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When you want to practice for, say, 2 solid hours a day, how do you stay productive throughout the practice session? I find myself going off and noodling after a while of practicing something monotonous like a lick in 12 keys or scales, etc. and this seems to be a waste of actual practice time, set aside the fact that it's fun to do.

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Hey, welcome to the site. I'm not sure this question is really a good fit for us since I don't think it's about music -- maintaining focus is largely independent of the particular endeavour. It's more about your level of interest, energy level, habits, and so on. Just as an example, I used to practise for 3 hours a day without issue, then go and read a book for a few hours, then do some programming for a few hours and forget to eat ... I just have a long attention span and tend to get caught up in what I'm doing. –  Matthew Read Jul 5 '12 at 20:39
    
If others agree this question is likely to be closed, but don't let that don't let that discourage you. Check out our FAQ and feel free to ask any other specific music/musician questions you may have. –  Matthew Read Jul 5 '12 at 20:40
    
This might be on-topic on the Personal Productivity SE. productivity.stackexchange.com/faq –  American Luke Jul 5 '12 at 20:44
    
This isn't necessarily off-topic: there are lots of tricks and methods that could be specific to music (for example, should you listen to music during breaks, what types of activities can keep the musical part of your brain "warm," etc.) –  amindfv Jul 12 '12 at 0:31
    
Not off topic at all. Music practice definitely involves mental patterns similar to many other disciplines, but who better than a musician can answer such a typical musician question ? –  Skippy Fastol Jul 12 '12 at 15:00

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Perhaps the most obvious thing to do would be to consciously decide to take breaks at specific intervals. Then you can set a time-limit on it. The 5min per half-hour (or whatever pace you decide) of free play will be sweeter for having anticipated it. I can be a frequent reward for diligence during the work portion.

Edit: I found some psychobabble to back this up.

[I]t is very useful for mental workers to practice a short relaxation every hour; short, so that the needed and right mental tension is not lost, and yet the body is freed from excessive tension. Such short relaxations depend on one's physical condition: if very tired, relax on a couch whereever possible; if not, stand up and move about. In both methods include deep breathing, but such relaxation should not be for more than five minutes. It provides a useful break, helps toward sustained work--a "second wind", so to speak; and those who are tense relax and those who are slack are helped to become active. -Roberto Assagioli, Psychosynthesis, 1976, p. 160.

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I try to stay task-oriented. Before I start playing, I always identify a goal, whether it be focusing on not screwing up a note, or trying out a different phrasing, or working on pedaling , or finding a different fingering. After I stop playing, I reflect on what I just did and what I could have done better-- was a slur not fluid enough, could I have made the dynamics a little more distinct, was I even playing the right notes.

For me, this work process breaks down at about the 40-60 minute mark, and I need to take a breather, like luser droog recommends.

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I've heard it said that smokers are more productive workers largely due to regular breaks. Incidentally I'm also waging a private war at work about the value of regular breaks. These Camels dont gonna smoke theyselfs! –  luser droog Jul 6 '12 at 3:06
    
It's also possible that inhaling a stimulant (nicotine) has something to do with it.... I wonder if anybody's looked at whether caffeine has a similar effect on productivity. –  Babu Jul 6 '12 at 3:47
    
I've found this on Productivity SE: productivity.stackexchange.com/q/2619 –  American Luke Jul 6 '12 at 12:10

I would say : do NOT pratice for solid hours. Why do you do so ?

To keep your attention up, practice for any number of 30 minute sessions.

You will be amazed by the improvement of 2 x 30 minute sessions over a single 2 hour session, the day after.

Just try.

Summary: : Extended sessions are NOT the way to go for increased performance or productivity. Cut them into small chunks !

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I agree, but I feel your tone may be a little overzealous (I've been known to do this too). If you could add a personal anecdote or more analysis, then this answer would likely attract more votes. :) –  luser droog Jul 12 '12 at 18:24
    
@luserdroog: I will add an anecdote asap ! :) –  Skippy Fastol Jul 12 '12 at 21:37

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