Determining what is a good practice schedule really depends on your goal. Are you a parent of a five year old that wants your child to experience music? Beginning with a short, but regular practice routine is a big success. Would you like to be a master? That should take about 10,000 hours so you might consider at least a few hours a day. There is a wide range of goals in between so I discuss practice needs with each student and parent individually. I encourage all my students to practice by hosting a practice contest with prizes that are awarded at our annual spring recital.
Beginners start with reviewing lesson material to the best of their ability and eventually learn concentrated practice skills, as they become more advanced players. In the beginning, practicing is more about establishing a routine of when to regularly get the violin out and actually doing it. That time is called practice and is establishing a very important tool of structured self-discipline. Having discipline is a fundamental skill that assists the young student through a lifetime. This structure of self-motivated work time is a benefit of establishing practice with the main goal being learning the basic fundamentals of violin technique, experiencing the joy of music, and exploring creativity.
The skills of establishing a regular practice time have been set and the fundamentals of basic technique have been established. More advanced techniques and solo repertoire are being studied. Most likely there is orchestra music to be learned as well. At this point, practicing becomes more about managing your time with more material to practice and about having practice skills that work. A sample of methods for thorough practicing is playing slowly, using the metronome to accelerate the tempo, isolating and simplifying problem spots, being dedicated to scales and technique, listening, singing, and then enjoying what you’ve learned. Learning how to practice most effectively with focused attention is being developed at this stage.
Rough guide to practice:
Age 4-6 10-20minutes,3-5 days a week
Age 7-930minutes,5 days a week
Age 10-1245minutes,5 days a week
Age 13 and older1 hour or more, 5 days a week
*Dedication to this chart will reap many rewards. If your goal is to be a professional violinist, this rough guide will take 41 years and will need alteration. If your aim is to be a professional, I recommend 2 hours a day for 6 or 7 days a week.
Note to Parents:
Most children will not practice by themselves. This does not mean that they should quit. They need your help to establish a practice routine. You will get more out of your investment in so many ways if you help your child practice. I cannot emphasize this enough. I have discovered that sometimes parents worry about power struggles or practice being a negative experience when initiated by the parent. To address this I suggest a regular time to practice. Many parents have had success with practice before school. Another positive way to reinforce practice is with a reward system that can be as simple as stickers, pennies, or even dried beans or stones. You could have the last minute of practice be jam time, as the young violinist plays any sounds they want with a favorite recording or on their own. There are many ways to mix in fun with the serious side of practice and I am happy to help parents that are struggling with this. Eventually, the child will feel the true reward of their dedication through the music they have accomplished playing.