How Are You Really Supposed to Practice?

There is a lot of misinformation out there about how musicians are supposed to practice, how many hours they should dedicate per day, and how much suffering must happen before a good performance is achieved. While this information may stem from some important truths, it is often extreme and discouraging for up-and-coming instrumentalists. We at Terra Sounds are here to debunk some of the biggest myths from the practice room, and give some valuable tips for musicians (or parents of musicians!) at any level. 

Myth #1: you have to practice for 4-8 hours a day to master your instrument 

While it is necessary to put in the time and effort to master any art, there is no set formula for achieving goals, and every individual learns and processes in different ways. If spending 4 hours practicing can be really beneficial to one musician, to another musician, maybe only the first 2 of those hours are productive before they burn out for the last 2. It is more important to go after quality rather than quantity while spending time with your instrument. If focusing for long periods of time is difficult for you or your child, try breaking up the practice time to release some of the pressure and increase productive practicing. When it comes down to it, the most important thing is that you are able to pick up your instrument every day. If you can get to this first step, you may find that it is a lot easier to stay focused and inspired while creating good habits for yourself or your child. 

Myth #2: you should run through the piece as many times as possible 

Yes, it is important to be able to play the music all the way through, especially when preparing for a performance. HOWEVER!! This does not mean that you should spend all your time doing this. It is essential to break the music up into sections to practice the more difficult passages slowly before a performance, to avoid any unnecessary nerves or performance flubs. Sometimes it is easy to fall into the habit of picking up your instrument and automatically playing through your repertoire 20 times before calling it a day. If you do benefit from running through the music, try to pay attention to the moments where you are least comfortable while you run through. When you find these moments, pause your run-through and repeat just those few measures before continuing on. Even making small changes like this can make a huge difference in the results you get. 

Myth #3: you should use the metronome ALL THE TIME 

Metronomes can be a very important and beneficial tool for musicians in the practice room. They provide a steady beat to give stability and perspective to the performer. Metronomes are great for playing scales, difficult passages, or for working through any piece. While they are pretty awesome and prove to be extremely useful, it is also very important to refrain from using them excessively. Developing an internal sense of time is essential for musicians, and it is worth taking the time to practice developing this without using the metronome as a crutch. Try playing through a piece without the metronome and listen back to judge where you may tend to stray from the beat (this often happens in more note-dense passages along with the more elongated and lyrical moments). If used correctly, the metronome can become the holy grail of the practice room! 

We hope that you found this to be helpful for yourself or another musician in your life! Feel free to pass this post on to a friend in need. If you have heard any other suspicious practice tips, please let us know in the comments below along with any questions you might have. P.S.: don’t forget that listening is an essential part of any music curriculum, so be sure to regularly check out famous records by the greats you admire the most, as well as the numerous live concerts that are happening regularly throughout the Chicagoland area! 

Did any of these tips inspire you to enroll yourself or your child in music lessons? If so, be sure to click here to fill out an interest form for Terra Sounds in Glenview! 

Blog post written by Kayla Patrick. Photography by: Catalin Balta, Marcelo Leal, Siniz Kim, and

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