Make the most out of practice

Question by Michael 
(Glen Burnie, MD)


Just found your site. Very well done. I can’t find your post on your blog site for “Make the most out of practice” that you mention in your video. Can you help me locate it? Thank you.


Hello Michael,

Yes! Indeed I remember writing about practicing a while back. At that time, I was maintaining a personal “practice blog” almost on a daily basis. I had to abandon this idea (too time consuming) but I found the article so you can read it again (see below).

On another note, I’ve recently synthesized my thoughts on practicing jazz and will be a releasing a special kind of quasi-ebook-resembling-a-special-report PDF shortly. It’s not completely proof read yet … stay tuned!

Meanwhile, here’s what I was talking about in the video:

Making the Most Out of Practice Time

(Appeared on November 25 2009 in my personal practice blog)

So you’re practicing jazz now huh!? Good! You’ve been doing it for a while? Even better! You’re improving? Great! That’s good sign. But, do you practice…Everyday? Every-every-everyday?! Really?! Every single day? 365.25 days a year?


Me too. I skip days also, so don’t worry. (But still… worry a little at least. It will keep you going on the long run.) You may have 5 or 6 practice sessions a week, and probably 3-4 really good ones (if you’re lucky). If you have less, I’m sure you’re aspiring to play more. If you’re already there you may wish to be more efficient with your time. So here’s what you need to do :

  • Maximize the Time Spent in Practice

“Creating practice time” is just an fancy expression that means: “you have to take the time to practice”. Often is too easy to let the day go by and not play at all. You have to prepare, mentally and schedule-wise. Here’s an example :

Now it’s 11AM, I didn’t practice yet. I have a gig around 7PM and I know my girlfriend is coming back from work at 4:30PM (we’ll have supper together). Between now and then I have to do many things (including writing this post!) and I could easily do “everything” (and not practice) and it will be supper time already!

Here’s my plan. Right after I’m done with this post I’ll: have lunch, wash dishes, do laundry, make the important phone calls / emails as efficiently as possible. If I’m lucky, I’ll be done by 2PM and have at least 2 good hours of practice.

If I don’t “tell myself” those things, I will just take the whole day doing whatever. I know it (and you probably know how it feels also!)

In short, it just takes a little bit of organization and planning ahead to “create” that 1-2 hours practice session you’re dreaming about. Try it!

Maximizing the time you spent in actual practice is as important as the practice session itself. Often you’ll find yourself with just 45 minutes to 1 hour (when you actually feel like doing 3 hours!). That happens to me very often. My problem lies in the gigs and rehearsals I have later at night. I can’t go nuts and practice 6 hours in my day if I have a 2-hour rehearsal and 4-set gig the same day! For example :

As you can see on my November 16th 2009 practice blog entry I had very little time and lots of rehearsal hours at night. I picked the topics I wanted to cover on that day for my practicing and I assigned a fixed amount of time.

I believe that’s still the best way to go : highly focused 5-15 minutes , depending on the matter. That way, an complete hour of practicing is worth a lot more than just “noodling”

In short, it also takes organization and planning ahead to have “good” practice sessions.

On a final note :
Most aspiring professional musicians believe that once you “make it”, you’ll just have so much more practice time because, hey, you don’t need the day job anymore! It’s so not true. Even when all you do is music, life continues! Your gigs and rehearsals take as much (if not more) time than the dayjob… and you still have to bath, shave, eat, sleep on a weird schedule. There’s no doubt than in my case, I’ve less time than before going “pro”. Practicing becomes a matter of organizing your time and personal conviction. I may not have as much time now, but as I have more conviction and drive than ever.

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