Fun Ways for Music Students to Stay in Shape in the Summer

As the school year draws to a close, music students, their parents and music teachers relish the opportunity to slow down in the summer. At first glance, taking a hiatus sounds like a good idea. However, music students are treading dangerous ground if they think that it's perfectly fine to leave their instrument untouched for the entire summer.

Music students face a significant decrease in skills and memory if they stop playing for two months. In his article "Encouraging Summer Lessons," John M. Zeigler, Ph.D says that "if parents' money is not to be wasted, students must continue, at the least, to practice during summers off from lessons."

10 Fun Ways Music Students can Stay in Shape

The following are 10 fun ways music students can stay in shape and protect their musical investment during the summer break:

  1. Sign up for summer music lessons: Summer lessons allow students to maintain their skills, address special issues or explore new genres at a more relaxed pace. These lessons are usually structured more loosely and allow for some schedule flexibility.
  2. Enroll in a summer music program or workshop: Summer music schools offer various summer music programs for musicians of all levels. These summer music programs offer musicians ample opportunities for social interaction and performing.
  3. Play music with family and friends: "Duets are an effective way to have a student improve sight reading, timing, listening, and especially keeping the beat," says piano teacher "sylviabee" in her blog entry, "Piano Duets".
  4. Pick out songs by ear: Music students can develop their musical ear by picking out the notes to their favorite songs. Intermediate and advanced students can try to pick out harmonies and accompaniment patterns to complement the melody.
  5. Sight-read a wide variety of music: Sight reading and sight playing are skills that take time to develop. Music students can borrow music books from their neighborhood library or, purchase or download some of their favorite books and sheet music. Music students who want to practice chording can do an internet search on "[insert title] + chords]."
  6. Play "fun" music: All musicians can use the summer to learn and play the music they really enjoy. They can explore ethnic music, popular music, jazz, video game music or whatever music they deem to be "fun".
  7. Listen to music live: Music students can also get musical inspiration by attending live performances during the summer. Larger cities and towns offer a wide variety of cultural and summer music festivals, such as a folk festival.
  8. Improvise: Music students can start using a familiar song or rhythm as a guideline, such as the "golden chord progressions" (.e.g, I-vi-IV-V or I-V-vi-IV).They can incorporate technical exercises, such as scales, chords, arpeggios, and transform them into songs. Musicians can also explore some of the publications on improvising, such as the Pattern Play books.
  9. Compose: Music students can explore their own creativity through music composition. Music can be written down by hand onto manuscript paper or by using music notation software.
  10. Play at social gatherings: After a year of hard work, music students can show off what they learned at social events, such as family reunions, a block party, their grandparents' nursing home or a community celebration.

Other Considerations When Planning Summer Music Practices

The summer months are an ideal time to start working on repertoire for the next school term, without the pressure of homework and extracurricular activities. During the summer, music students have more time to learn new pieces or technical elements.

In 10 Ways To Get A Fresh Start With Summer Practice Assignments, Chris Foley, a music teacher and collaborative pianist says "Without the pressure of upcoming concerts, summer is a fine time to go that extra mile and get a proper handle (Handel?) on your technical facility." Music students should practice their scales, chords and arpeggios and other technical exercises fairly regularly to keep their muscles in shape.

Summer is a time to spend time with family and friends. It would be wise to have at least a couple of pieces that are performance-ready. Musicians can be asked to perform at any gathering, such as a birthday party, family reunion or cousin's wedding. Happy Birthday is also a good song to know for these occasions.

To assist music students with at-home practice, music students and their parents can read articles on practice strategies and techniques, music theory websites, online note reading aids, free ear training websites and how parents can help their child practice.

For music students who take the summer off from music lessons, practicing during the summer helps them maintain the skills and knowledge learned throughout the school year. These tips will help make summer practicing more enjoyable for musicians young and old and ensure that students get off to a solid start when regular music lessons resume in the fall.

Originally published on Suite101.com in 2010. All rights reserved by Rhona-Mae Arca.