Tips for Healthy Practicing, Part 1


As a musician, it is important to pay attention to how you practice. Healthy practice patterns can help lead you to a lifelong enjoyment of pain-free playing!

How do YOU approach practicing? What do you do when you walk into a practice room or pick up your instrument?

Just as an athlete stretches before practice, or a marathon runner warms up before a race, a musician should warm up their muscles before launching into a long practice session or rehearsal.

Here are some tips:

  1. Warm up for 5-10 minutes before practicing solo repertoire or difficult passages.
  2. For every 50 minutes of practicing, it is important to take at least 10 minutes off to stretch and relax. This is a great opportunity to take a short walk, do a few stretches, or think about what you are trying to accomplish during that practice session. Let your body have a well-deserved break!
  3. Try to be consistent about your practice schedule. Practicing an hour a day is better than cramming in three or four hours every other day. Your muscles will thank you for being consistent, and you will retain more material.
  4. Gradually work up towards longer rehearsals and practice sessions, just as a runner would gradually work up their stamina for a race. If you are used to practicing 45 minutes at a time, don’t suddenly shift to two hour practice sessions.
  5. Avoid scheduling rehearsals back to back. If you can, show up early to warm up, and stretch during breaks and after the rehearsal ends.
  6. Take care of yourself and your body. It can’t function well under lots of stress if you are not getting enough sleep, exercise, and regular meals.
  7. Talk to your instructor or physician if you ever have discomfort from playing. It should never hurt to play your instrument!

It all starts in the practice room. You can frantically race through the cadenza of a sonata for your next lesson, or you can choose to carefully work through the more difficult sections, and then gradually work up the tempo. Try planning out your practice session. What are you going to accomplish? Write it out ahead of time, or think about it while you stretch or take your practice break. This is your time with you, your body, and your instrument. Use it effectively. You can practice mindlessly for six hours a day and never get anything done, or just have one really constructive hour each morning where you get everything done. Quantity is not quality. Consistent, mindful practice can gets things done painlessly in a shorter amount of time. And remember to take breaks! If you are stuck on something, take a short walk or just lie on the floor and take a few deep breathes. Your mind will be more attentive after a short break, and your body will appreciate it too.

If you are trying to increase your practice time (say, if your teacher tells you to practice more, or if you have a concert coming up), do it gradually. Add ten minutes every few days. If your body feels okay with 40 minutes, you can try increasing it to 45 or 50 minutes. But listen to your body. If you feel really fatigued after an hour, DON’T increase your playing time. Stay at an hour or decrease back to your previous playing time until your body tells you it is okay to keep increasing.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of “Tips for Healthy Practicing” to find out what to do if you feel pain from playing your instrument, and which resources are available to help you learn more about being a healthy musician

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11 Responses to Tips for Healthy Practicing, Part 1

  1. Cellimom May 18, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    Thanks for good advice! I will remember for practicing.

  2. Colin Cronin May 18, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

    When I was studying piano in college, a good friend showed me some great stretches that you can do using the wall as a brace. You can work more than just your arms. You can also help your back and neck, which are critical to maintaining posture no matter the instrument. So many musicians hammer away endlessly for hours with no break. It’s mentally and physically exhausting. Yet I’ve met many people who think that there isn’t much that they can do except walk around when they are in the practice rooms. Learn how to use your environment to help you work on your body.

  3. Pamela May 30, 2011 at 3:16 am #

    Looking over the site, I have to say I love it. Is it a WordPress theme?

    • Brianna Richardson July 4, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

      Pamela – Glad you like it! Yes, it is a WordPress theme. I hope you continue to enjoy the site!

  4. Health = healthybodytips July 22, 2011 at 9:37 am #

    You’ve got great insights about How to maintain a healthy body, keep up the good work!

  5. Lynn Kuo November 15, 2011 at 12:16 am #

    Great article, Brianna! What about incorporating mental rehearsal as a supplement to physical practice?
    Malva Freymuth’s book, though difficult to buy now, discusses this very helpful strategy, based on a long tradition in sports psychology practice:

    As I was researching for my DMA thesis on injury prevention, I did manage to find a copy at a university library here in Ontario.

    • Brianna Richardson November 15, 2011 at 12:27 am #

      Thanks for your comments, Lynn! Mental rehearsal is indeed an important component to healthy practicing, and one that deserves further recognition. I will definitely take a look at Freymuth’s book!

    • Cora December 14, 2011 at 2:23 am #

      Dear Lynn Kuo,

      I am vey interested in Malva Freymuth’s bok, but as you mentioned, I can’t find a copy for sale on the internet ( charges 325 dollar…). Do you have a suggestion where I can buy it, or how I can get a copy?


    • Cora December 14, 2011 at 2:25 am #

      Dear Lynn Kuo,

      I am vey interested in Malva Freymuth’s bok, but as you mentioned, I can’t find a copy for sale on the internet ( charges 325 dollar…). Do you have a suggestion where I can buy it, or how I can get a copy?



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