As regular readers of this blog will know I’ve recently been away on my holidays, visiting good ol’ Blightly (my mother country). And this was a holiday away from the guitar as much as anything else too.
Yes, believe it or not, there are times when I’m not playing guitar. This particular time I did have access to a guitar (I choose not to fly with my guitar if I can at all help it), courtesy of my brother in the UK, however, I think it is extremely important – just once or twice a year – to step away from the guitar completely for one, two or even three weeks.
Why is this?
Well, if you’re practicing and playing (or even teaching) on a regular (i.e. daily or more or less daily basis) then some downtime gives you a physical break from the rigours of that daily playing. Downtime, especially after an exam or other big performance, allows the fingers, hands, arms, shoulders and so on an opportunity to rest and recuperate.
If you’re practicing and playing regularly, taking a break of week or two is really not going to impact on your development. In fact, it’s likely to have the opposite effect. Rather like a professional athlete, who cannot maintain the same level and intensity of physical training throughout the year – this would almost certainly lead to injury and fatigue. We guitarists also need to take some time out.
Stepping back from your guitar for a week or two can also provide a mental rest. We all know that when we’re learning something new, and even when we’re working on something tried and true, it takes a fair amount of concentration, mental effort and energy to learn, prepare and play a piece of music.
So putting the guitar down for a little while can help you to refresh and recharge the mental batteries, giving you renewed energy and vigour for playing and moving on with your playing. Stepping back from the guitar for a time can also help you to see the woods for the trees with regard to a piece or pieces you’re learning or have even been playing for a while. When we’re playing the same things day in, day out we can run the risk of becoming that bit too close, too immersed in something that we may miss something, be that voicings, fingerings, notes in a chord, musical direction or whatever. A little bit of distance from the music for a while can sometimes help see and hear things in a different light.
And you may also surprise yourself, as I certainly did yesterday. Picking up my guitar yesterday for the first time really in three weeks and set about playing a piece I’d started to learn a couple of weeks before I went on holidays – I was very pleasantly surprised to find the piece a whole lot easier to play than I’d previously felt it to be (or recalled it to feel like). So along with some physical and mental rest time, I’d allowed my brain to stew on the information I’d been feeding it in the preceeding weeks.
So, whilst your fingers may feel a little like you’ve had a couple of pints before sitting down to play in that couple of days after your holiday (that will soon disappear), I’d strongly recommend taking a look at your schedule and programming in some rest from the guitar – it will do your playing a world of good!