Practice Over Break: True Advice & Tips from a College Professor and Practicing Horn Player

Kelly Langenberg

It can be challenging to find the motivation to practice over break, and you have several factors operating against you. You are at home. There are no performances on your horizon. You want to see your friends. You have siblings or erratic sleep schedules to work around and there’s no decent acoustical space for you to practice. There are many excuses that can account for neglecting your instrument over break. I’ve been there and now as a mom of twin toddlers and a professional freelance horn player, I am here to tell you that if you want to find time to practice, you will. Keep your chops in shape and your momentum moving forward as you head home for the holidays.

First of all, plan a performance before you leave school for break. Whether this is for a church, synagogue, or for your family’s holiday get-together, make sure you have something planned that will give you a reason to even take your horn home over break. 

Once you get home, leave your horn case in a prominent, visual place in your home. Better yet, open it and leave your horn out, mouthpiece in place, on the chair next to your music stand, so that at any moment should you feel the urge, you can waltz right over and blow through your major scales in a moment’s notice. 

Now I realize social plans are an important part of every student’s holiday. But let me suggest that you call your friends from youth symphony and see if they’d be interested in reading quartets or duets. (IF you need literature to read, try No dice? OK, pull up your favorite youtube clips and play along. (I don’t always recommend this as an ideal practice tool, but it’s break, right?) At the VERY least, grab your horn and sit on the couch so that while the commercials run between your TV shows you can get your warmup in, and you might feel that barrier between lips and metal start to dissipate as you realize you do enjoy playing your instrument!

I also advise you keep a journal of your practice over break, since your days will be fairly different and it will be hard to keep track in your head. (There are also a lot of apps to help with this.)

Your practice sessions may not have the same drive over break that they do during the school year, and there is no harm in letting your practice sessions be interest-focused. Now is the time to pull out that solo you never had time to learn during the year, or to work on the excerpts for upcoming festival auditions. Or maybe, you just like to play through your old book of etudes or solos from high school/middle school because they are nostalgic and bring back good memories. Chances are you’ve improved a great deal since then and will find the old solos even more rewarding to play.