At Caroline Springs School of Music we recommend the following minimum daily practice amounts for each exam grade:
Introductory: 10 minutes
Preparatory: 15 minutes
Preliminary: 20 minutes
Grade one: 30 minutes
Grade two: 45 minutes
Grade three: 60 minutes
Grade four: 1 and a half hours
Grade five: 2 hours
Grade six: 2 and a half hours
Grade seven: 3 hours
Grade eight: 4 hours
Diploma exams: Practice every chance you get!
These are approximate minimum practice times for the average student (best to assume oneself is average). Some can do it in less, others need more. These minimum amounts should be met over the course of a full year. Failing to meet these requirements at any time during the year will necessitate increasing practice times later in the year as one gets closer to the exam date (this is not ideal and consistent, regular practice over a longer period is always more beneficial). It is not a mathematics or history exam and cramming at the end is not effective. Physical and music-mental skills need to be trained gradually over a period of time.
If you are inclined to do more than the minimum recommendations, by all means do, extra practice is invaluable to your future progress. Practicing music is one of the best ways you can spend your time. We have many students preparing for lower grades who practice multiple hours a day, you will see them at our concerts, performing with levels of musical fluency well beyond expectation for their years.
A common mistake students make, is not increasing their practice times as they progress to higher grades. Having achieved high grades on lower levels with relatively little practice, the student continues in the same manner and the exam scores inevitably; fall significantly.
There is an old adage that it takes ten thousand hours to truly master a skill. That is ten years of 3 hours practice every day, or 5 years of 6 hours practice every day. Surely this is a small price to pay to become a great musician. Take a close look at your practice times and ask yourself if you are really making the necessary efforts to improve, or are you just kidding yourself?
We strongly urge all students to get into the habit of filling out a practice register, this greatly assists you and your teacher to monitor your progress and ascertain if more practice is needed. We interpret a blank practice register to mean no practice was undertaken for that week. Signing off on a practice register gives a great feeling of achievement and completion of the task.
More and more often we are encountering students and parents with unrealistic expectations of what our lessons can deliver. The student usually spends one half hour a week with the teacher and three hundred and thirty five point five, half-hours away from the school, we cannot do the practice for you. Recently we had a parent say they would "do the practice this week" 3 weeks before an exam, based on their practice register, the student now needs to average 16 hours practice a day to meet the yearly requirement, even if that was possible; one hour a day over the course of the year is still much more beneficial. We find it highly unlikely that someone who managed zero hours a day for 49 weeks will be able to put in 16 hours a day for the last 3 weeks! Be realistic, don't be a pretender. Your exam score will always be exactly what you deserve. If you are just starting your practice now, two weeks before the exam then it is well and truly too late, you might scrape through for a low pass, if you are lucky.
At CS Music we teach everyone in the same way, some go on to be musicians of the highest caliber and some achieve nothing, it all comes down to the amount of work the student does at home.
Another very important point to remember is the quality of your practice. A mindless, haphazard session of long duration can yield little or no results and a disciplined half hour, with focus and quality of attention can produce significant lasting benefits. Learn to love practicing, practice everything multiple times per session, repetition is vitally important.
Of course it is difficult to always find the necessary time to practice and some days it is just impossible, that is fine, we even recommend one day off per week. There is an attrition rate of fifty percent for each grade. If ten thousand people sit grade one, only five thousand sit grade two and so on, all the way to grade eight. Don't be one on the fifty percent who don't make it to the next grade. It is up to you, your musical destiny is in your own hands. That's all for now, I have to get back to my practice.