Posted in Summer, Uncategorized

Review Pieces You’ve Already Played!

Many moons ago, when I took piano lessons, I didn’t take lessons in the summer. But I was still made to practice, and especially when I said to my mom, “I’m bored”, the response was to go practice.


But what to practice? That was always my question. I was told to review pieces you’ve already played. That seemed kind of silly to me, since I already played them. I knew them! Why play them? First off, my mom liked to hear them, so it made her happy. But, as I’ll share with you, I found a few reasons why review is a good thing!


When you review pieces you’ve already played, you see how far you’ve come as a musician. This is huge! Our progress can sometimes feel very slow and almost glacier-like. But when you stop and look back, you see how far you’ve come. So this week, for my students who are taking the summer off, I’ve been encouraging them to do just that.


The second thing that happens when you review pieces you’ve already played is that you keep those pieces fresh under your fingers. What happens if Grandma or another family friend drops by and wants an impromptu concert? You’ve got music at the ready! Another thing that I had the opportunity to do throughout summers was to go to the assisted living facility where my mom worked and I played the piano for them. What an awesome opportunity! The residents didn’t care what I played, just being able to hear something musical was a treat for them. And I’m thankful I was able to do that.


The final thing that happens when you review pieces you’ve already played is that you keep your skills up. One of the biggest challenges in school at the beginning of a new year is that teachers spend the first month or so reviewing what was unlearned over the summer, because it doesn’t usually get reinforced. Same thing with piano. If you take the whole summer and don’t touch your instrument or do anything musical, are you going to be as sharp as you could be when you return? Of course not! So keeping those skills sharp is essential!


Those are my three main reasons. What do you think? Comment with why you think it’s good to continue to review pieces you’ve already played, especially over the summer!

Posted in Summer

Take the Summer Off?

Back when I took piano lessons, I was allowed to take the summer off of lessons. Honestly, I wish I would have continued over each summer. Why? Well, I’ll unpack that in this post, along with why I think students should continue with lessons over the summer.


I think that the hope in taking the summer off of lessons, I’d have a mental break, an opportunity to play fun things on my own over the summer, and then get back to work in the fall. The problem is….I wasn’t self motivated to practice. Being a kid in Wisconsin, there were plenty of other things to do outside in the 3 months of summer. And I wanted to do them than play or practice the piano. Had I continued in lessons, I would have had a goal to work toward, and probably would have been forced to be more motivated.


The reality is that when school resumes every fall, the first month or so isn’t learning new things, but reviewing things that were forgotten over the summer with a lack of repetition and keeping skills up. Guess what happens with music lessons? The exact same thing! Yes, summer has more activities and more unstructured time, but there’s more time to practice and keep skills up, so that the student can continue to improve! When I took off for the summer, I found that what I did remember was minimal, and that my technique fell off, because I wasn’t n the regimen of regular review every week by my teacher, let alone regular practice!


The thing I hated most every summer was to say to my mother, “I’m bored.” Her automatic response would be not to go outside, but to practice the piano. Did I do it? Rarely. I’d find something else to do. I believe that year round lessons help to keep a student focused and motivated. Based on my experiences, I try to be a lot more relaxed over the summer and let the students pick something fun to work on, something that they want to play! When students have a say in what they’re learning, they will be much more motivated to put in the time and work to improve.


So, yes, summer lessons are helpful. The way that I’ve structured things in my studio is that my 2 main semesters are each 5 months with a total of 18 lessons in each semester. My summer is June and July, for 6 weekly lessons. It doesn’t seem like a significant amount of time, but those 6 weeks (or 4, depending on the schedule of the student) are essential to keeping their skills up and keeping music fresh in their mind.


I do offer lessons online, as well as in the Spring/Klein area of Northwest Houston. Summer is also a great time to start piano, voice, trumpet, beginning guitar or ukulele lessons, so add it into your consideration if you’re still looking for activities for your child (or you) for the summer. You can find out more here.

Posted in Summer

An alternative to summer practicing

Yesterday I wrote about how it is beneficial to continue to practice, even if you’re not taking lessons over the summer. Today, I’m going to give you an alternative…even though you should still practice!


The alternative is quite simple. Music camps or unique music exploration activities are definitely helpful. Let’s unpack each idea. A music camp is quite simple. It takes a concept or an instrument and focuses in on them for a period of time.


For Harmanny Music Education, 2 camps are being offered, one fully online and one in person with an online option. The online camp is for students who have finished K-3rd grade. We’ll be diving in to Camille Saint-Saens’ work “Carnival of the Animals”. There’s so much to explore in this journey, not only looking at why Saint-Saens wrote the work, but how he masterfully and creatively mimicked the animals through music. This camp is the week of June 20th and will be for 1 hour.


The second camp is a ukulele camp. This is in person, but the opportunity to join online is also available. This camp will teach you how to play the ukulele. Not only how to play it, but the history of the instrument, as well as how to care for it. This camp will be for students who have finished 1st through 5th grade, and will be for 2 hours daily the week of June 27th. For more information on both camps, click here.


Now what about this music exploration activity thing? What is that? Well, it’s actually quite simple. Whether that’s checking out YouTube videos or reading blog posts about music history, or listening critically to music, these are the things I’m talking about. One of the things I’ll be doing this summer is creating a music listening calendar for June and July for my students, and then I’ll be going through them and highlighting them on the blog daily. There are lots of different YouTube channels that are fantastic. My two personal favorites are Charles Cornell and Adam Neely. They can get a little over the head of younger musicians, but definitely are fun. George Collier notates in music different performances and other musical things which can bring about inspiration. Or, if you just look up music history for kids on YouTube, you get a number of fantastic videos!


There are so many possibilities to keep your child engaged with music over the summer, whether that is practicing, creating their own instruments (I recommend having earplugs around for that), or learning a new instrument for fun over the summer (again….earplugs), as well as learning more about music. There are so many resources online that the possibilities are endless!


Posted in Summer

What to do over the summer?

Back when I took lessons, my parents let me take the summer off of lessons. There is a delicate balance when it comes to summer. A bit more freedom and flexibility in schedule is good, but if you don’t keep up the practice over the summer, those skills can deteriorate. Taking a break can be helpful to have a bit of a breather and help you appreciate what you are doing along with bringing in a renewed set of focus. I offer summer lessons, but completely understand that families will want to take a break.


If you are taking a break for summer, here are some tips and tricks that I have learned along the way.


Keep in a (relaxed) practice routine. Don’t completely give up practicing altogether, but make time to practice as your schedule allows. 5-10 minutes per day or every other day is better than zero.


What should you practice? Review pieces you have already played. Find pieces to try to challenge yourself. Review your music theory to help keep things sharp. The more you can do things like this to keep yourself sharp, keep your skills up and even grow your abilities, the better.


Practice makes better. That’s just how things work. I think that even a few lessons here and there over the summer will help to keep your skills sharp, but that’s totally up to you. Continuing to practice will definitely make a difference!


If you are looking for those few lessons over the summer, Harmanny Music Education can help! Whether it’s 4 or 6 lessons, or a fun online camp diving into the “Carnival of the Animals” for students who have finished K-3rd grade, or an in person and online ukulele camp for students who have finished 1st-5th grade, you can find out more about it all here.