There are some seasons of life in which your time for practice is limited. Or your energy for practice is limited. Or both.
I gave birth to my second child early this month. Infants are not known for their restfulness, and my infant is doing her part to maintain the infant status quo. I’m tired. And encumbered with baby care tasks. On some days, if I get 15 minutes to practice, I call it a good day.
This perspective was hard-won; when I was younger, if I only had 15 minutes to practice, I’d call the whole thing off as not worth it. But as I’ve grown older (and, it must be said, busier), I’ve discovered what a jewel 15 minutes can be.
Got 15 minutes? Here are some ideas for how to spend it:
1) Technical exercises. Long tones, arches, scales, etudes: 15 minutes is actually the perfect morsel of time to devote to these activities, which require intense mental focus and, thus, tend to be tiring. This is why you’ll often hear teachers recommending you tackle technical exercises first during a practice session, when your brain and fingers are fresh.
2) Tackle a sight-reading goal. Grab some material that targets an area of reading weakness and spend 15 minutes reading. Do you want to be able to play bass clef on a c instrument? Read alto up the octave? Transpose up a step? Now’s the time to practice- and the short time frame will ensure you don’t bog down with fatigue.
3) Listen. Seek out and listen to 1-2 professional-quality renditions of a piece you’re working on, with the score in front of you and no distractions. I guarantee you’ll pick up ideas –and hopefully inspiration.
4) Plan. If the thought of picking up an instrument is simply too much, or you have 15 minutes but someone, say, is sleeping- use your time to map out a plan for your practice tomorrow, next week- even next month. Explicitly mapping out where you want to go and how you’ll get there will give you a running start when you pick up the recorder again.
Of course, you'll ultimately want to practice more than 15 minutes a day if you can. And I will as soon as I'm able. But just because you have limited time doesn't mean you can't improve.