June 24th, 2014: What’s the best way to practice?

Okay, well, I’m starting this a little off topic by saying the following: I’m posting now because yesterday I had a splitting headache all day (despite being productive) and because I have a late rehearsal tonight!  So, today I’m “rambling” about practicing and wondering what the best way of doing it is.  I’ve read a couple articles that say interleaved practice is better than blocked practice, so I tried it and noticed results! (Curious about what it means?  Here’s the article: Interleaved Vs. Blocked Practice (The Bullet Proof Musician)  My articulation is faster my tone responds more easily when I need it to, I love it!  Of course there’s also the article Dr. Kageyama has on mindless and deliberate practice, which, let’s face it, we’re all probably guilty of at some point.  That’s not so much my point though.

I know that an adult human has a maximum attention span of 20 minutes under the best conditions, so I block my practice time together as such.  Ex: Tone/Articulation (20 min.), Etude (20 min.), Tone/Articulation (20 min.), Gordelli (20 min.), Piccolo (20 min.), etc.  That being said, when I practice the way I ideally want to, 20 minutes on one section, take 5 minutes, do a different task (cleaning, writing, doing dishes, etc.) for 20 minutes, take a 5 minute break, practice for 20 minutes, I never get to everything.  Let’s also add into the equation that if I want to interleave my practice on pieces I have to be incredibly methodical in how I do it and that I usually wind up practicing scales and some large articulation exercises in one big 30 minute clump.  So, often what happens is I set aside a block of 3-4 hours and practice the entire time, setting my timer for 20 minutes, playing that whole time, then taking a 1-2 minute stretch break (at most) and coming right back.

I understand the question of quality over quantity, but what’s the ideal balance?  Having an hour of good practice time interwoven with other activities or having a couple hours of strong work, but knowing that, even though you’re trying your hardest, some of the practice is getting wasted?  What works for you?  What worked for you in the past?  How do you balance practicing and a busy schedule?  Comments are, as always welcomed and encouraged! 😀

P.S. Out of running for another week or so until I figure out the deal with my feet and shoes, ugh!

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