Sleep and Time

My friend Dave Shore sent me an email the other day sent me an email that said, “I’ll practice something before going to bed and when I get up in the morning, I can play it better. I don’t know if my body is practicing in my sleep or just the benefit of the flexible mind of the morning, but it is a real phenomenon.”

I started to think about what happens to my playing after taking a short break. Usually I try to practice the same amount every day, and I try to push myself to the limit. Although I know I’m definitely improving, the change is hardly noticeable from day to day.

Last weekend, I missed a day of practicing, because I had a few out-of-town gigs where I played bass. On Sunday night when I sat down to play the organ, I had not touched it for two days. I was ready for a real disaster- I thought that I would be terrible.

Instead, I played the best that I think I have ever played. I was able to execute anything that came to mind! I started to wonder what was going on. Either:

1. Some time off from playing organ gave my mind a chance to process my lesson exercises and figure out creative ways to use the new knowledge.

2. I was so sick of playing gigs on the bass that the keyboard seemed easy and refreshing. OR

3. I always played that well on the keyboard, but didn’t realize it because my expectations of myself were so high. But after not practicing for two days, my expectations could have been lower, and my playing may have seemed better to me.

Performing music is a lot like a spiral staircase. Some days seem great, and some days feel lousy- it’s a continuous cycle. After years and years of playing, you learn to let go of expectations and just try to enjoy yourself.

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