Thursday, July 3, 2014

5 Tips on Summer Practicing

School's out. The sun is shining. The pool is open. 

And yet, you need to practice. 

So the question is: How can you use this new-found free time wisely in order to progress on your instrument while still making time for fun and rest!

Here are my tips!

1. Make a Schedule

The beginning of my summer was a mess. While I had plenty of things to get done, I had no organization to my day and this made me much less productive. Organizing the rest of my activities allows me to be more reliable in my practicing - forcing me not to delay it until later. Below is a sample of how I like to organize my schedule.

2. Choose a Time

Whether we like it or not, it has been proven that humans are creatures of habit. Frankly, it helps us maintain our sanity when we can rely on things like schedules and regularity from day-to-day. Applying this to music: regularity and order can help maintain your practicing when you choose a specific time to practice and stick to it! Mine is in the early afternoon.

3. Designate a Practice Place

I am lazy. I detest moving my cello, books and stand around. Sometimes my laziness affects me so strongly that I neglect my practicing simply because I don't want to move all those things to a different location. SO (!!!!) instead of having to move things I have a designated corner in my apartment that is Cello Central. I give myself permission to leave books out, a mug of tea on the floor, and my cello unpacked. In this way I've created an environment that a) encourages me to focus (the same effect that a practice room might have) and b) feels inviting and thus makes me excited to practice (not at all the effect that a practice room has)!

I use this memory board to hold notes with my goals, technique reminders, and pictures of inspiring performers.

Cello Central! 

4. Find a Friend

Practicing on your own is very difficult. But unfortunately, as a university musician, this is the gist of summer life - no one's around! So instead of losing steam from the lack of motivation, contact a friend near or far away and ask them to be your practice buddy. Exchange practice times at the end of the day, send recordings to one another and text them for motivation when you need an extra push.

5. Make Lists

When I was struggling to make it through all my repertoire, my amazing sister (also a musician) told me  that I needed to have a more organized practice schedule. She (or rather, her teacher) suggested that I split my repertoire into two different plans - Plan A and Plan B. Half of the movements of my concerto go on Plan A, the other half on Plan B. Etude #1 goes on Plan A, while Etude #2 goes on Plan B. I've written out both plans and taped them to my stand so that I have a structured method of getting through material. Otherwise, your practice sessions goes something like "uhhhh, what should I practice today? I guess I'll practice the piece that's fun and easy . . ." and that's NEVER a good idea. ;)

The index card on the left side of my stand has my practice schedule for the day written on it!

Well, I hope these 5 points encourage you in your summer practicing and help you stay motivated! 
Shout out to all my awesome friends (and Jordan) for pushing me in my own practicing and occassionally yelling at me through text messages when I watch one too many episodes of Portlandia....