I love summer, it’s such a great time in New Zealand - sun, surf, BBQs and practice - WHAT! Yes, that’s right, that dreaded word practice. I love practicing over summer, it's usually the most productive time of the year for me with no concerts coming up or specific music to learn - just focusing on the basics. It’s so easy to put your instrument away and forget about it until the new year, and then you spend the first month back playing catch up. I have a different approach to the summer practice regime, and if you do the same, it might make 2018 a year to remember for you as a musician.
First of all, it’s great to have a break over Christmas and have a few days away from the instrument, so don't be afraid to stick the instrument in the garage for a week - you deserve a break! But if you take too long, it’s going to be a hard grind to get back to where you left off.
A great way to help make the ‘break’ not too long is to do a detailed plan to set your goals for the upcoming year. Setting goals will help you push yourself, and doing this over a few days off also gives you inspiration - and will probably make you want to go and get that instrument from the garage and get stuck into achieving those goals.
The best way to approach setting goals is to do a complete evaluation of your playing, outlining your strengths and weaknesses - be honest! Sit down and work out the areas you need to work on, and then set goals for the coming year so that you always have an idea of where you want to get to.
Then instead of spending summer doing the odd practice session every so often, make summer the time to refine your basics, and work on those areas that you want to be stronger at in 2018.
Make a list of the fundamentals of playing a brass instrument - sound, range, articulation, tonguing, flexibility, air, etc., and try to make progress with each of them every day you practice. Think of it as a spring clean of all those important aspects where some may be in good shape, and others a little rough. Make it a goal over summer that you are going to make headway on these basics, and then you will be in great shape as band starts back, and your conductor will be very pleased with you!
Practicing can be fun over summer, find somewhere sunny and inspiring, even go outside and practice. Listen to lots of playing that inspires you, and think about how strong these players are in the areas you are working on. They sat exactly where you are now working on the basics, and now it’s your turn. Positive and motivated practice will give you a feeling of achievement, and you will start to see improvements in all these areas.
Violin soloist Hilary Hahn recently did 100 days of practice, posting a 1 minute video on Instagram each day. Her approach to practicing inspired many musicians out there, and she worked on various basics in her playing. Check out the article below:
What a great goal to start with! 100 days of practice - posting a photo from each session to inspire others to do the same. I might give that a go!
So, make this summer the most productive one you have ever had. Of course enjoy the sun and the beaches, but connect with yourself musically as well. Set out your goals for the year ahead, what you want to achieve, where you want to be at the end of 2018, and then get going on the practice - start a new routine and challenge yourself to stick to it. Maybe it’s 100 days of practice. Or 6 days a week of practice. Perhaps it’s even starting to practice!
The remaining blogs this year will cover some of the basics that we can work on over summer - perhaps you can let me know which ones you would like me to start with?