Practice after school, it’s good for you!

It’s a new school year, and already my students are juggling a lot.  Some still have yet to come back from summer vacation!  There was another great article in the Wall Street Journal this week about productivity (“The Peak Time for Everything”, 9/26/12), and there’s a lot of great tips for improving the quality of our practice sessions.

Are you having difficulty fingering a passage, or do you hear “blips” (unwanted key strokes) when you play certain sections of your solo? Practice at 4pm when your hand-eye coordination is on the rise (shown to peak from 2-6pm), and you are still feeling physically strong, energized and alert.  Research shows that we perform at our physical peaks from 3-6pm.  Students, no wonder so many people want a piece of you after school!

Want to work on your breathing or stamina to run an entire piece?  This was an eye-popping statistic to me – our lungs function 17.6% more effectively at 5pm than at midday.  Our muscle strength and flexibility are peaking at this hour, so this is also a great time to work on posture issues involving both your body and your hands.

Do you need to memorize something, are you preparing for an audition, or want to get a jump start on all your music for next week’s lesson?  Pick 10am on a weekend morning – as our body temperature rises, our cognitive skills improve.  Scientists have found that our working memory and concentration peaks in mid- to late-morning.

Want to write music?  9pm is the best time for you – research shows that our most creative and original thinking happens at non-peak times of the day.  Being tired will open your mind to new and offbeat ideas,  and “out of the box” solutions to problems.

I know there are a million demands on students during school afternoons, but the research backs me up: practice after school – it’s good for you, and you’ll accomplish more in the short time you have.

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