I’m positive you made yourself the same promise as I did this spring; This summer I will practice hard so I’m ready when term starts.
Then what happens? Without warning, term is a week away and you’re panicking because you haven’t even started that piece you wanted to show off memorised on the first lesson.
We’ve all been there, and it’s alright. It’s important to take breaks once in awhile. Just make sure that you know how to get back into a good routine as quickly as possible.
Two weeks ago I came with some tips for those of you starting your music education this year. The first year is often confusing and frustrating. You’re usually in a new place with new people and new systems, but don’t worry. It will get easier,. Just give it some time, and one day you’ll suddenly realise that those bad feelings are long gone.
This is my fourth time moving to a new place for school and I’ve picked up a few good habits on the way, that quickly get me back into a good routine every time I take a break. That is what I want to share with you today.
I will not offer any guarantee that these tips will you get into shape immediately, but I use them all the time, and they work for me. Getting into routine quickly is a skill that needs practicing, just like your scales. For me it’s taken four years to finally feel secure in my ability to jump back in once term starts. Have a little patience.
On that note, let’s jump right into it.
Have a practice journal
One day, I will give you access to how I set up my practice journal, but for now I’ll just impress upon you how much time it will save you.
And I’m sure that you will now ask yourself if it won’t take more time and take time away from your practicing. But, if you keep a journal, you have an overview over what you did last time, and what you need to work on.
Trust me, as the term progresses and your repertoire expands, you won’t have the chance to practice everything every day. In that case a planner will save you a lot of time and energy. And don’t worry, it doesn’t have to look like those planner junkie profiles on Instagram. Mine is simple and easy to use, with no more decorating than necessary.
Make a goal for you term
It’s easy to get lost in everything everyone tells you that you have to do. Every week my teacher would tell me some new thing I had to do every day. But if you do all those things every day, after a while, you won’t have a chance to do anything else.
If you define for yourself what you want to achieve this term, it will be much easier to filter what you need to listen to and what you can write down for later. If you coordinate this with your teacher, it will be even easier to keep track of.
Book practice rooms and reserve your practicing for that time
It’s so easy to think that you need to practice all the time, and think about practicing for the rest of it. But it is much more effective to keep your practicing to a designated place and then keep your mind on other things elsewhere.
If your mind is on practicing while you work on your music history essay, you won’t focus on the task at hand, and then you have to take more time off practicing to work on the essay. Keep your mind where you are.
Also, don’t practice at home
Unless you can with your mother’s life at stake swear that you maintain focus and productivity at home, you should not practice there.
Whenever I try practicing at home, I always have to make a cup of coffee or tea before I start, then some snacks if it’s been a while since I ate. The break that should have lasted five minutes, turn into twenty minutes because I decided to do some laundry and fold my clothes. I’ll make a bigger lunch, which takes more time and then I’ll sit and chat with my roommates for a while after. Suddenly those five hours I had at disposal turned into a two hour practice session and three hours house work.
Don’t let that happen to you. Practice at school.
Make practicing social
Not every day, but some days it’s good to collaborate with your classmates to make practicing a social affair.
The violinists in Tromsø sometimes arranged practicing marathons after lectures. We practiced for four hours with ten minute social break in between and then we played what we practiced for each other after those four hours, before we went out for a beer.
You can also break up your routine once in awhile to practice things you rarely make time for. In my case it’s things like sight reading.
Try to practice at the same time every day
It’s hard to make a habit or routine if you change it every day or every week. Of course you need to work around your schedule, but try to keep some consistency. If you start late one day each week and like practicing in the morning, don’t alternate that time between practicing and course work from week to week. Keep designated time slots in your schedule for practicing. It’ll be much easier to remember too if it’s regular.
Turn off your phone
Or put it on flight mode.
If you start the term off with a distracted mind, it’s more likely to stay that way. Turn off your phone and put it away and only turn it back on when you’re done.
During breaks it’s much better to stretch, eat a snack or step out of the practice room for a while, anyway.
Last night I talked to a mate who was so frustrated. He felt like he was practicing alright, keeping up with his coursework and staying social. Yet he still felt stressed, dissatisfied and frustrated.
This might be you too, so I’ll tell you what I said to him; It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed at the beginning of term no matter if you started a new school or not. You’ve spent the past two months either working or having time off. (Hopefully both) It will take some time to change your mindset back to school.
Take a deep breath and be a little kind to yourself. It’s not possible for anyone to be focused and perfect all year anyway, so just give your head some time to adjust and you’ll be settled in in no time.