I’ve previously mentioned my fondness for taking breaks after busy periods of preparation and performance. In day-to-day practicing and reed-making, hard work must be balanced with equally “intense” relaxation. This is also true on a larger scale, and given that I played my last notes for some time just a few days ago, this seems like a good time to discuss the benefits of putting the instrument away for extended periods.
I love taking time off. I just think it’s healthy, not only physically, but mentally. As hard as I try to make it otherwise, my day-to-day musical successes and failures inevitably come to define how I perceive myself over time. I find myself measuring my self-worth by my musical progress, which is fundamentally nonlinear, inconsistent, and subjective.
By contrast, when I allow myself time away from the instrument, I am reminded what it’s like to be a “real person.” I relearn that the instrument does not define who I am—that I’m a person separate from the trials and tribulations of making music. And when I eventually return to the instrument, after a brief period of awkward reacquaintance, I find that tension that gradually built up over time has dissipated and my passion for making music has been replenished.
After all, who doesn’t treasure the rare occasion in which we can fly without taking our instrument along? Who doesn’t enjoy taking a night (or a week) to actually socialize, particularly with (perish the thought) non-musicians? Who doesn’t feel a palpable sense of relief when we release ourselves from the grip of practice guilt?
Of course, everyone is different. For a lot of people, “taking time off” means practicing a little bit every day. Perhaps you like to only play every other day. Different instruments have different physical demands, which affects the amount of time those respective instrumentalists can comfortably take off without losing significant ground. Regardless of the specific form a break takes, I do feel strongly that taking time to relax and replenish is vital to one’s mental and musical health.
I’m very much looking forward to my bassoon’s reemergence when I’m refreshed and ready to tackle the challenges of the rest of the summer and the season to come. But for now, I’m delighted to bid it farewell.
(I’ll keep blogging, though.)