Tips for Keeping up Your Summer Chops

Let’s face it - staying motivated to practice can be extremely difficult during the summer months. Many students and professionals alike enter this time with varying degrees of burnout after coming off of a long stretch of seemingly endless projects and performances. It can be easy to slip into habits of avoiding your instrument as you begin your rightfully earned period of relaxation and rejuvenation. However, there are many simple ways to set your future self up for success and make the most of your summer while still taking time to enjoy the sun!

Set Goals

Goal-setting is an integral part of making progress in any area. When it comes to playing your instrument, it is okay to recognize that your summer expectations might not be as lofty as those set during the academic year. Shoot to set a handful of goals that are reasonable, specific, and most importantly, fun! Here are some examples of ideas to get you started:

  • Schedule performances for yourself (no matter how large or small)

  • Setting a specific date and time to perform for others provides something to look forward to and keeps us motivated to practice regularly. The degree of intensity you select for your performance is completely up to you - it can be as informal as scheduling a weeknight to play a couple of quick tunes for your family at home or as formal as a full-scale solo concert in a hall. Again, remember to choose something that will be both reasonable and fun for you!

  • Start a practice challenge

  • Practice challenges are extremely useful for musicians because they are often adaptable and allow for endless creativity and personalization. Some of the most common practice challenges involve playing your instrument every day for a set period of time (one week, one month, 100 days, etc). Another approach would be to incorporate a new specific element into each practice session (sightread a different etude, find a new way to practice your scales, etc). Use your imagination!

  • Choose a specific piece or skill you want to learn

  • This suggestion seems fairly self-explanatory, but selecting something new to work on that you have never done before is a great way to provide motivation for practicing!

Play with Other Musicians

Music is highly collaborative by nature and often involves multiple people. If you are struggling to find some consistency with your practicing, try enlisting the help of your musician friends/family to stay motivated! Some examples of activities to do together include:

  • Informal concerts

  • Similar to the suggestion in the goal-setting section, scheduling informal chamber music performance opportunities will help keep all parties involved motivated to put on a great show!

  • Regular reading/recording get-togethers

  • Establishing a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly time to meet up with friends/family to read chamber music provides not only a good way to keep your chops up during the summer, but also an opportunity to spend time with people doing something you love. For a fun little challenge and to take these fun chamber music sessions to the next level, try recording some of the works you’ve been reading!

While keeping up your practice during the warmer months is important and will benefit you greatly when the fall rolls back around, it is also important to remember the summer is typically recognized as more of a break period and it should definitely be treated as such. It is normal and okay if you…

  • Practice fewer hours/day than during the school year

  • Miss a day (or two) of practice while you’re on vacation

  • Play more music just for fun instead of tackling that new beefy concerto

Give yourself time to decompress and have a real break - it will help you avoid burnout! Hold yourself accountable, but don’t forget to have fun this summer! Happy practicing :)

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