DePauw music students’ homework: practicing


How a musician practices determines his or her career.
Even though each instrument produces the same result, no one instrument is exactly like another instrument. In order to create the best art possible with each instrument, musicians practice according to their instrument.
The amount of time that a musician practices may fluctuate. If a musician needs to practice individual repertoire but also has an ensemble rehearsal that day, they should not practice as much as they would if they did not have a rehearsal. Should they practice more, their practicing is not only pointless but may also hurt their ability to practice the next day.
Recommended practice times are different for each instrument. Regardless of what his or her practice goals are, a vocalist should not practice for more than one hour per day.
For vocalists, their instruments are their body, and the human body is not built to sing for long periods of time. For instrumentalists, a healthy amount of time to practice is two to four hours per day. Their instruments are tangible and can be played for longer periods of time. Yet a musician’s goals may require practicing longer than these suggested limits.
Perhaps a musician is having trouble playing or singing a run – a set of notes played or sung quickly up or down a scale. They then set a goal to work on the run until it is no longer a problem. A vocalist may spend an entire hour working on a problem spot in a song; an instrumentalist may spend more multiple hours working on a difficult piece. If either musician needs a break, he or she may practice an easier song, or he or she may leave the practice room.
In the School of Music, when we have practiced as long as we can or when we cannot fix a problem in our pieces, we walk into “Bum Alley.” There, we find arguably the most comfortable chairs on campus and our friends, waiting to console us. We begin conversations with our peers, taking our minds off of our frustration or off of our fatigue.
The best part about these conversations is that they are not always about music. Attending a liberal arts institution instead of a conservatory means exposure to life outside of music.
Conversations range from non-music classes to fraternity formals to the latest viral videos on YouTube. When we recognize that it is time to return to our practicing, we go back to our practice rooms.
College of Liberal Arts (CLA) students attend their classes and labs, and then, they return to their rooms. They have free hours during the day and in the evening to work on homework, which consists of studying and writing papers and lab reports.
Our homework, for our lessons, for our music classes and for our ensembles, is to practice. We must learn repertoire for both our primary instrument but also our piano lessons, practice sight-singing, which even instrumentalists are required to do, and practice ensemble repertoire.
The expectations are never less than this. Adding CLA classes and non-music activities to the equation forces us to manage our practice time with extra care. Practicing may come before social activities, but as we improve we realize that the sacrifice is worthwhile.

– Hart is a freshman from Fort Wayne, Ind., majoring in vocal performance.