Write Now: Does Practice Make Perfect?

For whatever instrument you play, how much time do you put into practicing?

In a word, practicing is essential. Practicing is essential because it allows the musician to understand his instrument on another level.

Some musicians have routines when they practice and that is what helps them. Other musicians don’t have routines, and they still get in the hours needed. But ask any musician how many hours he practices, and the numbers will vary. To stay in the game, a musician must practice at least an hour per day. And that’s a minimum. In season, athletes can practice three to five and ¢ hours per day, and out of season maybe two to three hours. Again, it depends on the sport.

So, the next time someone says to you “Let’s go shoot some hoops,” consider that an invitation to practice basketball. You may just think of it as shooting a basketball at a basket, but each time you shoot the ball, you are trying to perfect your shot, so the ball goes into the basket. Nothing but net.

Do you ever play catch with a football? When you throw, you want to make sure your hand is gripping the ball, so you can throw a tight spiral with some velocity. When you play catch with a baseball, you are working on hand-eye coordination as well. You want to be able to catch the baseball in one hand, then remove it from your glove with your throwing hand, and then throw the ball. Don’t throw the baseball over the other player’s head because then the session gets real interesting real fast. And don’t forget to check your glove hand for any soreness because of how you caught the ball. It stings when the ball lands in your glove where there is minimal or no padding.

I’m sure you heard the old adage. “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice. Practice. Practice.”

And that is true to some extent. Your talent and skill will only take you so far. Then let luck take you the rest of the way. There is no correct combination of talent, skill, and luck. I just know one needs some of all three to be successful.

But how long is the correct amount of practice time?

Again it depends on what you are practicing. If you have a solo, then yes, you need to put in extra time. If you are unsure of your part or you just received your part, you need to put in the time to be very proficient. Remember other members are also practicing their parts.

At first practicing your instrument can be tedious and boring. It’s because you are learning the essentials of your instrument and you are developing skills to play the instrument. For example, when a guitarist starts playing, his fingertips may hurt for a long time after he practices because he has not yet developed callouses. But as soon as he develops callouses, and learns some chords and scales, he now can hear music differently, and he can try to apply what he has learned when trying to figure out a chord progression he heard in a song.

Same thing holds true for a drummer. A drummer will start out with a single snare drum and learn rudiments, and how to correctly hold the sticks. Some drummers play with a matched grip while others play with the traditional grip. And some play with both. It doesn’t matter, the drummer still has to learn the rudiments. As soon as he can play the rudiments correctly, he may be able to move on to a drum set, and apply what he has learned with rudiments to the set. But playing the drum set requires limb independence. For example, a drummer’s right hand may be playing a different rhythm than his left hand, his left foot and his right foot. And all the while, he makes it look effortless, and not clumsy.

This didn’t happen over night. It took hours and years of practice to make his limbs play independent of each other.

So we think nothing of it when an athlete needs to practice. His practice is built into his day. The same thing should apply to musicians, but sometimes it’s not. It’s only when a musician is really proficient do other people want to hear him play. Maybe they want to hear him play because if he is a drummer, may he will teach them a beat to play on the drum set. But maybe he could or should say, “Hey I hope you understand, but I have to practice. When I am finished, I can let you listen.”

So yes, practice does make perfect. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.