Eliza Bourgault - Musician

Music to transform the world 


Setting up a functional music practice room

Posted by Eliza Bourgault du Coudray on April 13, 2019 at 11:00 PM

We've all heard the old adage that "practice makes perfect" but have you ever considered how the environment may affect your practice? Is your music room promoting productive practice habits or is stopping you in your tracks? In this article I offer a few basic tips on how to organise and set up your practice room to optimise your environment for music practice.

1. Have an actual music room

For some, this can be easier said than done. The basic idea behind this is that you are creating physical boundaries for where the music practice takes place. Once you walk in, you should go into practice mode. When you walk out, you can do whatever you like. Ensuring you only have music-related items in the room will help minimise non-musical distractions.

2. Make sure there is enough light

Don't make "it's too dark to see the music!" an excuse for not practising. Ensure you have enough light to see properly as you don't want to strain your eyes.

3. Make sure the room is neither too cold nor too stuffy

If the room is too cold you might find that your fingers don't move with as much ease and flexibility as usual (you might need to spend some more time warming up). If the room is too hot that could also cause issues. Having windows, a heater, fan or air-con to regulate the temperature of the room is excellent. Ideally the temperature of the room should be fairly constant for the instruments anyway.

4. Devise an organised way of putting away your music

There is nothing more annoying than having to spend 20minutes looking for a piece of music! For the budding musician, this may not be an issue. However more advanced musicians who have collected a stack of music from years of learning will benefit greatly from finding a way to file away music. I put away my music books in cardboard boxes. I have boxes for grades 1-3 music; grades 4-6 music; advanced grades; technical work; aural & theory; & wedding music. This is just an idea. You could organise your music in alphabetical order by the name of the composer, as long as you can remember the composer's name!

5. Have pencils & erasers handy

Again this is something that may sound insignificant but can make a huge difference. We might need to notate something on the music - fingering, timing, expression markings, pedal diagrams. But if we have nothing to write these in, there is the possibility we might just stop to practice because we can't be bothered getting a pencil. By having a few pencils around the music room, this issue is solved! Other items I highly recommend are: eraser, sharpener (unless you use a mechanical pencil), coloured pencils if you like to use colour. Avoid using pens as pen markings are difficult to remove. A ruler is also handy if you photocopy music and the staff has been cut off at the edges.

6. Make sure your chair is appropriate to your height & instrument

This is crucial for good posture and making sure we don't injure ourselves. If you sit too low at the harp, the harp will weigh a tonne on your body. Having an adjustable chair is the best way to go so that you can adjust the height of the chair as you grow.

7. Have all tuning equipment close by.

Similarly to having pencils handy, you want to be able to have your tuning equipment (tuning key, chromatic tuner) close by so that if you notice your harp is really out of tune and it is putting you off, it will only take a short moment to fix it. So the good old "out of tune" excuse doesn't work!

8. Keep your notebook from your lessons open on your music stand/piano.

Forgot what your homework was? It should be written in your lesson notebook. Keeping it open ensures you check you are getting the set homework completed.

9. Invest in a metronome

Eventually you might be required to do a bit of practice with a metronome, a musician's best friend and worst enemy! Metronomes help us to play in time and not rush or slow down. It helps us identify areas in our pieces where we hesitate. It doesn't mean all your practice should be done with a metronome but it is a useful tool especially in the lead up to performances. Investing in a metronome is therefore a good idea. You can either buy one from a local music store, order one online, or these days you can download metronome apps. Google also has a metronome, so there are a lot of free options.

10. Avoid distractions

So that means: turn off mobile phones, turn down (or off) the tv. Anything that can ring will make it that much more difficult to focus.

I hope these 10 tips help! If you try some or all of these out, I'd love to hear if you notice any difference in your practice!

Categories: Teaching & music education

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