• Christy | the Practice Pro

#39 Morning or Evening Practice? Which is Better?

Updated: 4 days ago


By Christy | The Practicing Pro

www.ScotiaSuzuki.org


So when it comes to practicing what time of day is best? Morning, after school, or evening?


Look at your lovely nest of musicians, is it filled with early birds, night owls, or a combination of both? When we are making daily practice habits, the time of day can make a big difference in how successful they are.


Oxford Learning explains that there is no perfect practice moment. Student’s brains are most effective at taking in new information when they are most alert, regardless of the time of day. Some children are more alert in the morning after a long rest, while others prefer to “warm-up”, feeling more energized later in the day.


So how do I find out what is best for MY child, you ask?


I think of my own children and what worked best for them. One of my children was more of a night person. The evenings were when their disposition, creativity, and social skills were all pleasantly productive. So night would seem the best time to practice for them right?


No! I actually found mornings better for these reasons. When practicing she didn’t need to be social, super creative, or cheerful, but she needed to be focused, disciplined and consistent. Was she grouchy some mornings? Of course! But also, I would say she was less disagreeable too on average since the early hours were never interrupting an activity or social time….it was too early and her friends were all asleep!


Of course, flexibility is important in any routine. Her practicing could be shorter on the mornings she had a big test or was tired from staying up late finishing a project, but once practice was a routine then even when tired, she could still do it and make it shorter. As she got older, she would be mortified to leave the house without her hair and make-up was done and because of this, she would “get right to it” when practicing. She needed to get it DONE so she could not rush her teenage morning routine and she did NOT want to be late and risk getting a pink slip or miss a class.


Once or twice I had to be insistent and insist that she be late for school when practicing wasn’t getting done or running late. This only ever happened once or twice, for her to know I would ask her to stick to our agreement and that this was an important commitment she had made to me and to herself as well as her teacher. So maybe this happened a few times but then it didn't happen again! It was easiest for her then, once she had made her practice a morning priority to get up early and get it done.


“Gotta get to the piano by 6:30 am to be done by 7:30 am to still have a shower and do my hair to get out of the house looking good to school by 8:15 PM!” BINGO, this did work like a charm! I also caught her numerous times talking to others about how she got up early and practiced every morning and I could clearly tell that she was proud of herself and that she was able to create this amazing habit at such a young age. YES, it was impressive and she did feel very good about it.


And this makes sense, as explained by Oxford Learning:


Students’ brains tend to be sharpest in the morning, after a refreshing night’s sleep and a nutritious breakfast. This makes it a good time to open a textbook to learn something new, or review notes from the previous day. With a more alert brain, students have a better ability to recall details like names, places, dates, and facts.


In the afternoon, students’ brains are good at integrating new information with what they already know. During this time of day, students are able to create connections and make the information they have learned more meaningful.

(Oxford Learning)


Wow! This is amazing

Let’s look at this again in smaller bits:

Students’ brains tend to be sharpest in the morning, after a refreshing night’s sleep and a nutritious breakfast.


So according to this then - the brain can be “sharper” in the morning.


My violin teacher used to always tell me that practicing a half an hour in the morning was worth an hour at night! I remember every time she said this thinking - wow! That's a good deal!

With a more alert brain, students have a better ability to recall details like names, places, dates and facts.


So then morning is the IDEAL time to recall the new things you learned in your lesson the day before and also to play your upgrade / review pieces too!


If you are preparing for an RCM exam this would definitely be the time to work on your big list of scales!


Doing a higher level exam

I have a student Amy, who just prepared her Grade 6 RCM exam and did SO WELL. She is a busy gal who does other activities besides her violin. I asked her how she was practicing and she told me that this is what she did for months before her exam:

Morning before school - 30 minutes

  1. One Suzuki upgrade/review piece to warm up and start from her chart

  2. Play through slow with metronome one of her two RCM studies - alternating each day

  3. Scales until time is almost up

  4. END - with one of her fiddle tunes from her performance fiddle group (I call it her “party song”

Afterschool / Evening - various times 30-60 minutes

  1. One Suzuki upgrade/review piece to warm up and start from her chart

  2. Work on two of her three RCM songs

  3. One Suzuki upgrade/review piece from her chart

  4. Suzuki bookwork

  5. One Suzuki upgrade/review piece from her chart

  6. Orchestra work

  7. One Suzuki upgrade/review piece from her chart

  8. End with working on her Fiddle Performance group pieces (her “party songs”)


Coming home each day late and tired

I have another student, his name is Jake, and his parents struggled with getting his practice done. They BOTH worked and Jake went to an afterschool program. When the three of them came in the door at super time they were all pretty tired!


So they decided to try practicing in the morning.


It was a gradual thing. They first started getting up just 15b minutes earlier and doing short practices EVERY DAY. Practicing a little consistently every day is always better than in chunks every few days.


They slowly got up a bit earlier and earlier and worked up to a 45-minute practice each morning in their PJs. They have found that this works really well for them and Jake is usually fresh, in the mood and is ready to go...maybe a little sleepy some mornings... But, this is their time is working well for them now that they got used to it!


One of the best things about morning practice is that the day hasn’t started yet….nothing has gone wrong yet!!! Nothing has “come up” that needs to be fixed or makes you run late or takes your extra time...Those issues all happen as the day progresses! “Life happens” right? But if you practice FIRST to start the day then there are no surprise obstacles yet to make it so that you can’t practice or have a rushed practcie. “Life” hasn’t started yet! :)


Let's look at that information again from Oxford learning about learning later in the day:


In the afternoon, students’ brains are good at integrating new information with what they already know. During this time of day, students are able to create connections and make the information they have learned more meaningful.


Great! So recalling in the morning seems to be better but learning new things in the afternoon? Most students have their lessons after school. At our school, those are the first filled times! So this part “able to create connections and make the information they have learned more meaningful.”


This is an important thing to remember that we learn new things by connecting them to things we already know! If your child comes home from school and still has the energy to play then practicing now can be ideal! They have just come from school and are in a learning space - this is a great time to connect new things to what they already know. Remember to always work on review/upgrade pieces as the most important part of your practice. Also afterschool is a great time to use extra games and treats (for their snack) for making learning fun and keeping them engaged after a stimulating day at school, they may need a little extra help focusing and staying on task.


Nighttime is a great time for practice for children that learn best in a quiet, calm energy space. I had a child like this. They liked things quiet and they even liked you to even speak quietly to them as they learned. They also liked it when I gave them my full attention and wasn’t multitasking in any way. So practicing for them in a room in the evening, where nothing else was going on was perfect. As a teen often for hours in the evening, would play their instrument and I would sometimes fall asleep hearing them sing and play their guitar. It was relaxing for them!


So morning, after school or evening? Observe your child and see what can work best for them. Be adventurous as well as patient and try another time of day for a few weeks and see if it's better! You can’t know until you try! If you change the time of day you practice though just remember you will likely also need to adjust the style of practice, the energy level, the pace, and the length when you change the time of day.


Good luck! You've got this!



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