Hi Saul! Over Summer and between semesters, what is the best way to keep up motivation regarding practice? Is there a way you recommend that mixes things up, and keeps practice enjoyable when you are not necessarily working towards an "end goal" as such? Thanks!
First of all, well done for asking such a good question! It’s great to have a plan for the year and do one’s best to achieve one’s goals which will often be recitals, technical exams, and other performances but can also include less defined goals like including improving one’s low register for example. The semester break is just as important a time to have a plan. In fact it could be argued that it is more important because it can really make a difference to the following semester in many ways. I am going to presume that you have worked very hard and it’s nice to celebrate the achievements of the semester and have a little bit of time away from the instrument. It’s great to sit down with your teacher and have a conversation about how the semester went, what worked well and what could have been done better. I often work with students in this way and we start exploring potential goals to think about for the year ahead. When you have some clarity regarding where you want to be at the end of the next semester it will give you a good idea as to how to approach the semester break. If you are going to perform a tiring recital then the semester break would need to include endurance work. If you were going to play a Mozart horn concerto for the first time, you might want to spend the break working on lip trills and so on.
I like that you have asked about motivation. As much as we love music and playing our instruments, the pressure of preparing for big performances and practicing hard all year can test all of us and make us lose touch momentarily with our passion for what we do. The break is a great time to rejuvenate ourselves for the year ahead. Getting some new solo music is often a great way to get excited again. Maybe playing for a different person, even someone that doesn’t play your instrument, can give you new ideas to work on during the break. Adding a new element to your routine or finally getting some free time to really sit calmly in the practice room and take the time to work through things you weren’t quite able to get on top of during the previous semester can be stimulating, rewarding and help enormously for the following year. I will pull out a study book and play things in different transpositions or up or down an octave to get the mind active and makes for a fun challenge. Grabbing a friend and having a movie and duet night or even going busking can help regain the feeling of freedom and joy in music-making. It’s also very good for your growth as a musician and performer to listen to new repertoire and to read about composers that inspire you or maybe a book about a sports person that has battled hard to achieve great things. Going to art exhibitions or the theater and thinking about how you want to improve as an artist and performer are all good ways to re-inspire you and help you grow at the same time. Travel can be very exciting and motivating, especially to places with a different culture to the one you are used to.
If you plan your break well you will enter the new year refreshed and ready for the challenges ahead!