I just had a great winter holiday last week in the Lapland of Finland. The purpose of holiday is to relax and give your mind a break from work and everyday life. But then there is the question whether musicians can have a completely play free holidays?
I think the answer is both yes and no. It depends on the situation. I have heard that some musicians say they never skip a day and perhaps the Christmas Eve is the only day you may let your instrument stay in the case. The argument for this is that you have to keep up the skill. And for sure you can notice the difference even after few days. After a week or even a longer period the first time of playing is suffering.
However, I find that it is perfectly fine to give your body and mind the rest. In sports science theory I have learned about supercompensation. It means that the body is developing during the rest and you can actually achieve better results after having enough rest between the training. Playing instruments are also physical and I am sure supercompensation applies in music field as well.
Have you ever had an ear worm of a piece you are practicing? As I see it, when something gets stuck in your head it means your brain is actually practicing it whether you wanted or not. So if I have something really tricky to practice I am always happy to notice that I am humming it after a practicing session.
In my opinion, it is sometimes good to have even one day break every week form playing. And not feel guilty about it but enjoy other things in your life. Of course, if you really feel like the playing is the best thing ever and you enjoy it so much that you want to use all your free time with it, go ahead. I just have found so many fascinating activities that I have difficulties to choose what to do on my free time.
So here I have basically told you reasons why I think it is completely fine to leave your instrument to cool down for holiday time. And whenever I fly somewhere I try to take as little luggage with me as possible and my instrument is not part of that list. However, for my winter holiday I decided to take my instrument with me and spend some time with it everyday. Why then?
First of all, we were travelling by car. And since we anyway took all the winter and skiing gear I thought that my instrument doesn’t really take that much space in the car. The second reason was that we stayed in a detached house so I wouldn’t bother anyone else but my companion with my playing. I have actually never got any complaint about my playing. I have even played in a hotel little bit. But anyway it is better to know that there is no one to get frustrated.
Then there is the motivation. If I don’t have any motivation why would I play? I have lost my motivation with playing couple of times and it took me a while to get back to it. I just didn’t see the point. Now my motivation is high. I am working as a musician. And we have a concert coming next week. We had a really busy week before the holiday week and I could only concentrate on that program. I also knew that this coming program is very demanding. In addition, my facial muscles were feeling really tired and even hurting a little bit. I almost got a time for a VoiceWell treatment. It is a massage therapy directly for the muscles of face and mouth and neck and it is really suitable for wind musicians and singers. So what would happen if I didn’t play at all during my holiday?
I would come back to work and probably my face would be all relaxed but at work I should start to play immediately just like before the holidays. You know how it feels if you haven’t done gym training for a while and then make a really hard training. Your muscles get all tired and hurting the next day. There should be time to play little bit and then give a break and add the amount of playing slowly. At work it is not usually possible. I also wouldn’t know the program so I would try to learn everything at once and that causes me a lot of stress every time. I feel I need to get to know the pieces slowly and find out what are the sections I need to practice more. And if I try to stuff it all in my mind I won’t remember it very well. It is just too much. My brain needs the rest and “earworming” for learning. Also if I get stressed out because there is too little time to practice, it will slow down my learning even more.
So I made a plan for my holiday playing. I would use about one hour every day and concentrate on one piece at the time. Well, my plan didn’t quite fulfill, but it was supposed to be not a very strict plan as well as our other holiday plans. We spent two days travelling to our destination and back and those days I didn’t play. Third day I might have played even two hours and used more time to one piece than I thought I would. And played the same piece next day. Then there was one day we spent some time with me relatives and it took more time we planned and I decided it was too late to start practicing. But anyway I played and learned and felt like I could keep some touch with playing so it was easier to get back to work. Yet I had enough time for skiing and enjoying the magic of Lapland too.
Hopefully I will get that time for the VoiceWell treatment soon!
I wish you all stress free days!