How to find time to practice as an adult in a hectic world!

I could totally relate to this question sent in by Rodrigo in Mexico city:

“I’m 32 years old, and I am very busy most of my day. I have a sales franchise and work in a consulting firm here in Mexico and most of my day is spent on my work. However I’m very enthusiastic about learning to play the violin. Could you please give me some advice on how I can learn despite my hectic schedule?

It can feel damned near impossible to find time to practice as a busy adult, and I believe this is one of the top reasons that adults think they can not learn. Some slight adjustments to how we think about practice can go a long way in violin progress!

1) You can progress on the violin with a very SMALL amount of practice each day. As a beginner, focus on frequency rather than duration. In other words, it is much better to practice for five minutes a day, than to have longer less frequent practices. Five minutes a day IS enough to progress through the first stages. Five minutes twice a day is even better. Most of the actual progress and learning happens in between practice sessions when your subconscious mind can chew on what you’ve done.

Try to create a habit of practicing for five minutes just before your lunch break, and again before you end work for the day. By lumping your practice time together with your work day, it may feel less like you are sacrificing precious down time. And you can use the momentum and focus of your work day to assist your violin playing. This can be easier than trying to get focused back on the violin after beginning your evening relaxation.

2) Take lessons via video Skype for 30 minutes once a week. This is a big one. The violin has many technique tricks that are hard to figure out on your own, but very easy if you have someone show you. A good teacher can keep you on track and help to avoid frustration and bad habits. By using the video Skype, you can cut out the time of traveling back and forth to lessons. Having a weekly check point gives your practice sessions focus throughout the week. If you have a great practice week you have someone to show off for at the end of the week, and if you have a busy week and can’t practice at all, you can have a chance to refocus and recommit yourself for the next week.

It is a big motivator to have put some money on the line. By paying for lessons you can make a clear statement to yourself that says, “this is important to me!” I’m amazed once I’ve paid for lessons, I will step up to get what I’ve paid for and put in the practice time. My Skype teacher is Corrin Evans and I highly recommend her:

3) Keep your violin outside of the case. Use a violin stand or shelf to display your violin so that it’s easy to pick it up without having to go through the whole process of unzipping the case. This saves time and keeps the violin on your mind. Try keeping it at the office so you can pick it up to practice before leaving, or put it in a prominent area so that it’s the first thing you see when you get home.

4) Practice your bow hold with all sorts of objects. Learning a comfortable bow hold is the first and most important thing to learn. To practice this you don’t even need to hold the violin or bow. You can learn to have a comfortable and relaxed bow hold by taking 20 seconds to stop work, think about your right hand, and try a simple relaxed bow hold with your pen or pencil.

If you can remember to this a few times each day you will exercise the “bow hold creation passages” in your brain much more effectively than by beating yourself up for 30 minutes straight some evening in an official practice session. When I was first beginning I would think of the bow hold very often and try it on all sorts of objects including my steering wheel when stuck in traffic.

Does anyone else have time saving tips for busy adults? Has anyone tried these? Do they work? Please let me know in the comments section below!

Happy brief and frequent practicing, everyone.



10 responses to “How to find time to practice as an adult in a hectic world!

  1. I work as an oncall locksmith. I take my Violin along everyday and inbetween calls I practice. I get multiple 20 min sessions in each day.

  2. The hardest thing I found was finding a practice space that doesn’t offend people with my early days cat screeching attempts at violin. One of my mates told me he goes into the office before anyone else (excluding cleaners who usually wear headphones) to practice guitar. 5-10 minutes most mornings then thinking about it for the rest of the day planning what to practice for the next day.

    Great post Jenny. The other thing is to keep coming back to it even if you get busy for a while. Having the violin in sight as a visual reminder all the time is a great tip.

  3. you are incredible!!! I am gong to learn this mohican tune as I have wanted an easy ntry into theese rolls.. also wanted to play somthing not so celtic/repetitive. anyways. thanks !

  4. Great tips. Especially about keeping your violin visible and accessible. I have a string swing fiddle hanger on my bedroom wall. You can get them online, even from Amazon. If I can grab it once a week and play Ashokan Farewell real quick between changing diapers and walking the dog then I’m doing good. Just found your sight and love it. I’m gonna sign up for the sheet music. I’ve learned Black Nag (I think they play that in the movie before Promentory, though its not in the soundtrack) but I haven’t found music for Promentory until now.

  5. These are great tips, thank you!

  6. Jenny, I have kept my violin out of the case for several years. A guitarist friend of mine told me that might not be a good idea in my situationn because my violin is 290 years old. He worries about the wood drying out and thinks it should be in a case with controlled humidity. Any thoughts?

  7. Please, send the sheet of The Gael, I subscribed and didn’t received it… I’m a beginner at violin, and this music is one of the greatest goals I have.. hahaaha plzzzz! PS. You’re AMAZING!

  8. Great tips! Thank you so much!

  9. Just like exercise, a little bit of practice is infinitely better than none. It’s easier to commit to a short practice, and you never know when the bug will bite and you just can’t stop.

  10. Hi. I do as Josh Wilson says his friend does, go into my work place before anyone else (apart from the cleaner). I’m fortunate in that my work place has a large junk/store room type of thing which is almost sound proofed, so I can practise during my lunch break sometimes and no one would even know I was in there. Maybe your work place has something similar?

    I tried doing half an hour before and half an hour after work, but am nowhere near as effective after working all day, so prefer to get up early and just practise before work.

    Hey Rodrigo I’m pleased to hear you want to start. Mexico City is actually where it all began for me. I’m from London England but went travelling around Mexico in 2009. After considering it lots I bought a cheap violin from your Ciudadela Marketplace in the city centre 🙂 If it hadn’t of worked out it still would have made an interesting souvenir.. I’ve since upgraded though. I’m 32 years old too, hope it’s going well for you.

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