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I'm 21 years old and have been studying piano for only 6 months now. I'm following John Thompson's course, hanon exercises and currently in 3rd grade.

My worry is that I'll be working soon, and I allotted 1 hour practice 3 times a week before I go to bed, and 2-3 hour practice in the morning before my actual lessons every Sunday.

For those of you who are full-time employees, do you find the time to practice despite being exhausted from work? How do you keep yourself motivated?

Also, I've been feeling like I haven't improved much lately. I always feel happy whenever I play, and feel energized when I practice pieces that I like/love, but when I have to practice the small pieces from my lesson book, I feel like I have to force myself through it till I get to a song I have fun playing. I mention this because I wonder if this stops me from improving?

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    Realise that music is not a competition, each student should be afforded the right to progress at his/her own pace. – Neil Meyer Jul 13 '17 at 9:23
  • Possible dupe - music.stackexchange.com/questions/2022/… – Neil Meyer Jul 13 '17 at 9:24
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    Here's one way to save some wasted practice time: throw Hanon on the fire. It won't teach you anything worth knowing. (And if your teacher recommended Hanon, find a better teacher!) – user19146 Jul 13 '17 at 15:50
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"Little and often" is much better than a 2-3 hour practice binge just before your lesson. There is always a way to fit 10-15 minutes into your life somewhere - and probably more than one 10 minute session in a day.

Don't "waste" your practice time - decide in advance what specific problems or pieces you want to work on, and then focus on just that. For some people, writing down your "practice plan" in advance helps both to keep you focused on it, and to record your successes.

But don't get sidelined into trying to follow elaborate practice plans with half a dozen different items in an hour-long session. That can wait until you are more advanced - and until you really want to practice for an hour at a time.

"Playing through a lot of pieces that you don't really like" isn't "practising" - or at least, it's not effective practising. If you spend just 10 minutes working on say 4 or 8 bars from one piece that is giving you problems, you are more likely to see a tangible improvement to those few bars, and that improvement will motivate you practice some more.

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Try to do SOME practice every day, even if only 10 minutes.

You doubtless have the same issue as every other adult beginner. Initial progress was rapid. Now we consolidate. Not so much instant gratification as gradual progress. Make sure you practice your exercises and pieces RIGHT, even if slowly. 'Taking a run at it' with lots of mistakes is useless.

Strangely, you generally find the benefit of a good practice session shows up the NEXT day. So, while your marathon Sunday pre-lesson practice session won't be useless, it may not make as much difference as you hope to your performance at THAT Sunday's lesson.

To be blunt, you are at the stage when most adult beginners give up. The initial progress rush has passed, finding practice time becomes harder and harder... The statistics are against you. Please feel free to prove them completely wrong!

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Firstly, you should discuss this with your teacher, who knows your progress, and probably has a good idea about how you learn (everyone has different ways to learn/practise).

Secondly, probably the worst time to practise is when you are tired after work - mentally and/or physically.

Thirdly, there are always going to be bits of life that are tedious, bits that are rapturous, etc., etc. When I play with certain groups, etc., the bits that could be boring stop being so when I try to play in different ways - there are so many strategies and ideas - and you can do the same practising alone. Play a legato piece staccato, try starting a piece ppp and gradually reach fff in time for the big finish. Play an octave out. Transpose to another key. Have a go at a 4/4 piece in 5/4. The list goes on...

Fourthly, on practice regime, experiment. You may find 2-3 hrs works. You may equally find that 10 mins at a time, 3 times a day works better. Intersperse the boring with the exciting. Your teacher really ought to have discussed these issues with you. No-one is born knowing how to learn and practise efficiently. Most of us find out by accident. Short circuit that.

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Thinking back to when I started work in London (UK), I would not have been able to do anything in the evening after eating (Eat-Sleep-Work-Repeat). Here is a suggestion for the train journey to work in the morning when you are fresh or a quiet moment to yourself over a lunch break.

I started learning a technique recently called Mental Play or Mental Rehearsal. It's a visualisation technique where you practice the actions in your head away from the piano in a physically relaxed state. Learning the technique takes (is taking) some effort and practice (I cannot do it at all well yet).

The best description of the technique I found so far is in a workbook by Don Greene called Performance Success dating back to 2001. He has used it to help an injured Olympic diver and cites a concert musician with a bad case of stage fright. The workbook deals primarily with tackling performance anxiety but covers Mental Rehearsal as a supplementary technique in the second half of the workbook. Other descriptions I have found in free-to-view online sources didn't go into enough detail for me: a complete beginner in the technique.

Does John Thompson's course come with backing/play along tracks in CD or MIDI form? The backing tracks can help a boring song come to life. I used the Hal Leonard Kids Piano Lessons and Piano Solos, which have both. Still might not finish the course (I'm on Book 4 of 5 presently). I don't think it is worth dying in a ditch over finishing the course especially if it is getting boring. I'm enjoying the ABRSM and Rockschool 2015-2018 Grade 3 pieces I picked - more enjoyable than the ABRSM grade 2 pieces I did. My music teacher says they get better as you advance.

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