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Creating a Practice Space That Works



Well, it is something that I needed to do for a while now. I really, really needed to get through my laziness and do a bit of a makeover in my practice room/office space. This move was inspired by one of my favorite speakers in terms of motivation, body language and mindset. That person is Chase Hughes. Every chance I get I try to look him up on YouTube either in the body language, “The Behavioral Panel” or just his own YouTube channel, “Chase Hughes”.


He gives great advice and one piece that really resonated with me was that of changing your surroundings. He said when you change your surroundings, it tends to motivate a you to act or to be more in tune with what is going on around you. It creates a more focused mindset. Since I have been working to practice more and feeling a bit like I am in a slog, I decided to make my change in the one room where I play my violin the most.


My practice room was a bit boring and kind of dumpy, if I am to be honest. It looked like a room in a basement in Cleveland, OH. It just was not a room that I would like to spend a lot of time in so I decided to change that. I put some color on the walls, hung some plants, cleaned up and moved some furniture around. Now that I have accomplished this, I actually smile when I walk in.


Do I feel as if this change in my space motivated me to practice more or at least better?Yes actually, it did.


So brush yourself off and clean up a little. Change the light bulbs to be brighter and add some plants (just remember to water them or get the fake ones).


To create that comfortable/inspirational space, here is my list of things to do that might help in the remaining summer months. We could all use this list. I mean, how many of you have orchestra or conservatory auditions coming up in the Fall?


You might need some inspiration so let’s get started -


The color scheme of your practice room: According to "Entrepreneur" the color blue makes one more productive. You can see this color in many businesses. They paint the walls, have blue artwork. You can even add a splash of blue and you will notice the difference. I actually ended up painting one of my walls blue as well as some of the moulding. I was shooting for a shade of green (not thinking about how color affects mood) and wound up with a beautiful shade of blue. After doing a bit of research for this blog, I realized that the color blue is one of the ultimate colors that promotes productivity. I was very happy about this “mistake” as I did feel more productive even though at the time I had no idea that blue had that type of psychological effect. The effect of colors and productivity in the workplace is actually a thing and if bosses use this on their workers, why can’t we use this on ourselves. Trick our own brains into making things happen.


If you cannot paint your wall, put up some colorful artwork and if you are interested about colors and the effect they have on our psychology, here is the article: What Colors Make You More Productive? | Entrepreneur.


The author, John Rampton, acquired this information from a study done by researchers at the University of Texas. The article was written in March of 2023 so it is recent although the study was done in 2006. And, I do agree that colors have an effect on us since they use it in advertising ALL the time. Think about it…


The other thing about practice rooms is that you have to leave to do various things like bathroom breaks, dinner, taking a walk, etc. So you want a place that will not be difficult to go back to. Or maybe, keep yourself from leaving for little things. That is why I suggest that you keep everything you need close.


Think about what you might need to keep your practice time as comfortable as possible and take into consideration the little things that will keep you there and keep you focused.


You should start by gathering the items you need for your practice; pencils, music, a hot pot for tea or coffee, water, snacks and eliminate things that are distracting like personal computers. This way once you get started practicing, you don't have to stop to retrieve sheet music or leave the room to get a pencil to write notes or even turn on that computer to “listen to Perlman play the Brahms Violin Concerto” on YouTube and wind up watching 2 hours of funny cat videos instead.


Keeping your practice space comfortable and equipped with everything you need will make practicing easier and more enjoyable.


Must haves in your place of practice:


  • Music books, sheet music, exercise books

  • Music stand

  • A pencil, sharpener, eraser, and notepad for notes

  • Metronome

  • A timer so you can focus on your music - not the time

  • Instrument (obviously)

  • Tuner

  • Recording devices (good ones will represent your sound quality better)

  • Water or a pick me up beverage

  • Healthy Snacks (Not sugary ones)

  • Adequate lighting

  • A fan or space heater for temperature control

  • A comfortable chair


Location of your practice space.


We all know that the people around us will affect our practice time.


We all know how we feel when we have to practice with other people standing around or just outside our practice area. Practice time is personal time so you are not being over sensitive or self conscious if you do not want people listening to you as you practice. There is a time and place for a performance and I believe that time should be chosen by you. I know that your practice should include performance practice but that should be a time when you are recording yourself and assessing how you feel, what you are thinking and how to create a thought process that works for you and you alone (and this should not include the peanut gallery of practice room ghouls that do exist from time to time). We all know who they are as they wander aimlessly down the hall from door to door laughing or making rude comments due to their own insecurity. This is just basic bullying and this behavior helps no one. You should not have to put up with it but if you are in a place where there is no support, just remember this is all about them not you. When I was in college, I do remember some students putting a piece of paper over their practice room window to lessen the distraction of other students in the hallway. Try that trick if nothing else. It might help you to create a space that seems like you are alone even though you are not.



Acoustics


This is something to consider since how we sound means everything. Sounding great in a space will allow you to hear your instrument more clearly and you will be able to make adjustments. If you are in a dead sounding room, it is like playing in a one dimensional world. If your room is too boomy you will get the opposite effect. You can use heavy cloth, acoustic foam, pillows, and fiberglass insulation as absorptive materials. This type of acoustic treatment is best for reducing the mid- and high-frequency energy bouncing around your room. A few rugs on the floor can also help with this. I always rely on rugs and curtains to balance my sound in a smaller room. You can also find a room that naturally has better acoustics and simply use that one. I use a room in the back of my garage. It is the perfect size and even has a window to let in some natural light.


One more thing to consider if you are practicing at home is your neighbors. I am extremely fortunate to live out in the country so my neighbors are not too close and there is no chance that I will annoy them with Carl Flesch or Kreutzer. Years ago when I was studying violin, I lived in an apartment in Cleveland, OH and all of the tenants were packed in like sardines. For that purpose, I picked up a practice mute and it saved me and my neighbors. It is difficult sometimes to gauge sound quality but we have to work with what we have. You can also use rugs and curtains to soak up some of that sound also.


So, create that inspirational space and let me know how it goes!


And remember, for aspiring professional musicians and even pro musicians, the best place to work is somewhere surrounded by like-minded and serious individuals. I have just created a new space here on FB where musicians can post performance videos, share practice tips, music and inspire one another. Remember, this is my brand new page so join us today! Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/getinpracticeroom/


See you there!


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