Do you remember a couple of years ago when the “Should you be practicing right now?” infographic was everywhere online and on the walls of music teachers? It was a lighthearted and humorous way to encourage musicians to practice more, but there can be a negative side to this mentality.
Throughout their musical careers, musicians are primed to work diligently and consistently over the course of many years. Eventually, this can take a huge toll on their physical and mental health. I believe that a well-rounded musician leads a fulfilling life both inside and outside the practice room. Their experiences outside the practice room only enhance their work in the practice room, and I think breaks are an important part of this process.
Here are a few questions to help you decide whether taking a break is right for you:
- Are you experiencing physical pain when you play? If so, taking a break is essential so your body has time to recover. You should also consult with a medical professional to come up with a plan to overcome and prevent any further injuries.
- Are you engaged when you practice? If you find that your mind seems to be wandering more and more in the practice room, a break can be a wonderful way to recharge and refocus.
- Do you enjoy making music? If it’s hard to find joy when you practice or perform, you could be experiencing burnout. (Here are some tips I have to fight burnout and amotivation.)
- Are you feeling stressed or overwhelmed? Sometimes when you have a million other things to do, it can be difficult to focus in the practice room. When this happens, I take a day or two off to tackle my to-do list so I can make music without feeling quite so overwhelmed.
- Finally, do you want to take a break? This is such a simple question, but music is so competitive that many musicians feel guilty or overly self-indulgent when they take a break. Listen to your mind and body and take a break whenever you feel necessary.
Keep in mind: A break can be different things for different people. Some might prefer to continue engaging with music during breaks (such as score study, teaching, or other activities), while others require complete separation from music to fully recharge. Some breaks might only be a day, but some might take off a few days, weeks, or even longer.
Of course, each musician’s practice routine varies greatly, depending on schedules, upcoming performances, and several other factors. Some musicians happily practice every single day, others might take a day off each week, and some might even take a few days or weeks off each year! The important thing is to find a healthy life-practice balance that allows you to continue growing and improving as a musician while leading a rewarding life away from your instrument.