Accepting a demanding new non-musical job. The birth of a child. Burnout after years of touring, making music, and losing money. No matter what’s behind the reason someone quits playing music, it’s something that happens within bands and local music communities constantly in music. While some musicians throw their hands up and quit music permanently, others put it on hold temporarily in hopes of picking it up again when they’re able to. Pursuing music after a years-long break isn’t easy, but it’s completely possible. Here are a few tips to consider if you’re trying to get back into the musical habit after being out of the loop for a long time:
Make fun your focus
After a long musical hiatus, one of the best ways to get started again is by focusing on what about making music rewards you the most. Playing live, connecting with other musicians, writing songs and releasing albums––the aspects of music we find to be the most rewarding are different for all of us. By focusing on what’s fun in music, we’ll have the best shot at fully integrating it back into our lives. This is especially pertinent for serious musicians who’ve quit after getting burnt out. Career pressures often crowd out instantly gratifying experiences in music, so if you’ve lost your way, try exploring only the parts of music that reward you the most and forget about pressures and expectations for awhile.
Create a list of goals
What do you hope to achieve by making music again? Are you looking for a way to relax, or do you want to create a bold artistic statement? Creating a list of reasonable goals is a good way to build the habit of making music back into your daily life. Narrow down what you hope to get out of your music practice and make a plan for how to get there. Depending on your goals, you may need to set time aside throughout your week exclusively for music, whether it’s practicing an instrument or writing.
Bring other musicians into the mix
Playing with musicians is one of the best ways to get reintroduced to music. Other musicians can help keep you accountable for practicing, and can make music something that’s instantly challenging and fun for you. It’s not a good idea to designate 100% of your newfound musical energy and resources to something like a new band or ambitious music project, but working with other musicians will increase your chances of making music a solid fixture in your life again. Whether it’s a cover band or a new writing partner, musical collaborators are a good bet for musicians trying to return from a lengthy hiatus.
Getting back into music after a long break isn’t easy, but it’s an incredible gift you can give yourself. By letting go of expectations, working towards realistic goals, and potentially bringing other musicians into your process, music can become an important and consistent part of your life again.
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.