Returning From a Break Better Than Ever 4 Tips That Can Help Us Return to Our Instruments After Breaks

It’s inevitable that all of us are forced to take breaks from our instruments at some point – either for health reasons, financial reasons, life events or other reasons. These breaks often create a lot of doubt and hesitation about ramping things up once again. It’s natural to become overwhelmed by what we have forgotten, how bad and uncooperative our technique has become and how bored we will become in working back to where we once were.
Returning from a break
After going through this process several times myself as well as seeing many students struggle with this over the years, there are a few things that seem to always help the process. At this point in my life, I actually look at coming back from breaks as an opportunity to emerge way beyond where I was before stopping my practice and playing. I’ve seen this happen with several students as well.

Here are a few things that can help make the process of returning enjoyable and inspiring rather than overwhelming and frustrating:

  • New Material – One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made is to review things when I come back from a break. This is so unnecessary and possibly harmful to our psyche. It’s best to start with new material. Even if you have to perform old material in the future, find new material to help you get back into the swing of things. Look at the situation as an opportunity to explore concepts you’ve felt were uncomfortable. This will help you become fully engaged and not constantly comparing the post-break you to the pre-break you. It will also build confidence as you begin to improve on things that have previously been challenging. After all, improving on new material will only benefit old repertoire you need to return to.
  • Listen – Set out on a quest to find new music that gets you excited to return to your instrument. When we hear new artists, new music and new movements in music then we get the bug to ramp things back up. Listen to artists in all genres, explore names you hear tossed around in conversations and articles to see what you think of them. It’s amazing how often this leads to a renewed feeling around playing music.
  • New Collaborations – If you begin listening to new music and practicing new material, it’s only natural to collaborate with new artists. Go online or to live performances of some of the new sounds your exploring and reach out to people who would inspire you.
  • Long-term Vision – I always remind myself and my students that music is a lifetime of evolution with no finish line. Use these so-called “setbacks” to your advantage. It’s a chance to renew and help your evolution in the long-term. Even students who had to stop because of personal emergencies have said in retrospect that they were glad they had to take the time off because it opened them up to more musical possibilities.

Long breaks can be frustrating because they are often out of our control. But we can use them as golden opportunities to come out the other end recharged and sounding better than ever.

What are your favorite ways to come out of breaks?