Yesterday afternoon I spent an hour with a voice student working solely on rhythm: writing beats in the score, tapping subdivisions, speaking in rhythm, and count-singing. Perhaps concerned by the little amount of time we spent actually singing, at the end of the coaching, the student asked me, “What’s a normal amount of time to spend on this?”
I think she was hoping I’d respond with a prescription like “for ages 18 to 21: 30 minutes, four times a week,” but I had none. This student needed to dedicate a lot of practice time to counting, but her French was already excellent. On the other hand, I’ve known students with strong rhythmic aptitude who spent an entire semester improving their French from unrecognizable to somewhat passable.
Every musician has certain skills that require more practice. As a pianist with tiny hands, I spend a lot of time practicing awkward stretches and leaps that an average pianist would play without a second thought. It’s as frustrating and tedious for me as it is for my student to practice her 1 & 2 & 3 &s. A “normal” amount of practice is the amount it takes to make our difficult skills feel as easy as the skills that come naturally.