Here, then, are my suggestions for keeping your violin repertoire fresh in your mind, even while traveling and outside of your usual schedule.
- Copy multiple recordings of your piece to every device you own. Listen to your piece several times a day. If you are going on a long car trip, then every hour, listen to the piece once. It will take maybe 5 - 10 minutes if that, then you can go back to watching Frozen for the millionth time. Why is this important? Because our brains work on problem-solving even when we're not consciously thinking about the problem. If you keep putting your piece into your brain by listening, even if you're not practicing normally, the piece will be fresh in your brain. Your careful memorization will be maintained or even strengthened.
- Take your sheet music with you (if you read music). Excuse yourself from family gatherings for just 5- 10 minutes a day to read through your music, hearing the notes in your head, imagining the motions of your left hand fingers and your violin bow as you play. Tap the beat, or count and clap the rhythm.
- Play air-violin. You'd be surprised that this actually works. Do your fingerings and bowings in the air while you sing your piece. Again, this reinforces your brain connections to your fingers and arms. It'll also test how good your memory is - do you know the motions by themselves, or are you dependent on having the violin there to remind you?
- Take your violin with you and practice for 10 minutes every day. Pick one spot in your piece to really focus on and improve, and do a play-through of your piece. It's a rare vacation or visit to family that a student won't be able to find 10 minutes to set aside for practice. Excuse yourself, saying, "I have an important performance in a few weeks and I just need to practice for a few minutes. I'll be back and ready to crush you in Scrabble soon!" (Or, you know, the activity of your choice. My family happens to be cut-throat competitive at Scrabble.)
- Take advantage of having a new audience to play for! A family gathering can be the perfect environment to do a practice performance! Ask your family if they would mind listening to your performance for just a few minutes at some point during the holidays. This is wonderful performance prep!
My students are currently engaged in a close race to earn points in our Studio Challenge 2014. They earn points for their teams by practicing. I have a feeling that the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday will be what sets our winning team apart from the others. The students who really commit to practicing, even while traveling and on vacation, are the ones who will earn the most points!
What are YOUR favorite ways to practice when out of your normal routine? Let me know in the comments below!