They don't have to be mutually exclusive.
Learning a musical instrument is not something that lends itself well to taking long breaks. If you want to see progress in your child's musical development, you'll need some strategies to keep at it all summer long. But what about when your family is traveling? Is there a way to still enjoy vacation without the burden of practicing looming over you? Here are my ideas to keep your child's practicing streak alive... even when you're away from home.
1. Take the instrument with you- but practice differently
This might seem like an obvious solution to not losing practicing momentum when you're traveling. But for some families, taking an instrument on vacation is often fruitless without a strategy. Tell your child that practicing will look different at the cottage. Instead of the usual grind of scales and learning new pieces, focus on one review piece a day. If there are extended family members with you, aim to give one performance a day. The expectation isn't to move forward or learn new material, but to maintain current skills and maybe even spruce up that tone that's been suffering in the new pieces. Your child will love this "break" from more intensive practicing and will benefit from playing easier repertoire and gaining performance experience.
2. Read musical books
I love reading musical books to my children as it reinforces the belief that we aren't the only family who takes music seriously. For a list of my musical book recommendations, click here. When traveling, you may consider the audio book versions too.
3. Make screen time into music time
If you're traveling by plane or car, load up your child's device with educational apps. My personal favourite is Staff Wars (available in the App Store) to practice note recognition and naming. If you've got a solid wifi connection, watch videos of your child's repertoire. We like to watch a mix of teachers and other students play the piece we're working on and then compare things like tempo, style and tone. My daughter has become quite good at finding technical strengths when watching other students perform her pieces, and it is very motivating to her to see her peers play her repertoire well!
4. Musical workbooks or DIY with your child's music book
Taking a road trip and need some backseat activities? Check out these workbooks by Evelyn Avsharian. These are great preliminary note-reading and note-writing exercises. As a bonus, you can practice sight-reading skills when you arrive at your destination by playing through the simple melodies.
Prefer to DIY? Before leaving, make copies of the pieces your child is currently working on. In the car, hand them some coloured pencils and have them circle all the D's in red, all the A's in green, etc.
5. Listen to the repertoire
Have hours sitting in the car on the way to the cottage? Sitting outside catching fireflies? Pop in that Suzuki CD or plug your phone into a small portable speaker. Even if the volume is low, your young musician will still be internalizing the repertoire subconsciously. For a more detailed look at how to listen to the repertoire, read this post by UBMS teacher Sarah Murley-Hauser.
6. Listen to advanced repertoire
Road trips are a great chance to listen to a complete symphony or opera. While your children might not be completely engaged the entire time, the exposure to great music is massively beneficial. It also plants the seed that music exists outside of your small music lesson bubble and encourages children to think bigger. Check out this repertoire list to get you started. For a listening guide to some child-friendly classical music, check out this post.
Safe travels, and don't forget to practice!
About the Author:
Rebecca Lane is the director, founder, and owner of Upper Beaches Music School. She teaches at the school on Saturdays, but most days you can find her chasing after her three young children, all of whom now take music lessons at UBMS.