Becoming a better musician is truly a lifelong pursuit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make significant progress this summer.
I am by nature an optimist. Even so, each year about this time I find myself despairing at how fast the summertime flies. I always have so many projects, musical and otherwise, that I want to accomplish in the summer, but the summer seems to fly by.
To counteract that feeling, I have a middle-of-July ritual for my summer music study. I don’t have a name for it and it didn’t even start as a conscious act, but it nevertheless has become a useful habit.
I decide to tackle one thing for the rest of the summer.
That one thing needs to fit three criteria. It must be:
- Something that will help me grow, improve or refresh some aspect of my playing.
- Something that will be useful to me in the coming concert season.
- Something fun.
What would fit those criteria for you? What would help you become a better musician?
To get your creative juices flowing, I offer you a list of 20 things that might be possible ideas for your summer music project and make you a better musician along the way.
- Prepare concert music (solo, orchestra, and ensemble music) for November and December.
- Develop your technique.
- Take 6 lessons. Weekly (or even twice a week!) lessons in the summer can yield benefits that will last all year.
- Attend a workshop or conference and ACT on one thing you learned there.
- Play every day. Yes really. EVERY day.
- Practice your scales in all keys. In the words of classical guitarist Andres Segovia, “The practice of scales solves the greatest number of technical problems in the shortest amount of time.” And by playing them in all keys, you’re reviewing your theory fundamentals too.
- Add one new piece to your repertoire.
- Have Christmas in July. Review or learn some new holiday music.
- Play music with a friend every week. You can play duets or even just practice together.
- Finish the last piece you didn’t really complete. Won’t that feel great?
- Put on a show. Schedule an informal performance with some musician friends. You don’t even need an audience. Just play for each other and then have some refreshments on the porch.
- Watch several videos or listen to several recordings of a piece you want to learn. Analyze the similarities and differences. What do you want to incorporate in your version of the piece? What would you do differently?
- Read and follow a step-by-step method book to review and refresh your technical approach to your instrument.
- Sightread one piece every day. If your sightreading skills are weak, this is a game-changer.
- Take some lessons on an instrument other than your primary one. Singing lessons or piano lessons are especially helpful for developing your musicianship.
- Record your progress with before and after videos. Video yourself playing a piece that is close to finished. Practice it for a week. Video yourself again. Compare the videos. What improved? What do you still need to work on?
- Video your practice. Then watch your video looking for ways you could improve your focus, your efficiency or your practice style.
- Put together a short program of music that you can play, and review it at least weekly.
- Explore a new genre of music, different from the music you usually play. Immerse yourself in the new harmonies, rhythms and techniques.
- Ask! Whatever you might be confused about or frustrated with is not something unique to you. Others have been there and dealt with those same or similar issues. You are not alone. If you want to make some changes or growth in your music and you aren’t sure what to do next, ask a friend, a teacher, a colleague. You can be a better musician. Don’t let your shyness keep you from making the music you love.
What will you do with the rest of your summer?