How do you take a break from music?

Hey Folks, It’s been quite awhile since I’ve visited the site and got to wondering what others do to take a break from music for any myriad of reasons, ie: frustration, writers block, too many life happenings all at once etc. Looking forward to your responses :-}

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When I get tired of music, or feel it is becoming a chore, or get blocked, I do something else for a while.

“For a while” means I set a period of time (usually no more than 2-3 weeks) before I check back in. This keeps all momentum from evaporating, and helps me get motivated to actively “refill the tank”.

Something else means actively avoiding the areas where I feel fatigue, which is usually trying to compose or write songs.

Ways I can “refill the inspiration tank”:

  • Watching a movie (really watching it, not with phone/laptop!), particularly something I have never seen (and usually something old)
  • Reading a book
  • Hanging out with/lunch/dinner/Zoom with friends
  • Exercising
  • Being in nature
  • Being in a different environment (this could be a day trip somewhere, or a long weekend, or a vacation)
  • Visiting art museums
  • Writing (words, not music or lyrics)

…and then I come back and get started again. Sometimes I will write some throwaway stuff first, or something in a different genre.

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Like Anu, I find music making to be very momentum dependent, for better and worse.

Most of my adult life I’ve have a “small music practice” that I engage in during the morning. This can be very small, like improvising piano for 20 min while drinking coffee. Ideally this is totally disconnected from “ambitions” (like producing tracks). It is just a form of self-care and maintenance rather than a productivity hack. I like it because it puts music first and “sets the stage” — making it more frictionless to return to music later in the day.

My motivation for bigger projects ebbs and flows. I see that as natural. I spent a lot of years pushing through the ebbs for productivity’s sake and found it to be counter productive. Sort of like training the wrong muscle. I tend to naturally go “all in” on projects, so any artificial pushing on top ends up misguided and unsustainable.

Similarly, I find pushing while in a rut to be counter productive. It ignores an opportunity for actual growth. It’s like traveling past a well-marked “dead end” street sign. Instead of stopping, pulling out the map, figuring out where you actually want to be going (this can take time) and taking steps to go there (this can take effort). So taking a break can be the more difficult, higher effort route (especially for the ego).

Whenever I feel dissatisfied, I try to take a decent break from the urge to be productive. It can be days, weeks, months before that “natural” motivation comes again. It feels right to respect that phase of the creative process. And I know I can rely on my “small music practice” as the gateway back into larger projects (when I’m interested again).

There are always fears involved (losing chops, losing identity, losing momentum, losing confidence) — but each time I take a break, I’m rewarded with renewed perspective and new interests. These end up being crucial and defining the next phase of music making. And nothing is lost…