there is a lot of debate about how much practice is enoug,is too much etc.

its been about a month since i started deliberate practicing, focusing on rhythm; counting out loud, while trying to change chords, thinking about which notes i am playing and where i plan to go with it, my routine includes


Ear training



General technique

Speacial technique

Song learning

Note reading

But while doing these exercises im thinking about what im doing, counting rythm, thinking about which notes im playing and where i want them to lead to and it takes too much mental energy to focus that hard im supposed to be doing about two and a half hours of practicing ,about half of it requires focusing and even with this much i feel overwhelmed i feel like i should do even more but its just too hard for me to focus that much even right now i sometimes get on autopilot mode, so am i underperforming or is there such a thing as overpractice?

The reason of the question is basicly should i push myself even further or not

  • What instrument? Guitar most likely. What does your teacher think? How long have you been playing? What long term aims?
    – Tim
    Aug 30, 2017 at 14:32
  • 1
    A month is just the very beginning. After six months to a year, you should be really noticing a difference. Aug 30, 2017 at 14:53
  • @Tim I'm playing guitar, i cant afford a teacher atm, but i have some friends who are better then me, but i havent asked them about it i should've, i've been playing for two years but most of it is just noodling. My goals are to improve my ryhthm, play cleaner and to be able to actively improvise in a jazz setting. Sorry for not putting these details in the question. Todd Wilcox: Do you mean my endurance could get better, because my question isnt about progress, i can already see some progress in my playing. Just asking if adding more work would result in more/faster progress.
    – TheD
    Aug 30, 2017 at 15:00
  • @TheD, I think an important question is whether or not you enjoy it. Which tasks in this practice list that you enjoy doing? Your mental fatigue might a result of practicing each task for too short a time. Spending more time on one task could allow you to automate some aspects of that practice routine, which would reduce the mental drain.
    – jdjazz
    Sep 1, 2017 at 22:09

4 Answers 4


I remember an interview where Itzhak Perlman was asked how much he practiced? He said that for most of his life he practiced three hours a day. The interviewer could not get it over herself to believe this.

If I remember she asked astonished, but how was this possible or something to that effect, to which he just answered that he always made sure that when he practiced he was in the correct state of mind.

His practice was well structured and highly disciplined. I'm sure when he practiced there were no distractions, he focused completely on his violin and he was methodical in his approach.

If there was something he struggled with I'm sure he practiced it slowly and in time until he eventually got it.

When it comes to practice it has always been my view that it is important to have QUALITY over QUANTITY.


I think your basic problem is that you are a complete beginner but you are trying to learn "everything all at once."

Practicing without thinking about what you are doing doesn't have much value, but if you try the equivalent of learning "everything you would be taught during several years at high school" in a month, it's not surprising you end up mentally exhausted.

There is nothing obviously "wrong" with your list of topics to study, but just take it steadily, and accept that it will take you a few years (not a few weeks) to achieve all your ambitions.

You might find that three 10-minute practice sessions with a really high "mental work rate" is better than one 30-minute session - and a lot better than one 2 1/2 hour session that leaves you mentally exhausted.

As you progress you will be able to practice productively for longer at a time. If you want to win marathons, you don't start your training by trying to run complete marathons - you work up to that goal in stages!


First of all: I applaud your ambition and enthusiasm - the most important thing is to always keep that going as much as possible.

Anyhow - I think you have good answers here already, but this is too long for a comment, so:

im supposed to be doing about two and a half hours of practicing

Who said that's what you're supposed to be doing? That's a long practice session focusing just on the technical aspects of playing for a lot of musicians, no less a relative beginner.

is there such a thing as overpractice?

Yes, there is such a thing. Pushing yourself too far won't help you, and it might hold you back: You're liable to get sick of it/burnt out, and slide all the way back. You may not see it yet, but it happens.

Burn-out is not uncommon, and it can sometimes be abrupt: One day you sit down to practice and you're just not in the mood - you can't get it going - you start to feel depressed and discouraged - you'd rather watch TV or go out with some friends - you feel as if life is passing you by and you're wasting your time with music - never making enough progress... Finally you put down the guitar and don't touch it again for another 10 or 20 years, or maybe never.

Keep in mind: The rests are a very important part of the music.

If you really believe you need such a long practice session, at least break up your routine by playing along with records and experimenting - things that you can enjoy. Practicing is usually not fun - it's work. But you can mix in some fun to make it easier. Still, it's highly questionable if you need to hold such long practice sessions, as the other answers have stated.

Am i underperforming

There is no objective way for any of us to know that. Who/what is going to determine if you are underperforming? Underperforming compared to who? Compared to what? There is no set timetable for anybody's progress. It depends on your goals, your talent, your available time...

If you were Franz Liszt, you might be "underperforming" if it took you more than an hour to play through a whole fake book on the piano. If you were me, it would be great to do it in a month's time (on guitar or bass).

I see in the comments that you can't get a teacher right now. But you can get books that have methods and lesson plans that give you focused exercises, milestones and goals to achieve over time, and a reasonably paced plan for moving forward in doable steps. I cannot offhand recommend the right book for you (I've bought any number of books that I never use, and two or three I use all the time...) but do some research: The reviews on Amazon from real people about instruction books is a good resource. Also try googling for information and material.

Above all: If you are indeed as serious as you sound, do whatever it takes to get yourself a decent teacher (research that too), and meanwhile do talk to your musician friends and try to get help and feedback from them - maybe play with them sometimes. It's very difficult to feel good about what you're doing or know if you're really making progress, without feedback and help from other musicians.


Long-term improvements come as sleep gradually replaces consciously memorized temporary skills with hardwired ones. Only that way do they become accessible without requiring extra focus (which is available only within limits).

The learning process itself is something that gets better with training (so you'll manage longer productive sessions eventually). So the best thing you can do when exhausted is sleep. Note that there is no requirement to sleep only once per day. Some of my most productive phases in life involved alternating phases of about 10 hours of work and 6 hours of sleep without much in terms of synchronization to the sun. Obviously, for practising an acoustic instrument in typical modern living situations that is not entirely feasible.

Now whether there is actually a point to maximizing your skill acquisition by letting it take over your life is nothing anybody except yourself can answer.

  • doubt i can start napping, since i have trouble sleeping at nights but thanks for your insight
    – TheD
    Aug 30, 2017 at 14:55
  • @TheD - maybe try sleep during the day? I do that a lot - up late, sleep during the day - but my work schedule accommodates that.
    – Stinkfoot
    Aug 31, 2017 at 7:56

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