There’s something about the summer that begs you to rejuvenate.

Maybe it has something to do with crossing the half-way mark in the year.

But after a long school year of commitments and classes, your child is going to need a break before taking on the next rigorous chapter of life. The first day of school always creeps up on you before you’re ready.

What? No more pool days and unlimited lazy afternoons? Darn it…

So before you get back to the grind in the fall, here are some ways to savor the long summer days and re-introduce new life in their practice routine.

Oh, and popsicles after practicing are mandatory. Obviously :-)

1. Start a 100 day practice challenge

The 100 day practice calendar is a sheet that keeps track of practicing 100 days in a row.

It sounds like a lot doesn’t it? But it’s not as hard as you think it is.

The kids who do this on the regular don’t all have perfect practice days. They just put in the effort to practice each day.

Even a few minutes a day makes a difference. The point is to get in the habit of practicing regulary. Some days are good and some days are not so good. Some days you practice more than others. That doesn’t matter all that much. What matters is getting in the habit of practicing daily. Because that’s what makes the difference in the end.

Wanna get started? Here’s a post from Sue Hunt over at her blog Music in Practice. Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code, also has a post about this challenge. I love the idea of filling in the image of the violin with each practice.

2. Practice play dates

Kids love to play. You know this.

But have you ever implemented it when it comes to practicing?

Instead of practicing alone, ask one of their friends over who takes music lessons along with them. This goes over better if they’re on the same level, or around the same level of musical expertise.

  • Encourage them to play review pieces together. Make a game out of it and see how long they can go.
  • Play the entire book together.
  • Put on a timer and see if they can play through every piece, side by side, beat by beat.
  • OR, they can switch off songs. One can play the first song in the book and the other child plays the second song in the book. This goes on and on until the book is finished.

3. Focus on skills

The summer is a great time to hone in on some tough skills. The kind that take forever and ever to perfect during the school year.

For example, say your child is having a really rough time with their bow hold. Perfecting this will not only look better once it’s mastered, but it will make them sound worlds better in the next couple of months when they play more difficult pieces. And it will be easier to practice and perfect pieces when recital time comes along.

  • Ask them to take a second to pause between their song and inspect their bow hold. They can pause after each line or two of music and inspect their bowhold, readjusting as needed. Before practicing the next piece, they should adjust their bowhold again.
  • Did it move formation during the song? That’s completely normal if it did! Just adjust as needed and ask them to keep their bowhold in mind when they play again.
  • Do this everyday until the skill is so refined they don’t even have to think about it.

Tip to keep in mind: When your child is focusing on honing a specific skill, it’s better to play very easy songs. The kind they can play in their sleep. Stay away from the difficult ones for now. One thing at a time.

4. Listen

The lazy days of summer call for lounging around and long road trips.

Instead of going all summer break putting off those listening sessions, why not embrace them in a fun way?

  • If you’re hanging out at home, turn on their music pieces in the background. It doesn’t have to be blasting to be heard. It just needs to be audible!
  • Have a road trip coming up? Put your child’s musical pieces in the playlist. This doesn’t have to be for the entire trip, but aim for at least fifteen minutes or more.

P.S. If you want to pump up their progress this year, go for 30 minutes to an hour. That’s a daily listening requirement for most music kids who improve quickly. No joke.

5. Take a break

For some kids (and parents), it’s been a looooooong academic year. And they’re exhausted.

The last thing you want to do is burnout during the summer, right before the school year starts.

If you’ve had a jam-packed year and you want to take a break before jumping in the musical year again, take that much-needed break.

But wait - this doesn’t mean don’t practice.

Instead of holding on to a schedule that fills stiff, rigid and long, give you and your child permission to:

  • practice something completely different
  • cut the practice a little short once in while
  • give you and your child time to breathe when practices feel tense

If being serious and rigid is your regular routine, take a breath and stop it right now!

There’s but so long you can keep that song and dance up without feeling overwhelmed and overworked. Figuring out how to practice together takes time, and you don’t want to derail their progress because of the pent-up frustration that comes with working together.

6. Change up your practice time

Do you feel like you’re in a rut when it comes to practicing? Are you and your child practicing regularly?

Usually, parents and kids only tend to think about changing up their practice routine after it’s way too late.

The annoyance and exhaustion happens somewhere in that phase between “barely practicing” and “this-is-NOT-working-maybe-we-should-JUST-QUIT”.

Don’t let it get to that point. It’s not pretty.

Think about how the past year has gone in the practice department.

  • Do morning practices still make sense?
  • Do practices at night never end well?
  • Do you have spurts of long practices followed by a week or two of no practice at all?

Chances are, something needs to change soon. This is the case for most families and music students. They’re not the same student they were a year ago. You might not be the same parent.

Circumstances change, schedules change, and people change. You’ve learned a lot this past year. Summer is a great time to reflect on your experiences and try something completely different. If you find a way to start practicing regularly now, it won’t be as hard to keep up the good habit when the school projects flare up and the extracurriculars fill up your calendar.

7. Play something new

The same old, same old pieces can get played out (pun intended).

If your child is getting serious about music, this is definitely the case for your young musician.

Sometimes you need a refreshing piece of music that’s completely different to remember why you love playing.

Ask your teacher to recommend a new piece to listen to or play. If your child is interested in fiddling, ask them for a book to get started with or an artist to check out online. Listen to a jazz quartet. Break out some musicals and listen to the way the voices and instruments come together with the storyline.

There’s plenty of music around you. And there are tons of benefits to listening and playing different styles of music, from developing a better ear when they’re listening, to learning how to develop unique styles. Great musicians know when to switch up their play list. Boredom is death to the creative mind.

8. Buff up on music theory and sight reading

Music theory and sight-reading are entirely different animals compared to learning by ear. They take time, attention and practice.

Sure, that’s no different than the usually music practice, but it is unlike most practice sessions – especially if you’re a Suzuki kid.

Some teachers like to introduce music theory and sight reading along the way, during the student’s musical journey. Others like to batch it for a later time. They go full throttle into learning the nuts and bolts of what makes music so beautiful and at times, so complex.

The summer is a great time to try out some sight reading and music theory. There’s more time to go through flash cards and take a look at a sight reading book together. Ask your teacher for recommendations, too. They may be easing into these skills with your child next year and may even have ideas on simple introductory material you can do at home.

9. Dream and scheme for the new year

A new academic year will be here soon. Before it comes up too quickly (as it always seems to do) why not think about what you and your child want the year to look like. Ask them some questions that make them think…

  • Do you want to try out for the orchestra this year?
  • Would you want to play for a family or friend’s wedding? What about a school talent show?
  • Any interest in joining a chamber group?
  • Would you want to play in a competition?
  • Would you like to visit the symphony more?
  • Thinking of a song you want to start learning now that might be a recital piece possibility?
  • Want to go to a workshop, camp or institute?

Ask your teacher about opportunities to get out there and play music outside of the practice room.

One of our parents here told me his daughter joined the orchestra this year and she’s become more passionate about playing the violin than ever before. I’m calling that a win.

Wherever you are, I encourage you to soak up the sun and keep the music practice fun. Steady, moving, focused – but ultimately, enjoyable.

Ice cold lemonade, pool days and practice frustration don’t go very well together in my opinion. Am I right?

How are you using the summer to set the reset button?

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music-recital-simple-stress-free-stepsYou know your child’s ready – and so do they.

They’ve practiced performing their piece – in front of other people.

They know they have your absolute and full support – no matter what.

Nothing could possibly go wrong now.

Or could it?

No matter how well-prepared you think you are for their recital day, there’s nothing like having a late start to the morning, finding milk all over the kitchen floor and receiving a frantic message from your in-laws (they’re lost!) to jolt you out of your calm mood and into full-blown crazy mode.

Recital mornings aren’t always sunshine and rainbows, but if you take these five steps, you’ll be on your way to an easier and exciting day.

1. Get all hands on deck

Almost every parent makes the massive mistake of taking on all the stress of recital day on their own shoulders. Of course, it’s all done with good intentions. You don’t want to worry anyone. It’s better if your child focuses all their attention on their performance. You can handle it – it’s nothing!

But this never ends well.

You’re scrambling around, calling back relatives, and baking cupcakes for the reception mere hours before you have to leave.

Give yourself a break and ask for help. You deserve it.

It’s also a great way to get everyone excited about the big day. Kids who feel involved cooperate easier, which means they’re more likely to work together on recital day. And less whining and more cooperation is always a plus, no matter what your family’s preparing for.

2. Choose clothing choices now

You know the drill.

One of your kids can’t find their shoes, another’s lost a sock and someone forgot to iron a wrinkled dress shirt last night.

Cue the whining and the whimpering – MOOOOOOooooooooooooooom!

Everyone needs to know what they’re wearing on recital day – not just the musician in the house. This way there are no worries about who’s wearing what and where it is. If an outfit needs to be washed or dry-cleaned, you’ll have plenty of time to get it ready for recital day.

Lay out everything the night before the performance so the next day goes smoothly, and no one’s scrambling around at the last minute.

3. Decide what you’ll bring

No parent wants to find out their camera is dead minutes before they capture their child’s performance. And you don’t have time to turn around to go back home and grab the dessert you forgot to bring for the reception.

Make sure everything’s charged the night before. That includes cameras, phones, and even games for the kids. They’ll need some entertainment between the lulls and pauses of the recital.

If you have a dish or dessert to add to the reception table, go ahead and make a note of it days before you dash out of the door. Put sticky notes on the fridge or make an alarm on your phone – whatever works for you!

This is the perfect time to make a reminder for the extra items, too. Whether you need to stash extra strings in their instrument case or diapers in the bag for your youngest family member, make a list of all the little things that will make the day feel (almost) effortless.

4. Make arrangements

To have a stress-free recital day, you don’t want to rush to the venue. You also don’t want every family member and friend calling your phone at all hours of the morning, asking you how to get there and where to park.

You want to handle all of this beforehand.

Give directions to your guests as soon as possible. Include what time they should be there, where they should sit and what places are acceptable to park. This way no one can tell you they “never got that email” and they “don’t know what you’re talking about!

Allow yourself plenty of time to get there in case you get caught in traffic or the sky decides to fall (pssst…bring an umbrella just in case).

5. Let go of the little things

No recital day is absolutely perfect.

Brace yourself for something to go wrong. Hopefully, it’s a little thing. More than likely, it will be something you didn’t plan. A small inconvenience that feels not-so-small at the time, but in hindsight, a non-issue you’ll laugh about later.

Take it all in stride. Because what really matters to your child doesn’t have to do with creating the perfect “by-the-book” recital day.

It’s knowing that the people who love them are taking the time to watch them perform a piece of music they could never play last year – let alone play in front of a giant group of strangers they’ve never met. It’s about being there, celebrating their progress, and having fun together.

Chances are, you’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly on their musical journey. This is a proud moment for you.

In music, as in life, there are times we must walk on stage, face the music, and keep playing. Because proving to ourselves we can is more important than letting fear stand in our way.

Most musicians have their shaky moments before going onstage. Even the professionals.

Do they let their nerves and stress stop them from playing? Nope.

But it’s not because they don’t feel nervous…it’s because they’ve worked too hard and practiced too much to turn back now.

So look your child in the eye, give them a smile and tell them to “go on out there, and show em’ what you’ve got.”

There’s a crowd out here, and we’re waiting to be wowed.

It’s showtime.

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Did you catch the other recital prep posts? Click below to read the rest of the seres!

Ready, Set, Record! The Foolproof Way To Prove To Your Musical Child They’re Recital Ready…Without Lying

Kiss Their Stage Fright Goodbye With This Surprising Secret

Stop The Music! Why You Should Take A Break And Do This Before The Big Day

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Stop The Music! Why You Should Take A Break And Do This Before The Big Day

May 11, 2014

“Perfect! Now play it again!” You’re sick of hearing it and they’re tired of playing it, but it has to be done. There’s a performance coming up, and every practice counts even more than the last. You hear a deep sigh, a muttering of something inaudible, and they slowly begin to play their piece once […]

Read the full article →

Kiss Their Stage Fright Goodbye With This Surprising Secret

May 4, 2014

Okay, show of hands. How many kids practice their recital piece in the safety of their own room? Almost every one of them, right? When it comes to preparing for an on-stage performance, kids can’t beat the security of their own cozy boudoir. And can you blame them? After all, there are no hot bright […]

Read the full article →

Ready, Set, Record! The Foolproof Way To Prove To Your Musical Child They’re Recital Ready…Without Lying

April 22, 2014

Ah, spring. A time when kids feel the warm weather coming on and that infamous spring fever kicks in. They can’t sit still. They count the days until school ends. They dream about lazy days with their friends, full days at the pool, and vacations on the beach. I never had that feeling for long. […]

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Could You Be Setting Up Your Child to Fail?

January 28, 2014

It could happen. You start with a goal, make a plan, and put it into action. You tell your child to follow it step by step and one day all their little dreams will come true. Simple, right? Well…not always. Goals are like dreams with a plan: a step-by-step method that gets us where we […]

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10 Gift Ideas for Your Special Musician

December 20, 2012

Wanna give a special something to your favorite musician? I’ve got 10 gift ideas sure to strike a chord with everyone – from toddlers to teens to teachers. 1. Music Bag I’ve let my bags practically fall to pieces before I make the move to order one for myself. The poor things are abused! They get […]

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The Case for Minimalist Parenting

October 26, 2012

I’m over at Loving Simple Living, making the case for minimalist parenting when it comes to scheduling activities for your kids. Here’s a bit of it for you… Violin lessons, academic clubs, and sports practices filled my calendar to the brim every weekday. Recitals, competitions, and games crowded my weekends. Volunteering and church activities filled […]

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Why They Secretly Hate Practicing With You: The 4 Common Mistakes That Shut Your Child Down

April 4, 2012
Thumbnail image for Why They Secretly Hate Practicing With You: The 4 Common Mistakes That Shut Your Child Down

Admit it – I know you don’t always love practicing with your kids. It’s ok. I won’t tell. But do you know who’s spilling your dirty little secret to them?

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Music Games That Really Work: How to Turn Their Sour Notes Sweet

Thumbnail image for Music Games That Really Work: How to Turn Their Sour Notes Sweet March 27, 2012

You know that really sour note your child keeps playing over and over and over? And you know how you keep reminding them over and over and over to play the right note next time? Don’t worry. They’re not ignoring you. They heard you loud and clear. But they’re not playing those sour notes because [...]

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