Many students wonder how to keep their chops up during the summer. They no longer have the school bands and music programs to keep them focused, summer jobs rob practice time, and the lure of the beach is ever-present. September is often a rude awakening as you struggle to regain your chops. Here are a few suggestions for staying in shape at a time of year when there are places you’d rather be than the practice room.
Practice early in the day, before you get distracted by other activities. You are probably most alert in the morning anyway, so this is a good time to accomplish something. Put in an hour or two then go enjoy the day!
Adopt A Different Practice Schedule
To attract you to the practice room, set goals for the summer months. Perhaps you want to improve your jazz playing or increase your range. Look at this as a time to seriously concentrate on these goals and construct a program to accomplish them. If you have not studied with a teacher during the year, seek out some lessons during the summer months. If you have been studying, consider taking some lessons with somebody else in the summer to get a different perspective, maybe even on a different instrument. I always have new students who appear during the summer months. Just as well, too, since I have a lot that disappear.
Find A Summer Gig
For music students this is the Holy Grail: a paying gig for the summer. (The same might be said for professionals.) You might find a job playing in a summer resort, or working at a music camp, or maybe you can convince a local pub that a jazz band will attract summer crowds. Cruise ships are another possibility-for a summer job it is hard to beat. Ship musicians play in dance bands, show bands, pit bands, small cocktail groups, and possibly back up headliners. Meanwhile, cruise the Caribbean or the Mediterranean all summer and get paid for it!
Get A Practice Mute
For practicing in cottages, hotels or even tents, a practice mute is essential. The best choice is the Silent Brass system from Yamaha, but there are other less-expensive options as well. Just getting the horn on the face a little bit each day will help a lot, come September.
Practice In A Canoe
As a teenager, I spent my summers hanging out at Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. I would paddle my canoe out to the middle of the lake and practice. In one memorable incident, a friend swooped by in a sailboat to say hello, and snagged my anchor line with his bow as he pulled away. The canoe started to tip, shipping water over each side and threatening to capsize entirely. I stood in the partially submerged boat, holding my trumpet and case over my head until help arrived. Later that day, sunbathers were amused to see pieces of music weighted with rocks drying all over the dock.
Sitting Under A Tree Is Good For Your Playing Too
Arnold Jacobs makes the point that it takes more than hours of practice to be a complete musician. You must be a complete person as well, with interests and experiences outside of music. Summer should be a time to relax and refresh. Even as you float around the lake you are doing your soul, and therefore your playing, some good.
Footnote For Australians & Californians…
…and others that live in the land of perpetual summer. I don’t know how you people ever get anything done!