The time that many student singers are out of school and ready to enjoy the relaxation that summer provides. But many of them will return to their studies in the fall having not sung a note for the entire duration of their break!
The effects of detraining are apparent in as little as TWO WEEKS of non-practice. That isn’t good for the singer trying to build and amalgamate vocal skills, especially for the teacher that has to ‘start over’ again in the fall with a rather uncoordinated mechanism.
So, what are some suggestions for keeping the practice train on its rails?
Here are five of my suggestions:
- Have a summer practice or vocal goal: Students can work on easier songs or something that is ‘low stress’ over the summer. This will keep them motivated to practice, and will ensure that their voice is getting some level of a workout over the duration. It’s very important to communicate the effect of ‘detraining’ on the voice to the student. If they don’t practice, they are literally ‘losing’ muscle coordination and innervation.
- Revamp the practice process: Have the student evaluate their practice process. What’s working? What isn’t? There are some really great resources on practicing, including Gerald Klickstein’s book The Musician’s Way, and Phillip Johnston’s Practiceopedia. Klickstein’s 5 Practice Zones are fantastic to build an effective routine.
- Start to keep a practice journal (if even for the first time). One of my favorite practice journals is available here on Amazon. If a student hasn’t been keeping records, the relaxed atmosphere of summer can get them ‘in the habit’, so that when fall starts, they’re already used to keeping journals.
- Play games. There are a lot of great sites for music games online! One of my favorites is Theta Music Trainer. They have lots of ear training games for all ages, and can be fun summer practice. Smartphone apps are also fabulous for practicing musicianship over the summer on the go! What’s better than being at the beach and passing the time with Perfect Ear 2? This little app is so great for interval training, rhythm practice and scale identification! Sight reading can be explored with the Sight Reading Machine app. This app will help sight reading skills and can be set at any level of difficulty. Pushing a button refreshes a brand new sight reading exercise!
- Practice early in the day (get it over with!) Practicing in the morning is a great way to start the day! Spend an easy 15 minutes or so lightly singing scales on lip trills or tongue trills. Go easy and gentle and get the voice warmed up for your day.
- Listen to a new piece or singer. I am addicted to Spotify. That’s no secret. But it shouldn’t be a secret from your student! Give them listening homework over the break! Did you know that you can ‘message’ people music in Spotify? You can create musical ‘conversations’ with students and send them recommended recordings to listen to over the summer. (The nice part? You can also see in the conversation if the student has listened to the track, which gives you some control over the listening process as the teacher). Set a listening goal to listen to a new piece of music: can be an opera, a musical, an orchestral piece, or art songs! This is a great time to explore new music for the fall.
I hope you’ll find these ideas useful to help your students to continue to develop over the summer.
Don’t forget to hydrate and wear sunscreen!