More isn’t necessarily better.
Players of some instruments don’t seem to have a physical limit on how much playing is feasible on any given day. Not so for brass players: the stresses on our bodies from playing our instruments are much more acute. Overdo it and you’re definitely compromising quality, and maybe flirting with injury.
It’s not just physical, either. Practicing when your brain is fried is also going to be a waste of time. I marvel at pianists who can practice with great focus for hours and hours on end; I clearly have the attention span of a brass player.
Fatigue, both physical and mental, accumulates not only within a day, but over weeks or months. When the tide of demands is high we often rise to the occasion, and it’s great to be able to do something special when you’re under the gun. But when it has receded, it’s important to take the opportunity to recharge.
We just finished a very intense stretch at the CPO, and I had a few overlapping side projects too, which added up to high demands on my body and mind. Things are a bit more calm now, so I decided I had the space to take yesterday off the trumpet. I know from experience that today, coming back to it, I might be a bit less strong than I was before, but I’ll be much more sensitive and responsive. It’s going to be easier for me to refocus my sound production and do critical general maintenance on my playing.
Most importantly, it’s going to be so much easier for me to have my head in the game. I’ve got lots of music that I need to learn and it’s time for me to get back to putting in some serious time on the baroque trumpet for Messiah (more on that in another post), and these things require me to be mentally alert. Much easier to do that when I’m well-rested.
So, more isn’t necessarily better. If I had practiced yesterday I wouldn’t have been very productive, and I would have ended up being less productive today than I will be, now that I’m rested. Do what’s going to get the best results, not necessarily what’s going to take the longest!