I discussed in a previous post the components of the perfect practice space.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that my own practice space is not ideal – too cluttered with books, instruments, computers, desks etc etc. Whilst not perfect I do have many of the elements that enable me to be productive when I need to be.
I touched briefly in the previous article on facilities. Here are a few essentials you should aim to have:
Don’t just pick any old chair you happen to come across. You’re going to be spending a lot of time sat in this chair (aren’t you?!?). It needs to be comfortable and support you in the right way.
I’m not going to tell you which chair to get or which is best because it will depend on which instrument you play. Guitarists sit in a completely different position to violinists. What I will say is make sure it supports you in the right position for YOUR instrument.
Once you have got your chair don’t be tempted into thinking that because you have the right chair you can slouch – you can’t!! Posture is very important to playing a musical instrument well. Get it right and you might save yourself some back pain later.
Until you have trained your muscles in the right way you will need to rely on how things look to get them right. Are you holding the instrument in the right way? Is the mouthpiece in the right place? Is your posture correct? It’s very difficult to see these things without a mirror.
You should choose a mirror that suits you. A full length mirror can suit a lot of musicians, however a small mirror placed on a music stand can be invaluable for wind and brass players wanting to check their embouchure.
Once you’ve got your mirror you have my permission to strut and pose as much as you want in front of it – let your imagination run wild and pretend you are the next Menhuin, Marsalis or Slash!
If you are learning the piano I sincerely hope you have one of these in the practice room!!
For players of other instruments I would strongly suggest you try to get access to one. Checking notes, aural work, harmony and general musicianship will all benefit very strongly from having a keyboard at hand. I don’t know anybody that makes a living from music that doesn’t have at least some ability on the keyboard.
How do you sound to other people?
This is a really difficult question to answer when you are playing. How you sound behind the instrument can be very different from what the audience hears. Having a recorder on hand can give you a fresh perspective.
A recorder can also help focus your listening. The brain has a lot to cope with when you are playing – co-ordinating fingers, reading notes, keeping time as well as listening. Being able to listen back to yourself presents a chance to listen free from distraction.
I know what you’re thinking, what type of recorder should I get?
Twenty years ago it was simple. Get a cassette recorder, a mic and record. With modern technology there are many, many ways you could record yourself. Some that I have used are:
- DAT Tape
- Mini Disc
- 8 track
- Mic to PC
- Mic to desk to PC
- mp3 recorder
- mobile phone
Currently if I had to choose I would use one of the small portable mp3 recorders available such as the Tascam DR1 Portable Digital Recorder. It won’t break the bank and is very easy to use.
Permanent practice location
As a final word on practice room facilities I would suggest if at all possible you get a permanent practice room. You can have all your stuff around you at all times, leave your gear setup and start practice at the drop of a hat.
The aim of any practice space is to help you improve as quickly as possible if it does that then you’ve got it right.
So what works for you? I’d love to hear in the comments below