I've made some improvements to my violin playing without even practicing. Having had a break from my violin for a couple of months due to an irritating arm injury, I returned to it last week to find that in some ways my abilities seemed to have improved during the lapse. Although my dexterity on the fingerboard was rusty, and my bowing a bit shaky, these have returned pleasantly quickly. What I feel has improved is my musicality and approach to the instrument. I am more confident and the musical interpretation seems better, and importantly the sound I'm making is richer and more resonant.
During my lapse from playing I have been watching quite a number of film recordings of virtuoso violinists from the last century and I have also thought a lot about it too. I chatted to my Dad as he's a retired professional orchestral musician and he wasn't surprised. His views concurred with my own thinking; that the subconscious mind works away during such breaks and sorts out a lot of information. With the input of expert examples from the film footage and all the other listening and visualising I had done there was a lot of information and learning. This input is sorted, internalised and built into our systems during rest and informs our approach when we eventually pick up the instrument again....as long as the break isn't too long.
I'm sure this applies to many activities in life. If we feed ourselves with positive and good examples, then the information informs our future work, even after a break. The important thing is to receive good examples and not bad, and visualise regularly your successful performance, be it in sport, music, dance or whatever.
I've got my first violin lesson next week since I stopped, and it will be interesting to hear what he says about my playing. Oh it's all such good fun!