Busily doing nothing – 5 reasons why downtime is important for singers and choir leaders

Listed on December 29, 2014 in Blogs!

Feel like you’re on a treadmill? Constantly learning and practising and planning but never arriving? Not enough time to catch your breath between concerts?


photo by Roger Gordon

Then you need some downtime! That is, time spent doing things completely unrelated to singing and choirs. Here’s why.

It often feels like as soon as one choir season is over then the next one is upon you. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a singer or a choir leader, it’s all to easy to lose sight of why you loved singing in the first place.

It’s vital to factor in some downtime for yourself where you do nothing related to either choirs or singing. Here are a few reasons why it’s so important:

  1. your subconscious needs time and space – many creative problems can’t be solved by a head-on attack. But give your subconscious time to work and the solution will appear. Whether it’s an arrangement that’s not working or a song that you’re finding hard to learn, leaving it alone for a while works wonders. See also How songs are stored in your brain
  2. you’ll feel refreshed and renewed after a break – and remember why you loved singing in the first place. Doing it all the time can make it feel like a chore and you’ll lose all the fun. A break doesn’t necessarily mean stopping everything (although vacations are important too!), just make sure you’re doing things unrelated to choirs and singing. Make your choir life richer by tapping into other interests. You’ll be surprised at the unconscious connections that get made.
  3. it’s possible to overwork things – yes, too much practice or too much planning really can start to bring diminishing returns. Stepping away from rehearsal or lyric learning gives the brain time and space to make new connections. The amount of time you spend practising is not as important as the quality of that practise. Constantly bashing away at something isn’t always the best way. See also Over-rehearsed or under-prepared: which is better?
  4. you need to look after yourself – or you’ll burn out or get ill and then be no use to anyone. Remember all those activities that relax you and give you pleasure: listening to music, making a meal, going for a walk, reading? Take time to pamper and take care of yourself. See also Taking care of ourselves as choir and workshop leaders and Keep it to yourself! – why colds, singing and choirs don’t mix and Looking after yourself in a busy concert season.
  5. you need time to organise and reflect – even though it is related to choirs and singing, it’s important to make time to do things like tidying up your sheet music, archiving the previous choir season, cleaning up your work space, filing CDs and recordings away. You’ll not be dealing with choir-related issues head on, but these relatively mindless tasks can throw up all kinds of ideas: songs you’d forgotten about, new ways of organising your music, better ways of planning, etc. See also Putting your house in order or how to clear up after a busy choir seasonIt’s also good to have space to look at the bigger picture by reflecting on how the last choir season went, whether you’re still heading in the right direction, what things you might do better in the future. All done in a very loose and casual manner! See also Getting the best out of your choir 6: self-reflection and The secret to great singing that teachers don’t tell you.

further reading

You might also find these related posts of interest:

What I did on my summer holiday – why we all need a break some time

Use the long choir break to get better at what you do

This quiet time between Christmas and New Year is the perfect opportunity to take some downtime. Come and join me?

Happy New Year to all my loyal readers and I hope all your dreams and wishes for 2015 come true.

Chris Rowbury

Website: chrisrowbury.com

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