An article entitled When Repetition isn’t the Best Practice Strategy sheds some light on what really works when practicing music. Although the technique seems geared toward more advanced students’ practice routines, it can be beneficial for students at every level.
The article suggests that an effective practice routine could consist of choosing two or three focus points which students can alternate between during a practice session. For example, a beginner might play song A, then play song B, then play song C, and then play the songs again in a varied order. By alternating between songs the student will be more focused during each piece. For advanced students, the focus could alternate between different sections or passages of a longer piece. The student might play section A for 3 minutes, section B for 3 minutes, section C for 3 minutes, and so forth.
The most important takeaway about practicing is that the quality of the practice is more important than the length of time practicing. We agree that an efficient and focused practice session should be the objective for students of all levels.