“How many hours a week do I need to practice?” New piano students, especially adult learners, often wonder how long they should be practicing between their lessons, and how they should organize their practice material during this time. These are valid questions. How we schedule and organize our piano practice time can determine the rate at which we progress, and our level of enjoyment of the instrument.
The answer to these questions, however, can be surprising. Practice sessions can be relatively short, especially in the beginning. All you really need is maybe fifteen to twenty minutes per session, up to an hour or so in total per week. More important than the length of the practice sessions, is for the beginner student to establish a regular schedule that fits into their lifestyle. This schedule should have a certain amount of flexibility, and develop naturally as the student’s skills develop. I often ask my beginner adult students, “Do you see yourself playing the piano in ten or fifteen years from now?” Most will answer yes. This kind of long-view for the beginner can help put their practice into perspective, and remove the pressure for for any perceived need for long hours spent at the piano.
A good thing to keep in mind is that we want to learn to play the piano for the enjoyment and satisfaction it brings. Our piano practice will become a big part of that enjoyment. A complex skill or art-form like playing a musical instrument will always present us with something new to learn, no matter how masterful we become. That is the real payoff: that our lives are enriched by the experience of our piano practice. The satisfaction of mastering a piece or a particular technical skill is only a part of that enriching process.
Take a few moments to review your weekly routine, and see if you can schedule in four or five fifteen-minute practice sessions, each on a different day of the week. That is really it. If you can find this time to work on your weekly lesson you will progress at a steady and surprisingly fast rate. Spend these short sessions well. Focus in on your lesson material, and what you need to practice. If you still want to play more after your fifteen minutes is up, take a short break. If you still want to play after your break, take some time to explore the piano through reading and listening to music. This extra time spent thinking about the piano is an opportunity to enjoy music for its own sake, and it will help you in your playing in the long run.
You might find that after a few weeks you are regularly missing one or two of your practice sessions. This can happen when your weekly work and home routine is interrupted by holidays, perhaps a visiting relative, a special work project, and so on. To get back on track with your piano practice, simply allow for the interruption. When your normal routine returns, take a few minutes to revise your practice schedule to get in those four or five sessions of focused work per week.
In the early stages of your piano practice, you are simply becoming familiar with the instrument, developing some basic keyboard skills, as well as being introduced to reading music. You will find that your lesson material itself will naturally fill up your fifteen minute practice time. As your skills and knowledge develop, you will need longer sessions. Probably by the end of your first year of practice you will need about half-an hour or so per session. Try to keep to the plan of four to five sessions on different days per week, and take the time to look back at your progress. Remember your first lesson and attempts at playing. See how far you have come will give you the encouragement to continue on. You will have learned a lot about the piano, and you will have developed good practice habits that will take you further along in your piano playing.