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Summer Progress: Avoid the Summer Slump

Summer Progress: Avoid the Summer Slump

Katie Hone Wiltgen, Chief Education Officer

June 12, 2024

Summer is a time for relaxation, rejuvenation, and all the fun things… pool and lake time, vacations, outdoor activities, camping, ice cream, grilling out, and hanging with friends and family… but it also can be (maybe has to be?) a time for musical progress and productivity too, and here’s why:

It’s easy to lose skills if we step away from practice and musical study for too long. The summer slump is real!

No one knows this better than teachers. When kids return to school at the end of the summer, teachers often have to spend significant time re-teaching material before they are ready to move forward with new course work.

Similarly, when music students of any age step away from their instrument (including voice) for any significant period of time, it’s usually impossible to jump back in where they left off, requiring a serious catch-up period to regain lost muscle memory, get back into the swing of reading music, and reestablish a consistent and productive practice routine.

In fact, if you don’t practice and take lessons over the summer, you could experience 2-3 months of learning loss when you do return to playing/singing and musical study.

Follow these practical tips to avoid summer learning loss, summer brain drain, and the summer slide altogether:

Tip #1: Move practice outside

If you’ve been longing to head outside and get some fresh air, take your instrument along. Whether it’s playing your saxophone on the back deck or strumming your favorite songs at the local park, this change of scenery will brighten your mood and help you to stay motivated.

This is obviously easier said than done for some instruments: Guitars, ukuleles, and voices are easy to take outside; pianos, not so much.

Regardless of what you play, though, you can always find ways to do some musical study outside.

  • Use flashcards to review music theory concepts

  • Find a portable keyboard; bonus points if it’s battery-powered

  • Write some music

  • Just listen to the repertoire you’re currently working on while walking or hanging outside – Active listening is a form of practice too!

Tip #2: Make music a social activity

Incorporate musical study into your social plans, and watch your motivation soar.

If you have friends who also play an instrument or sing, arrange some group practice sessions. Play duets with a friend, or just jam together or practice side-by-side, helping each other with the difficult stuff. Be another set of listening ears for your peers, offering constructive criticism and powerful praise.

Is there a community ensemble you could join? Lots of areas have community choirs, bands, and orchestras, and they’re almost always looking for new members. Or join a musical theater production to sing, act, and dance with others.

When music is social, it’s fun. Plus, when others are involved, it’s harder to let yourself out of the commitment or practice. You’ll show up because they will too.

Tip #3: Commit to practice sessions at a specific time of day (and morning is best)

Decide on a specific time that you will practice, and stick to it. Bonus points if that time is in the morning. If finding consistent practice time is likely going to be tough for you, start your day with practice to knock it out early.

If you practice first thing in the morning, before you start any other activities, you can come out of your morning with a profound sense of accomplishment and then focus on enjoying the rest of your day without this to-do list item hanging over your head. 

Plus, it’s way too easy to skip practice in the morning and then get wrapped into busy and fun afternoon and evening activities, and before you know it, your day is gone, and you didn’t prioritize practice time at all.

Tip #4: Plan an informal concert

Invite your friends, family, and neighbors to hear you perform a casual concert. 

Play or sing on your front porch. Give a short performance at the beginning of a backyard party. Set a FaceTime date with a friend where you each share your latest musical accomplishments. 

Concerts on the calendar give you something to be working toward, without the big pressure that can sometimes come with big pending performances.

Plus, your people love to celebrate you… so let them!

Tip #5: Take private lessons

This may be the biggest, most important tip of all: Take private lessons over the summer!

Rather than losing ground during the summer months, you have the opportunity to actually mature in your musical development through private music lessons. 

Because working with a teacher provides consistent structure and guidance, you can keep moving forward while receiving targeted feedback, a personalized lesson and practice plan, and new repertoire and materials to keep you progressing.

Plus, lessons help you avoid frustration and stagnation. When things aren’t working in your playing or singing, it can be really hard to just push through it or to figure it all out on your own. You need a teacher! Minimize that frustration, and increase your motivation through a regular schedule of private lessons.