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Everyone needs time to shed, but often more can be learned from a single gig or playing workshop than hours of practice alone. I don't make my living from music and have time pressures from a day job and long commute. Also, although I am fortunate that there are playing opportunities available (there are workshop ensembles, some people I play with fairly regularly and an occasional paying gig such that I could potentially play with others several times a week), these also can require a good bit of travel time.

I really would like to work to get my playing up to the next level and have been thinking a lot about how to balance my limited time and use it most effectively. A night playing or taking a lesson after work means no "physical" practice that day, but somewhat less travel and lost time. Taking a class or playing with others on the weekend generally requires an additional commitment of travel time that could be used practicing, taking care of things around the house or spending time with friends/family, etc.

How do you all balance things in this regard. Are you more likely to play if the opportunity arises even though that means less practice time, or vice versa? Do you play anytime you can or are you very selective about what playing opportunities you choose in order to ensure maximum learning potential?
 

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It's just going to be different from one person to the next. Like yourself, SaxMandu, I don't make my living from music. When I still had children at home I would always give precedent to being with them over practice or playing and would just get in what time I could when I could. I did take lessons for quite some time and that helped bring structure and assured some minimum practice times each week.

I also played with a couple of groups periodically, one a jazz group and the other a rock band, but I did not regularly go on the road or any of that as I felt it was not realistic with my other responsibilities. My wife and sons have always been supportive of my playing but I like to think I held myself to a pretty high standard of putting them first. As I got older and the boys grew up and moved out on their own I had more time for playing and more opportunities to work with other musicians.

Now that I am almost retired I am making more music than ever and have a fairly rigorous schedule of practice. I also play in a jazz band at the local University and do some "light" gigs with friends (luncheons, office parties, that kind of stuff), but no clubs, at least not right now. In my retirement I hope to be more of a full time musician and I'm writing some songs and doing some networking to find opportunities to perform (both sax and vocals).
Hope this helps. Whatever you do, have fun and let your family be a part of your music as much as possible. My sons were both in band and that gave us some common ground. Good luck!
 

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My theory about practice is that more is not always better. There have to be limits - and not just to time.

Not only do we have finite resources of time, energy and concentration, but many of us are taught to simply bang on the exercises - that only dumb repetition, frustration and time will give you results.

This relieves teachers and method authors of a lot of mind and sax work. In a real sense, they owe it to the serious student to do that work before professing to teach. Because of the master tradition in music teaching, that is assumed - never questioned or explored. When it doesn't happen, the burden is on the student.

In this piece, Thoughts about educating the tongue, I go into a few examples of how teachers might help students to do better practicing - which I believe is more intelligent practicing.

One of the biggest benefits of such an approach, of course, would be saving practice time for more playing what you love to play.
 
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