Keeping Music Skills Sharp Over Spring & Summer Breaks

Spring and summer vacation often means a reprieve from the daily grind and activities that would typically feel mundane, repetitive, and chore-like. And while we get a break from work, it’s important we don’t lose all the progress we’ve made in our creative endeavors. It’s not uncommon to have the urge to put everything on hold while we take advantage of the nice weather, but it’s important to remember how taking time off can negatively affect our learning trajectories we’ve worked so hard to develop.

Tips For Music Students For Spring and Summer Breaks

You’ve worked so hard, made so much progress, stayed consistent each week, and then what? Putting lessons and practice on a hiatus means interrupting all the strides made and backsliding. When it comes to learning music, routine is critical. Here are some summer and spring break practice tips to help maintain discipline during the warm weather months without feeling like it’s a chore.

Should you practice your instrument or vocals while on vacation?

Yes. Singing and playing an instrument works your muscles. And it requires a significant amount of muscle memory to perform at a high level. Music practice on vacation is important to keep continuity in your music routine, keep realizing those incremental gains, and not take a step backward. Even taking a week or two off can seriously hinder your growth. Continuing some form of practice while you’re on vacation will go a long way to avoid losing all the progress made.

Should you bring your instrument on vacation?

man traveling outdoors with guitar on his backThis depends. If piano is your main instrument, you’re going to have some trouble fitting that into your suitcase. Consider the size, fragility, and portability of your instrument when deciding whether to bring with you on vacation.

If you’re leaving town and traveling by plane, your options might be limited. Traveling with an instrument may be costly and risky for a few reasons. Often, even guitars can be cumbersome and cost extra to check onto a plane. Unless you have an actual flight case or other kind of very strong and sturdy case for the instrument, you may not wish to take the chance at breaking the instrument. Smaller instruments like flute, clarinets, and ukuleles can be brought on board without issue. Traveling by car can make it easier to bring most instruments that will fit. Fragility becomes less of a concern since you have control over how the instrument is being handled.

Beyond the method of travel, you should consider any upcoming performances. If your recital, adjudication, or concert is coming up and only days or weeks away, it’s a good idea to make sure you have your instrument on hand to keep your skills up.

Are there things you can do to practice without your instrument?

Even if you don’t have your instrument, there are many creative music practice ideas you can use to stay fresh. From visualization techniques to using digital apps, finding creative ways to stay involved in your music is easy.

Music practice without an instrument may seem strange, but it’s easier than you think. Listening to music can be more than recreation. As the saying goes, your hands and voice are an extension of your ears and what you hear. Good music in = good music out. If you’re listening to music, you’re training your ears to hear what you will ultimately play. If you have been practicing certain pieces of music, be sure to have those in your playlist. Close your eyes and visualize yourself performing the pieces you’re listening to, down to the specific fingerings and techniques.

There’s an app for that. Yes, there is no shortage of technological solutions for learning music. Plenty of apps exist to work on your music theory knowledge, sight and note reading skills, and even playing! Check out this great example of a free Music Theory Flashcards app to help learn notes names, key signatures, intervals, rhythms, clefs, and even piano and guitar-specific notes!

When will you be able to practice?

Since you’re on vacation, the sky is really the limit here. While many of us choose to work on our singing in the shower, it’s not recommended for productive practice. But the reality is, you only need a small amount of time daily or weekly to keep your music skills sharp.

If you’re enjoying the outdoors, find some time in a quiet place in the morning or evening, to go through your exercises. If you’re a vocalist, this might be posture or breathing exercises, or even memorizing lyrics. This might mean using an app to work on music theory if you don’t have an instrument. It’s important to find 15-20min a day or at least 30min every other day to improve your instrument skills or keep yourself from falling backwards. Include your travel partners, friends or family in your practice sessions to act as an audience for an impromptu performance.

Tips For Music Teachers For Vacation Breaks

Just like students, teachers need to make sure their skills don’t rust as well. Even great music teachers are also students, so the effects of a long break from playing or singing can have a similar effect. Professionals may have reached a level in their career that a short hiatus may not be the end of the world, but music practice on vacation is still an important step in continuing strong music practice habits and staying sharp for upcoming performances or lessons.

Should you consider your music lesson plans while on vacation?

Midi keyboard and laptop set up outside while viewing a cityscapeSometimes it’s important for a teacher to disconnect entirely to avoid “burn out”. Other times, the fresh scenery and environment on vacation will inspire new ideas. The answer to this will be different for each teacher and probably addressed on a case by case basis.

Traveling to exotic places may expose teachers to new music that can be helpful in lesson plans. And being away from lessons can also give teachers the time and space to work on their own music, too, which may further inspire some changes to a learning approach.

Should you bring your instrument on vacation?

If you plan on teaching during your time on vacation, absolutely. If you’ve given your students permission to reach out with questions while you’re away, definitely. Bringing your instrument with you while you’re away will give any teacher the ability to keep their skills fresh and sharp just like it would for students. But if there may be a need to dive into teacher-mode while you’re away, it’s best to have your instrument with you, if possible.

The same considerations should be taken when deciding how to bring it with you. Traveling with an instrument can be costly, with a likely greater risk since teachers will often have more valuable instruments than students. Think about the risk vs. reward factor and the type of care the instrument will receive in transit.

How can you use experiences from your vacation to be creative with your music lessons?

Creative music lessons are inevitably inspired by something. Experiences in new environments is just one way to get creative juices flowing. It’s important to remember that music lesson inspiration can come from anywhere. Staying in tune to what is happening around you can often lead to discovery of new and interesting things.

Popular music will be different depending on what part of the world you spend your vacation in. For example, Island or Caribbean music has unique sounds, rhythms, and percussion instruments that could be a great lesson for those looking for new rhythmic concepts to explore.

Eastern music, or non-Western classical or popular music, uses unique tonal systems for unusual harmonic sounds. For advanced students looking to incorporate world sounds into their music, studying authentic Eastern music will have a profound impact on their development.

Don’t just sit around.

In short, taking time off can definitely have a significant impact on your development. While we all need a break every now and then, it’s important to continue your routine in some way so you keep your skills sharp. Whether you’re a student or teaching music, finding creative ways to stay inspired, stay connected, and continue working on your skills will pay off with positive growth!

If you’re interested in learning more about private music lessons available for yourself or your child then Forbes Music can connect you with an in-home or online music teacher that will fit your needs. Our highly rated music teachers offer flexible scheduling plans and are the perfect option for any busy student.