This approach might seem like a disadvantage. Because I work on everything every day, I am limited to how much I can handle each day. Wouldn't it be nice to be working on more music? This approach, however, assures a kind of self-censorship, and it keeps me from biting off more than I can chew.
I don't recall my teacher discussing when to take time off. Time off is a really healthy thing, and we musicians can become unhealthily obsessed with our work. When I entered Yale, I was used to practicing nearly six hours a day. But when it came time to dole out the practice room schedule, my teacher Richard Rephann said three hours per person would probably be enough. I was shocked! Maybe Richard was telling us something about quality over quantity. At that time, three hours a day felt like nothing, and I must have felt that I was on permanent vacation.
Since then, I've come to respect the need for a day or even days without practice. At the
|A nice practice room.|
Once the academic year recommences, my schedule becomes such that I will be forced to have days away from the instrument. I'll also have concerts, and these can force mandatory intensive practice on days that I would rather have off.
The pianist Arthur Rubinstein is attributed to the comment that if he missed a day of
practice, he noticed; if he missed two days, the critics noticed; and if he missed three days, the audience noticed. If I'm preparing a recital, I turn to Rubinstein's wisdom. I never like to take time off when a recital is just a few days away.
But when working in the early stages of memorization, I don't think that one needs to be so dogmatic. In fact, time away from the instrument helps music grow internally. It also helps to rekindle the passion for the repertoire.
I'm writing this post on a day off. Yesterday, my work on the third movement of Bach's D minor Concerto went very well--so well, in fact, that I imagined it would be ready to go within a week or so. Last night, I woke up around 1am, and, as a means to help me fall back to sleep, I started mentally working my way through that movement. Before I fell asleep again, I got hung up somewhere around my L landmark, and I realized that the piece still needs more mental work with the score before I can run the entire movement in my mind.
When I return to practice tomorrow, you can be assured that I will be strongly motivated to fix that L landmark. My day off was planned before my sleepless memory lapse, but having this day off is helping me to process any impatience I have in the learning of the Bach. Being away from the instrument today is making me excited about tomorrow's practice session. Indeed, I'm even getting excited as I write about it! The Bach is close, but forcing the issue by working in a dogmatic, non-stop way is not going to get me to where I need to be. A day off is a nice tonic.
Do you take days off? How often? What's your practice schedule like? Leave your comments here!