Taking Breaks..

December 11, 2006 at 11:04 PM · I've come to the conclusion that I'm a bit stressed out from the combination of playing and school. With my semester of college coming to an end, I decided to take some time off the instrument and enjoy my free time since I've made progress during the semester. Are there any benefits in taking a break for at least a week or two? I know I sound a bit crazy for this question. I just figure it would take some of the intensity away..

Replies (21)

December 11, 2006 at 11:52 PM · I've found that taking a break can be beneficial. In my case, some of my breaks have been much longer than anyone would recommend, but it always does have a way of freeing up my playing. If there's something in the way you play that is building up tension, it also gives your body a chance to heal. Sometimes after my body is more relaxed and healed, I find that tackling some technical problem can sometimes works better.

December 11, 2006 at 11:49 PM · I definitely find benefits in taking time away from any activity to which I devote significant focus. Even a few days' break lets you come back feeling fresher, especially if you're coming back to a new project you're looking forward to starting. I've also found that taking a longer break can help with correcting incorrect technique habits--it's easier to break a bad habit if you've taken a little space away.

I'm also a big advocate of practicing in a focused way. Less practice more focused is far better than hours of unfocused practice, whether due to stress or fatigue. So if you're feeling the need to step away for a short time, it may be better to do so--as long as you can afford to at the present time.

That said, make sure you don't get into the "two days become three, four days become a week, a week becomes two" kind of mindset. Set a definite date you will start again, and a specific task/duration of practice you will do that day, to make sure that you don't postpone your re-entry into practicing.

Hope this all helps!

December 11, 2006 at 11:51 PM · I've taken these kind of breaks, I think three in my life. I've been happy each time afterwards. I don't know if my playing is better for it, or worse, but I needed the break each time.

Once you make the decision, enjoy the break. If you can't make the decision to enjoy it, then you won't... and you probably didn't need it so much anyway.

December 11, 2006 at 11:58 PM · Greetings,

Menuhin recommeded one dya off a week. The same recommendation appears in Burton Kaplan`s book. I think there is quite a lot of research supporting the idea that one can learn more if you give the body time to assimilate the information it has been cramme diwth for the preceding six days.

Its certainly extremely helathy in allowing muscles to stretch, unwind and do somethign different.

I don`t necessarily think it has to be that speciifc. If one listens to ones body it probably comes up within a ten day range. This listening to the body is importnat. Violinists are pretty compulsive and it is very hard to take stock and just let yourslef have a litlt espace away from music even though your body is screaming for it. One of the problems we face is that most people have a specific scedule for getting lessons (excluding Nathan -Cole a sopposed to Milstein, although the latter is probably not working too hard these days ) so of cours ewe -have to practice- in the run up and the day after we are hopefully inspired etc etc. Then there are all those gigs to prepare for...

I think it may be a very useful experiemnt for most players to take one dya off a weke for two months and try to honestly assess the effect it has. For some it may need some tweaking, for others it may be about right. But i think many people will find that in the long run it is much mroe beneficial than those lost eight hours of practicing sevcik.



December 12, 2006 at 12:54 AM · I find that anything longer than a week is a bit indulgent for me, and I generally can't stay away from the violin for more than a few days. But a week off wouldn't be so bad if you are feeling stressed out. If you do take time off, you should probably decide ahead of time exactly how much you want to take, and don't go any longer than you think is necessary.

In my honest opinion, taking a couple days off here and there is okay, but if you are feeling kind of run down on the violin, maybe it's because of practicing the same rep over and over? Instead of taking time off, my instinct would be to play old repertoire that I enjoy or start a new piece that I really wanted to learn.

Anyway, have a good break if you do decide to take one. And above all, don't feel guilty if you decide to take time off, because if you do, you won't even enjoy it.

December 12, 2006 at 02:17 AM · one has to treat serious violinists like serious athletes (with a brain, maybe ?). the wear and tear on the body and soul :) can be scarring if there is no chance to recharge and heal. even athletes do cross training of some sort to complement and give certain body parts a break.

on the day off, you must watch youtube clips.:)

December 12, 2006 at 03:47 AM · I recently took a week off for the first time in three years. I take a day off every few weeks too. The benefit of taking a week off is that you kind of forget any bad habits, or at least it is much easier to break them. This means that the first couple days back you really focus on the fundamentals, like how you hold the violin, left hand position, bow grip and simple motions, relaxation, finger pressure, and vibrato... pretty much anything you normally don't think too much about and take for granted. I found that I was able to shake my bad habits, and in a couple days regain everything that was sound and solid in my technique before the break.

December 12, 2006 at 04:27 AM · Hey Rafe,

I'm in the exact same boat as you! When I was an undergrad, I used to be crazy and almost never take breaks..As I've become more secure in my playing, I've felt that I can afford to take a week off during my semester breaks. This is not to say that I don't occasionally take a day off, every now and then. I've also found that during these times of vacation, my body and mind both recover from the stresses and strains of everyday playing. That way when I want to get back into the swing of things, I'm refreshed physically, mentally, and spiritually.


December 12, 2006 at 04:35 AM · Wow that's interesting stuff. IMO practicing is like fitness. The more you practice perfectly the more fit you are. I do feel comfortable enough taking just one week off, since I'm not having any lessons till the spring semester. I mean, it would make me see what life would be like away from the violin (like a normal person's life hah!). Of course I was kidding, we are all normal people.

December 12, 2006 at 04:41 AM · Taking a break has been beneficial to me.

December 12, 2006 at 05:16 AM · Greetings,

Rafe, you said:

>IMO practicing is like fitness. The more you practice perfectly the more fit you are.

But that is also open to question to some degree. I think you are right to stress perfection of practice in the same way one has to learn how to do a sport technique safetly and correctly. But, good practitioners of sports (equaitng this with fitness) are veyr insistent on the need for regular time out for the system to de stress and relax. People who are into fitness and never stopping often appear in great shape on the surfac eand then collapse suddenly as their immune system is very compormised by the pace.Meditation for example, woudl significantly enhance the whole system between bouts of training. Its interesting, with some people you have to put the breaks on or they spin off the planet . The opposite end of the spectrum is much more likely to be a couch potato. I occupy that space quite comfortably



December 12, 2006 at 05:17 AM · I love breaks! in fact - I've got one coming up - only 5 days to go :)

Seriously, I'd go crazy if I couldn't take a week or two off every now and then.

December 12, 2006 at 04:58 PM · I just took a week-long break out of the country, where I could not take my violin. the first few days were fine, but then I began having dreams about the violin, lessons and so on, and by the last three days I could think of nothing else but to return to the violin. and now I'm back, and I feel like i've suffered some trauma. haha, i'm sure it Is beneficial, but not without an element of frustration to it.

December 12, 2006 at 06:40 PM · Taking breaks, such as in your case, may be good mentally. Though if you feel the hankering to play during break, go ahead and do it! :)

December 12, 2006 at 11:07 PM · Today is was the first day I started studying again after a 6 day break.I don't do it often but only when I feel that I need it,or when I start to feel really stressed..It is a little bit weird to my hands when I play again but after 2 or 3 days my hands get used to playing again...It helped me a lot,today I studyed feeling fresh!

December 15, 2006 at 09:40 PM · yup sometimes. you can over analyse a piece too much anf forget the magic, leaving it can be great. I recently got very sick of the bach i was working on (and accidentally lost the sheet music!), so didnt play it for 3 months, came back and played it faaaar better than i ever had before, and within a week it was concert standard.

Sometimes, instead of taking a day off playing, i take a day off regular practice, and play through some old repertoire for fun, sometimes really easy stuff from years and years back, to keep it polished and keep me sharp. Also often gives me great ideas as to how to interpret current repertoire.

December 15, 2006 at 11:11 PM · That reminds me there is more than one kind of break. I had a little slurred passage at the end of Suzuki 1 (f3 was involved and recouperating) that I finally just quit trying--I went back to it a few nights ago, and whalah!.

But, I'm not sure I know how to take a real break. I did learn that at least twice a week I'm just going to play for pleasure--which is a sort of break.

I can't imagine a day not playing.

December 15, 2006 at 11:42 PM · Grainne makes a point I had forgotten about, a break from concentrated practice but not from playing. I believe that playing for fun is a necessary, not an optional, component even during a serious practice routine. In the end, even the serious playing needs to have that fun element.

December 16, 2006 at 04:43 AM · Greetings,

Nathan I`m not sure if it is a case of in the end. Reason I mention it is I`m thinking of that Czech psychologist Czikszentmihalyi who specilaizes in the `flow and peak perfroamcne.` He argues that unless fun is -always- part of the skill getting time then we are not workign at optimum learning rate. I have , i think, successfully applied this as a language teacher- I have yet to figure out how it applies to getting a Paginini concerto ready on 24 hours notice ;)



December 16, 2006 at 04:59 AM · Fun--yes.... I'm weird--exercises are even fun... So I have to have versions of that too... But playing--that's the best fun I suppose. And after I've been on a program for a few weeks, sometimes have to stop and think about the things I really love to play (air on g-string, uh....), because I was having 'too much' fun ;) and had to start developing disciplined programs.

Anyway, there is all kinds of support for the idea of a break being good, from religion to Jung, from Russian Superlearning techniques to Suzuki, from 'laying in' after the crops are in to sports psychology...

Someday, I'll figure it all out.

December 16, 2006 at 06:55 AM · The sports mention is appropriate, as I first became conscious of this element after reading the Inner Game of Golf (very influential violin book for me). Gallwey talks about the performance triangle, made of equal parts:




For us, that means 1/3 "testing" ourselves by playing under performance conditions; 1/3 using various practice techniques to overcome obstacles; and 1/3 playing for the fun of it.

When I was younger, I bet at least 1/3 of my time was spent playing for the fun of it. Professional constraints have lessened that time I think, but I still include it as an important part of my practice. I discover things that would never have come to light under the strict constraints of the other 2/3 of practice.

The same can be true of total breaks, but it's a little like trusting yourself to solve problems while you sleep. The solutions come sometimes, but always unbidden!

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