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Be honest: what time of day/night your most productive practicing? 2:45 AM? (Read 839 times)

Offline pianophile

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I'm convinced there is a fairly exact time that any creative endeavor peaks, even to the second, though that can't usually be calculated: it's exactly 12 hours after the rest of the world around you is in peak productivity, which is to say, optimal creative endeavor is when the rest of the world (excuse my nasty terminology: and its philistinism) is maximally asleep. Music is a world of imagination purely inside a person, in relation to which the outside world is only static interference.

I'm an extreme introvert, maybe accounting for this view. Morning and sunlight by the way uglify sound. Nighttime creates a mellowness and softness that enhances music.

Notice how no concert halls have windows that could let sunlight in? Even going into an afternoon Sunday recital, it's like, similarly to a movie theater, escaping the glare of the day into an exaltedly tranquil extension of nighttime. Daytime, is, in a word, from the standpoint of culture the time of philistinism: the worship of tangible objective reality and the jungle of economic and raw empirical social life, rejecting the inward ideals of the imagination, the essence of music.

Ergo: optimal practice around 2:45 AM.

Offline brogers70

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For me it's totally different. Optimal practicing time is 7:00 AM to 11:00 AM. Nothing like practicing the Pastorale Sonata while seeing a pastoral scene and sunrise out my window.

Offline pianophile

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You're talking about Beethoven op. 28? If so, for me that is only superficially a celebration of nature, but in actuality the transcendence of nature and its cycle of life and death through spirituality and culture. So nature and its appreciation are a part of it, in my view, but as only one stage in a deeper form of experience pointing beyond nature. I've always found the heavy emphasis on B-minor (the darkest of keys, suggesting death) in this sonata makes nature seem very summery and autumnal in the sonata, as opposed to spring-like (my least favorite season of the year, autumn being my favorite, because its dark, spiritual, cultural, mysterious, and imagination-focused).

The pastoral symphony, on the other hand, to me is a genuine celebration of nature. To me f-major is the "verdant" key, bright and alive in a reductively biological sort of way. Aside from the storm episode, it's all about sweet, non-discordant "harmony", everything having its place. I happen to enjoy that symphony, but it patently over-idealizes nature and the rural life it presents, glorifying a sort of "peasant" non-urbane ethos and atmosphere.

For these reasons, I like the op. 28 best around dusk, best of all in the summer or autumn, late summer to be most exact, as that I think is the mood of the piece.

Offline lelle

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I don't think there is one absolute truth; people are different. As a teenager/in my early twenties I liked practicing at like 01-04 a.m. Nowadays I prefer to practice much earlier because I am now a boomer who wants to go to bed earlier (OK, I'm 28). I rarely practice well in the morning though, strangely enough, even though many people recommend that. But I am not a morning person and never have been :P

Offline pianophile

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Thanks! I like the 1-4 AM  part: That averages 2:30 AM!! (pretty darned close!)- and if you happen to peak around 3/4 the way through that (build-up then wind-down), you're even closer to 2:45! It appears that that's your natural practice time and you've gradually adjusted more to the rhythms and schedule of the regular adult world. Remarkably consistent with what I was suggesting! thanks for reply!

Offline ranjit

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Interesting question! Although I avoid nighttime nowadays in order to not disturb the neighbors (and as I hate headphones), I would say that my most productive practicing often happens at around 12 am. 2:45 is a bit too late, I'm usually at least somewhat sleepy by then, and start cursing myself for staying up all night. Not great for practicing.

Offline pianophile

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So exactly 12 hours after mid-day, aka midnight! Also pretty consistent with what I was saying. Thanks for the reply!

Offline pianophile

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look at this video of real night people playing music at what looks like 7 or 8 in the morning. Grace Slick is so "this (doing music in the morning sun, 8 a.m.) is so ridiculous, it's almost like some kind of drug." The performance is so interesting and affecting precisely because of the incongruity of live rock music at 8 a.m. The musicians seem to treat the morning atmosphere almost like some kind of very exotic hallucinogenic drug.


Offline lelle

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Thanks! I like the 1-4 AM  part: That averages 2:30 AM!! (pretty darned close!)- and if you happen to peak around 3/4 the way through that (build-up then wind-down), you're even closer to 2:45! It appears that that's your natural practice time and you've gradually adjusted more to the rhythms and schedule of the regular adult world. Remarkably consistent with what I was suggesting! thanks for reply!

Well it was actually an attempt to argue on the contrary :P If you adjust your bias in the other direction, you can observe that for most of my piano playing life I was not at my most productive at 2:45!

Ages 9-18 I was allowed to practice 9:00-21:00, which was later adjusted to 10:00-19:00 when we got new neighbours. Most of my playing happened in the afternoon after school or evening and I would often quit at 21:00/19:00.
Ages 19-22 I would often practice late at night because I lived at home and could do so on a digital instrument and was quite the night owl.
Ages 22-25 I moved from home at 22 and would practice until 23:00 when music school closed and practice late at night during holidays at home.
Ages 25-28 it's been mostly practice in the evenings after my day job, sometime between say 17:00-22:00. Now that I have a digital instrument at my place again I sometimes play after 24:00 but rarely at 2:45 :P

Offline pianophile

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But it seems like you're saying that except when your practicing has been controlled/constrained by external factors and responsibilities, your practicing has inclined to pretty late at night. Aren't you suggesting precisely this? You say that living with your parents and having a digital piano enabled to to practice well after midnight, implying that's your ideal. That what I seem to glean from your account. Thanks again for responding!

Offline lostinidlewonder

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If 2:45am is when you are most productive you must live a very lazy life. Those who work hard during the entire day how are they going to be mentally and physically at their best at 2:45am? It's just ridiculous.

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Offline pianophile

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Pandemic changed things a bit, at least temporarily!

Offline quantum

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Generally, my preferred time to practice has been placed at a time of day/night that results in the minimization of interruption and distraction.  I think that distraction is like junk food for the creative mind, and prefer to avoid it.  As well, I like to design work spaces that discourage distraction.

That said, my optimally productive practice time tends to be somewhere between 12 AM and 6AM.  This is more of a range than a strictly defined time.  Such time is not always practical when one has to balance other things in life.  It typically means either staying up late, or getting up early.  More of trying to place at least part of a practice session during that range.  I don't mind rising early before the sun to get in some practice.  Nonetheless, I have noticed that optimal creative work tends to happen at times when the majority of society is at an inactive state.

When I was studying in university, I had no problem practising midday as I could lock myself in a studio and work with focus. 

When I have to do a recording project at home, I tend to work at night or early morning.  Having constant interruptions in the middle of a take can get old fast. 


Though I must say there are advantages of being creative during the day.  I very much enjoy the sounds of nature (day or night), the way the light of the sun changes and illuminates from different perspectives.  I draw a lot of inspiration and creative ideas from visual arts and daily activities and bring them into my music. 
Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline pianophile

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Thanks for reply!!!! Yes, you indeed support my theory (and personal experience) that creative work (which by definition focuses on the imagination) flourishes most at the 12 hour opposite of peak activity for society, i.e., when they’re asleep! And your window of optimal productivity, 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. averages to exactly 3 a.m., a mere *15 minutes* off the time I gave of 2:45 a.m., and nearly exactly matching other responses above!

I posted my initial query/comment quite casually, a bit tongue-in-cheek (but only very slightly) on the 2:45 a.m. part, but it’s increasingly confirmed that a) music and cultural / imaginative endeavor best flourishes at night, the more opposite other people’s activity schedules (the more everybody else is asleep) the better, and there is a basic conflict between society hustle-bustle and creativity. Basically: productive active society is a “philistine” that art (esp music) needs deep nighttime to escape!

Offline pianophile

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https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Great_Day_in_Harlem_(photograph)

Supposedly this famous photo of the ultimate icons of jazz assembled together on a bright morning in Harlem what photographed quite early in the day, yet the musicians look bright, alert, awake despite jazz musicians famously being very nocturnal creatures. I heard an interview many years ago of either the photographer or an expert on jazz, how could these people be assembled this way and look so bright and alert. The answer: obviously they hadn’t been asleep yet!

Offline brogers70

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Thanks for reply!!!! Yes, you indeed support my theory (and personal experience) that creative work (which by definition focuses on the imagination) flourishes most at the 12 hour opposite of peak activity for society, i.e., when they’re asleep! And your window of optimal productivity, 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. averages to exactly 3 a.m., a mere *15 minutes* off the time I gave of 2:45 a.m., and nearly exactly matching other responses above!

I posted my initial query/comment quite casually, a bit tongue-in-cheek (but only very slightly) on the 2:45 a.m. part, but it’s increasingly confirmed that a) music and cultural / imaginative endeavor best flourishes at night, the more opposite other people’s activity schedules (the more everybody else is asleep) the better, and there is a basic conflict between society hustle-bustle and creativity. Basically: productive active society is a “philistine” that art (esp music) needs deep nighttime to escape!

The great impressionist plein air painters obviously did their creative work during daylight. Beethoven got lots of his inspiration from long, daylight walks on the countryside. Mozart sprayed notes at any hour ("like a pig pissing" as he said himself). Noise and hustle and bustle can be an impediment, but noise and hustle and bustle are only linked to daylight in big cities. The burbs are pretty quiet during the day, and the countryside where I live is quiet twenty-four hours a day. I think you are too quick to generalize from your own preferences.

Offline lelle

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Keep in mind that if you start out from your conclusion, you'll find data that confirms said conclusion and filter out anything that doesn't. It's a very common human bias.

Offline ted

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It doesn't matter. Anytime outside bedtime at 11:00 p.m. to breakfast at 9:00 a.m. will do for me. Interruptions and distractions don't bother me. If an improvisation is interrupted I can often remember what I was doing and join the bits together afterwards. But if I can't remember I can start another idea flow instantly these days. I haven't done much practice for years except ten minutes morning and night on the Virgil Practice Clavier, which activity maintains things in a functioning state.
"We're all bums when the wagon comes." - Waller

Offline lelle

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It doesn't matter. Anytime outside bedtime at 11:00 p.m. to breakfast at 9:00 a.m. will do for me. Interruptions and distractions don't bother me. If an improvisation is interrupted I can often remember what I was doing and join the bits together afterwards. But if I can't remember I can start another idea flow instantly these days. I haven't done much practice for years except ten minutes morning and night on the Virgil Practice Clavier, which activity maintains things in a functioning state.

What kind of stuff do you do on the Practice Clavier for 10 minutes that helps maintain things in a functioning state, if you don't mind me asking?

Offline ted

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What kind of stuff do you do on the Practice Clavier for 10 minutes that helps maintain things in a functioning state, if you don't mind me asking?

It varies creatively from day to day. Instead of picking on a note group (scale, chord etc) and fitting fingers to it I work the other way around. I start with patterns of finger striking and apply them to any note group which comes to mind, the actual notes are irrelevant. I usually use a key resistance of seven ounces but heavier and lighter is possible should the inclination arise. Most, but not all, practice is with one hand at a time. I usually commence with single note striking in varied sequence e.g. (1,2,3,4,5),(132435) and many others. Double note striking sequences are less numerous, comprising five combinations each with three striking sequences: alternating, inside out and top to bottom. I work them solidly all over the keyboard in close and extended positions. I vary speed, touch (smooth or detached, light or key-bed) and flatter or curved fingers.

Bear in mind that this is highly personal and always directed to that which might prove expedient in my improvisation. It may well be absolutely useless for more conventional pianists but it has served me exceedingly well over the years. I am convinced that the Virgil was a vital component in my recovery from what I believe was a focal dystonia several years ago. The clavier is silent and I do not bother imagining any sounds; the whole thing is purely physical.
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Offline quantum

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Instead of picking on a note group (scale, chord etc) and fitting fingers to it I work the other way around. I start with patterns of finger striking and apply them to any note group which comes to mind, the actual notes are irrelevant. I usually use a key resistance of seven ounces but heavier and lighter is possible should the inclination arise. Most, but not all, practice is with one hand at a time. I usually commence with single note striking in varied sequence e.g. (1,2,3,4,5),(132435) and many others. Double note striking sequences are less numerous, comprising five combinations each with three striking sequences: alternating, inside out and top to bottom. I work them solidly all over the keyboard in close and extended positions. I vary speed, touch (smooth or detached, light or key-bed) and flatter or curved fingers.

This sounds very similar to one of the modes used by borogrove (on Youtube) as his explanation of different processes used in generating improvisation.  He also has mentioned similar exercises and sequences in a number of videos.


Starting at 9:34 he goes over what he defines as mechanical mode.



Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline ranjit

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Thanks for linking the channel! It looks very interesting.

Offline ted

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Thanks for the link Neil, it is certainly more thought provoking than most such discussion. However, a viewer could be forgiven for supposing that all improvisation should end up sounding like old-fashioned clockwork stuff within scales. Might be doing him an injustice but I couldn't listen to that for very long. Then again I can't listen to Bach for very long so what do I know I suppose. Curiously, the emotional playing he abhors was the only bit I liked, read what you want into that. Ha ha ! While it is true that my Virgil practice is to a great extent physical my way of working and my deeper objectives are quite different to his. I do appreciate your input though, as always, and it goes to reinforce just how deep and personal musical taste and creation really is.
"We're all bums when the wagon comes." - Waller

Offline dogperson

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Wish I had the option of playing the piano when I am most focused, but I don’t have the option of anything in the middle of the night; full-time jobs are just not flexible and are a priority in terms of focus.  Maybe some day…

Offline quantum

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However, a viewer could be forgiven for supposing that all improvisation should end up sounding like old-fashioned clockwork stuff within scales.

True, and indeed improvisation is much more multifaceted.

For context, his channel has a large focus on Baroque style improvisation, and sequences form a significant role in the Baroque style.  Naturally, it should not be considered a hard rule that improvisation is required to contain such material, especially if ones stylistic improvisation interests lie in other areas.

Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline pianophile

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Wish I had the option of playing the piano when I am most focused, but I don’t have the option of anything in the middle of the night; full-time jobs are just not flexible and are a priority in terms of focus.  Maybe some day…

Thanks for reply; so you do seem to imply that if you had the freedom to do so, you’d probably find practicing in the middle of the night more effective and overall better for you? Thanks again for the reply! This and others have proved fascinating!

Offline j_tour

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First thing in the morning. 

Assuming I had a good night's sleep, which is a big "if," that's when I'm freshest.

After a good night's sleep, if it was a good sleep, I'd have been either dreaming about music, or something equally inspiring.

But, most days, I have to get up and think about taking a crap, making coffee, washing myself, and so forth.

So, in practice, most things productive happen after those tasks are finished.  By which time it's usually time for me to go to work at my pedestrian day job.

It's like most other jobs:  whenever I can fit in the time.

I'm sure there's an apt aphorism about this somewhere, but if that's the time you have, one can make it happen.  Even if through willpower or determination.
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Offline dogperson

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Thanks for reply; so you do seem to imply that if you had the freedom to do so, you’d probably find practicing in the middle of the night more effective and overall better for you? Thanks again for the reply! This and others have proved fascinating!


My guess would be the middle of the night would be the most productive, but I don’t have the flexibility to test that hypothesis nor could I take advantage of the results.  There have been many decades of daytime work which take priority over everything else.  A night person turned into a forced early morning person is what life has forced.

I’m surprised so many here are able to practice in the middle of the night. The assumption I make is they don’t have a day job.

Offline ted

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True, and indeed improvisation is much more multifaceted.

For context, his channel has a large focus on Baroque style improvisation, and sequences form a significant role in the Baroque style.  Naturally, it should not be considered a hard rule that improvisation is required to contain such material, especially if ones stylistic improvisation interests lie in other areas.

Yes, I now realise that after exploring his channel, I was a trifle quick in commenting. He is restricted to one or two areas but is accomplished within them.
"We're all bums when the wagon comes." - Waller