Now, as a teacher, though, I have a different perspective. Yes, I encourage my students to practice every day, without exception. Like Dr. Suzuki says, "Only practice on the days you eat!" But I don't think it's bad to take a day off. Actually, I think it can be really beneficial. If a student is really working hard, practicing every day, a day off can actually cement that learning into place. I've seen it in my own practice. There comes a point where I feel like I'm hitting a brick wall and no matter how hard I work, I just don't seem to be getting better. Then, after a day off, I try practicing again and suddenly it's a walk in the park. I think our brains need to breathe now and then.
BUT.....Not on the day of the lesson. A very short practice session after the lesson helps reinforce everything learned that day. It's amazing how much we forget, even with a parent taking detailed notes. Just going over what was covered in the lesson sets the tone for the entire week.
We're all very familiar by now with the concept of repetition. Well, it's not just repeating something over and over that makes it permanent in our brain. Imagine two scenarios:
1. A five year old child is taught how to tie his shoes. Once he gets it, he is sent home and told to practice. Five years later, he tries it again. He repeats this once every five years, each time consulting the notes his mother wrote for him at that initial lesson. By the time he reaches 80 years old, he will have attempted to tie his shoes 15 times.
2. The same five year old boy goes home and ties his shoes 15 times that very evening.
Well, that's a ridiculous analogy. But you can plainly see that the poor 80 year old who broke his hip every time he wore sneakers because he never learned how to tie his shoes wishes he just reviewed what his teacher told him that day 75 years ago.
Another way of looking at it is this: When preparing for professional orchestral auditions, I was instructed by teachers to do all my preparation early and then take the week of the audition easy. If I budgeted my time wisely, I could do very minimal practice on the days leading up to an audition. The day before a student's lesson is less important than the day of, or the day after. A student could miss practice the day before the lesson and still have a great lesson.
When I was in high school and college I would go to summer music programs where we would work harder in 6 weeks than throughout the entire year. I always noticed, though, that the benefits didn't come until maybe 6 months down the line. My brain needed time to process the new information.
By spending a short amount of time after the lesson going over points made by the teacher, the student is reinforcing new neural pathways made in his brain during his lesson when he learned that new technique. The more he practices, the stronger those pathways become, like going over a line drawn on a paper over and over. By the end of the week, they're in there pretty good. The more time goes by, the more permanent they become. At this point, a day off isn't going to make him forget everything he ever learned about the violin (which end do I blow in?). In fact, I think he's earned a day off!