How to practice your instrument when on holiday

How do you practice your instrument whilst on holiday? Instrumental teachers and music professors share their advice.

How to practice your instrument when on holiday
How to practice your instrument when on holiday, © Getty / Buena Vista Images

Whether we choose to relax by sitting under a parasol, reaching the top of a mountain or by wandering through the streets of an unknown town, holidays are synonymous with a change in one's routine, for better or for worse. Yet, routine is a musician's best friend, both amateur and professional. So what are the solutions for those who wish to continue honing their musical skills even when abroad? We sought the advice of teachers and professors of all genres, and here's what they had to say.

At ease, soldier!

There are countless different answers to the question "is it possible to leave your instrument behind for a few days or weeks?" For the larger and more cumbersome instruments, this is not a choice but a necessity. There is rarely a piano or a harp at hand in the holiday home or the camping car. "I generally give two or three new pieces to prepare", explains Leda, a piano professor. "However the student can begin learning these works without necessarily being at a piano but rather simply sight-reading them on a table, for example. And to really understand the work's context, reading about the composer's life and works can often be very useful. But the main priority is to relax and to have fun."

For Ismaël, rest and relaxation are necessary for singers. "My advice is to make the most of the holidays by not singing at all, giving the voice time to regenerate after a year of extensive and perhaps excessive use."

Samantha, also a vocal teacher, is slightly cautious in her advice. She suggests a complete break from singing only if the body needs it: "I would not advise to stop singing entirely so as not to 'lose' any progress and become weak. A singer is like an athlete, they must pay close attention to their body, be regular in his work and train correctly and regularly, all the while adapting the intensity of his training according to his daily 'physical state'."

According to Catherine, a violin professor, time without one's instrument may be beneficial. She suggests three weeks of rest over the course of a nine-week holiday: "It is not only important for the brain, but it's also best to avoid leaving the violin in a hot tent or by the pool", she explains, before adding "I am however quite strict about the time without and the time with the instrument. The student must not lose the regularity of his training."

Practice, practice, practice

Whereas some prefer to take a complete break, others seem unable to break the continuity of their musical training. Christian, a piano professor, advises his students to maintain a daily contact with their instrument, and to use this time to carefully revise all the techniques and works learned during the year, and possibly discover independently a new body of music. "It may not be original, but it's efficient, and when the students return at the start of the year they haven't lost any technique or motivation."

Samantha, a vocal coach, advises above all maintaining a good vocal hygiene and discipline, along with "various supple daily vocal exercises and diction exercises."

A balance of revision and discovery is also what suggests Claire, a flute teacher, but at an easy level: "It's the perfect time to discover a nice and relaxed repertoire (world music, jazz standards, film music...), all the while honing our musical skills: performing while having fun, sight-reading, perhaps even improvising or composing, and of course going to as many concerts as possible, and listening to lots of music..."

A tailored schedule for each student, with a work to study and various easier works with which to have fun, that is the advice of cello teacher Eva; better yet, "chamber music if they have musical brothers or sisters."

A change of pace for the ears

The seasonal holidays are the perfect time for recharging our batteries, renewing our motivation, and discovering new works and genres, either by playing with friends or attending live music events...if there's a sunset, so much the better. "Listen, listen, listen", suggests Virgile, a saxophone professor. "In bed, in the kitchen, at the beach, at a café or a bar with a drink...everywhere. Seeing live music in particular, at festivals for example, is a great source of motivation and inspiration."

Discovering a new repertoire, even when dealing with younger or beginner students, is essential for piano teacher Anna Zofia: "My young piano students, beginners, go on holiday with a discography of Mozart,  Beethoven, and even Prokofiev Music for Children... they will then have to choose amongst these works the music they will study at the start of the following year."

And for the more experienced students, "making the most of a break to distance oneself slightly from the year's work, discover new things, listening without singing or playing, thereby starting the year with fresh ideas", suggests Samantha, a vocal coach. "By constantly practicing the same works, we fall into a routine, which can be a singer's worst enemy. It's important therefore to find a bit of variety." 

Whatever your musical level or ambition, there is one thing upon which we can all agree: during your holidays, don't forget the music!