Chris Van Hof

Trombonist-Educator-Music Arranger

Summer practice tips

I recently posted some summer practice tips on the CSU Studio Facebook page. Consider some of these ideas as you work on your technique over the course of the summer:

1. Summer is a time to do some of your most high-impact and long-lasting practice. You have more mental freedom and less academic stress, so those "big picture" items that you know are lacking in your playing can be addressed carefully and clearly with no interference!

2. Summer is a time to re-commit to the metronome and the drone in slow practice. Decide for yourself that you will spend a minimum 45 minutes a day on basic fundamentals like long tones and intonation. Having a slow metronome and a drone going constantly while you focus on these skills will increase your familiarity with your instrument and help you anticipate tendencies before they arise in performance.

3. Summer is a time to teach yourself. Spend a good amount of time each week recording your playing and then "teaching yourself a lesson" or "being your own teacher." Try to listen to the recording objectively and then think about what you would say to that "student" to improve her or his playing. This way, you improve both your playing and your pedagogy.

4. If possible, summer is a great time to have fun playing music with friends. If you are around other musician friends, make it a goal to spend a couple hours a week playing "social hour" duets, trios, or excerpts. Play for a couple hours together, then have a meal, throw a frisbee, share a beverage (if old enough). Use these times to remember how fun music making can be!

5. Summer is a fantastic time to memorize and truly OWN your scales and arpeggios. With more mental bandwidth available over these months, memorizing three-octave scales and arpeggios is almost literally a no-brainer (pro tip: I do it while watching "Iron Chef" on Netflix).

6. Summer is also full of potential pitfalls to miss practice without even realizing it. The weather is nice, friends and family are around, the beverages are cold, the pool/mountains/beach are calling...all these sound better than long tones. So be sure you get in solid practicing every day and only take a day off if it is INTENTIONAL (I take every Sunday off to allow for summer freedom with my wife and kid). Work your butt off for a couple hours each day and then go out and enjoy everything this season has to offer.

7. Above all, set some reasonable goals now and make sure you accomplish them by mid-August in time for band to start up, or for ensemble auditions, or whatever awaits you in the fall. Don't start on those goals on August 1, start on them now!