The bell rings and the student’s race for the exit. School’s out!
A summer of fun is just around the corner!
What about their instrument, though? What will they do with that thing they’ve been learning how to play all school year?
If they’re like many young players, the answer is, “Stuff it in a closet or a corner of my room. I don’t need to practice again until August!”
Wrong answer! Summer music practice is very beneficial!
There are, in fact, many things they can and should do with their instrument over the summer. And you can assure them it won’t interfere with the relaxing, summertime lifestyle they’ve got in mind.
Why Summer Music Practice?
Let’s start with the basics: Why shouldn’t they just stuff it in the corner? 2 big reasons:
- They need the practice. (Even if they say they don’t.)
- Their instrument needs the practice. (Really, it does. I’ll explain.)
It may sound crazy to them, but with just a little bit of time and effort they can keep both their skills and their instrument in good shape over the summer.
Not only that, they’ll be ahead of their classmates when school starts up again.
So work with them to help them follow these simple steps for a successful and productive summer on their instrument.
Step #1: Keep their instrument in sight!
If the instrument is in a place where you and your child will commonly see it, they’ll be reminded to use it and practice. So don’t stuff it in a closet!
Keep it a part of what you see every day, and their summer music practice will be off to a good start.
Step #2: Be good to your instrument
Here at Kincaid’s we’ve heard this story too many times –
“My instrument won’t work, and I can’t figure out why! I haven’t touched it all summer!”
That is part of the problem!
All musical instruments, regardless of which one you play, are built to be played! Any instrument will suffer if it just sits there.
Oils and lubricants thicken and congeal. Moving parts dry out and get stuck in place.
Those lubricants and moving parts need to move to stay in good working condition, so reminding your child to be good to their instrument by practicing it will help quite a bit! (Told you I’d explain…)
Maintaining your instrument is easy and not time-consuming, so make it a part of your summer music practice routine!
Step #3: Make a schedule
As with anything else you want your child to get better at, regular practice is the way to go. Just 20 minutes of summer music practice a day – less time than an episode of whatever they’re watching on Netflix – will go a long way to keeping their skills sharp.
Again, this isn’t a major lifestyle change.
Establishing a consistent practice routine is so important. This article has some tips to help you help your child practice well and enjoy it.
Step #4: Practice Smart
Don’t just let your son or daughter practice the easy stuff. Practicing the things they already know how to do well won’t challenge or help them grow.
Encourage them to practice the hard stuff – the stuff that always drove them crazy in band class.
Consider even getting them some new music, so they can practice things they haven’t played before.
Give them a challenge and make it part of their daily routine.
This is a tip we picked up from from world-famous trumpet player Wynton Marsalis. He has a great list of practice tips that are applicable for any musician, regardless of instrument.
Step #5: Help Your Child Express Themselves
In addition to the hard stuff, choose some music that they enjoy.
This may or may not be music that is difficult to play, but to keep their summer music practice fun and enjoyable, it’s important that they feel like they’re expressing their own musical tastes.
If you can’t find printed music to something they like, encourage them to try learning it by ear!
One of the most satisfying experiences in life is succeeding in something that is all yours – that you did yourself. Learning something without the aid of music on a page could be one of those things for your child!
Ending their practice with something they enjoy will make them want to come back and practice some more later.
Step #6: Enjoy yourself
Playing your instrument should be something your child enjoys, no matter what level of development they’re at. Practice will improve not just their technical skill but their overall enjoyment of the instrument.
If they love music and are willing to work just a little bit of practice into their day, it will show in how they play, no matter what they play, whether its scales or their favorite songs.
Also, consider having your child invite a friend over to practice. Many children prefer the sounds of multiple instruments to just their one, particularly if their friend plays a different instrument.
This can be just the thing to encourage them to spend time practicing and it’s a great way for them to have fun in the process.
Just know you may have to encourage them to stay on task!
Step #7: Give Your Child Performance Opportunities
There are few things worse than practicing with nothing to work toward – no goal.
Providing your child with opportunities to perform helps give them the proper type of incentive to pick up their instrument and practice.
It gives your child something to shoot for and not feel like they’re practicing something for no obvious benefit.
There are plenty of musical activities you can find that will provide performance opportunities. Summer music camps are as abundant as they are helpful.
Wonderful camps that are within a day’s drive of Springfield, Ohio include Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp and Interlochen Center for the Arts (both in Michigan), as well as Music For All Summer Symposium in Muncie, Indiana. There are so many to choose from, so take a look!
Performance opportunities close to home are available, too! There are church orchestras and praise bands, as well as community bands.
Even places like Kings Island and Cedar Point (or your local amusement park) offer summer music opportunities.
You can also check with local universities and colleges to see what they have to offer for summer camps and performance opportunities.
Or, you could simply have your child perform something for you that they've been working on.
It will also give you the opportunity to praise them for their hard work. Just a little encouragement can go a long way!
If you're interested in a glimpse of how intense practice can get for advancing musicians, here's a look at how an 11-year old boy prepared for an audition at the world-famous Julliard School, and the lessons the boy and his mother learned about life, and practice, in the process.
What ideas have worked successfully for you in helping your child practice? We'd love to hear your thoughts, too!
Have a great summer helping your child enjoy their instrument!
Photo credit: Phil Roeder via flickr.com / CC BY
All other photos used under CC0 license.