In his song: ‘Next Five Minutes’, Steven Curtis Chapman calls us to live the next five minutes as though that is all we have. It is a positive look at using our time wisely, and time seems always in short supply.

I often hear that one of the biggest challenges in terms of progress in practising a musical instrument is lack of time. When my pupils encounter a section that is difficult during practice, I encourage them to break it down into manageable chunks and work it through.

We can do the same with any chunk of time to see progress.

We may think we have no time for a project, but really we are assuming that there is insufficient time at a given point to complete it or even to make progress on it. We may however have a spare five minutes before the next big event. Five minutes is manageable, right? Have a think of some things you can achieve in five minutes or less. Here are some of mine:

  • Have a shower (if I’m in a hurry)
  • Make a hot drink
  • Do a tummy exercise routine (actually it is 7 mins, but if I tell myself it’s only 5 mins out of my life I’m more likely to do it!)
  • Read a chapter of a book (unless it is a long, wordy novel)
  • Run into the supermarket to buy bread and milk (assuming no queue at the checkout)
  • Read a blog and send a quick comment back!

What I notice about my list is that if I perceive something is not going to take too much time, I will probably get to it. If it seems like a yawning hole of precious time wasted, I will put it off until later. So I have to trick myself into thinking I can do it in a short space of time.

So here is my ‘5 minute challenge’. I’m writing it as if you are a parent supervising practice, but whatever your situation is use the principles and try for yourself.

Sit with your child at the piano with the intention of both being there only five minutes. It is not much time so we are going to absolutely maximise it.

Set your timer for 5 minutes.  

What is the most recent piece? This will be the most challenging because there could be new things covered in your lesson. If needed, do points 1-5 one hand at a time.

  1. Find the few bars (measures) that are the most difficult
  2. If rhythm is the issue, count aloud and clap it out
  3. If notes are the issue, say them aloud before playing
  4. Now, slowly play that bar (or those bars)
  5. Play it through 3 times correctly. If it is 3 times in a row without error, all the better.

Repeat 1-5 with each hand, then repeat again with both hands.

If you have broken the difficult bits down enough you can do these 1-5 points within a five minute time frame. If there is still time you may like to finish with a run through of more of the music, or simply finish with a favourite piece. Or, if you ran out of time to do much at all, stop anyway and say that we will have another go tomorrow.

Now encourage them to go and do something else, and you can get back to your busy day too!

It is much better to do the 5 minute challenge than nothing at all! Also, if you get into the routine of it not being a major drama, you will be able to extend the time to fit more in as the child realises it is not going to take up their entire day.

The lyrics to the song I mentioned at the beginning are a little tricky to catch at the start so here they are:


I can reminisce about the already

I can worry and fret about the not yet;

But when it all comes down I know it really,

Really all comes down to the right now

So right now I’m living the next 5 minutes…

If you have five minutes 😊, let us know in the comments an example of how you maximize five minutes of your time – music or otherwise. I’m sure we’d all find it helpful. And enjoy the other 1435 minutes of your day!


8 thoughts on “The Power of 5 Minutes

  1. Great input – thanks Delwyn. I try to remind myself that 5 mins is better than no minutes, and 5 minute blocks still bring about change and improvement.

    • So true – 5 mins better than no minutes. You just reminded me of the book “Five minutes peace” It’s about Mrs Large the elephant wanting some space from life as a busy Mum. It is a delightful story and I realise the power of 5 minutes for us Mums could be in a 5 minute rest!

  2. Ethne Fergusson says:

    Enjoy these blogs.The steps 1-5 are something engraved within….from the same Mother!! I have particularly been using this with new Sax and Clarinet pieces. The clapping out the rhythm is particularly helpful to me ..then repeating the passage 3 Xs correctly before moving on. I also practice my scales (clarinet , Sop Sax ) using the must do it right first , or correct 3xs before moving on.

    • That’s really interesting – I don’t actually remember learning about doing the practicing only if you didn’t get it right the first time, but that’s still the principle I use. You just spelled it out what was engrained. Good principles that have lasted our lifetimes big sis!

  3. Nancy Peckham says:

    Hi Delwyn,

    In my “busyness” I am catching up on your blogs. It seems to me that when I have only a short time to do things, I am much more efficient, and also the little things I put off I can squeeze into those 5 minutes when that is exactly the only time I have right then. It gives a real sense of accomplishment! Now to try it with music …


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