Learning piano requires dedication and practice. But what is the ideal amount of time to practice in order to achieve the best results? The answer is not as straightforward as you might think. While many pianists and music teachers may recommend long practice sessions, the science suggests that shorter, spaced-out practice sessions may actually be more beneficial for learning and retention of musical skills.
One of the key benefits of shorter practice sessions is that they can help prevent mental and physical fatigue. Studies have shown that fatigue can interfere with learning and performance, and long practice sessions can lead to fatigue. By taking regular breaks and practicing in shorter sessions, individuals can give full-focus during practise, maximising the efficiency of practise time, and avoiding the effects of fatigue, allowing for more focused and effective practice.
Now for some cool science. The process of learning and memory consolidation involves changes in the strength and connectivity of neural circuits in the brain. When we learn something new, such as a piano skill, the neural circuits involved in that skill are strengthened through a process called synaptic plasticity. However, this strengthening process takes time and requires consolidation of the learning.
Studies have shown that the consolidation of learning occurs during sleep, specifically during periods of slow-wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. During SWS, the brain replays newly learned information, which reinforces and stabilizes the neural connections involved in the learning. During REM sleep, the brain strengthens these neural connections and integrates the new information with existing knowledge.
When individuals practice for long periods, they experience diminishing returns in terms of learning because the brain becomes fatigued and unable to efficiently consolidate the learning during sleep. However, when individuals practice in shorter, spaced-out sessions, the brain has more opportunities to consolidate the learning during sleep, leading to better retention of the new information and skills.
In summary, practicing in short stints can improve consolidation of learning in the brain by allowing for more efficient consolidation during sleep. During sleep, the brain strengthens and integrates the newly learned information and skills, leading to better skill retention, and mastery over time.
Practicing in shorter sessions can help maintain motivation and engagement over time. If practice sessions are too long, it can be challenging to maintain enthusiasm. By breaking up practice into shorter sessions, individuals may be more likely to maintain interest and engagement in their practice, leading to more effective learning.
So, what is the ideal practice time for learning piano?
Well the ideal practise time is less than you would think. Research shows, that optimal learning occurs with just 3-15 minutes of practise per session. RidleyAcademy's Complete Piano Masterclass was designed around this exact discovery.
Our Complete Piano Masterclass programme works by breaking down the process of learning piano into small micro-steps, specifically ordered and organised, in a way that builds gradually, one upon the other. The student masters one micro-step, in a short practise session, of 3-15 minutes.
By hyper-focusing each practise session around one single, simple, 'step' of learning piano, the programme allows for a much greater consolidation of learning during sleep, leading to better retention of new information. During sleep, the brain strengthens and integrates the neural connections involved in the learning, leading to more effective and lasting skill acquisition.
In short, by incorporating shorter, spaced-out practice sessions into your routine, you will be able to optimize your practice time and achieve greater success in your piano playing.
Remember, the key to success is not just how long you practice, but how effectively you practice. On the Complete Piano Masterclass programme, I personally guide you, from zero to full competence on the piano, with the most effective practise techniques ever developed.
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