In my sixteen years of teaching, this is by the far the most common question I receive from new families. As with any other skill, there are a vast amount of factors including age, skill level, and personal goals that that can lead to different answers. The short and simple answer I can give you is “everyday”. So what does that mean? Well, for me, I cut out two hours of my busy adult life too practice, and I wish I could do much more. In between the demands of playing weddings, acoustic singer-songwriter gigs, recording sessions, and writing music, that is barely enough time for me to be prepared for the week, and maybe have a little fun with it. Most professional musicians I know are around the same amount of time, depending on what they do.
Obviously, for a younger student, two hours probably sounds ridiculous, and I would think it would be for your typical eight year old. With younger hands, we need to build up the stamina to be able to play. Much of what I do in my own teaching is expose a younger student to the instrument and proper pedagogy. The first few years is building up the necessary strength and dexterity to play the instrument, and build up from there. My general rule of thumb for beginning students is to not watch the clock, and to play every day. Music is a life long journey; one you're going to need to enjoy the daily practice of if you want to get any good (trust me, it gets really fun the better you get). For parents, 15 – 30 minutes a day is a really good place for your young prodigy to be at during the first year of lessons. They will make progress from week to week, and you will get the most out of your experience with us at Commonwealth Music School.
Practicing does not need to end with your time at the instrument! Even though I only have two hours set aside where I can sit with my instrument(s), I am ALWAYS listening to music: car rides, background music at dinner, and my personal favorite – turn off the TV at night and throw on a record! Listening to music together as a family is a really great way to expose each other to new styles of music. Even the stuff I did not necessarily like as a kid I know soaked into my musician brain.
Next time, we can explore what to practice. Feel free to leave any questions in the comment section below, and happy practicing!