How many hours should you practice?
That question was being asked long before any of us ever got here, and it’ll continue to be asked long after we’re gone. But to answer it, you need to ask yourself: How long can I concentrate?
Concentration span varies as much as… wait. Is that a kangaroo? Sorry. Concentration span varies a lot, with some people being able to concentrate for ten to 15 minutes while others can stay for up to 2 hours or more. Personally, I am one of those who have the shorter kind. But it didn’t stop me from making some steps in my music.
There are four parts of the ideal practice session. The first is the Warm Up. This involves stretching out your fingers, making sure they’re limber enough to play. The second is the fun part, playing things you’re already comfortable with. I like to call this the Beast Mode phase. The third is the Learning Stage, where you learn a new concept. Mostly you’ll want to learn some music theory here, just so you can understand better how music works. Occasionally, however, you could learn a new lick or riff that sounded phenomenal to you and you may need to show off some time in the future. (Let’s face it, all performance artists are show-offs.) The last is the Neo Practice stage, where you practice some of the new things you’ve learnt.
An ideal practice session, therefore, is as follows: take 3 minutes or so to warm up. After that, take 10 minutes playing songs you really love. After this, take 10 more minutes learning something new and 10 more minutes practicing it.
Now, a lot of the time, you’ll not get a new musical concept right away. So you won’t be able to learn a new concept every day. This is absolutely OK. If you spend 15 minutes (not 20) practicing something you learnt yesterday, or a week ago, (this could be up to three months sometimes!) it’s still OK. The important thing is not really how long you do it, but that you don’t skip days.
Whenever you’re pressed for time, just make sure you squeeze in 10 minutes to do that last part of practice. Ultimately it’s what contributes the most to grow you as a musician.