Summer vacation is finally here and can be a fantastic opportunity to improve one’s playing skills as well as develop new and positive playing habits. For some people, summer vacation can easily be a time to not practice much at all. I find that when I have a lot of free time, it’s very easy to be inefficient and not get much done. By being organized and planning one’s practice sessions, it is much easier to get a lot done and improve a ton. Here are some tips for a fruitful summer.
1. Set Goals!
Create a list of things that you want to improve upon (ie sound, rhythm, tuning, buzzing, articulations, range, lip slurs, scales/arpeggios, etudes, solos, orchestral excerpts, improvisation). Make a practice plan to work on the items on your list. It’s much easier to practice when you have clear goals prior to your practice session.
2. Schedule your practice time in your calendar like it is a Dr.’s appointment
I am more inclined to practice if I have my practice session scheduled on my calendar like it’s a dr’s appointment. Schedule your practice sessions in your calendar at the beginning of each week over the summer. Just like a Dr.’s appointment, if you need to cancel, then you need to reschedule your practice session!
3. Practice in short sessions
By practicing in smaller chunks, it’s much easier to focus and also not get physically and mentally tired. It’s very easy to learn negative playing habits by playing on tired chops and with a tired brain. I love to practice in the morning for a short session (fundamentals), one in the afternoon (etudes, solos, excerpts), and one in the evening (improvisation, sight-reading). If you get in an early session and don’t touch your horn for the rest of the day, then at least you still practiced!
4. Get a practice partner
Have you ever had an exercise partner? It definitely makes going to the gym or going on a run a lot easier when you have a friend to join you. This is also true with practicing. Find a friend and practice together. This is a wonderful opportunity to have fun, share ideas about practice, and improve. Be creative (ie. one person play while one person buzzes, play in octaves, take turn playing a phrase, imitate styles, play scales and alternate notes) and have fun!
5. Take a private lesson
Work with a private teacher. A good private teacher will help you focus on your weaknesses and help make a plan of attack to make them strengths. I find that many young players are not sure of what to work on and improve very little over the summer. This can be very frustrating for a student and does not inspire them to practice.
6. Attend a summer music festival
One of the best ways to learn, get inspired, meet future colleagues, get out of your comfort zone, and stretch yourself is to attend a summer music festival. Please check out my list of music festivals and trombone festivals found on my LINKS page at www.trombone101.com.
7. Attend a live concert
A fantastic way to be inspired to practice over the summer is to attend a live concert. It’s always inspirational to hear an amazing musician!
8. Schedule a recital
One of the best motivators to practice is performing publicly. Schedule a recital at a church, a university, a library, or at a home. Split the recital with another musician. The goal is to have a deadline for which to practice.
9. Form a chamber group
Some of my favorite music to perform is chamber music. Form a chamber group and try to meet on a regular basis. For trombonists, try to meet for duets, trios, or quartets weekly. Playing is a fantastic way to improve your playing (endurance, intonation, phrasing, sound, blending, rhythm, articulation - you name it!).