Now that summer is winding down and our minds are on the back to school crunch, I have been getting several questions on how to prepare to start up piano/voice lessons again after summer holidays, or really any holidays when you’ve been away from your music routine for longer than a few days.
Around here (NYC), most children of school age attend camp – either sleep away or day camp, and it is rare that any of them have an instrument or even the time to practice on. Or maybe you’re an adult student or even a professional musician/music teacher who has been away from the instrument for a few weeks and you want to get back up to speed, PRONTO. Here are some tips to help get you (or your child) going again
- Get organized
The number one step to get ready for the school year is to gather all of your materials and get them organized. Yep, locate your piano books, dictation books, music binder and recordings of your lessons and get them all in one place. Then get organized – punch holes, put in order, label, etc to make sure that everything you need is in one place. Don’t throw anything out without discussing with your teacher first!
Now that your materials are assembled and meticulously organized, you should have a look over what you covered in the last term. What songs were you working on? What skills were you trying to develop? What were some of the challenges you had? Remind yourself where you left off.
- Create a short technical routine
If you’re a pianist, put together a few of the technical patterns together that you were working on, either scales or an etude or two. If you’re a singer, work with a recording of a past lesson, preferably one that’s on the easier side. Don’t start with a two-hour practice session, as you may injure yourself hitting too hard the first few times. Give yourself a short 15 to 20 minute session once or twice a day while you build your chops back up.
Make a list of what you achieved last semester. Did you finally sing that high A? Did you play something very technically challenging? Did you write music for the first time? Write down a list. Then, make a list of what you had difficulty with and even what you didn’t like about your work last term. That might give you some clues as to what needs to be addressed this term, and will give your teacher some insight on how to structure learning for this term.
Think about what you would like to accomplish this term. Are there songs or pieces you have been inspired by? Have you noticed deficiencies in your playing? Did you hear some music this summer that inspired you? Make a list and bring it to your teacher. I love it when my students come to me with an agenda and list of goals, so that we can come up with a flexible plan together!
Now is the time to have a good look at your/your child’s fall schedule and figure out when the best time to practice will be. So many people don’t do this and it can cause so much stress! Study the week’s activities and see when the best time to practice should be. Maybe you’re a morning person, or you do best before bed. Maybe Wednesdays are going to be crazy this year, so you won’t be able to practice. Try to come up with creative solutions to make sure practice happens every day, even if only for a short time. If the schedule is crazy packed every single day, maybe it is time to scale back and let go of a few commitments. Better now than when you’re exhausted and worn out in October.
I’m all about organization and reflection when it comes to music. As a business owner, performer and mother to a school aged son, scheduling and organization is my best friend. Also, remember that taking lessons is a partnership between teacher and student and the more you participate in the process, the more you’ll get out of it.
Now, get out there and enjoy the end of summer…and start practicing!