Not long back, I had a break of several weeks from playing the guitar. I don’t get that much time to devote to practise anyway. Really just a few minutes at the end of the day at the moment.
I’d been butting heads with a couple of tricky pieces (for me anyway) and so decided to park it for a bit and do something else. Watch films, clean the car, load some ammo, God forbid, even just sleep. Anything but go over and over the same troublesome musical phrases.
After my break, I’d been quite concerned that what I’d learned would have evaporated or that I’d have to backtrack several months in order to catch up.
Weirdly, I found the opposite to be true. I went back fresh into what I’d been learning and, instead of getting to those knotty bits in the music and falling over, I found that they pretty much just trotted out as though I’d been doing them for decades.
This is apparently something well known to musicians. Not just retained muscle memory, but an entirely different function of the human brain; it seems to go on working on problems in the background.
I guess that’s why it’s often better to sleep on a difficult decision or other issue that you can’t resolve by stressing about it and getting nowhere.
I’m not suggesting for a minute that I did sod all practice and then woke up one morning and found I had the hands of David Russell, but it was an important lesson that sometimes you’re just meant to leave something be and allow it to percolate.
After all, music is meant to be fun isn’t it?