can you take a break from music lessons?

Insider Secrets: Can You Take a Break from Music Lessons?

Insider Secrets: Can You Take a Break from Music Lessons?

The sun is finally shining, school is out, and the temptation to skip a few music lessons is tugging at the back of your mind. You’re wondering: 

“Is it okay to take a break from music lessons?” 

Our expert music instructors put their heads together to discuss what happens when students take a break from lessons—and what they recommend doing instead. Here’s what you need to know about taking breaks from practicing music. 

music lessons break

Why You May Consider Taking a Break From Attending Lessons

Sometimes, life gets in the way, or you might feel physically or mentally exhausted. Other times, there’s just more tempting things to do (vacations on the beach, anyone?!) These moments might make you consider taking a short (or extended) break from your music lessons. 

What Happens When You Take A Break From Music Lessons

When musicians take a break from practicing and attending lessons at the same time, several things can happen that might impact their skills and performance. 

Experiencing the “Summer Slide”

Just as students may experience a “summer slide” in their academic abilities, musicians can encounter a similar decline in their musical skills after a prolonged break. This phenomenon is particularly noticeable in younger musicians who cease practicing during school vacations. 

The absence of regular practice can lead to a deterioration in the ability to read music, interpret rhythms, and execute complex compositions. Musicians may find that they’re not as sharp or as agile with their instruments, and the quality of their performance may suffer as a result.

Fading Muscle Memory

Muscle memory plays a crucial role in music. It allows musicians to perform their instruments without consciously thinking about each motion. Regular practice helps to reinforce these muscle memories, making the physical act of playing an instrument feel more natural. 

However, taking a break can cause these memories to fade. For string players, finger placement becomes less precise; for wind instrument players, embouchure strength wanes; and for pianists, hand coordination may slip. You invested time and money in these skills—protect them!

Losing Out on Hard-Earned Habitual Discipline

Consistency is key in music training. Regular practice helps establish a routine that, over time, becomes second nature. This discipline includes setting up practice schedules, adhering to structured exercises, and continuously setting and achieving goals. 

When musicians take a break, not only is the discipline of practicing disrupted, but your hard-earned habit of practice is broken. Studies suggest it takes a month or more to develop a habit—and you can lose a good habit just as easily. 

music lessons summer slide

What To Do Instead Of Taking A Break From Music Lessons

Whatever the reason may be for pondering a break in your musical practice routine, here’s what you should do instead of taking a break. 

Set a reasonable and realistic time frame for practice. 

Opt for manageable bursts of practice. For young musicians, 5-10 minutes of practice a few days per week is a great place to start. For older musicians, a few swift 30-minute sessions each week will help you nail those tricky chords or perfect a soulful melody. 

Alternatively, you could take a break from practicing music at home, but still attend lessons. Attending lessons allows musicians to maintain their skills without succumbing to fading muscle memory even if practice at home falls by the wayside. 

Engage in other hobbies between lessons and practice sessions. 

Keep those creative juices flowing–in unexpected ways! Activities like drawing, reading, or other brain-tickling activities are like cross-training for your musical muscles, keeping you creatively agile. You’ll return to your instrument feeling good as new. 

Enroll in a Musical Summer Camp

Turn up the tempo on your summer with a musical summer camp. Summer camps are the perfect compromise between enjoying a summer break and still continuing to grow your musical skills. Most camps include other kinds of activities, too, including outdoor time and crafts, so there’s no such thing as, “I’m bored!” 

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How To Maintain Your Musical Skills Between Lessons

If extenuating circumstances demand that you miss a lesson, then here are a few tips to keep your skills sharp. 

Listen to music and analyze.

Listening to music and analyzing musical passages can keep your mind engaged with music. It helps maintain your analytical skills and deepens your understanding of music theory. 

For instance, you could listen to a symphony by Beethoven and dissect its structure, themes, and motifs, or analyze a jazz solo to understand its improvisational techniques.

Try some visualization techniques.

Visualize yourself playing your instrument or singing to reinforce muscle memory and technique without physical practice. 

For example, mentally rehearse a piano piece by visualizing your fingers moving across the keys, or imagine singing a challenging aria, focusing on breath control and phrasing. If can’t make a sound late at night or early in the morning, ghost play on your keys or strings.

Bring an instrument along with you. 

If you’re heading out on a road trip, consider packing your instrument so you practice while you’re away. Set aside a few minutes to practice each day, or consider booking an online music lesson.  

You might not be able to bring along a guitar on the airplane when you leave town, but what about a ukulele? Pianists can download keyboard apps on their phones to practice new chords. Where there’s a will to keep skills sharp, there’s a way! 

break from music lessons

Returning To Your Regular Practice Routine 

Once your vacation comes to an end and you’re ready to return to your regular musical practice routine, here are a few tips to make the transition smoother. 

Gradually increase practice time and intensity.

Do: Start with shorter, less intense, regular practice sessions and gradually build up to your usual routine to avoid injury and burnout.

Don’t: Jump straight back into long, intense practice sessions, as this can lead to strain and frustration.

Assess any setbacks or loss of skills.

Do: Take time to assess your current skill level and identify areas that need improvement to focus your practice effectively. Consider booking an extra lesson or two to make up for lost time. 

Don’t: Ignore any setbacks or expect to be at your peak immediately, as this can lead to disappointment and hinder progress.

Seek guidance from music teachers and specialists. 

Do: Reach out to your music teacher for advice on how to best resume your practice and address any challenges.

Don’t: Try to go it alone without professional guidance, as this can result in bad habits or inefficient practice techniques.

Keep Your Musicianship Sharp: Book A Lesson Today!

A bit of expert guidance could be just the thing you need to stay focused and keep your skills at their peak. Our experienced music instructors can guide you through effective practice routines year-round. Book a music lesson today!