crammed in at the last minute like other subjects What is the best way to approach weekly music practice?

How can we use our music practice time to the fullest advantage? How can we make the most musical progress in one week?  

I often tell the following story to parents and students to help explain a good approach to piano practice. Approaching piano practice in the right way will help students achieve the most out of their practice time each week.

Your Brain is like a sponge – yes… a sponge!

There is a limit to how much water a sponge can soak up at one time, just as there is a limit to how much “musical information” your brain can soak up at one time. If you put a sponge in a bucket of water the sponge will become quickly soaked with water. When you practice the piano your brain will become quickly filled with new musical information. (The amount of practice time that a student can do before their brain becomes “soaked with information” depends on a few different things including the level of the student and his previous track record of practice. Your brain can be trained to be able to handle more musical information.)

A typical beginner student may practice for around 20 to 30 minutes before their brain has soaked up as much information as it can comfortably hold. At the end of this time the brain is full of new musical information and cannot take on board any new information. This is one of the reasons why teachers often recommend that beginner piano students practice for 20 or 30 minutes per day. After this amount of time the benefit to be gained from practicing the music for longer periods is dramatically reduced because the brain has become full. Overnight the wet soaked sponge is squeezed into a bucket and then allowed to dry. This means that tomorrow the sponge will be able to soak up some more water. Overnight the student’s brain becomes refreshed. All the musical information in the brain is allowed to “soak into other areas of the brain”.

Just as the sponge is ready to take on more water the next day, the brain is ready to take on board more musical information the next day. If you soak a sponge every day for just the right amount of time, and squeeze the water into a bucket at the end of each day, by the end of the week the bucket of water will have grown in size considerably. If you practice piano every day for just the right amount of time and let the brain refresh itself every night as you sleep, by the end of the week your musical ability will have grown in size considerably.

<strong>Practicing the piano too much does not always produce the results you might expect</strong>

Doing too much piano practice is like soaking the sponge for too long. It does not matter how long you soak the sponge for.

There is a limit to how much water a sponge can hold.

It does not matter how long you practice for in one day.

There is a limit to how much new musical information your brain can take on board in one day.

This is why it is a mistake to believe that it is OK to go all week without practicing and then "do it all at once" the day before your lesson.

To fill the bucket with water by the end of the week you have to soak the sponge every day. To benefit the most from practicing music you need to fill your brain up every day with musical information and allow the information to be absorbed during the night so that it can take on board more information the next day. This process needs to be repeated every day for the most benefit. Practice in this way and your musical bucket of water will be full at the end of every week. By the end of the year your swimming pool may be full and you will have confidently moved on to the next level in your piano playing.

The brain is a wonderfully complex instrument itself. We don’t need to understand its full complexity to play the piano but understanding a few basics about how it works does not hurt. The experiences you have today become your memories of tomorrow. Experiences move from your conscious thinking brain into other “memory areas” of the brain and become part of who you are. One of the reasons that sleep is so essential and important is that this is when a lot of the brains processes take place to rearrange and reorganize all the information it has taken on board during the day. This includes musical information and by filling your brain up with new musical information each day you are building your stored bank of musical memories and experiences every night. This information becomes absorbed into the subconscious mind so that music becomes not just something you do – but, if repeated consistently for a long enough period of time, it is something that gradually becomes part of who you are.

To grow as a musician is to consistently allow the subconscious part of the brain to absorb the right kind of musical information at the end of every day. If practice is limited to only a couple of days a week this growth will slow down considerably to the point where the subconscious mind will not be influenced enough to change who you are and you are very unlikely to ever wear the badge of honor that is to be called a "musician". For more information Google “how the brain absorbs information”.

Don't miss these stories: