Are you expecting to get elegant results from practicing in a chaotic space? It’s a common mistake. After all, not everyone has the luxury of owning a large, clutter-free and soundproof room where they can become totally immersed in their instruments.
We don’t have to find perfection in a practice space. However, it is important to make an effort to elevate our practice space to give our craft the respect and attention it deserves. You may not realize that your practice space is actually holding you back until you make some changes. As all musicians and music educators know, consistent practice is extremely important for being an effective, expert musician. However, many people who are trying to reach the next level in their craft are unknowingly sabotaging their efforts by practicing in concentration-crushing, creativity-killing spaces.
How can you design a space that will allow you to focus on your music without distractions? Take a look at the essential blueprints for overcoming a practice space that is holding you back! All of the tips here apply to both home practice spaces and classroom practices spaces!
The Criteria for an Effective Practice Space
If possible, designate a room for the sole purpose of practicing your instrument! It may be time to reimagine the layout of your home if you don’t have a “spare” room. However, the changes will be more than worth it once you see the results of creating a designated practice space.
The purpose of creating a practice room is to erase any potential distractions. That means that a practice room that also doubles as a den, bedroom or game room won’t be an effective space. A television, game system or bed could distract you by causing you to settle into another activity instead of practicing. What’s more, trying to practice when you’re tired can be difficult if you can see a soft, comfortable space where you could be relaxing if you weren’t practicing.
Key Items for Your Practice Space
An effective practice space doesn’t need to be completely empty. In fact, you’re going to need some key materials that will enable better practice sessions. Here’s a rundown of items to keep in your music room:
- Any instruments you use.
- A music stand that can be adjusted to be at eye level for any musician.
- An organized place to keep lesson books, pens and spare paper.
- A wall mirror that allows you to watch your form and technique as you practice.
- Recording devices that can be used effortlessly when you want to hear how you sound.
- Some low-key, beautiful art on the walls that makes you feel inspired!
- A comfortable chair for seated playing.
- An electronic metronome and tuner.
- A wall clock that will allow you to check the time without using your phone.
- Any necessary instrument stands.
- A place to store bottled water for when you become parched during a practice session.
Of course, your list may vary slightly based on the types of instrument you work with. The general idea is to create a totally self-contained space that won’t require you to duck out into the hallway to retrieve something. Even the simple act of leaving the room for a glass of water can cause you to get out of the groove during what should be a very focused time!
Don’t Forget About Lighting
Lighting is actually one of the most underrated aspects of a good practice space. What does light have to do with sound? Practicing in a poorly lit room will require you to struggle to focus on the sheet music in front of you. As a result, you will actually become fatigued far sooner than you would in good light. Simply struggling to see clearly may fatigue you even if you aren’t trying to read music. Generally, natural lighting is best for playing music if it’s possible to play in a space with windows during daylight hours. The next best thing is to simply have bright, natural-looking light illuminating the entire room while you play.
Musician’s Hack: Use a Timer Instead of a Clock
It’s perfectly fine to hang a clock on the wall of your practice room to able to keep track of how much time is passing as you practice. However, your session may be even better if you avoid looking at the clock. One of the best ways to allow yourself to get “lost” in the music is to use a timer instead. Setting a timer that will go off after a certain amount of time has passed will allow you to simply forget about watching the clock or keeping track of time on your own. With this burden removed, you won’t find yourself looking up at the wall to see how minutes have gone by.
Don’t Forget About Comfort
The goal of creating a sterile, distraction-free and clutter-free practice area is not to punish yourself! There’s no need to make your room uncomfortable or unpleasant just because you’re banning distractions. Do what you need to do to make a room have a comfortable temperature. This may mean adding heating or air conditioning. Of course, you want to ensure that you aren’t allowing extreme temperatures, moisture or humidity to potentially damage your instruments if you’ll be storing them in your practice room.
Make sure you’re giving yourself a comfortable chair to use while practicing. Try to use a chair that’s as close to one you might be performing in as possible to help create concert-ready form and posture. The same rule applies for any chairs that you’ll be using for students who visit your space for lessons.
Some Smart Policies for a Good Practice Space
A practice space is only as effective as your ability to set boundaries regarding its usage. It’s important to be very firm about what is and isn’t allowed in your practice space. A good policy is to ban all phones and electronic devices. An exception would a device that is used to record a performance. However, you may want to consider using dedicated devices for recording that are in no way linked to your everyday phone or laptop to prevent any distractions from entering your practice space.
It’s also important to have policies in place for people who are outside the room. Let your family members or roommates know that you cannot be interrupted during a session! You may need to put some type of sign or indicator on the door of your space to let people know that practice is in session. If possible, use the same chunk of time each day for practicing to make it easier for other people to respect your quiet time.
Embrace the Art of Ritual
Study habits are important for all learners. In fact, decades of research make it pretty clear that there is a significant link between study habits and academic performance. This same reality extends to students of music! The cerebral and physical aspects of practicing music make “environment” such an important component of a good practice ritual. This is why creating a space that allows music students to focus, relax and tap into the skill and creativity that exist “beyond the noise” is so important. Here’s a rundown of things to remember as you create your practice space:
- A quiet space isn’t meant to be a punishment. It’s okay to make your music room relaxing, inviting and enjoyable.
- Anything you can add that reduces the need to “step outside the room” will increase your focus.
- Try to create a technology-free space.
- Remove any distractions that will cause you to become tired or ruffled because you need to “look up” from what you’re doing.
- Don’t be afraid to communicate to other people regarding your need for silence and privacy when you are using your music room for practice purposes or lessons.
You may just find that your new practice space is your favorite space precisely because all of the distractions that bombard you all day are gone! As result, practice time may become your favorite time of the day. Where should you start? It’s simple! Take a look at the place where you’ve been working on your music to make a checklist of potential things that you’ve been allowing to hold you back without even realizing!