Thursday, June 9, 2016

Keeping Practice Fun

Summer is here and we are all hoping to have a little fun! There are vacations to take and holidays to celebrate. In the midst of it all, it is still important to maintain a semi-regular practice routine. I've found that I do better with my summer practicing if I look for ways to make practicing feel more like a game. In other words, I'm looking for ways to keep practicing fun. Here are some of the key components I try to include.

  • Variety is the spice of life. I make sure that I am working on a variety of styles of music -- classical, musical theater, sacred, jazz -- as well as ensembles (solos, duets, choral, etc.) I can also ensure variety in my practice sessions by shifting my focus throughout. After working on shaping phrases in one piece, I focus on things like memory, learning the notes, rhythm, or dynamics in the following selections.
  • Not every piece everyday. It's summer, so I need to feel that my practice schedule is a little more relaxed. After all, my mind and body needs to rest as well. So I don't feel the pressure to get to every piece I'm working on in each rehearsal. How do I make sure that everything is getting needed attention though? I'm finding that a practice journal is extremely helpful in keeping track of what I've done and revealing what still needs attention. (I'll be talking more about my experience with practice journaling in the next few weeks.)  I'm also finding that sometimes solutions reveal themselves during the summer months when we just put the piece away for a few days. It's an amazing thing that I don't fully understand, but I'm loving the reality of it.
  • Change up your normal routine. Think about your normal practice session and look for ways to make it different this summer. A change of scenery is always a great option. If you can play a different instrument for a little while, that's wonderful. Perhaps you can change the visual appearance of your setting by adding a vase of shells or a new painting on the wall. You can also change the routine by trying out some new practice techniques. Since many of us teach young students as well, summer is a great time to get in touch with your inner child. Is there a practice game you've been thinking about? Try it out in your own repertoire and see what kind of results you get. Not only will you be doing something that might be rather fun, you'll also be perfecting techniques to share with your students in the fall.