Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to Find Time to Practice Your Music

Practical tips to find time for practicing music

In this video, Robert gives you some practical tips about finding time for practicing you maybe never thought about.

Released on December 2, 2015

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, I'm Robert Estrin. Welcome to and Today's question is "How to find time to practice?" Boy, this is a great topic and you're gonna be surprised at the universal aspect of this challenge. You know, a lot of people come to me and they say, "Oh, I'm an accomplished pianist. So, I must practice all the time. And maybe it's easy for me, because I'm a professional. I can devote more time to it." Or "I have a student who just went to the Manhattan School of Music, starting off there on scholarship." And you think, "Oh, he's at a music conservatory. He should have plenty of time to practice."

Well, you'd be very surprised that whether you're a professional or you're a music major at a conservatory, the challenge of finding practice time is no less great a challenge for a professional or a serious student, as it is for anyone. So, what are some of the things you can do to overcome this challenge? Well, there's a few things. First of all, you want to try to get into some sort of routine. So, that at a certain time of the day, it's earmarked for practice time. Because it's so easy to let time slip away if you don't set a certain time, each day, that you know you're gonna get to it. Even if that's the only time you get to it.

At least maybe after breakfast or before dinner or sometime, you say "That's my practice time." You make it a routine and you adhere to that routine, religiously. Just like if you do physical fitness and you do a certain workout every day and it becomes routine. You'll feel like your missing something, if you don't do it. It's the same thing with regular practice, but there are other ways in which you can really enhance your practice time. Sometimes you might only have 10 minutes or something and you think, "Ah, it's not enough time to take the music out" or take your instrument out and all that. No, that's nonsense. Anytime you can steal to put into your instrument is really, incredibly valuable.

Not only that, but half the time you might find you start off practicing, thinking you only have a few minutes. Maybe you have a student coming or you have some other appointment. And suddenly that vanishes or maybe the appointment's 30 minutes late. And boy, you got all this practice time you didn't even expect to have. So, take advantage of any time you do have. Now, I have another video about playing the piano in your mind. Which sounds kind of metaphysical or something, but actually, practice truly is a mental activity. There's a certain physiological component to it, naturally, but you can do a tremendous amount just with pure thought. So, if you're on a train or on line at the bank, run through some of your passages on the piano.

Even if you're a wind instrument or a singer, just thinking through the performance is incredibly invaluable. In fact, you will find you may gain more from practice away from your instruments sometimes, than you will at your instrument. Why? Because it forces you to concentrate. Because you don't have the tactile feel and, therefore, you must really be thinking the music thoroughly. So, to recap, set scheduled time for your practice and adhere to it. So, that you know you'll get a certain minimal level of practice. Also, take advantage of any small opportunities when you didn't expect to have time. Jump right in and be ready to go.

And lastly, think about your music when you're taking a shower or taking a walk, any time is fair game for practicing mentally. I hope this is helpful for all instrumentalists. I'm very interested in your comments. Again, Robert Estrin at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

BruceF75 * VSM MEMBER * on July 3, 2021 @1:00 pm PST
A number of years ago, my orchestra was going to play in the concert hall in downtown Seattle - a big thing for a volunteer orchestra. Unfortunately, I was going to be on a trip and coming back from the East Coast the night before. What to do? I took my music, and on the plane coming back I went through the fingering of all the pieces (I play cello). I was quite a sight for the other passengers: my hand by my ear with my fingers going up and down! The concert went well and I'm glad I was able to 'practice' a bit beforehand.
Robert - host, on July 4, 2021 @11:16 am PST
Mental playing can be the most valuable time spent practicing. When you don't have the instrument in your hands, the mental process is extreme which is what good practicing is all about!
Golly * VSM MEMBER * on June 23, 2021 @11:29 am PST
My piano is only 20 feet from my TV-watching couch. Some TV channels have long commercial slots. I use those to get in some practice. Easily adds up to 1/2 hour ...
Also the "rehearse in your head" is great advice !
Robert - host, on June 24, 2021 @10:49 am PST
You have the right idea - to work at the piano any spare moment you have!
Hans Quant on October 28, 2020 @10:36 am PST
What helps with practicing without the instrument is to copy/scan or download the score on an I-pad -or if you can easily read small print, on a smartphone. That makes it possible for you to study and memorizing on many occasions that now pass by unused for practizing. Do you know -as an example of the mass of sheet music that's available on the web- that all of Mozart's scores are downloadable for free at Good luck, good practicing! Enjoy!
Jan Booth * VSM MEMBER * on October 28, 2020 @6:18 am PST
Thank you for your encouragement about finding the time to practice. Sometimes when I sit down to play for only a very short time while waiting for a student, it is just the amount to motivate me to look for the next opportunity.
Joyce Beck * VSM MEMBER * on October 28, 2020 @5:55 am PST
I've practiced much more since I got a digital piano! I'm definitely an owl rather than a lark, and now I can practice late at night, using headphones, without waking the household.
Robert - host, on October 28, 2020 @5:01 pm PST
That is one of the great benefits of digital technology!
Doug Baker on January 20, 2016 @4:59 pm PST
That is excellent advice that I will try to keep in mind and apply. Thank you.
Doug Baker on December 5, 2015 @12:30 am PST
That is very good advice. Also, I find that sometimes I don't feel like practicing but when you sit down and start you begin to feel better and end up with a good practice.
Karen Long on December 2, 2015 @12:59 pm PST
At primary and secondary school, when I completed a task or was waiting for the teacher to get organised, I would use my wide desk top as an imaginary keyboard to rehearse. This only works if the piece is already nearly memorised. When sight reading music for accompanying soloists at the last minute, I can "hear" the music better if I'm actually using my fingers, even on my lap while scanning through the score. My pipe organ teacher would take his score to bed and read this like a bed time story. This would really speed up the learning time needed at the actual instrument, which of course was not in his own home.
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