When Should You Take A Break From Music

Making music is something the world has a romantic perception of, which means that giving up is typically looked at as a sign of weakness. But make music long enough, and you’ll soon see that scaling back, changing course, or quitting in music is essential at times. Here are three times when taking a break from music makes sense.

1. When something in music is taking more from you than it gives back

If something in music isn’t rewarding you in the way it used to, then it might be time to consider stepping back and approaching things in a different way. Whether it’s through money, creative fulfillment, or a means to blow off steam, making music is sustainable for a person only when it’s rewarding. Many of us take the self-sacrificing route in music only to realize that we can’t be music-making robots that exist purely to create and perform music. Because art imitates life, your music probably won’t be very good if you’re not out there living a vivid and complicated life. Taking break is essential here because non-rewarding music routines aren’t sustainable. Step back, figure out why music isn’t what it used to be for you, and try again.

Let ReverbNation Opportunities help make your musical journey rewarding again.

2. When musical relationships are no longer sustainable

People are endlessly complex, and that’s why relationships are the subject of so much impactful music. Giving up in music and changing course is unavoidable when irreparable relationships are involved. From songwriting partners who can’t stand to be in the same room as each other to seasoned bands not able to stomach the thought of another tour, quitting is the best option when musical relationships have soured past the point of no return. Of course, it’s always best to try to maintain musical partnerships, but if you know yours can’t be saved, quit with as much respect and grace as you can muster and put yourself in a better position to make music.

3. When a project goes nowhere

Making a music career work takes sacrifice, sweat, and risk to pull off. It’s not uncommon to plan something in music only to realize things aren’t what you wanted a short time later––an album, a tour, working with a new group of musicians, etc. Because the resources you’re able to commit to music are finite, quitting projects that don’t seem to go anywhere creatively or financially is often the best way to go. Everything you say yes to in music––whether it’s your own ideas or collaborations with someone else––translates to saying no to something else. Making anything meaningful happen in music requires time, money, and planning. Stepping away from projects that don’t have potential will help you focus on the ones that do. But I should note here that there’s a big difference between giving up on your own personal project and quitting something like a tour, which involves other people. There will be times in music where you know quitting is the best thing for you to do, but at a cost to the people around you. In complex situations where you’ve committed to something, sticking it out for a short period of time and moving on later might be your best bet.

Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

JayWhen Should You Take A Break From Music


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  • Harry Versluijs - March 5, 2019 reply

    Love this Patrick, great reading! Here’s my 50 cents:Reason 4 for break: when a giant hand from heaven stops you almost dead in your track(s) like when I as diagnosed with lung cancer in 2015. Surgery same year, right lung removed, break from music seemingly imperative yet useful as it would turn out.
    Cancer defeated, learning to breathe, speak and sing again with only 1 lung. Had to review everything: how to sing, find energy to work at all and finally, after years of trial and error, re inventing yourself, finding a new freedom in music and in life I never experienced before – we can be too seriously involved in our own ramblings – this enforced break has done me a world of good.
    Now 3 years later cautious attempts to record again, tremendous help from Mikme team and near by friendly wizard technician – my studio is totally minimal now but beuatiful stuff, 2 Senneheiser and 1 Mikme microphone turn recording into an easy hiss- noise- and rumble-free experience – last not least, FEELING my voice again – goes beyond words.
    Break? Does not necessarily mean you’ll break down or break away, we are surprisingly resilient and strong – if you end up in a situation like mine do what I did: I right away decided I would reinvent myself, turn in to a new Me. It worked. Would never have achieved that without The Break.
    Thanks Patrick! Love from Holland.
    Harry V singer songwriter
    Maastricht Netherlands

    Tony Engel - March 6, 2019 reply

    Harry that is friggin INSPIRING!! Here after 12 years straight of write, record, tour…..write, record, tour (Wash Rinse Repeat) we finally took a 6 month sabbatical and had our first rehearsal in prep for our first show in some time. Wishing you the BEST in sticking with it….reading your post, I’m not sure I would have!!

    john foster - March 6, 2019 reply

    Harry….thanks so much for sharing your story of struggle, courage, and overcoming. The road is rarely straight. There are many detours. God Bless J Foster Nashville, TN

    Jens Christensen - March 6, 2019 reply

    I enjoyed your story LARRY. Thanks for sharing it and best wishes

    brendan - March 7, 2019 reply

    Not an easy thing to but well done for keeping at it and hope you get to do more stuff in the future

  • Billy Von Vögel - March 6, 2019 reply

    When you’re aged out, another reason.
    You hear tons of people say ” yer never too old to rock and roll !!!”..yet, trying to put together a band after 40 yrs old is more difficult than finding the person you’re going to marry. I never thought it would be this hard in the punk scene, famous for crushing stereotypes- but not in this day and age. It’s WORSE than dating in the sense that you’re searching for THREE other people instead of just one to form a relationship with. So after over TEN YEARS of trying to form a punk band ala Clash, SxDx, Sex Pistols with some Dropkick Murphys, Rancid and Pennywise, I realized it’s time to throw in the towel and leave playing music behind. And surprisingly it’s a load off my back- even though the memories of touring, recording and videos were a blast. Getting to open for legends like Los Lobos, Reverend Horton Heat, The Tubes, Johnny Two Bags, Jello Biafra, Nekromantix as well as Agent Orange, Channel 3 etc. I played some huge stages in front of thousands as well as bars in front of three drunk people.
    Hip hop and lazy rap have taken over the music industry, and no record label will touch you unless your video has a million hits whereas before, the record label HELPED form you. Bruce Springsteen’s first two albums FLOPPED hard. Those days are long gone and along with it, arena bands. Many venues shut their doors and all ages gigs are impossible to book, let alone find a place to play them.
    So I bid adieu to the music scene, hang up my basses and hope for something to reinvigorate Rock and Roll, like “Greta Von Fleet” who, IMHO, is THE most exciting thing to hit the airwaves in decades….

  • Nancy McManus - March 6, 2019 reply

    Timely advice on #1. I just recently stopped singing in the choir I had been in for 21 years, because the music and the act of singing in that group was not personally rewarding this season, and I was not being uplifted by the music. I left with the ability to go back next season if I choose.

  • Jonny Boston - March 6, 2019 reply

    Again an interesting article. Thanks!

  • Songbabe - March 6, 2019 reply

    Thank you for validating where I am right now!
    I do this periodically. I haven’t written a song in six years, barely pick up my guitar for pleasure.
    I had an 11 piece in Cali which broke up at our peak… and moved to a great town in CO with a thriving music scene. Played 12 different venues a bunch in the first three years, but hit a wall. It’s been hard to find the right folks and solo is lonely.
    I feel things stirring again, but it felt like I was putting out more than I was receiving.
    Thank you!

    Lola Parks - March 12, 2019 reply

    Songbabe – my first band split at the peak too – we were band of the year and on radio, etc. And solo IS lonely. I like the rawness, freedom, control, ability to polish, be reliable and accountable, self-sufficient. But it’s also ALL the work and expenses. But only solo just isn’t enjoyable after a while. End of the set or night – it’s still. just. you. I get it. I’ve paused a few times – for more travel, more education = inspiration – but now trying to shift – from performance to ideally placements, from solo back to more collaboration, and out of the cycle of periodically doing work I don’t want to do to make a few bucks. We’ll see. I’d love to work/live/write in Cali or HI, though CO must be amazing for all the outdoor adventuring!! Glad things are stirring again – breathe it in and sing it out 🙂

  • Lola Parks - March 12, 2019 reply

    Thank you for this. Much agreed upon and appreciated 🙂 I shifted from band to solo – not by choice, but irreconcilable differences – and now from solo performance to (hopefully) writing for TV/Film and collaboration again. Tough!!

  • Kevin Wayne - March 14, 2019 reply

    It was pathetic to look down at the skin on my hands, underneath the air pressure of an automatic dryer. As a guitarist, I hadn’t seen my muscles so unused in 25 years. Arthritis pain in my lower back had spread to my right shoulder, then to my hand. I’ve refused further injury, or to cripple myself for the cause of the Nine Muses. So I’ve put down the instrument until, at least, physical therapy is over. Yea, I agree. Take a break before it breaks you.

  • egbamuonso - March 20, 2019 reply

    Thank you so much for this topic. anybody into music will be inspired by this topic

  • Flexypop - May 25, 2019 reply

    It’s really good to take breaks in any aspect but someone like me, cannot tired of music.

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