How to Practice your Musical Instrument on Vacation?

Even if playing an instrument is not all that hard, regularity is essential. If you have spent so many hours during the year to level up your game, it is shameful to lose everything! If you don’t take your musical instrument with you during your vacation, will it be beneficial, or will you lose your ability and come back out of shape? Bringing your musical instrument is an essential question because so many hours of hard work are at stake here.

How to practice your musical instrument during the vacation? **A musician should always take his or her instrument. He should practice less but regularly to relax while remaining in shape. The morning is the best time to practice; mental practice is important if playing is impossible. **

Should I take my musical instrument on vacation?

That is the most crucial question. Some say that a much-needed rest is good for you, for your muscles and inspiration.

That is true that a bit of rest will leave you the opportunity to recharge your batteries, especially if you are tense. You will ease out your posture, rest your muscle, loosen up your nerves. Your brain will relax as well. You will fight mental exhaustion come back fresh. All that rest can be beneficial, especially for a professional virtuoso. But up to a point. Every musician should take his or her instrument on vacation to remain in shape. A lot of practicing time is involved; it is a shame to lose our ability and ease of play.

Playing the violin is a long process of building up layers of reflexes. And reflexes have to be trained constantly, every day. So what happens if we fail to practice them?

As Heifetz used to say: “If I don’t practice for one day, I can feel it. If I don’t practice for two days, the public can feel it”.

If I don’t practice for one day, I can feel it. If I don’t practice for two days, the public can feel it

Yasha Heifetz

As Yehudi Menuhin put it: “Do birds sometimes say: “Today, I won’t fly”? “

So these wonderful violinists have the answer for you.

It is too hard to start again after two weeks without playing.
So yes, take your instrument.

Even if some rest can be beneficial, stopping completely your practice is detrimental. I will explain how to practice in a way you can maintain your standard while relaxing at the same time.

What instrument to take with you on vacation?

If you travel for your vacation to places where you are not sure, you shouldn’t take your best instrument with you. If you travel a lot, take planes, go to hotels, then the less valuable the instrument, the better. Anyway, you are not here to study and perfect your stand. The important point will be not to lose too much of your technique. So there is a tradeoff.
So it is perfectly fine for you to bring your less fragile and less expensive instrument. You will not fear having it stolen or damaged. You can play everywhere then: on the beach, in a garden, in the street… Vacation is often the opportunity to break out of the usual seriousness of playing and studying.

If you happen to have an electric violin, take it. For the value, first of all. Electric violins, even of good quality, are far less expensive than good acoustic violins. If your acoustic violin is worth $10,000, your Yamaha electric violin is worth less than $1000. There is nothing to compare here. Then, you will be able to practice with headphones, and that is a must if you stay in a hotel or at some friend’s house. You will have the opportunity to play and practice whenever you like.

Should I practice my instrument a lot on vacation?

If you can, yes, for sure. But it is better to play less regularly and actually do it rather than expecting to play more and be discouraged. So don’t put too much burden on yourself. But play.

As I have explained thoroughly in this blog post, the secret is to practice regularly with a focused mind. Read that article again and remember that the critical part is to exercise your brain more than your fingers. So, particularly on vacation when working is harder, play less than usual, but try to remain focused and present.

Play less than during the year. You will benefit both from practicing but also from resting. You will enjoy a more relaxed body.

So, how much should I practice my instrument on vacation? 30 minutes is a bare minimum for anybody. For a serious student, 90 minutes of practicing shouldn’t be hard to find. A professional musician should be happy with 3 hours max: after that, he or she risks feeling muscular tension and mental fatigue.

When to practice?

Vacation is the perfect time to meet friends and family. So practicing our instrument can come in conflict with our social life. Even a serious musician can have a social life for some days during the year and put his or her instrument back into its case.

So, the perfect time to practice our instrument is when friends and family rest. That is why we always need to save a bit of energy to study correctly when required.

The preferred time for practicing is during the morning. I usually get up not too early, take a shower, and have a coffee (or two, or three) while reading. I take the opportunity to read books about subjects that I don’t find the time to read about during the year. For example: “The use of forth if Jazz”. So it isn’t practicing strictly speaking, but it will provide useful for me as a musician. Drinking my coffee, I usually check fingerings and mowings.

If you are in a hotel or in a resort where sound is a problem, read what I recommend on how to practice the violin with as little sound as possible in a hotel. Maybe, you can take with you your electric violin if you have one. Or invest in a suitable metal mute.

So, if the volume is not a problem, during the morning, or if it is hot, during the hottest hours of the day. These are two times of the day that we still have some fresh energy. The end of the afternoon, the evening are usually times when things happen during vacation, times when we socialize. So our practice should be over by that time.

A good violinist shouldn’t party so much as practicing becomes impossible with a hangover or without enough sleep. Remember: practicing is exercising our mind. So practicing when on vacation has some trade-off, for sure, but they are worth it.

What to do if you can’t practice my musical instrument

If you can’t practice your instrument because it is absolutely impossible, or you can’t take your instrument with you, there is still a way.

Remember that your fingers aren’t everything and, as I have explained, the most critical part of the body to train is the mind. It has been described in length by the great tenant of the Russian School of Violin playing.

Practicing with the mind is as important or even more important than practicing with the fingers.

Open a score, read it. Check the fingerings, create more bowings and fingerings. Play in your head. Remember tunes. Play with your fingers hitting on the table, on a sofa, in a plane…

Take advantage of any opportunity to play virtually. If you have a couple of hours to spare on a train or plane: open a score. Do you have to wait for some friends? Check and improve your fingerings. Do you have a four-hour hike? Play your bowings mentally. Do you feel like having a nap? Go to sleep, envisioning you playing a tune you like.

All that will keep you in the mood for the music, but also will keep your mind sharp. You can even make some progress this way. Do you remember what the great Yuri Yankelevitch used to say about violin mastery?

The first level is to play with the score.
The second level is to play without the score.
The third level is to play without the score nor the instrument.

If you can’t have your instrument, take the opportunity to achieve the third level of mastery: play in your mind.

Go to concerts, listen to music

Summer and vacation are often the time when we travel, discover other countries, people, and cultures. That is to say: new music, different kinds of musicians. We should embrace that opportunity entirely. This is an excellent chance for our culture in general and our musical culture in particular.

So all the opportunities should be taken to go to concerts in all kinds of musical styles. We should stop to hear people playing in the streets, in restaurants. We should go to every concert of local music, learn everything about typical instruments. We should be hungry for sounds: new timbers, new instruments, new rhythms.

There are always concerts of local music, local traditions. These are invaluable assets that should inspire us in many ways. And all this rich inspiration will accompany us during the year.

Vacations are the perfect time for that: new music, new sounds, new musicians, new feelings.

How to practice when everybody’s on holiday?

The tricky part is to be stronger than everybody. All friends and family just relax: but musicians need to work a little bit. That’s our fate. But it is joyful: aren’t we doing what we enjoy most in life? So we shouldn’t be too concerned about “working” when everybody else is resting. Think more about “playing” and present it that way to people around you. But still, be firm and polite if you want to practice for one hour and a half; people you spend your vacation with should understand that. That leaves twenty-two and a half hours for holidays: that should be plenty.

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