You’ve heard me talk a lot about keeping a consistent routine. I still stand by that claim but today I want to talk about the importance of breaks. With the Christmas and New Year holidays right around the corner, this is a great time to take a break from the normal routine. This is true for our work and school schedules and it is true for our piano studies too.
There is a well-known quote from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, “The music is not in the notes but in the silence in between.”
Mr. Mozart may have been talking about the important use of rests and pauses between musical phrases but I’d like to use his quote as a springboard for the topic of taking breaks from time to time in your piano studies.
There are many occasions for taking a break from the normal routine: school semesters, weekends, coffee breaks, free days on a healthy eating regimen.
One technic for taking breaks while working on a major project or studying for finals is called the Pomodoro Technique. In the Pomodoro Technique, a simple timer is used to alert you to take a short break after working for a period of time. Taking a short break helps your brain rest and come back to the project with new vigor.
Breaks are beneficial for piano
My piano studio follows school semesters: fall and spring. Each semester consists of 16 teaching weeks.
Finish line for goals – Lessons based on a determined amount of time allows for students to set goals and deadlines for reaching those goals. Once the time period is done, students can celebrate their achievements and re-evaluate their goals. Some goals my students worked on this past fall semester were the Texas Music Teacher theory exam, East Texas Music Teacher Fall Festival, Piano Caroling, Jingle Bells variations, etc.
Energized to start new – After a short break, students are energized to begin a fresh new semester with new goals to aim toward. Similar to New Year’s Resolutions in January, a new period of study helps students to be motivated to keep working and learning and improving their piano skills.
This article from April 2017 Psychology Today gives more interesting explanations about the benefits of taking breaks. The author, Meg Selig, says that breaks restore motivation, especially for long-term goals. She also states that breaks increase productivity and creativity. Productivity and creativity are two vital aspects of playing the piano.
Allow students to simply enjoy their piano skills – Taking a break from the constant pursuit of new and more challenging music enables students to enjoy the piano skills they have mastered. Isn’t that why they are studying piano in the first place? In my studio, students are able to borrow sight reading books to play music that they can master on their own. In December, students have been borrowing loads of Christmas books. Playing familiar tunes that are arranged slightly easier than their current playing ability helps give students a confidence boost. They are able to play more music and practice the piano skills they have worked so hard to learn.
Don’t abandon piano completely!
A break from the routine doesn’t mean you don’t touch the piano at all. Use this time to play old pieces that used to be too hard or try new pieces or be creative with music you’ve learned.
These episodes might give you some ideas for things to play during your break:
Here is a free resource for you with suggestions for practice during the Christmas break. You are welcome to follow the practice suggestions in order or jump around in any order. You can even add your own practice suggestions!
Download this FREE practicing resource: What to do during the Christmas break
Speaking of breaks….
There will not be a new podcast episode on December 25 or January 1. I will be enjoying a break myself and spending time with my family and hope you will be able to do the same.
If you would like something to listen to, you might consider these top episodes from 2017:
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