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With the school year about to begin, it might be time to give students some new goals to motivate them and refresh their interest in music lessons. Here are a few skills to consider nurturing as school gets back in session:

Build Your Sight-Reading Skills! Focusing in on sight reading practice is a great way to prepare for upcoming auditions – shake off the rust by setting aside practice time to review rhythm counting and note reading. Start with a few notes or measures at a time and work up to harder music. Dip your toe into sight singing and give solfege a try! It’s great for developing your sense of pitch.

Develop a Disciplined Practice Routine. As you’re planning your extracurricular activities, don’t forget to schedule time for practice. The students who make the most progress aren’t necessarily the students with the most natural talent – they’re the students who commit to a regular practice schedule. Making sure that you’re playing your instrument daily is the best way to see positive changes in your musical ability.

Broaden Your Horizons by Listening to Great Composers. It’s easy to get caught up in the latest music trends – there are a lot of great musicians writing these days! It’s also a great to exercise your ear and your brain by listening to the complex instrumental music of bygone eras. Getting familiar with the composers of the past can inform a student’s understanding of current music trends; so many current artists are inspired by earlier music and often imitate the styles of previous centuries!

Add Some Piano Skills. Or, in the case of piano students, add a new instrument. It’s always a great idea to build up some new hand-eye coordination by trying out an instrument that you’re unfamiliar with – it can give a student insight into their primary instrument, reinforces music reading skills, and makes a student more versatile as a musician overall. Plus, most music degrees require piano proficiency, so why wait?

Learn some Music Notation Software. Programs that allow students to easily write down their compositions are widely available online or through mobile apps – what a great way to double down on Theory studies through practical application! Even students who don’t feel like they can write music will feel inspired to jot down a few notes when they can play with notation software. Access to notation software could be a great stepping off point to inspire the next generation’s great composers!

Try Composing and Arranging. Notation software isn’t necessary to start writing your own music (though it is certainly an advantage). Try starting out with an online chord progression generator to get the creative juices flowing. Use recording apps or video apps on mobile devices to record music as you make it up, and record lyrics in notebooks! Use your ear to figure out a favorite song on your instrument even if it isn’t used by the original artist. Try getting together with a group of friends and try out new instrument combinations for your favorite music.