Have you ever thought about what sort of training professional athletes go through in order to stay in shape for competition? I first encountered this concept in a book I recently read called 10-Minute Toughness by Jason Selk. I strongly recommend it for anyone looking to develop a yearly practice schedule. just like the astronomical seasons (Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall), there are four: post-season. generalized preparatory, specialized preparation, and the performance season. Each is roughly three months long and has distinct characteristics.
I'm going to be doing this cycle for the foreseeable future. I think it's a great idea for advanced performers who need additional structure to their performance planning. This cycle will even factor into my daily routine/warm-up.
Side-note: In writing this post I'm assuming that you're a sufficiently advanced player that you'll need an annual cycle. What I meas by this is that intermediate or novice players are (usually) not yet able to practice hard enough to warrant long-term considerations to rest and recovery.
I'll use myself as an example. As a player who has developed over the previous twenty-six years, I am able to practice extremely hard six days a week. The seventh day I really need a rest day. Incidentally, that's exactly what I do. Practice six days a week, with a light practice day to recover on the seventh. If I don't rest, it really starts to show. My sound will shrivel, flexibility begins to disappear, and range deteriorates. In fact, there's a significant difference in the way I play mid-week versus the end of the week. For me actively working to increase range during the performance season comes at the expense of repertoire and performance quality.
Novice and intermediate players don't need recovery as badly since they are not to the point yet where they can entirely wear themselves out over the course of a week. So for a novice or intermediate player a better strategy would be to keep working on fundamental exercises year-round and work towards daily improvement of skills. So take this into consideration before you adopt an annual Practice cycle.
Let me know what you think!
Thank you for reading!
Jeremy is Associate Professor of Tuba and Euphonium at West Texas A&M University.