Recently I came across a young drummer's statement online of how out of shape his playing felt after a recent vacation. I know this individual as a working professional who has obviously worked hard at developing knowledge and skills on the drums, and his playing never fails to impress me.
I too, have often thought my skills have diminished after some (voluntary or circumstance-imposed) time off. My approach to this has changed in recent years, however, and I have come to believe this is another losing game we musicians tend to play against ourselves.
I believe that if a musician has spent enough time learning his/her instrument, he/she reaches a level that cannot be washed away by a little time off. (Although there is debate about it, I feel the 10,000 hours rule applies here.) I also believe that most of the "loss of chops" we tend to feel is in our minds and our body knows what we have trained it to do as long as we get out of its way. The great Glenn Gould apparently felt like he should be able to play to his full potential any time of the day or night. I'm sure he did. Why? Because he believed it!
Notice I said earlier that we reach this level if we've spent enough time on the instrument.
When I don't play piano or harmonica for awhile I can feel my skills atrophy. That's because I haven't put in enough time on these instruments. There is no substitute for this.
So if you're an experienced musician who has been away from your instrument for one reason or another. Don't tell yourself you're out of shape! What should you tell yourself? We'll explore that in the next post. Stay tuned........