We’re now at the time of year when lots of people are turning their thoughts to festive celebrations. During this time our regular routines can get disrupted and it can be difficult to maintain the focus on practice that we previously had. Don’t worry! It’s good to sometimes take a break and you can come back feeling refreshed in the new year. It’s also a good time to try something different. Here is a list of a dozen holiday activities a little different from the norm but which will ultimately improve your playing and all-round musicianship.
1. History of your instrument
What do you know about the history of your instrument? Who invented it and when? How did it develop and for what styles of music? A good understanding of your instrument’s history will help you play your music more effectively. Your local library and the internet are great resources for finding out about this. Make sure you write down the information you find as you are much more likely to remember it that way.
2. Compose a piece
If you really want something to show for your efforts over the holidays then composing a piece of music is a great way to do this. Anyone can compose. Simply have a go. You need to make sure you write it down though as this is one of the main differences between composition and the next idea – improvisation.
Instead of your regular practice routine spend some time just making things up. You don’t have to do this in any particular style just do whatever comes naturally. Try to play pieces in different moods – happy, sad, excited, playful.
4. Listen to a CD of your instrument
A good way to find out what things are possible to play on your instrument is to listen to other experts play. Ask your teacher for recommendations of recordings to listen to.
5. Read a book about your instrument
The advantage of a book over the internet is that it will usually have been reviewed for accuracy and correctness. Reading is still one of the best ways to learn!
6. Read a book about a performer
The life and times of great performers of your instrument are often fascinating. An added bonus is that there are often useful tips, tricks and techniques included in books about players. When you are reading one of these books think about what it is that made this person such a great player.
7. Review a CD/Books
Once you’ve read a book or listened to a CD why not take it a stage further and do a review. You need to think carefully here about whether the book or recording was good, if you enjoyed it, why you enjoyed it and if you would recommend it to other people.
8. Plan for coming months
Holidays are a great time for relaxation and reflection. You can look back over the past few months and decide what worked well and what was not so good. You can also look forward to the coming months and think about what you would like to achieve. Armed with this information you are in a great position to create a detailed plan of practice for the coming months.
9. Arrange to meet friends and play
It is often difficult to get a group of people together – we all lead such busy lives and school and work tend to get in the way. Holidays are a great time to get together. Why not get your friends to bring their instruments. Don’t worry about what combination you have just get together and enjoy yourselves. If you have some music, great, if not then do some improvising together. Or you could play in unison and work on tuning, or get some piano music and play a part each – there are lots of ways to have fun in a group.
10. Make a list of all the famous players of your instrument
Do you know who all the best players of your instrument are? Not just for the style that you play, make sure you take a view of all styles. Also take a look back in history and find out who the best players from the past were. This background research will feed itself into your playing
11. Find out how your instrument is made
If you play a musical instrument it will go wrong at some point. Having a good understanding of how yours is made will help you do minor repairs and maintenance yourself. If something more major does go wrong you’ll be able to spot it more quickly and avoid doing any further damage. It’s also really, really interesting to see how instruments are made.
12. Go to a concert
As well as being fun, concerts are a great way to learn how your instrument should sound. If you’ve not heard your instrument played live then I would definitely recommend this.
Do you have any ideas for holiday projects? What do you do? What do your students do? Leave your ideas in the comments below.
Try to think in advance about the things you ask your students to do during the holidays. You have more options than to simply set more practice tasks. Use the ideas above or tailor something to your students and you will create enthusiasm and motivation in your students.