Congratulations for meeting the challenges and excitement of playing your instrument through the first months of the school year!
Perhaps you've played your very first concert, or maybe there's been many concerts, marching band, even parades. For those of you in a high school program, there's the coming pep band, jazz band, winter guard or winter percussion. It is a continual process of performances and rehearsals preparing for those and practice, practice, practice...
With all of this going on, you might be relieved to have a few weeks of winter break to take a break from all the commotion. While it’s great to take a break from any activity that takes up so much of your time, it’s important to incorporate a little bit of practice during your off-time to maintain your peak condition. Many professional athletes can attest to the same thing: just maintaining your physical state during the off-season makes it much easier to perform at your best when it’s game time.
It's always discouraging to come back from break and feel like your progress has been lost and you have to spend several weeks getting back to where you were before break. Don't let this happen to you!
Here are few tips for musicians to maintain their “chops” during the off-season:
Long tones and scales
For a few minutes a day, simply play a few long tones. This will get your air moving and will help you keep the embouchure you’ve developed (brass and woodwinds). For the string players long tones on open notes (beginners) and scales in slow motion are good to keep the technique running in the front of your body and mind. Pianists, run a slow then faster scale or two and a few arpeggios to keep the fingers nimble.
Working your way through a few scales a day will keep your fingers flexible and coordinated. Any scale (major, minor, chromatic, and etc.) will work! For brass players a few lip slurs will go a long way over winter break, take it nice and slow.
Share Your Music with Family and Friends!
In an ideal world you can see this break from lessons as a time to share music with visiting family members, listen (and maybe even practice) more with the break from school and many activities, and a chance to have extra time to make progress on material you have been working on with lessons.
Sometimes a little extra motivation to get the instrument out daily is really helpful. The following ideas are geared to those who need a little extra motivation or dose of fun during these weeks off from classes.
2 Fun Practice Ideas for Winter Break:
1. Paper Chain Practice
There have been a few years when I handed out colorful strips of paper to students to take home over the break. Each day of practice they would add one link to the chain. Then everyone brought their paper chains to hang in the studio in January.
You can do your own version of this at home and even keep the paper chain going through the month of January!
2. Review or Listening Project
Winter break can be a great time to make the skills we already have easier. It’s a great time to make sure your review pieces are all easy without having to juggle new assignments from the teacher.
Make a goal to play each review song a certain number of times over the break. Make it a goal to watch youtube videos of 10 great performers on your instrument.
Do any combination of the above for 10 minutes a day and you’ll be able ease back into your normal rehearsal routine and perform your best in 2020