Having a few days away from your instrument isn’t a bad thing – in fact it can help you to come back to your music feeling refreshed and motivated. But if you’re going travelling for a long time, or need to keep your practice up while you’re away due to an upcoming concert or exam, you might not want to stop thinking about music altogether.
Here are our top tips on how you can keep your music memory in check while you’re away.
1) Bring some of your setup with you
This will be easier for some instruments than for others. For example, if you play the recorder or flute, you could bring your whole instrument with you. Drummers, on the other hand, would have quite a challenge getting their entire kit on a train or coach! It might, however, be possible to bring a pair of drumsticks and a practice pad, or even just the sticks – practicing on a pillow can improve your control and speed.
There’s also lots of helpful apps you can download for a smartphone or tablet, including metronomes, or software that can turn your tablet into a keyboard.
Drum practice pad
2) Do mental rehearsals
If you can’t bring any equipment with you at all, mental rehearsals could be a good option for you. It simply involves imagining yourself playing your pieces – which might sound a little odd if you’ve never tried it, but it can be very beneficial. Running through your pieces perfectly in your head can boost your confidence, and concentrating on keeping that imaginary video going can improve your focus.
3) Bring your theory books with you
It’s often difficult in everyday life to set time aside to go through your music theory, but being away from your instrument is the perfect opportunity. Get your books, pencils and manuscript paper out and give yourself a crash course – on the train, on the sunbed, in your hotel room, wherever you can.
Sheet music with headphones on top
4) Bring your sheet music
If you're working on a challenging piece, bring a copy of your sheet music with you and mark it up. Write some helpful comments for yourself on sections where you typically make mistakes, go through the piece in detail, and do some research on how it should be played according to the period in which it was written.
5) Do your exercises
Remember those strengthening and stretching exercises your teacher told you about that you never have time to do? Now's the time to do them. Playing can really take its toll on your hands, arms and fingers, particularly for drummers, string players and pianists. Use the extra time without your normal musical setup to work on conditioning your muscles and preventing them from seizing up while you’re playing.
6) Practice your performance
You don’t always need your instrument to practice your performance skills. If you’re in the classical world, you can work on things like your posture, your bow, and your walk on and off stage. If you’re in a band, you could even think about what you might say in between songs during your set. How are you going to introduce yourselves? What do you need to remind the crowd of? Merch, new music, your social media channels?
If you want to be really organised, film yourself playing – either in practice or performance – before you go away, and watch the videos back while you’re on holiday. How does your technique look? What about your posture and facial expressions? Make notes of what you could improve, and work on it when you’re back.
Guitarist performing on stage
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