I woke up yesterday to find the air had changed – the fresh, damp air of autumn had appeared. Summer is definitely on the way out, especially now it’s September.
Of course, September also brings with it that return to routine. Schools here have been back two weeks, and the English schools are about to kick in.
What, ask you, has this to do with music? Well, I’m sure you, dear reader, have practised diligently every day throughout your holidays, but I’ll be honest. I haven’t!
It’s so easy to make excuses as to why you can’t practice. I have a seven month old baby. My husband works long hours. My students have ever increasing homework piled upon them. Then, before you know it, it’s been months and you’ve not done anything.
So what’s the solution?
The only solution I know is this: Pick a time. Stick to it. Even when it sucks.
First thing in the morning can be a good time. A key part of lots of self-care advice is to have a morning routine that includes some ‘quiet time’. You want to start your day doing something that focuses your mind, and helps you prepare for the day. A few minutes at your instrument can be just that. Even for singers, it might not seem much fun to begin with, but adding a few vocal exercises to your morning routine can help to limber your voice up for the day. This probably isn’t the time for working hard on your pieces, but don’t discount singing some scales in the shower on principle!
My personal favourite used to be the “when I get home” slot. Come in, don’t sit down, go straight to your practice space, via the kettle if need be! By avoiding distractions, and going right to your music, it’s more likely to get done, and you won’t find the guilt eating into your free time. You might find you’re a bit vocally tired, but gentle warm-ups should help to ease your voice into things.
Some people prefer the evening. This can be risky if you have light sleepers in your house, or don’t want to bother the neighbours. However, I find it can be quite a relaxing time to practice – I’ve done all the housework and now I can do something for me. It’s much easier to focus on working through that tricky pattern, or memorise the words.
My challenge this week is to put my vocal practice back on the agenda now my daughter is settling into a bit more of a routine. I need to sing, so my pick is vocal exercises in the morning when my daughter is calm and happy, and then to do a little bit of work on my current project pieces in the evening a few nights a week.
To give myself a little motivation, I’ve set myself up with a star-chart and the reward that I can buy a new vocal selections if I can keep up some practice five days a week for the whole of September.
What about you? When do you like to practice? What are your tips for avoiding distractions and getting on with the music? What motivates you?
Need some ideas on what to do during your practice time? Try the macro-micro-macro method.