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Spring into Action: 5 Tips for Staying Motivated to Practice During Spring Break

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

It's Spring Break. The weather is glorious, the beaches are open, the shops are calling your name. You look in the corner and notice... your instrument. Maybe there is a little pang of guilt as your beach bag is slung over your shoulder and you're about to head out the door. But you earned this break. All semester you've been busting your butt learning repertoire, practicing your scales, and wearing out your metronome. Surely there must be some kind of guilt-free break! Well what if I told you that you can have your cake and eat it too? You can absolutely enjoy your spring break....but we have to find a way to get some good focused hours of practice in there as well. Even if you don't have your instrument with you, where there is a will there is a way! Go to our Pro Tips section to learn more.

1. Make a plan & write it down

Where to start? First of all, it depends on what you are doing for Spring Break. If you are staying local, find a couple of local activities that you've always wanted to do but haven't gotten around to yet. Maybe there is a botanical garden, a theme park, or a downtown area you want to check out. Or maybe you're like me and your idea of a good time is sitting in the backyard with your cat (named Gizmo, by the way!). If you are away from your home environment, figure out exactly what activities you want to do in this location.

Now that you've got an idea of what you want to do, it's time to create a plan to put into action. The next step is to figure out what days you are going to do what activities and to write it down. Writing your plan down makes it concrete. You need to know 1. What you are doing, you need to know 2. What time it will take place, and you need to know 3. How long it will take. If you plan on going to the movies on Friday night, find the showtime and write that time in your calendar. Want to go to dinner before the show? Figure out what time you have to be at the restaurant and add that detail in.

Now that you wrote down the fun's time to work around that schedule to find practice hours. Everyone has different preferences for what time they practice best. The more you can stay consistent with what works best for you, the better, but you will still need to find a couple of hours around your activities that you can get some good focused work in. The key is to write it down in your calendar and set reminders and alarms so that you can really hold yourself accountable.

2. Reward yourself for good work

My teacher, Michelle LaCourse, would always tell us that she got through practicing repetitions by keeping a pack of M&Ms on her stand, and that stuck with me. The goal was to repeat a very short passage 10 "good" times with the emphasis on "good"-meaning that passage was precise and sounded the way she wanted every single one of those times. If you get to the 9th time and the next repetition isn't "good", you start from number one again. This practice forces complete focus and consistency and it is a great tool to use with challenging passages. Now, if she completed the exercise with 10 "good" repetitions, she would reward herself with an M&M.

This example is highly specific, but it highlights the meaning of hard work=reward. When I had just finished my undergrad I rewarded practice time by lighting a scented candle in my room whenever I practiced. This is the only time that I would let myself light the candle. The problem was that I was having to buy too many candles because I was practicing so much. It was a great problem, but it got too expensive, so I don't do that anymore. But I will brew a fresh cup of coffee, and that adds a satisfying touch to my practice sessions.

If you know that you need some outside stimulation or reward to get you to open that instrument case, then I would encourage you to do what you have to do to get that case open and to get that instrument working!

3. Limit Social Media Time

This is one of the most challenging aspects of modern day living, and it will only get harder as each generation starts growing up with social media. 30% of Americans consider themselves addicted to social media, and the numbers are only going to grow! Social media includes Instagram, Facebook, and even TikTok and Youtube. There are a lot of positive aspects to social media like keeping in touch and learning new things, but it is way too easy to get sucked into the algorithm and lose hours upon hours of your day.

Before you open that app-set a timer for 15 minutes. When that timer goes off log off immediately. It is important to build habits that prevent you from losing hours to these applications. If it is too difficult to put the phone down-delete the app. Add an extra step to the process of logging in. This adds "friction" to the process that will make it harder and will discourage you from wanting to use the platform.

Again, there are a lot of positive aspects to social media so you don't need to take extreme steps unless it is infringing upon your time. Setting a timer before you start watching YouTube shorts/TikTok or start scrolling on the other sites will help you stay accountable for your precious time.

4. Listen to your favorite artist

Now this is a good reason to log onto YouTube! Listening to music you love is incredibly inspiring. This is how most of us got into music to begin with, so what better way to stay motivated than to listen to the legends of our instruments. If I am learning a new piece, I will listen to one of the greats and try to copy their sound. How do they get that vibrato? How do they make the line sound so seamless? I get curious about these things and pick up my own viola to see what it takes to make a sound like that. It's always an interesting experiment, and over the years it has definitely helped to shape how I play the viola.

Try listening to a great artist in the morning as you are sitting with your morning beverage of choice and soak in the sounds. Allow yourself to have some curiosity and pull your own instrument out.

5. Create an environment that inspires you

Having a nice space to practice in works wonders for morale. For those of us working in our own home, we can set our space up with motivational quotes, houseplants, scented candles, and nice lighting to encourage us to want to spend time working in there. When you are using a practice room, or you have the instrument out of town because you happen to be on Spring Break, that gets a little more complicated. In these situations, your instrument case will have to serve as your positive vibes vehicle. When I was getting my Master's, my husband had his locker decked out with pictures of his animals from home as a reminder that the music school was his home away from home. A lot of people decorate their cases-I have even decorated my music folder with pictures of my cat and Baby Yoda to bring nice vibes on stage!

So long story short-you do still need to practice over spring break. The younger you are, the more hours you need to sink in because you have to get to that 10,000 hour point. The sooner you get 10,000 hours of practice in the better off you will be, and the absolute best time to do that is when you are in college. If you feel like it's hard to manage time now, believe me, it only gets harder. And if you are reading this as a fully fledged professional musician-you know exactly what I mean. It may not seem easy at first, but once you start forming the habits I've outlined here, it becomes easier to manage.

Pro Tip - If you don't have access to your instrument, there are still some ways that you can be productive on your trip. You can Listen to your repertoire with the score. Most of the music we play is available on IMSLP, so you can use this valuable resource. You can practice singing through your music. Pull up a metronome app and sing through your music to practice the rhythm. Try to analyze your music and research the story behind the music. These are great tools that we have that don't involve the instrument-so use them! The bottom line is that with a little bit of creativity, there is always a way to be productive.

I hope that you have found this informative and helpful!

Happy Practicing,


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