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Taking breaks while practicing: Unlocking the key to efficient learning

Practicing an instrument is a journey of continuous improvement. While common advice often includes playing as much as you can, an often overlooked aspect is the importance of taking breaks while practicing. Let’s explore how incorporating breaks into your practice routine can be a game-changer in your quest to get better faster.

How it works: The brain's role in practice efficiency

a musical note

Contrary to the notion that practicing an instrument continuously leads to enhanced learning, studies suggest that taking a break is highly beneficial for the brain. In fact, researchers found that most improvements happened during short breaks, not during practice sessions themselves. What’s more, these microbreaks have been shown to significantly boost performance levels.

When you practice an instrument, your brain is working at full capacity, absorbing new information, refining muscle memory, and strengthening neural connections. However, this process has limits, and without breaks, the brain's ability to retain and process information diminishes. Taking breaks while practicing allows your brain to consolidate what it has learned, making your subsequent practice sessions more effective.

Get some rest: Incorporating breaks into your practice routine

In the world of music, breaks are akin to musical rests. Just as a quarter note rest punctuates a musical piece, taking a break from practice punctuates your learning journey. What’s more, whole note rests, or longer breaks where you step away from your instrument, allow your mind to refresh and reset. It's during these moments that your brain continues to process and integrate the information gained during your practice session.

To make the most of your break time, consider using a musician's practice planner. This tool is great for planning your practice sessions, giving your brain a rest when it needs it and helping you keep things organized and efficient.

The journey to mastering an instrument involves not just practicing but also knowing when to pause. So, the next time you pick up your violin or cello, remember that a well-timed break might just be the key to unlocking your musical potential.

Additional Resources

Carriage House Violins

Located in Newton, Massachusetts, Carriage House Violins is the instrument sales division of Johnson String Instrument.

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Johnson String Project

A charitable foundation whose goal is to provide high-quality instruments to children who live in under-served communities and who are participating in El-Sistema-inspired programs in Massachusetts.

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