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Time off

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by emilio g, Aug 23, 2012.

  1. emilio g

    emilio g Supporting Member

    Jul 16, 2008
    Jersey City, NJ
    Its been a minute since I've posted here. Grad school, festivals, and paying the bills have been keeping me pretty busy.

    I've been thinking a lot about how our time off affects our time on with our instruments. Namely, what we remember and what we forget. For instance, it would be difficult to "unhear" the sound of a major chord but if I don't play for a week my bow control starts to get sloppy.

    To get things going here are some things I'm curious about:

    Do you practice year round? Do you take time off from music every now and then? Do you schedule your time off? When you take a long break and come back playing, what "sticks" and what do you have to build back up again? What do you notice between taking a day off vs. a month vs. a year vs. a decade (or longer)? Do you come back stronger after a break once you've put in some practice time? Where is the point of diminishing returns?

    I've run some of my own personal experiments and talked to quite a few musicians about this and I want to hear what other people have to say.
  2. NicholasF

    NicholasF Guest

    Jan 17, 2012
    Practice is like exercise, if you do it every day you can hurt yourself, also you can develop bad habit's. Taking a day or two off at a time is ideal. But as you know life can hit you like a ton of bricks, and you cant practice everyday, i would say if your playing regularly practicing 3 times a week, not just playing around but actually working, is great. As for taking more time off than that, my advice is; if you dont love something dont do it. If youve fallen out of love with the instrument to the point that you dont want to even look at it, then i dont know what to tell you. If you feel that you'd still enjoy playing it but you currently dont, my advice is play what you like for now, this will help you fall back in love with it, and do this when you want, your strict schedule will come back if you really want it.
  3. Well, I took a few years off, for complicated and not very interesting reasons.

    Coming back was both tough and really rewarding.

    Tough because of the physical reconditioning involved, especially as when I came back I was still recovering from a broken left thumb (ouch) and so my left hand strength was even further away than it could have been. It was just like starting from scratch, I could only play for 20 minutes or so before my hands got too fatigued to continue.

    Rewarding because by taking a break, you forget your bad habits and notice new things about your playing when you come back. I'm sure I'm a better player now than I was. One thing I noticed is that you learn to ignore your own characteristic intonation mistakes... but by not hearing them for a while, all of a sudden you notice them again, and get a chance to fix them.
  4. BassoMatik


    Aug 23, 2012
    For me, the points of non playing are pretty spontaneous. I don't really know how long I'll be away because of my schedule. When I do go away, my speed is diminished but I can usually build that back up pretty quick. I do like, however, when I've been away from my bass for a while that I come back with a different ear and it helps me to stay away from my 'cliche' runs. I can say that I've created really cool basslines due to a vacation, coming back and just messing with the frets and figuring out something that sounds cool.
  5. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    I'm probably not as developed as most of the other responders because I find when I take a break, my intonation suffers. It comes back quickly, but I need to address it before I can continue. I first noticed it a few years ago when I took a week's vacation. Now, I can take a break for a week and not suffer much, but I definitely lose something. I can't really say I gain perspective either, although, sometimes I regain my enthusiasm. But a really good gig, jam, or a jazz camp will remedy that too.
  6. Interesting. I agree that you seem to loose bad habits, but also some good ones. Just make sure to remember what's good, so you can get them back.
  7. Jimnastix


    Jan 21, 2011
    A few times recently I've had to take a couple of weeks off.

    Coming back I've experienced physical problems such as rh blisters. This is a matter of time (and elastoplast) to fix.

    Mentally I am much more curious and perceptive of underlying issues with my approach to playing: stance, lh, rh and reading.

    In short, there is nothing wrong with a holiday :) and if you love playing and improving then if anything you'll come back with even better motivation to refine your playing IMHO
  8. emilio g

    emilio g Supporting Member

    Jul 16, 2008
    Jersey City, NJ
    Great points.

    After periods of growth like an intense summer festival or degree recital I don't want a break, I feel like I really need one. Nothing crazy, I'd usually just take a week or two off then come back to things.

    What sparked my interest is I have talked to my teachers and other musicians and I've noticed that among the best players, a sizable portion of them take about a month off every year to go play golf or sit on the beach and not think about music.

    It makes sense that the forgetting is beneficial. You notice the imperfections that may have gone unnoticed before, and you have to remind yourself of the good things that need to be maintained. Its an opportunity to examine everything you do as you reassemble your playing.
  9. Herbie 80's

    Herbie 80's

    Dec 15, 2008
    I organize my year into four segments. Each segment is three months long. Depending on when the segment lands, I take a break. During the summer when I'm not in a camp or teaching, I take things easy and minimize the pieces I learn, and the ones I do, I study them intensely. This usually gives me enough of a breather for when school and season restarts.

    Usually, after a concert I'll take a days break, but only when I'm busy with one orchestra. Come September and October, when I have a concert a week, with a 3-5 rehearsals a week, there is no time for a break.

    I usually try to do 5-7 hours of practice every day, with an hour of split up breaks in those hours. I start early in the morning, and finish the rest later in the afternoon. If I have the time, I'll do all 5-7 hours in the morning, do my classes, and repeat. I find that when I get into this routine, taking a day off breaks it, and it takes another week to build it back up.

    So, in short, I take a break in the summer, and during Christmas when I'm not doing a recital back home.

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