As students, all of our teachers always tell us to practice as much as we can. Some provide practice logs, while some give us those scathing looks in rehearsals when they can tell we didn't go over that tricky passage last night. But what most teachers don't tell you to do is take a break and put the horn away for a while, or how to get yourself back in shape after a summer vacation.
Taking a break from playing can actually be a very healthy aspect of developing our musical skills and honing our instrumental technique as brass players. I have consistently found summers to be the best time to make large changes in my own playing, especially after taking some time off. The break allows our body to literally forget our old habits, and provides us the opportunity to retrain our bodies in a new way. We can REPLACE our habits with new ones, rather than trying to change our technique.
When dealing with breaks and post-break practicing, keep a few things in mind:
Remember: taking time off is a good thing, and the summer is a great time to enjoy it! During the school year, you'll be busy with marching band competitions, band rehearsals, Solo and Ensemble contests, and more. Take some time to rest now, but return to the instrument with a newfound sense of ambition and goals to reach the next level. Play simple tunes and technically easy music when you pick up your instrument again, and feed the buzz consistent and copious air!
And now after almost a week of traveling without playing, it is my turn to brush the dust off my trombone and get to practicing again! Enjoy your summer breaks and happy practicing!
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Jeff Dunn, trombone
An avid educator, performer, and advocate for music.