You’ve got your instrument, your sheet music, and your books. You’ve found a great music teacher to guide you. But… let’s take a look at your home practice space. Could it be holding you back? Learn how to improve it with these tips from piano teacher Eric B…
A few years ago I had a student who was struggling to improve. She was practicing more than I asked, but every week brought in mediocre versions of the songs I assigned. We tried different techniques for months with no success.
A few months passed and we did an online lesson when I was on tour. I was shocked to see where she was practicing: the piano was in a hallway, and her siblings were running back and forth by her while she tried to play. Because the space was too tight, she was squashed against the keys. The only light came from a bare bulb in the hallway, and there was a massive pile of toys on the piano.
This poor girl had one thing standing between her talent and becoming a great musician: a terrible practice space.
Having an amazing practice room that keeps you focused is essential to consistent improvement. Here are seven ways you can spice up your music practice space:
1. Get great lighting.
Make sure that the room you practice in is well-lit. I love practicing in naturally lit rooms, with a simple piano stand light on the piano so I can see my sheet music. If it’s too dark in the room you may fight fatigue sooner than if your room is brightly illuminated.
2. Have a cell phone shelf outside your practice room.
Get a cheap wall-mounted car key holder and place your phone on it each time you go into your practice room. This will keep you from getting distracted during practice sessions. If you place a charger by the wall holder, you’ll have the added reward of a fully charged phone when you leave.
The fewer items in the room, the less likely you’ll be to get distracted. Move all items that don’t relate to music to other rooms, and your mind will relax and focus on the task at hand.
4. Get a kitchen timer.
Now that you’ve decluttered your room, you’ll need to keep track of your practice time. Use a cheap kitchen timer to help you stay focused while you’re practicing. Take a look at bunch of great options here.
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5. Get a metronome.
Metronomes are the least expensive way to improve your rhythm, and having one by your piano or keyboard will encourage you to use it daily. Here are a few inexpensive but quality metronomes to consider.
6. Bring a water bottle and a high-protein snack.
Most instrumentalists will burn calories while playing, so make sure you keep your energy levels high. I love snacking on nuts or a protein bar while I play, and a big 32 oz. bottle of water by the piano (cap on to prevent spills) helps me stay hydrated.
7. Put a practice calendar on your wall.
I recommend keeping track of your music practice on a calendar. This will give you a visual reminder of how consistent you’ve been with your practicing.
Then, set rewards for yourself after a certain number of consecutive practices. I love getting coffee, so I go out and get my favorite cappuccino after 10 days of practice. Get creative!
Fortunately, there’s a happy ending to my piano student struggling to learn in a hallway. After talking with my student’s parents, they made some big changes.
They converted part of the dining room in their house into a practice space, adding a special bookshelf and colorful music-themed decorations. She switched from struggling to excelling in a matter of weeks.
If you’re investing time and money into music lessons, give yourself the best shot at succeeding in the practice room. If you make the effort, it might just pay off in a lifetime love of playing music.
Editor’s Note: We also like these 12 tips from Piano Power, with additional ways to make your music practice space productive — like eliminating audio distractions, considering personality differences, and keeping acoustics in mind.
Photo by Joe Buckingham