Power Hour: The Practice of Champions

Feb 07, 2024

By Anne Sullivan

What if you could power up your music study by adding one hour (or even one half hour) to your practice each week? That’s right not each day, each week.

I call it the “Power Hour,” and it can help you focus your work, eliminate unnecessary repetition, multiply your practice results and streamline your path to progress. Plus your next lesson will be a great one.

There used to be a slogan for Wheaties cereal that claimed it was the "Breakfast of Champions." The cereal boxes featured sports superstars with the reminder that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A good breakfast gives you long-lasting energy and improves your concentration and focus. Everything about your day goes better when you eat a good breakfast.

Your Practice Power Hour is in essence your practice breakfast. It’s your first practice session right after your lesson, ideally as soon as you get home from your lesson.

But it’s not just any ordinary practice session. The Power Hour is a lesson review, almost a re-creation of your lesson that will reinforce and remind you of what you learned in your lesson, focus your practice and lead you to the results your teacher was showing you.

Your Power Hour will help you put your lesson directly into your practice. There are three steps:

Step 1: Jumpstart. (10-15 minutes of your Power Hour.)

Your lesson is the food that will fuel your practice until the next one. Your first and most important task on your Power Hour is to mentally review your lesson. What did you learn, discover, push for or work on in your lesson? As you think back over your lesson, try to identify the primary goal your teacher had you working on, either one goal for the entire lesson, or one goal for each piece. Write down that goal. Now you know what you are working on for the week. Hint: taking notes or recording your lesson makes this step go quickly.

Step 2: Strategy review. (5-10 minutes of your Power Hour.)

Now that you know what you are trying to do, you can boost the power of your practice. Think back over the techniques or steps that your teacher used with you in your lesson. Did you do special repetitions? Change fingering? Work hands separately? Practice with the metronome?  Make a list of these, if you haven’t already written them down in your lesson journal.

Step 3: Practice preview. (35-45 minutes of your Power Hour.)

At your harp, play through the things your teacher helped you with during your lesson, trying to 

include each of the strategies from step 2. Whatever you played in your lesson with your teacher’s help, whatever she drilled you on, play that now. This is a kind of “preview” practice session and it will prepare you to jump into the next day’s practice.

Now you have your practice goals for the week and you have reviewed the practice strategies your teacher showed you. Plan each practice session during the week with these in mind. This is the real power of your Power Hour – focused practice. By reviewing your teacher’s instructions and methods, you are priming yourself to be your own teacher during the week, to do the right practice the right way. That’s the recipe for the Breakfast – I mean Practice – of Champions!


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