Does anyone else sometimes feel like some time AWAY from the guitar can help their playing?

#1

I was out of town much of last week, in Tucson AZ biking up and down as many mountains as I could on my road bike, without a guitar. I got in late last night, but managed to get in a little bit of playing last night, and then a few minutes this morning before leaving for work.

My picking felt on point, completely locked in and in the pocket and smooth, way better than it had felt after rather a lot of practice at the start of the week before I left. While this isn’t the first time I’ve had this experience, it was kind of striking, and got me thinking.

Anyone else had this experience? Behaviorally, is there anything to be said for this, that sometimes you need to get away from something for a little while to really let a series of mechanical movements click? I’m sure I’ll feel less supehuman in a few days so maybe it was just forgetting how hyper-critical I’ve been being about my own playing or something, but I really feel like my playing was objectively better than it was before I left.

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#2

I definitely agree, I’ve had this experience so many times that I feel there has to be something to it. It’s similar to how you build muscle between workouts at the gym. I try to take one day off a week from guitar and find my feel improves as a result. I got this tip from a classical guitarist who despite being a virtuoso’s virtuoso never practiced more than 5-6 days a week and would often take a week or so off around the major US holidays if I remember correctly.

#3

Not the same experience you mentioned - my technique usually gets worse after time off. But, sometimes time off, results in me writing better songs when I return, especially if I listen to music that I like a lot but for some reason haven’t listened to in a long time while I’m on “vacation.”

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#4

I mean, from a mechanical and muscular standpoint we’re talking very different things… but maybe “rest days” DO matter on guitar.

God knows I’m taking a cycling rest day, I rode almost 190 miles and 19,000 feet of elevation gain, most of that in two unbroken 20-mile grades up to peaks 9k feet above sea level, where the amount of oxygen in the air was definitely starting to be a factor. :smile:

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#5

I absolutely find that overdrilling can be bad, and by extension every time I leave my guitar alone for a few months and then come back for some 2-3 months of furious woodshedding I get better than I had ever been before. This doesn’t surprise me at all.

#6

2 angles to look at this from. Either way, the answer is yes

  1. if u practice a LOT. Ive been averaging 15ish hrs per week for last 5-6 weeks. (yes, on top of full time job lol) In that case, the body and mind will absolutely benefit from periodic rest periods. Ive gone to something I used to do when i was heavy into lifting…3 hard weeks then 1 easy week. Repeat over and over.

Not only the physical break is needed for recovery and supercompensation, but the mind can get “backlogged” as well. Take some time away. Let the mind work on it for a while etc. You will ALWAYS come back better unless you have some mental hangup.

Any athlete peaking for an important competition has a “taper” or “deload” week(s) prior to the competition. You cant come into your best sporting form while you are still under heavy loading

  1. even if u dont have a heavy practice schedule, a few days away will sometimes help clear out little ruts and bad habits. In general a little time away makes one come back with much renewed creativity
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#7

This is the part that I have experienced.

As for coordination, one day or 2 days off doesn’t hurt me any but taking one or two weeks off would require that I practice for roughly two hours to fully regain my coordination.

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#8

Hell yes!!

I just experienced this, I took a break from guitar practice around mid December - let my nephew borrow my only guitar, because I had a complex time consuming project finish. Three weeks before I stopped, I was trying to learn fast arpeggios without sweep picking (after I read that Malmsteen said he doesn’t sweep pick), so I made up a couple of 4 string arp’s to practice with the rotation/door knob mechanic. I now belive I had a hybrid picking mechanic, a mixture of swiping at slow speed and rotation at high speed.

I got my guitar back about 2 weeks ago, picked it up - and wham I could do the door knob mechanic super fast, muscle memory for swiping had been overwritten and the rotation mechanic was now fully in my subconscious. Actually it was really shocking to me, because I didn’t expect it! It’s pretty amazing - I can’t swipe pick at slow speed anymore!

My start up speed - and I mean from getting out of bed and picking up guitar is now 12 notes per second, it used to be 9-10 notes per second. My top speed is still 15 notes per second, but I’m super happy with the default 12nps cruising speed.

I now have the thing that I always wanted - fast startup speed, fast arpeggios with no setup - I can switch between rhythm,lead and arp work. I could sweep pick perfectly before - but now I’ve ditched it - since I can rotation pick at the same speed - with zero setup time. I tell you what - it’s freaking awesome having one unified picking mechanic that covers all the bases!

All I have left to do now is get my speed to 18 notes per second!! (yeah I know it’s probably not going to happen :slight_smile: )

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#9

My hands feel stronger after time off, this gives an effortless feel.
I also get it after a couple beers. Likely an increase in dopamine or whatever allowing better motor control. To much tho, and you lose that coordination.

No doubt some of the best guitar performances are in part due to PED use, perhaps unintentional, i’m sure cocaine has helped a few unbelievable performances out.

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#10

Me too :wink:

#11

Huge XKCD fan here. :smile:

Beer I go back and forth on - a couple beers, I feel like I’m a better guitarist, but I can’t say I’ve ever recorded myself and checked, and I suspect it may be my mental filter weakening more than my technique improving. I’ve always thought that’s potentially a plus for improvising and phrasing, but very likely at the cost of some technical control.

While I’ve been playing as much as I can and got in one fairly good day over the weekend on Sunday, it definitely wasn’t a matter of over-practicing and being muscularly tired - it’s rare on the weekend even to get a couple hours with a guitar in hand. More’s the pity!

#12

No way! I hate to have a beer and play guitar. Even though I can generally hold my drink, I feel that even one hastely drunk pint dulls my fine motor control, or at least in my head it is - maybe it was the fear!!!

#13

Beta blockers anyone?

#14

I knew a bass player who sometimes got so drunk he could barely walk to the stage but once he started playing, he’d play the whole show without missing a note. Dimebag Darrel was like that too.

#15

Are we speaking about acquiring new motor skills? If so, then I have this experience all the time. I don’t think it’s specifically the time away, but more that whatever you were doing previously produced results that took time to sink in. There is lots of research on this subject pointing to a time period anywhere from 24 to 72 hours for acquired skills to start to stick. There’s also lots of research on the role that sleep plays in this process.

Speaking very generally, I have no issue at all with putting the guitar down for one or more days at a time, and no real sense that this hurts me in any way — not when it comes to learning new skills and even less so maintaining existing ones which are already pretty solid.

More generally, if I feel bored, burned out, or overworked at all, my interest level and enthusiasm improves with time off. Guitar is already a job, so anything I can do to make it less so is a plus in my book.

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#16

Post Practice Improvement.

good stuff

https://fundamentals-of-piano-practice.readthedocs.io/en/latest/chapter1/ch1_procedures/II.15.html#ii-15

#17

I’m not sure if it’s that, exactly… It wasn’t like I was working on something new, stepped away for a while, and it clicked, so much as something I was already doing just suddenly was flowing a lot better after 5-6 days away from the guitar.

It may have been a little bit of burnout, I guess - I had a lot going on, I was practicing when I could as a form of stress relief but didn’t have the time I wanted, and was run down and frustrated about a lot of non-guitar stuff. After four days on my road bike with not much else going on, I was in a way better headspace when I got back, so maybe it was as simple as that.

#18

I do know from working out, I always felt strongest when taking a multi day break. Body seemed to catch up. And you feel more connected, or stable, In movements.

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#19

Months? Days, not months lol.

#20

This is particularly interesting. When I’m about to finish practice for the day, I usually try to rip as fast and clean as I can, then I feel satisfied to put it down. But perhaps I should adopt this method.

“You must do everything right to maximize PPI. Many students do not know the rules and can negate the PPI with the result that, when they play the next day, it comes out worse. Most of these mistakes originate from incorrect use of fast and slow practice; therefore, we will discuss the rules for choosing the right practice speeds in the following sections. Any stress or unnecessary motion during practice will also undergo PPI and can become a bad habit. The most common mistake students make to negate PPI is to play fast before quitting practice. The last thing you do before quitting should be the most correct and best example of what you want to achieve, which usually a moderate to slow speed. Your last run-through seems to have an inordinately strong PPI effect. The methods of this book are ideal for PPI, mainly because they emphasize practicing only those segments that you cannot play. If you play HT slowly and ramp up the speed for a long section, PPI is insufficiently conditioned because you don’t have enough time to make the necessary number of repetitions. In addition, the PPI process becomes confused because you mix a large proportion of easy material with the small amount of difficult ones and the speed, motions, etc., are also incorrect.”

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