A note to my favorite people in the world (MUSIC TEACHERS!!!):

The guide below is aimed at middle or high school musicians. It is an effort to help them learn to “teach themselves” over the summer and is based on best practices (pardon the pun) for goal achievement, tracking and habit formation. As an aside, if you are interested in these areas and are looking for some summer reading, check out “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. Feel free to use/adapt/modify any of the information below to tailor it to your students. I have also included a PDF version of the materials as a worksheet. Feel free to pass it along to your students as well!

Additionally, I wrote a book around ten years ago which goes into these concepts in more depth. It’s a sort of self-guided workbook for practice, called Music Practice Coach. You can get a free PDF of the book through my website (lanceladuke.com), by using the coupon code “prettyplease” at checkout. Feel free to pass that along to anyone who might find it useful.

Lastly, I truly appreciate everything you do. Music teachers saved my life and gave me a safe place to fall when I needed it. Please let me know if there’s ever anything I can do to help. I hope you have made it through this past year with head held high and that you can get some time to rest and recharge over the summer.

Your fan,

Lance LaDuke
Carnegie Mellon University
Co-Host of The Brass Junkies Podcast
Former member, Boston Brass, USAF Band, River City Brass, Brass Band of Battle Creek
Educational Ambassador for KHS America (XO Euphoniums/Trombones, Lanikai Ukuleles)




Pick ONE goal you know you SHOULD work on this summer – a weak area of your playing. Here are some possibilities:

  • Scales
  • Articulation
  • Range
  • Rudiments
  • Sightreading

You probably already know what it is. Write it down


This one’s for YOU! Is there a song or artist you love? Favorite video game music? Skill you want to learn like improv or memorizing your favorite movie theme? Write it HERE



For each goal, what are the specific steps you need to do EVERY DAY to get you where you want to go? For example, if you’re working on scales, you need to know which ones you can’t play, find a copy of those, stick them on your stand and work on them one at a time until you can play them.

Write down the 3-5 steps you need to take (play scales, record yourself, play a concert for your dog, etc.)



You’ll have an easier time sticking with this plan if you tie it to something you do every day. The trigger event lets you know that as soon as you’re done with whatever it is, it’s time to go practice. Some possibilities are:

  • Brushing your teeth
  • Eating a meal
  • Walking the dog
  • Making your bed
  • Playing a video game

Write down your habit trigger (teeth brushing, after a meal, flossing your cat, etc.)



You’ll need a place to keep track of your progress. It can be on a calendar, an app on your phone or simply a series of X’s on a piece of paper.

Write down your progress tracker (notebook, app, bedroom wall, etc.)



Having someone to help support you over the summer is crucial. They are not there to make you feel bad, just to cheer you on when you need encouragement and celebrate with you when you achieve your goals. It could be a family member or friend. You might even look for a classmate who is also working on their own goals and the two of you can support each other!

Write down your accountability partner (sibling, classmate, invisible friend, etc)


A final thought. You’ll make MUCH more progress if you work on just these two goals for even 5-10 minutes per day than you will by cramming all your practice into the final days of break. Keep it simple. Do a little each day. If you miss a day or two or take a family vacation and can’t practice, don’t beat yourself up or quit. Just pick back up where you were and get back to it! You’ll start the next school year as a BETTER musician with some brand new skills to show off!

About the Author

LANCE LADUKE is internationally known as an educator, performer and creator. He teaches at Carnegie Mellon University as Artist Lecturer in Euphonium, Freshman Advisor and Coordinator of Special and Creative Projects. Lance teaches business, marketing and communications as part of the CMU Music Entrepreneurship Program, coaches and mentors a variety of chamber ensembles and is also Adjunct Professor of Euphonium at Duquesne University. Lance was a member of Boston Brass and the US Air Force Band in Washington DC, has performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra and currently plays with the River City Brass. He has taught and/or given master classes at some of the world’s finest conservatories, including Juilliard, the Royal Academy of Music in London and the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Lance co-wrote and produced “Band Blast Off,” a highly successful band recruiting DVD and maintains an active speaking career, sharing his thoughts on practice, leadership, and self-development. His wildly successful book, “Music Practice Coach, Five Workouts to Get the Most Out of Your Practice Time!” is available as a free PDF at lanceladuke.com. Lance is an Educational Ambassador for Jupiter Band Instruments.

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