Back to School - Back to Work!

The summer holidays can be a brilliant well deserved break for students and teachers alike. But all too often well meant promises to do some practise often results with very little and (dramatic music interlude) sometimes no practise at all. Six or even seven weeks away from anything never mind things as physical as playing an instrument will always end up with you taking a step back in your progress. Don’t get me wrong - it can good to have a break but for most people music is something that needs to be kept in the routine or you do risk forgetting some bits of what you’ve learnt. I remember this every time I dig my bicycle out of the garage!)

So here’s some tips on getting back into the swing of things.  Why not try some of these to impress your teachers (and maybe convince them you’ve not avoided practising for six weeks!)

1. Scales, scales, scales!
I know, I know! I keep going on about scales – but they are really important (like vegetables) Scale practise can be a good and gentle way to get your fingers remembering what to do. Start slow and steady and increase the speed gently. A lot of music can be muscle memory and if you build up slowly your muscles should remember what to do.

2. Long notes
For woodwind and brass players get some long notes going – it’ll get your breath control working again and start strengthening your lips too. Long notes also will help you focus on your tone to get a good solid sound. Why not see how long you can hold a note for and then see if you can beat it the next time round!

3. Articulation (and dynamics!)
All too easy for articulation and dynamics to fall back on the list of things to do when bashing through new pieces or getting back in shape. So try focus on getting all of the articulation and dynamics in when you practise instead of worrying about the notes and rhythms.

4. Get louder!
Are your louds really loud? Could they be louder? What about your quieter range? Could you get any quieter still? Sure?

5. Look over some old pieces
This is great to see how far you progressed during the last year, but it is also good to look at something your brain should remember as it will jump start your memory onto things you have learnt before.

6. Sight reading
Try something new and scary! Really push your note reading ability, dexterity and speed of playing by trying something terrifying. Don’t expect it to be note perfect – sometimes a good music shock to the system can help get your music knowledge flowing again.

7. Try something fun that you loved to play
Just play for fun for a while – with no exams or concerts looming, just play for the joy of playing! It’s great to have a no pressure playing session – when lessons start back again at school it can get bit too goal orientated. Enjoy the freedom to toot or noodle on whatever you fancy without worrying if you’re playing it right or wrong.

8. Have a look at something new
I love looking at new challenging during the summer holidays to decide what I want to achieve during the next year. Sometimes the pieces are ones that I’m going to perform or use in an exam, but often I pick a couple of pieces for my own sense of fulfilment

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