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Should your practice space matter?



 
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markp
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2018 7:31 am    Post subject: Should your practice space matter? Reply with quote

I have a strong preference for practicing in the great-room at my house, with its cathedral ceiling and wood floors. Not only can I look out the picture windows, but the sound bounces back to me in such a nice way, I can hear every nuance and overtone. It's like playing in a little church. Not especially echoey, but just about the perfect acoustics.

But some days my family is around and out of courtesy, I retreat to the back bedroom for my practicing. It is carpeted with thick curtains. It has a dead sound.

I always feel better in every way about my practice session when I use the big room, both during and afterwards. I think I get a lot more accomplished and feel more prepared to play whatever is required afterward. I enjoy what I'm hearing and it makes me want to practice longer.

Also, I've been using Adam exercises with their focus on getting a good sound above all else. That's much harder to do in a dead room--at least for me.

I have a trumpet professor friend who has the keys to his church and he goes there in the evenings for his practice. I know that Arturo Sandoval practiced in a sports stadium.

So, do you think that in an ideal situation one should practice in the place with the best acoustics if possible, or is that a crutch? I know that many great players who live in big cities are forced to make their practice sessions count confined to tiny apartments with limited hours. Sometimes, they must even resort to using mutes or practice mutes. I've also seen the tiny cubicles at famous music schools and conservatories that students use. Many of them become brilliant performers in spite of this.

Is there any up-side for practicing in a dull space? Could players forced to practice in less than perfect conditions somehow be better prepared for performing in difficult venues (such as windy, hot or cold outdoor stages) than those hot-house flowers with their perfect practice rooms?
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Turkle
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2018 7:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I practiced for years in practice rooms that were utterly dead. It's really hard to find the resonance in your sound and it can sort of kill your chops in that environment.

The benefit of a dead room is there's nowhere to hide - every last bit of junk in your sound and duffed attack is super-obvious. It can be a humbling experience.

I now practice in a medium-dead room in my apartment - I'm surrounded by bookshelves and carpet to try to be a good neighbor.

I personally think that both practice environments can be very useful depending on what you're practicing!

Cheers.
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bnsd
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2018 10:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I practice in a room with terrible acoustics... out of choice. Nothing to hide your mistakes. I have other rooms I can use if I want to check my tone and projection. But for pitch and attack...I want to hear my problems. Cathedrals don't do that for me
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Dave CCM/SSO
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2018 12:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello,

I think finding a healthy balance is the best case scenario. I appreciate the benefits of playing in a totally dead room, but it doesn't work for me as my main room. I need a little resonance to develop the correct way.

Chris Martin mentioned in an interview once that he believes a little bit of reverb is necessary for the majority of practicing. I think it's healthier. Playing in a totally dead room every hour of practicing could lead to a less than efficient approach in my opinion. It takes a lot more effort to try to "create the resonance" that we are all listening for.

That's not to say that we shouldn't ever practice in a dead room, just not all the time. Conversely, we should't play in a room that is too boomy or "wet" sounding.

When practicing in a room that has a little reverb, I've never had a problem listening for tiny imperfections in the sound. I think if you're really listening, you can hear them there as well.

As always, this is just my opinion.

Best of luck!

Dave
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SMrtn
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2018 6:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I get my best practice at a church hall that I have access to twice a week. Nothing to do with sound quality, it's a big space, no interruptions and I get it all to myself for up to four hours. At other times I practice in a spare bedroom at my house, but the distractions can be many and varied. I occasionally consider emulating Sonny Rollins and practice under a bridge somewhere, but I very quickly realise there are no bridges near my home.
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markp
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2018 7:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

SMrtn wrote:
I get my best practice at a church hall that I have access to twice a week. Nothing to do with sound quality, it's a big space, no interruptions and I get it all to myself for up to four hours. At other times I practice in a spare bedroom at my house, but the distractions can be many and varied. I occasionally consider emulating Sonny Rollins and practice under a bridge somewhere, but I very quickly realise there are no bridges near my home.


I wonder if Sonny practiced under a bridge for the solitude or for the acoustics--or both.
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Grits Burgh
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2018 10:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Most often, I practice outside on my deck. This promotes "putting air in the horn". It just feels good playing loudly outdoors (not overblowing, just using full breaths and projecting). This is good for me because when I practice indoors, I have a tendency to play softly and get lazy with my breathing.

In fact, I'm just about to go outside and start practicing...

Warm regards,
Grits
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Turkle
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2018 10:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

markp wrote:
SMrtn wrote:
I get my best practice at a church hall that I have access to twice a week. Nothing to do with sound quality, it's a big space, no interruptions and I get it all to myself for up to four hours. At other times I practice in a spare bedroom at my house, but the distractions can be many and varied. I occasionally consider emulating Sonny Rollins and practice under a bridge somewhere, but I very quickly realise there are no bridges near my home.


I wonder if Sonny practiced under a bridge for the solitude or for the acoustics--or both.


According to interviews with Mr. Rollins, he always said that he was just looking for a place he could play and not bother anyone else / be bothered - he couldn't play in his tiny Lower East Side apartment without getting hollered at by the neighbors. There wasn't anything romantic or beneficial about the bridge per se, it was just the closest place he could blow for hours.
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mm55
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2018 1:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And of course, that's one of the crucial characteristics of a good practice space.
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spitvalve
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2018 5:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Since we had to downsize to a smaller house three years ago, I lost my nice office/studio that I had set up in my son's bedroom after he moved out. My current practice room is a walk-in closet, and quite frankly, it sucks to play in there with all the clothes and boxes around me. I can never get a true picture of my sound. I'm always surprised at how big my sound actually is when I get a chance to play in a bigger room, which isn't very often due to odd work/sleep schedules in our family.

Looking forward to another one leaving the nest soon--I have dibs on her room.
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trumpetera
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 12:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Grits Burgh wrote:
Most often, I practice outside on my deck. This promotes "putting air in the horn". It just feels good playing loudly outdoors (not overblowing, just using full breaths and projecting). This is good for me because when I practice indoors, I have a tendency to play softly and get lazy with my breathing.

In fact, I'm just about to go outside and start practicing...

Warm regards,
Grits


Do you have neighbors?
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zaferis
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 4:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd say, ideally, varying the practice space would be my goal.
Like much of what we do, there are benefits and handicaps of each.

As a kid, my dad being a Minister, I always had a big church to pratice in - a great place to love your sound. And then when he retired we moved to the country, where in good weather I could play outside and get he natural reverb of the New England woods.
Touring with the USAF, we'd look for the stairwells, pool rooms, or large bathrooms - reverb galore.
But then, practice rooms like the Wenger modules, at schools, strip away that reverb and allow you to listen to every little detail.

After all, we don't perform in the same type of room every time. Having that experience of a variety of spaces could only help deal with the varying approaches we have to manage when performing.

Currently, I do much of my practice at home, in the basement or small studio where I teach most of my students. I miss the churches!

One downside for me now, is the volume. Even at home, in a decent sized room with some carpeting, my sound is quite loud. After a long session I notice my hearing is fatigued. For my own hearing protection I do some if not much of that work with a cup mute or something for some level of protection-not ideal.

Seek out a church and trade an occassional performance for rehearsal space.


Cheers!
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MGTrumpet
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 8:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I was in college - many long years ago, the ensembles I was in practiced often in a 5,000 seat auditorium.

Many times during my college career I was able to go on the stage and practice for one or two hours before each rehearsal.

THAT was always an amazing experience. The room was TOTALLY silent when I wasn't playing. I could hear every sound from loudest to softest, highest to lowest as it came back to me from the farthest reaches of the hall. I felt I could hear the room breathing with me.

That room taught me a tremendous amount about projection of sound and the feel for how a room responds.

Unfortunately, that room no longer exists since it has been cut up into a bunch of smaller spaces.

These days, I can't imagine too many people get that kind of opportunity - now it would be an issue of "security" or you'd have to pay for that experience or some other reason. It certainly wouldn't just be available for free.

Even after nearly 45 years, the memories of that are still crystal clear!
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TKSop
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 8:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dave CCM/SSO wrote:

That's not to say that we shouldn't ever practice in a dead room, just not all the time. Conversely, we should't play in a room that is too boomy or "wet" sounding.

When practicing in a room that has a little reverb, I've never had a problem listening for tiny imperfections in the sound. I think if you're really listening, you can hear them there as well.


Couldn't agree more with you whole post.


On the point of listening out for imperfections - if the only spaces we have available are hiding anything, there's always the option of recording ourselves and listening back to it... and that will definitely highlight the little flaws (it can also introduce some sensibly sized breaks as we go along).

This isn't something I do all the time, but every now and again I do find it useful.
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dstpt
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 10:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

While in graduate school, I lived in an apartment. I used to practice in a nearby office building parking garage late at night...10pm to 2am. I got in some pretty good practice sessions...between the muggings! (I was fortunate...very stupid, but fortunate.) I loved the acoustic. I could tune chords with myself. It helped me relax with my playing, which I believe helped me increase resonance in my sound, solidify pitch consistency, and made for a more nirvana-type experience. My biggest takeaway was all of the "memory" of the "nothing-but-pleasant" sounds. I think I experienced some of the best practice sessions of my career in that parking garage.

I recall talking with a flute player around that time, who said that she much preferred dead acoustics [made me want to recommend a mortuary or funeral home!], so that she could hear the slightest infraction in her sound and then address it. I can see that benefit, but for me, I tend to over-react to that acoustic. If I'm not careful when practicing in a dead acoustic, I will end up permitting more tension to manifest in my body in order to "control" what's coming out of the bell.

We're playing a show right now that is at an outdoor venue. We're in a spacious pit, but it's dead, dead, dead when you're warming up. Plus, we're playing into baffling, since the reeds are right in front of us. I have to focus my ear on what's coming out of the speakers (which we clearly hear) during the show, so that I keep that "control" factor to a minimum and just keep my attention on the "process" that I've practiced for years. Acoustics can fool us if we're not careful, but they can play a big part in training, and certainly, it's good to practice in all kinds of acoustical environments, so that you aren't taken by surprise the first time you move from your comfortable boomy acoustic to playing Taps outside at a cemetery.
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Nonsense Eliminator
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 1:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ideally, I think a practice space (1) allows you to sound better when you play better and (2) doesn't encourage you to do unhelpful things. Very dead spaces often fail to meet those criteria, because you sound terrible no matter what and are encouraged to play too loudly in order to get any kind of feedback from the room. I don't think you want to practice in great acoustics to the point where you're messed up playing in merely poor acoustics, and you don't want to practice in a room where you sound great no matter how badly you play. But there's a lot of room in between the extremes of too dry and too wet; if I had a great-sounding room in my house I'd play in it.
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