Seasoned musicians understand the value of hard work. We spend years in the practice room diligently refining our craft by drilling countless exercises, transcribing our favourite solos, and writing songs. Day after day, we put in the work so we can play and perform at a high level.
But an essential component is missing in the lives of many musicians: Rest.
Our musical ambitions drive us to work constantly, and as a result, rest can be seen as a waste of time, a distraction from music, and even, for some, a sign of weakness.
The truth, though, is that rest is an absolute necessity if you want to make progress as a musician.
In their book Peak Performance, Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness introduce what they call the growth equation:
Stress + Rest = Growth
We accomplish the stress part of this equation when we are focused deeply in our practicing or creating, specifically when we push ourselves just beyond our current abilities (what Brad and Steve call “just-manageable challenges”). With the correct amount of this positive stress, our musical skills improve.
But excessive and chronic stress without the appropriate amount of rest will lead to burnout or even serious injury. It is through rest that we are able to recuperate mentally and physically, and then push ourselves even further.
We need to recognize rest as vital to our musical lives, and actively disconnect from our work for varying periods of time as part of a healthy and balanced routine.
Schedule short breaks between practice sessions to recharge and feel refreshed for your next session. Consider giving yourself a rest day each week, where you take a day off from, or reduce the intensity of, your musical activities. Longer stretches of time off (a week or more) can also be incredibly beneficial and rejuvenating, especially after periods of high intensity practice or creativity.
Sleep is another crucial form of rest, and should be prioritized if you want to get the most out of your music time. Do whatever you can to get as much sleep as you require to feel your best, and make sure it’s of a high quality. This will allow you to show up each and every day feeling alert and ready to focus on the next challenge.
Rest doesn’t detract from our musical experience, despite what we might think; it actually enhances it. By giving our minds and bodies a break, we can maintain a lifetime of musical growth, creativity, and enjoyment.