Going on a trip? Here’s how to keep up with your music practice
We all love a good holiday, right? Taking a break from our daily routines can feel liberating and inspiring.
But what to do about your music practice? While a weekend away is hardly going to matter in the long run, more extended holidays can leave a dent in your progress.
Plus, most of us dedicated musicians LOVE making music, so how can we scratch that itch without our piano or guitar or violin?
Sometimes being away from your instrument can be a blessing in disguise.
By having your instrument on hand every day and lessons each week, we often prioritise instrumental practice over other musical activities. But without your instrument, you have an opportunity to work on skills that usually get a lot less attention: you can work on your musical understanding and overall musicality.
Let me give you four different ways to continue your music practice while away from your instrument.
1. Active listening
When you’re away, you most likely have access to some device that is capable of playing music. A smartphone, an iPod (wait, do they still exist?), a tablet… So load them up with your favourite music, and practise the art of active listening!
Active listening, in contrast with passive listening, is the act of solely listening to music with intent and without distractions. So no listening and reading! It is about devoting your full attention to the music and using your ears to listen out for the different components that make up the music.
For instance, play your favourite song and listen out for specific ingredients: what instruments can you hear? Can you figure out what chord progression is used? Can you sing the main melody in solfa? What structure does this piece have? Does the piece modulate? Is it in a major or minor mode? What’s the ‘hook’ of the song?
Generally, you can do these exercises with any musical genre!
Active listening is a fantastic exercise that not only trains your ears, but it also deepens your focus and will work wonders for your overall musicality. Heck, I suggest practising active listening even if you CAN play your instrument!
2. Reading your scores and analysing them
A slightly more “academic” activity to do while away from your instrument is to use some spare time to practice musical analysis. You can focus on harmonic/chordal analysis, or you can work out the formal structure of the piece. You’ll need to take your score with you of course!
Analysing your pieces is particularly useful for brand new works you haven’t started practising yet! Upon your return, you will be able to tackle them with a deepened understanding of the musical structure. It will also help you if you are trying to memorise the piece later on!
3. Read/listen and learn about music history, composers & great musicians
How many of you love reading while on holiday? I know I do!
So why not take the opportunity to dive into a book on the life of Chopin or the works of Scott Joplin.
Or if you prefer to listen instead, find a good music podcast or download a radio show. You could be learning something new en route to your holiday destination!
There is very little time in lessons to work on broadening your cultural horizon, so if you’re going away, let your teacher know, and they may be able to give you some recommendations.
4. Use apps to improve your ears or sightreading skills
You could be gaming your way to a better ear in no time! There are so many great apps available these days to help you build your musical ear or improve your sightreading abilities.
It’s a great activity to do while sitting by the pool or relaxing after a busy day of city tripping.
By the way, if you are a Piano Ecademy student, you’ll have FREE full access to the Earmaster software and app so that you can build your theory skills, practise sightreading and train your ears while on holiday!
As you can see, there are plenty of things you can still do on a daily basis to keep up with your musical journey, even if your instrument is on the other side of the world!
Have you got any other tips? Feel free to share in the comments!