John from South Charleston Ohio asked, “I try to practice an hour a day. How much of that time should I devote to learning a new tune and how much to reviewing what I already know? So much to do and so little time! Sometimes I get overwhelmed with everything.”


Further learning and practice

  • An hour of practice a day is good!
  • There’s no one formula that works for everyone.
  • Decide what your focus is…
    • Learning a new technique
    • Learning a new tune
    • Review
  • A good basic routine is to divide your practice into three areas: Review/Technique/New tune.
    • I suggest starting with a few easy tunes so you “feel like a fiddler.”
    • After you’re warmed up, work on a challenging technique. Then switch to a new tune. End on a high note.
    • There’s as many ways to practice as there are people. Some people like to have clearly defined blocks. Some like to ramble between tasks. Experiment with what works for you.
  • Interleaving
    • Rather than doing one thing for a big block of time, break it up and practice it a few times throughout a single session.
    • For instance, if you’re learning and practicing vibrato, practice it for five minutes, then play a new tune, then play a scale, and then return to practicing vibrato.
    • You can also interleave practice sessions throughout a day. For example, practice for 20 minutes in the morning, then 20 minutes in the evening.

This micro-lesson is an excerpt from an office hours webinar I gave on June 17, 2020. View the entire live-stream with indexed questions here.

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3 responses to “How much time should I devote to learning a new tune and how much to reviewing what I already know?

  1. Yes I like the interleaving. I have one note I play which frequently sounds awful. So intermittently I just play that note over and over until it sounds good. I might have to practice it again the next day though.

    1. I don’t use interleaving too much, I prefer to set blocks of time, with a timer, and do that one practice, scales, string crossing, whatever, then do another timed block, reading music, etc., then another timed block, learning a new tune. With the latter I often practice the new tune later at night after my normal practice times. This helps ‘separating my mind’ from the other learning tasks, if that makes sense. I don’t log the later practice times so as not to obligate me to always practice later.

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