The Playground

The Simply Music blog

Keep Your Playlist Alive Over Long Breaks

Found in: Coaching

So you’re having an extended break from music lessons, over summer holidays or for whatever other reason. What happens to your playing? Will that Playlist you (and your Teacher and Life Coach) spent the whole year growing and nurturing ever survive? Will you return in the new year sheepishly confessing that the suntan has had more attention than the repertoire? If so, how much of your precious time will it take to get your playing back into shape?


No plan, will result in… NO action!

I think we can all admit that most of us (even adults) won’t naturally set ourselves practice targets or systems to keep our Playlist alive. However, it’s important to find a way that will work for each of us.

Let’s set Practice Plans and set Practice Quantity & Quality. To do this we must each decide what our “desired outcome” is. For me as a teacher, it’s to try to make sure pieces/songs are retained during these breaks so that we don’t have to spend weeks reviewing. It may take time thinking through and setting up routines for your “desired outcomes” but I believe it’s worth it and, usually, once you’ve done it you won’t need to go through the whole process again in the next long break.

PRACTICE PLANS for you to consider.

Some of these ideas have been shared by other Simply Music Teachers and are definitely worth reinforcing, so thanks to those who have contributed to these strategies. They often amount simply to finding ways of keeping practice interesting – finding new challenges in our existing pieces in the absence of your teacher to supply new projects.

Playground_#Icons_60x60px-01  PLAN  – Every week a different approach e.g.

  • Week 1                        Play each song with the CD
  • Week 2                        Play all Blues
  • Week 3                        Play all Arrangements
  • Etc.

Playground_#Icons_60x60px-02  PLAN – Each week, concentrate on a different Level.

  • Week 1                        Level 1
  • Week 2                       Arrangements
  • Week 3                       Level 2
  • Etc.

This is best for the more advanced student.

Playground_#Icons_60x60px-03  PLAN – Play all songs on the paper Keypad. Don’t touch the piano/keyboard for a whole week. This not only builds muscle memory but will help you practice fingering.

Playground_#Icons_60x60px-04  PLAN – Take the days of the week and do:

  • Mondays – – – All SLOW songs
  • Tuesdays – – – All FAST songs
  • Wednesdays – – – All Songs in a Jazzy style
    • (this can include playing straight songs jazzily)
  • Etc.

Playground_#Icons_60x60px-05  PLAN – In the middle of the year I was away from teaching for 6 weeks and I wanted to try to ensure that my students didn’t lose their momentum. So I set up practice routines for students according to their levels, but I coupled levels together. This meant I only needed to set up the following routines in Fortnightly groups:

  • Foundation 1 & 2
  • Foundation 3 & 4
  • Etc.

I put the routines and instructions onto 2 sheets and emailed them to my families. These sheets were then printed and filled out according to the instructions. I email all information to my families as this way I can be sure it gets to parents and adult students alike.

This is the “Bribery” I sent out.

This is a fortnight sample of the routines for Foundation 4 Students I sent out.

Playing Alive Check List During Lesson Break

There is a different set of Songs/Pieces for each fortnight so there was variety. The order of these songs varied in Level, Tempo (Fast, Slow, Medium), and Style (Accompaniment, Blues, Classical and Neil’s Compositions). Follow the instructions below:

  • Play each Song 3 – 4 times ~~~ Unless you think you played it perfectly the first time.
  • If you think it’s PERFECT, play along with the CD once.


I know your routine can be all over the place during long breaks, and the time you spend practicing may well be shorter than normal. The routines I set out above take approximately 8 minutes if you play each piece 3 times. QUANTITY & QUALITY of PRACTICE

While we suggest that practice time is approximately 15 to 20 minutes, I have always likened practicing to doing maths homework. The maths teacher sends a student home to do a certain number of “sums or problems” in a book. Now this may take a quick thinking person a very short time to complete while a slower thinking person may well take a lot longer. This has nothing to do with intelligence but everything with how quickly we work in the world. Some folk meander around the shopping centre while other folk power walk. It’s just the way we are built.

So try to be ‘Task Oriented’ so that you are not clock watching when you sit down at the piano. A piano time of 8 to 10 minutes during holiday breaks is WAY BETTER than no playing at all. Having simple, achievable tasks can have you feeling more positive and may well result in a better quality outcome. And that’s it – tasks quickly out of the way, and you’re out in the sunshine!