How to productively take a break from music?

I’ve been seeing a lot of producers taking breaks from music, especially now during summertime (for most of you). However, when is the right time to take a break, and also, how can you make the most out of your break?

4 THOUGHTS FROM ME

1. You don’t need to always be creating to be working with music. For 4 years, I forced myself to work on music every day, but that doesn’t mean I produced music every day. Sometimes you’ll get home from work tired and not wanting to create, which happened to me, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work with music. First, if you’re serious about making your music career into something bigger, remember that you show up to your day job regardless if you’re tired or not, so ‘being tired’ should not be an excuse to not work on music as well. Second, if that’s your situation, consider working on other music-related things that can speed up your process when you’re feeling fresh. (1) Organize your sample library; (2) learn sound design by remaking a preset; (3) watch a walkthrough video and take notes on the things you find most interesting so you can apply to your projects later; (4) watch a youtube video that will spark some new ideas or techniques in your production style; (5) Do a deep analysis of tracks, including taking notes, instead of having it on in the background or JUST listening; all these are things that require less effort and time than sitting down to produce, and can speed up or enhance your productions when you do have the time to do it. This way, you can take breaks from music production while also staying active on your music and on your development, which will make a big difference compared to if you gave in to your tiredness and not worked on music at all.

2. Understand when your body and mind are telling you to take a break to avoid burning out. Your body and mind will always tell you when you need a break, but we often disregard it because we don’t want to give up, but sometimes we need to stop. When (1) you can’t come up with ideas no matter how hard you try, (2) you dread sitting in your chair to produce, or (3) you don’t know where else to go with your music, it’s time to take a break. Not even to do something else, as mentioned in point #1… It’s time to put Youtube on and watch cat videos. Why? Because if you don’t take a break, you’ll likely just force yourself to produce, and that can worsen your motivation even further or make you resent music even more. At the same time, you can’t take a break any time you get an urge to stop as this could halt the development of your skills, and sometimes you’ll have to push through. A good way to measure if it’s time to take a long break is if these 4 items above persist over time because, if they do, you likely need a break. If so, try taking a break for a few days and return quickly as it could be just a temporary break. If even this doesn’t work, extend it and keep yourself on the break until you’re feeling excited about it again. If these feelings come and go, it can be that something in your process is not enjoyable anymore, and some changes would be needed in order to shake things up and boost your motivation again. Here are a few suggestions for making adjustments to try (1) Producing in a different environment; (2) Collaborating in person with someone; (3) trying to learn a new skill; (4) trying to learn a new genre; (5) listening to music you don’t normally listen to; any change could be useful to you reignite your will to produce, which is crucial for you to keep on growing and developing.

3. Stop after every 2-hour session to recharge your batteries and recalibrate your ears. When you’re psyched about what you’re making and what you’ve been achieving, you often feel like never stopping and producing for 4-5 hours, but this can (1) be done in a better way and (2) sometimes it can harm you more than help you. Especially with music, the more you listen to something, the more you get biased about it, and that’s exactly when you start to overthink it. Then, you start tweaking the song until the point that you don’t even like it anymore… sounds familiar? Well, the best way to avoid that is by taking breaks. When you take a 15-minute break and go for a walk, or just go to Youtube and watch cat videos, and then you come back to your song, you’ll likely hear things differently than if you had stayed producing nonstop, and that can avoid many unnecessary steps in your song. That’s why, if you’re producing for longer than 2 hours, stop, stand up, and come back to it in 15 minutes. This is ESPECIALLY when you’re mixing and mastering. Why? These breaks refresh our ears after exposing them to the same sounds for too long, and that normally tends to make us overthink what we’re doing since we start to listen to things differently in our mix due to ear fatigue. Therefore, again, this 15-minute break will help you be more assertive. Or, you don’t have to completely take a break from music, instead, you could be productive in other areas. Instead of watching cat videos, organize your folders, presets, samples, and emails, as these can be done more mindlessly and will equally help you disconnect from the project at hand.

4. Even if you’re loving your current work, take a few days off from music every now and then and let the urge to produce come back to you. Once every month to two months, I recommend you take a 2-3 day break from music entirely just to recharge your energies. Ideally, go travel and/or discover new places around your town. Or, try to attend a show or festival. Why? Because if you don’t do this it can lead you to feel overwhelmed, which can harm your creativity and will to produce. Second, these breaks will nurture and expand your creativity, which will be useful to you when you get back to music. Believe me, I’ve been the person who thought I needed to produce 24/7, but taking breaks to hang out with friends, play games, or travel is also productive if you consider the boost it gives you when you come back to music. Therefore, don’t wait until you’re on the brink of burnout to take a break. Schedule them throughout your week and also longer periods every now and then or you can go crazy. These fun times will help you expand your horizons and likely boost your creativity while also making you excited to come back and produce when you’re feeling it, so embrace them.

1 QUESTION FOR YOU

What situations would I recommend, or not, to take a break?
1. When you’re struggling with something and don’t know how to solve it, a break is a good way out of it. You can take a small break and then try a small approach, but taking a big break because you don’t know how to solve something is more like quitting than taking a break. What you need is a better approach towards your issue, and hiring a mentor might be a way to solve this.
2. When you go out to have fun, really go out and have fun. I’ve been called ‘boring’ and ‘not present’ many times because when I took my breaks, I was actually still thinking about music production and being productive all the time. When it’s time to have fun, forget about music
3. When you’re going through a difficult moment in your life, I’d recommend taking a break if you’re not feeling like working. At the same time that music production can heal you, you need to want to produce for it to be healing, otherwise, you’re just forcing yourself. Respect your mind and come back when you’re ready for it.

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Leo Lauretti

Leo Lauretti

Born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, Leo Lauretti has been producing since 2013. With releases on SONY Music, Armada, Enhanced Music, Leo Lauretti accumulates multiple supports from artists like Above & Beyond, Ferry Corsten, Cosmic Gate, Nicky Romero, and many others all over the world.

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