Staying Healthy for Musicians: How to Ensure Your Body Stays Healthy and Making Music
As musicians, we are deeply dedicated to, and passionate about, our craft. We spend hours, years, perfecting what we do.
No matter the level of proficiency we reach, there is always more to learn. That is the magic of music, isn’t it?
I want to keep making music for as long as I can. Most musicians do. In order to do that, we need to look after ourselves. That same passion and dedication that makes us can also be our downfall.
If we neglect our bodies, the essential “other half” of whatever instrument we play, we run the risk of seriously damaging our ability to make music at all. In order to keep our bodies healthy and able to make music, it is important to take time for self-care.
To stay healthy as a musician, there are several aspects of your health and self-care that you need to pay attention to.
Look after your Physical Body
This is the primary vehicle through which your music happens. A repetitive strain injury, or carpal tunnel, can derail a musician for months, even years. That’s why it is important to ensure your body gets what it needs.
Make sure that you are well hydrated, that you are getting enough real rest, and that you are eating well.
Musicians often forget that what we do is a very physical thing, not just a creative one. Our bodies need to be ready, so it makes sense to include a moderate exercise regime to make sure our muscles are in good order, and muscle memory becomes easier.
And if your body is giving you warning signs, like experiencing pain when you play, listen to what it is telling you. The longer you leave an injury or ignore pain, the greater the risk of it becoming serious.
If you are experiencing any of those signs, see a doctor and adjust your routine with their advice.
Look After Your Mental Health
Musicians practice for hours, add that to a full academic calendar and there is real potential to get overloaded and burned out.
Your mental health is critical to your well-being, not just as a musician, but as a human being. Overwork and stretching yourself too thin will eventually result in burnout. To avoid losing your passion and interest, take frequent breaks.
Be realistic about your workload and how much you can handle. I have taken on way too much in the past, and ended up overwhelmed and depressed, and making music that was not any good at all. Structure your workload efficiently and be kind to yourself.
Practice self-care, whatever that looks like for you. Make sure that you get frequent mental health breaks and check in on yourself.
Look After Your Ears
I know this goes without saying, but your ears are important as a musician. Keeping our hearing safe is absolutely critical to us, but it is so easy to damage your hearing.
Hearing loss is incredibly common and can be caused by continual exposure to loud music. Unfortunately, that is the environment a lot of us make our living in, so how do you go about making sure your ears stay healthy?
Firstly, we need to drop the volume of what we are hearing when we gig or practice, but we don’t want to lose or distort the tone and the notes we are hearing.
A good set of musicians’ earplugs will go a long way towards protecting your hearing for the long term. These earplugs filter out harmful frequencies without distorting the clarity of what you hear.
Another thing to keep an eye on is your headphone volume. It is so easy to expose yourself continuously to volumes that can hurt your ears and not even realise it.
Give your ears plenty of breaks, use noise-cancelling headphones, and keep the volume low. Your ears will thank you.
Putting these tips into practice will definitely help you to ensure that you are playing music for a long time.
If you notice any warning signs from your mental or physical health, seek help from medical professionals and look after yourself. Your music is worth it.
Orzel, Helen. Undergraduate Music Student Stress and Burnout. San Jose State University, 2011.
Sayana. “Self-Care for Musicians: Why It’s Important and How to Practice It” – Blog | Splice. 29 Mar. 2022, https://splice.com/blog/self-care-musicians/.
Wiebe, David Andrew. “Tips For Avoiding Burnout As An Independent Musician, & My Personal Story”. Music Industry How To, 18 Aug. 2019, https://www.musicindustryhowto.com/how-to-avoid-burnout-as-a-musician-and-why-it-even-happens/.