Unless you play with a community orchestra or your parents enlist a music instructor throughout the summer, odds are you'll be playing far less over the summer vacation than you do during the school year. While muscle memory is a very real thing, it isn't such a powerful "muscle" that it will remain in shape for two to three months without a bit of effort on your part.
Keep Your String Muscles in Shape This Summer
Here are six helpful tips to keep your string muscles in shape (and in tune!) over the summer vacation, while keeping it fun and inspiring – there's no need to cause burnout!
1. Spend more time developing improvisation skills
It's always a good idea to throw improvisation segments into your typical practice routine. Not only does it keep things more fun, devoting regular chunks of time to improve develops a spontaneous aspect of musicianship that contributes to the greater whole. The demands of a heavy concert and performance schedule, dictated by a busy academic calendar, make it increasingly difficult to do anything but practice the musical compositions you're working on. Summer vacation, on the other hand, offers the perfect opportunity to create more time to cut loose and find your inner, creative, improvisational self.
2. Always make time for fun
Music students rarely relate "practice time" with "fun time." Use this summer to re-think how you set music goals, what your practice space looks like, whether you're keeping practices fresh or whether you've fallen into a routine rut (noted by resistance to practice at all).
Read, How to Create a Fun Music Practice Schedule That Doesn't Feel Like Work, and see if there are some new ideas that will spark your practice sessions up a bit.
3. Get together with friends to practice and play
Speaking of making time for fun – what better way to have fun than practicing and playing with your friends. Scheduling a few times to get together to practice, jam, explore, and create with other musical friends is an enjoyable way to "work" without it feeling like work at all. Whether your practice group consists solely of other string instrumentalists, or you invite other instrument-playing friends to join in, group-format rehearsals are bound to improve your improv skills, and you can record your final efforts using Garage Band or other helpful music composition apps.
4. Re-design your music practice space
TV shows and websites devoted to home design and remodels are all the rage these days. Take some of those professional design ideas to heart and re-design your practice space. Even if your practice space consists of the corner of a room, small changes can have a big visual impact, and a vibrant space fosters more practice energy than a tired and worn-out one.
Check out our blog, Creating the Perfect Practice Space, to cover all the basics. For visual inspiration, look at the Design Mom post on, The Treehouse: Music Corner, illustrating that it doesn't take much square footage to create a practice space that has color, life, organization, and the necessary tools/accessories close at hand.
5. Take good care of your instrument
Part of being in tune requires having an instrument that's in good shape. The summer months pose potential threats to delicate string instruments, including things such as temperature and humidity fluctuations or traveling with your instrument.
If you skip practice time this summer and the instrument languishes in a case, if you fail to store it properly (in a controlled environment, using humidity control tools, with reduced tension on the strings and the bow, etc.), you risk an instrument that is damaged beyond repair.
Read, Caring for Your Instrument This Summer, for detailed recommendations to keep your instrument healthy and producing quality sounds, no matter what the summer has in store. Observing best-practices for summer instrument care ensures the instrument can provide the sound you want when school commences.
6. Schedule a private lesson or two
If the majority of your lessons take place during the school hours as part of your curriculum, the summer becomes an instruction vacuum. Search online to find string instructors that offer lessons over the summer. If private lessons are beyond your budget, you may find music schools or instructors who offer group lessons. Alternatively, reach out to fellow classmates and see if they want to go in on a "private group lesson."
Knowing you'll be part of a class or meeting with an instructor for a private lesson makes it easier to be more disciplined with your summer practice schedule.
Everyone deserves a summer break, but revamping a summer-worthy practice schedule, having a lesson or two, and taking good care of your instrument will keep you in tune for next year.