Summertime Is A Great Time To Improve Your Music Muscles
In the summer months around Alpharetta, Milton, and Roswell, music lessons students might be tempted by the great Georgia weather and family vacation plans that take them outside of the North Fulton area to let their practice routines lapse and normal schedules get interrupted. This is especially true for young music students, who are often on vacation with their families between June and September. Many music teachers, too, move to a lighter or alternate lessons schedule in the summer while the bulk of their students are away or taking a break.
Keeping up your musical practice routine is important, though; taking a three-month break from your instrument is practically guaranteed to set you back when you do return to your regular music lessons schedule in the fall. What’s more, the summer is a great time to focus on actually developing improved practice habits, where you can use the additional time and flexibility to leap from one musical plateau to the next. If your summer schedule leaves you with more time to practice music, here are some ways to take advantage of it.
Set weekly and summer-long goals. Is there a particular piece of music you’ve always wanted to learn that you haven’t covered yet in your regular music lessons? Is there a technique you want to master? Have you been meaning to write, record, or perform something new, or in some new way? Do you want to put together a new ensemble or band? With three months of lazy north Georgia days in front of you, the summer is a great time to set your sights high. Consult with your music lessons teacher or school music director, if you have one, and pick an exciting goal that you can reasonably expect to achieve. Think of it as a summer-long project to improve your musical proficiency.
Keep a lessons log on your progress. If you can measure your progress, you can improve it. Most music students study on a lesson-to-lesson basis, and are used to having weekly goals set for them by their music teachers. For your summer practice project, you need to take charge of your own self-delivered music lessons. As you do, it may help to keep your own lessons log to manage and monitor your progress. If you want to learn a new piece of music, for example, you can divide it into sections and assign yourself a deadline for each one. Keep track of your goals and progress in your lessons log, or on your sheet music. Keeping a thorough and honest lessons log will help you to stay focused, and to assess your progress on a shorter-term basis. As you pass each musical milestone in your lessons log, you’ll know if you are making progress against your goals for the summer.
Decide how long and what days you will practice music in advance, and stick to it. This is important year-round, of course, but can be more difficult to stick to during the summer. You’ll have more freedom over when to conduct you own music lessons, but you will still need to carve out dedicated time to spend working on improving your skills and repertoire. Dedicating time each day to practice helps musicians develop discipline, as well as muscle memory and “chops.” As always, it’s more important to practice smart than to practice long—establish an individual summer music lessons routine you can stick with. If you’re lucky enough to have fewer commitments during the summer, you can always break up your practice sessions into “two-a-days.” For instance, you could work on technique in the morning, and on repertoire after dinner.
Balance makes achievement easier and sweeter. Working towards a long-term goal can put off some of the gratification that comes from music. Practice without performances, recitals, and lessons can get tedious. You can build your own rewards into your practice program, though: when you accomplish one of your short-term goals, be sure to reward yourself. Buy an big gaudy ice cream cone at Scoops in Crabapple, take the walk in the woods down by the Roswell Mill you’ve been meaning to do with your friends, go to a show at Alpharetta’s Verizon Amphitheater with your family, or just get outside in the glorious North Fulton summer sun. The important thing is to build in not just deadlines to your personal music lessons schedule over the summer but also treat yourself to rewards when you meet them.
It’s called “playing” music for a reason! Whatever you decide to practice over the summer, have fun with it. Make time to play with other musicians, if you can. Try and get out to play, if you are ready, at some of the great local live music venues around Alpharetta and Roswell. Don’t just practice the difficult thing you intend to perfect by the fall; practice the material you enjoy the most. While it is difficult to achieve any level of improvement without discipline and practice, remember to make your summer time music lessons routine the sunniest part of your day!
Blog by Brian Johnson, former Owner (2011-2016), North Fulton School of Music