Time Management

February 13, 2015

I have this discussion at least a couple of times a year:
Student:  “I’m sorry…I just didn’t have enough time to practice this week.”

Me:  “Hmmm….why not?”

Student:  “Well, I had a lot of homework, and this project due, and a test.”

Me:  “Okay, that does sound like a lot.  How many credits is a class?”

Student:  “3.”

Me:  “And how many credits are your lessons?”

Student:  “Oh…I see where you’re going.”
(the answer varies, from 2-6, depending upon major)

Me:  “Yes, if you want to major in music, practicing is no longer extra curricular.  It’s a class, and one of your most important, as you are a music major.  I’m not saying your other classes aren’t important…I am saying that practicing is at least as important as any other classwork.”

I know that adjusting to college can be difficult.  Learning how to manage time is something professionals struggle with regularly.  With that being said, here are some pointers that you may find helpful.

You Can’t Cram Music

30 minutes a day is better than 3 hours on Sunday.  Short, regular practice sessions will consistently give you better results in the long run.  You don’t need to learn whatever you’re practicing just for your lesson…you need to learn it to keep improving.  If you spend one extremely long practice session trying to get it under your fingers, and skip the rest of the week, you may get through your lesson, but you haven’t really gotten any better.

If You Really Want It, There’s Time

There are plenty of people in the world that live with the thought of “what if…”  Don’t be one of those people.  If you really want to be a musician, that means prioritizing practice as a part of your day.  Not just when it’s convenient.  Not when it feels good.  Always.

Play the Long Game

It’s very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day minutiae of practicing and playing.  Remember the big picture.  For example, there’s not a lot of music I practice that is written for the flugelhorn, but I want the flugelhorn to feel and sound as comfortable as any other horn I play (and for those of you that know me, you know that’s a lot of horns).  So every morning I practice a technical exercise on the flugelhorn.  Today it’s Clarke #7.  It takes about 10 minutes.  It might be the only time I play flugel today. So you might think “Is the 10 minutes worth it?”  Well, let’s think big.  In any non-leap year let’s say I miss those 10 minutes 5 times (because I’m so lazy).  That means I’ve practiced flugelhorn 10 minutes x 360 days.  That’s 3600 minutes, which is 60 hours of flugelhorn practice a year.

That’s all for this week.  I’ll be up in Indianapolis today playing two concerts.  Giordano’s has just opened a store in Indianapolis, and I feel duty bound to check it out.  Expect a full report soon.



  1. One of your best posts, Sir. Certainly there shouldn’t be any “controversy” over this one! 😉 JP

  2. Ooooh geez, see I WOULD read this blog post, but I don’t have time. I’ve got homework, an exam, and a group project. I’m sure it’s a good post though…

  3. Thanks for another great blog entry Joey!

    Having taught thousands of lessons, I see your perspective and agree that it is frustrating when students do not manage their time well enough to practice. But the odds are that you are comparing apples to oranges. Some students thrive on regular mundane repetition, which is a fairly common attitude in college. And others may not practice for weeks even though a red hot fire burns inside them to create musically, if you only provide an opportunity to spark their imagination with something more interesting than the routine.

    I was working on my own blog entry this morning and shared my perspective on my website here:


    • Jason,

      I just read your blog and think we are very much on the same page. Although I am talking about regular practice in this post, I talk with my students regularly about why we practice. For me, it’s simple- to be able to play music. The creative process is certainly a large variable, and works very differently from person to person. Because of that, I think what I wrote goes hand-in-hand with what you wrote. The regular practice allows you to keep growing, so that when you are hit by inspiration, you are ready and able to create whatever is in your head.


  4. Deeeeeep dish!

  5. I actually think that although time management is important and a constant struggle no matter what age, if a college student is not practicing enough the problem is simply the will to practice, to put in the hard work. There is a great quote from the American author James Baldwin, who, when asked to give advice to would be writers (substitute trumpet players), said “if you’re going to be a writer there’s nothing I can do to stop you, and if you’re not going to be a writer there’s nothing I can do to help you.” That statement might be a bit harsh but I think it also really cuts to the chase. When I did a bit of teaching at IU and would get there before 8:00, Joey would already be doing his warm up. But I didn’t see any students warming up at that time.

    • Tony,

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Although I agree with the overarching sentiment of the Baldwin quote, as teachers we have to try and help our students in every way that we can. We certainly can’t see the future, but my students cannot come back to me and say they just didn’t know how much it takes to be a professional. Should they decide they don’t want to do it, they do so willfully, not ignorantly.

      I hope to see you soon. We miss you around Bloomington.


  6. I never have time to practice. I make time to practice.

  7. Exactly. You know, if you’re a music major and you are putting your other classes before practice time, you have your priorities in the wrong place. I’m not saying you should skimp on your schoolwork, but you need to make time to practice first. After all, it’s your major.

    That being said, there’s plenty of time in college. It may not seem like it (it certainly didn’t seem like enough time to me when I was in college), but it’s easy enough to take an extra hour at night before heading off to that party or to hang at the dorm and squeeze in another practice session. Like you said, it’s all about time management and if a student continues to complain about things like that, maybe a music major isn’t the right degree.

    Keep preachin!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: