The Guilt of a Restless Instrument

Have you ever put your instrument down for a long period of time and felt guilty when you looked at? I have too. In our ever-increasingly busy lives, it can be hard to regularly play your instrument if it’s not your job. I don’t make a living from playing my instruments, it’s just something I enjoy, but when I leave my instruments alone for a long period of time, I find myself avoiding eye contact with them.

Whenever I walk past them, tired and wanting to lay down, I feel a glare coming from, as if they’re speaking “why aren’t you playing me? You’re just sitting there!” And, yeah, some days all I can do is lay still at the end of the day. There’s nothing wrong with taking time off if that’s what you need, I know this. But, I find myself wondering why I feel such guilt over not participating in a pastime.

I suppose it’s the hard work I’ve put into learning to play the instrument. As a trombone player, your embouchure is something you spend time developing, but can be lost/weakened in a few days time. As a guitar/ukulele player, my calluses fade away if I don’t play. It makes returning feel like I’ve taken 5 steps back. How can we avoid this feeling of guilt? What can we do to turn that time away from a “tsk tsk” into something that fuels our playing?

I don’t have the answers to everything, but I can speak from my own experience. My first step is to look at myself and validate that I was busy, and that that’s okay. Some days we work harder, do more, are more stressed, or whatever the day’s ailment was. That’s totally okay; you shouldn’t feel bad. My second step is to get over myself, and pick the dang thing up. Maybe the first chord hurts my fingertips a bit, and the first note sounds a little more wobbly than usual, but that’s okay. If you’re playing for your personal pleasure, your guilt is with yourself. That’s why my next step is to take a deep breath and say “stop judging yourself. You’re playing, doesn’t matter what happens in between.” Music is a wonderful thing to have in your life, and we shouldn’t hold ourselves in a bad light from only getting to it sometimes. If you’re not relying on it for a living, that’s totally fine.

In short, don’t feel guilty if you haven’t picked up your instrument in a while; we’re only human. The best thing you can do for yourself is to, in that moment of guilt, pick up your instrument and play, whether it be for a few minutes or hours. Pick it up, and forget the guilt. Let yourself have fun with it, and remember that fun when you’re away–it’ll keep you coming back.

Author: Nicole

Hi! My name is Nicole and I am the Band Instrument Repair Technician, as well as the Assistant Manager, here at the North Conway music Center. You can find me in the back of the store at my bench, or up front ready to help you learn!

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