Quitting music isn’t something you or anyone should take lightly.
Chances are you’ve put in a lot of time or effort into your craft, but just aren’t getting the same fulfillment or success you’ve been hoping for.
Quitting or taking a break from music might just be what you need to reset and reignite the old feeling that’s dwindled.
Quitting music permanently is a serious decision, and not one that anyone has to make.
Why swear off music? There’s no reason you can’t quit what project you’re currently working on, but consider taking a break from music first.
Even the most famous artists in the world feel the pressure and burnout, some musicians do end up quitting for a time, or from the project at hand.
Quitting music might be the right move in some cases, but most musicians on the edge are likely just burnt out of their current prospectus.
Taking a break from music allows you to step back and reassess what you enjoy most about music and what you want to get out of it.
Below we’ll go into detail about what benefits might come from quitting music or taking a brief break.
Is it good to take a break from music?
Too much of anything is well… too much. If your music project is taking up all your free time and robbing your thoughts during all other hours of the day, you need a break.
If you feel like you’ve been doing the same thing over and over, without any new resolution in sight, or any visible progress… it’s probably a good time to take a break.
“The grind” or “ the hustle” mentality doesn’t apply to the arts the same way it can be applied to other areas of life.
You can certainly grind new skills and new musical pieces, until they become fluid and effortless.
However, you can’t grind creativity!
Have a song you’re writing that just needs something a little extra to finish it off?
You can’t just grind until you find it, and most songwriters would agree.
Stepping away for an afternoon or a weekend, or even a month might be the quickest way to find that missing piece.
Taking a break from music or temporarily quitting music can help reset perspective and invigorate your creativity.
Why you should quit music, at least temporarily
If the above is resonating with you, you’re likely feeling at least a little bit of pressure from somewhere.
Maybe you want to be further along in the progression you’ve envisioned yourself in.
Perhaps the daily requirements of the music path you’ve chosen aren’t enjoyable.
A big reason why you should take a break from music is that it will allow you to reassess what you like about music, and where you want to go with it.
Want to be a rockstar? That’s awesome, I wish you the best.
Do you also want to spend years grinding, playing small venues and barely earning enough to survive?
You can have both, of course, but not only one.
So maybe you need to refocus on a new musical endeavor, or aspiration; one with a daily requirement that is more enjoyable or at least palatable.
“Music” is such a broad and massive area, to quit, would be to withdraw from a large sector of human interaction and life in general.
This scale also means that you’re guaranteed to find your niche within music.
That’s right, guaranteed. No, I’m not guaranteeing you’ll become wealthy or famous beyond fantasy from your music.
Just that you are guaranteed, if you put in the effort, and not force things, you’ll find somewhere in the area of music… fulfillment.
Working and earning a living with music can look very different depending on your area of focus.
Audio engineers are living a totally different lifestyle than the artists they work with.
Some music teachers only work a couple hours on weekday afternoons.
Some instrument techs, or roadies only work nights, weekends and festivals.
Some in the industry have a 9-5 and are home, some are only on the road.
Maybe you’re not wanting to “work” in music.
Maybe you want to find other work and solely focus on music as a hobby.
I know some friends who stopped trying to “make it” and sat back and causally recording music they enjoyed.
While they haven’t “made it” they actually further along than they were when they were pushing it.
Creativity is funny that way
Steven Pressfield mentions in his book The War of Art, that we must do our work for its own sake and not the wealth or accolades it may bring.
Make music for the sake of music, not the sake of you.
When should you give up on a music career?
As mentioned above, “making it” in music is statistically unlikely to put it politely.
If you’re having doubts, or feeling like a musical career isn’t for you you should take a break and allow yourself to reset.
Many different jobs and careers are available in the music industry.
There’s a question you should ask yourself.
Do you want a music career, even if it didn’t bring you fame, or immense wealth?
To elaborate, would you want to work in music at a salary range comparable to a job outside of music?
If the answer is no, I only want fame and fortune from music, then you might want to quit.
If the answer is yes please, I just don’t want a real job, then you’re probably perfect for the music industry!
It’s not like the industry isn’t aware of the high likelihood of not being as successful as you might’ve hoped.
Here’s a study from the University of Ottawa on Piano Student dropouts.
How to take a break from music
If you’ve decided you need to take a break from music, maybe to keep from from quitting music altogether, here are some things you’ll want to consider:
- How long will your break from music be?
- Taking a break from all music or just one project?
- Where will your creative focus be during the break?
Decide how long your musical hiatus will be.
A break will look different for every musician, whether it’s a day or a year long.
That being said, I’d strongly recommend that if you’ve reached the point that you feel you NEED a break, you should take a break for at least 2-3 weeks, preferably a month.
Your body and brain need a couple weeks to get out of the rutt you’ve gotten yourself in, creatively.
We know that it takes a couple weeks to break and develop new habits, use this to your advantage.
Once you’ve decided the duration of your music break, decide what areas of music you want to step away from.
Is it grade level exams that are stressing you? An album recording not going your way? Or do you just not feel the joy when you sit down with your instrument of choice?
If you’re just exhausted from grinding out the classical pieces to pass to the next grade, your break might just be a month of playing whatever music you like, no strings attached.
Maybe you have a month where you don’t try to write or record anything.
Or maybe it’s a month of not playing music altogether.
Whatever you decide, just be thoughtful of it, which leads into the last item…
Where should your creative focus be applied during the break?
You should still have a creative outlet during your musical break. You picked up music for a reason, and it’s likely scratching a creative itch.
You’ll need to apply that focus onto something new during the break.
But just ensure that you apply your focus casually, and without expectations.
Cooking, painting/drawing, creative writing, and anything out in nature is a great place to start looking for a new focus.
Basically, anything that’s fairly new or exciting to you, that you can apply some creativity to.
Myself, when frustrated with music I like to find a delicious looking recipe online and try my best to follow the directions.
My cooking isn’t always good, but so far it hasn’t killed me, and I count that as a win.
And seeing as it’s a creative outlet, it’s truly a win-win.
Quitting music after music school
So, why am I so opinionated about quitting music?
It’s because I quit music…. For years…. AFTER music school.
I spent 4 years in music school, and more years prior to that learning enough to be accepted into music school.
The moment I got to music school, I knew it wasn’t for me.
I’m not going to get into whether or not you should go to music school here, but I’m just saying it wasn’t for me.
I went from grinding out the required pieces and knowledge to pass to the next level, and playing whatever I enjoyed after that.
To music school where you simply don’t have time in the day to play for enjoyment.
Waking up to make accompaniment appointments at 6am, then being up late to make it to a performance at night.
It felt like my entire life during the school year was about music.
Which makes a lot of sense when you consider I was in MUSIC SCHOOL.
The problem wasn’t music, or even the school. The problem was that the music I was required to play wasn’t scratching my creative or musical itch.
Pair that with never having time to play music I like and enjoy, and you have a recipe for burnout.
And that’s just what happened.
I graduated from school, and didn’t even so much as play an instrument for 2 years.
I dabbled casually here and there, never playing more than a couple hours a month for the next 3 years.
This was a massive shift for me, going from childhood where music was a big part of my life.
To school where music was my whole life.
To post-school where music was nowhere to be found in my life.
I wish I was able to better mitigate the burnout, and didn’t toss music aside for those 5 years.
It always felt like something was missing, and now in retrospect I can say it was my creative outlet I found in music.
That’s why I’d like for you to take a break from music, well before you feel the need to quit music altogether.
Even if you do feel the need to quit music, just know this.
You can quit music, but music won’t quit you.
You’ll always be able to come back to music, and “music” will greet you like an old friend.
Benefits from Quitting music and taking a break
Here are a few benefits to quitting music and taking a break:
- Resets creativity
- Allows you to see what you like most about music
- Gain perspective if you want to continue on your current path
- Learn new skills that can advance your music
- Find new more interesting styles and areas of music
There are many great benefits you can get out of taking a break from music.
Quitting music might feel like the only thing you can do, but taking a break can be much more beneficial.
I strongly encourage you to put thought into taking a break from music, and you’ll come out of it with a restored appreciation of music.
Quitting music is much harder than you think, so before you do, try out a few different flavors first!