Recently I found out that a student of mine had been taking lessons with me for a number weeks and had yet to invest in a music stand for his home practice. This is not ideal—a musician needs a stand. I know what you are thinking: why hadn’t his teacher told him to get one? How else would he know he needed one?
I used to give students a supplies list in their first lesson. But I didn’t follow up with them on whether they got the items on the sheet. I was so focused on providing quality lessons—the time students and their families were directly paying for—that I allowed myself to assume they were set up at home.
After hearing about one student without a home music stand, I talked to others. It turns out some students were practicing while sitting on their beds with the music beside them, their necks at uncomfortable angles, their bodies in incorrect positions. Some were sitting on the couch while watching TV. Others weren’t practicing at all because the room where the guitar was kept was always being used by other family members. I was expecting my students to come to each lesson having worked on their songs and lessons, yet I hadn’t told them about the best path toward success: having a designated practice space that inspires focus, dedication, and productive practice.
If you haven’t thought about how a space can inspire, let me tell you about an experience I had this past summer with my own practice room. My students are familiar with the lesson room at Montavilla Guitar Studio, aka my dining room. My own practice space used to be a place where I did practice, compose, and transcribe music. But then life got really busy. Running Montavilla Guitar Studio was taking up most of my time. My practice room turned into a storage closet for boxes and stacks of papers, guitar cases, unwanted furniture. It was a cluttered mess. The clutter made my practice space unusable and it contributed to me not using the space. That’s right—because I didn’t have a private space dedicated to my own practice, I wasn’t practicing.
As soon as I uncluttered the space, got a little organized, I found I was once again inspired to spend time in the room, practicing, writing, and creating music. How I uncluttered is another story entirely. (I can tell you I had help!) The point is that the space is crucial to the work we do.
Your practice space basics:
Great lighting can enhance your mood and productivity. Make sure you have the right lighting appropriate for reading music. Also consider the benefits of natural lighting when setting up your perfect practice space.
Cold hands don’t play well. A while back I had a student whose father thought the garage would be the perfect place for lessons. In January, the temperature in the garage was about 55 degrees. Too cold! Make sure your practice space is comfortable and, if you are like me, on the slightly warm side.
Tools of the trade
Make sure you have the right equipment to make practicing productive and fun. Here’s what you’ll need:
1. Straight-backed chair with no arms
2. Foot stool that supports your feet and keeps your knees bent at 90º
3. Music stand, with stand light, if necessary
4. Guitar stand, which is optional, but easy access to your instrument will inspire you to pick it up more often
Your perfect practice space will be relatively distraction-free, quiet, and conducive to prolonged focus on your music. Your bedroom might be the right spot. If you share your space with others, you might need to work out schedule so that your practice time is honored by all in the household.
Make your practice space special by decorating with things that inspire you. Hang posters of your guitar heroes or frame your favorite motivational quote and hang it above your music stand. A little inspiration will help keep you focused on your long-term goals, and keep you motivated to during those days when your energy is low.
Share what makes your practice space work for you, inspire each other with ideas, and support our common goal to make music and grow together as a community of practicing musicians.
Participate in the #MyPracticeSpace challenge by posting a picture of your practice space here: https://www.facebook.com/MontavillaGuitarStudio. Your photo will become a part of an impressive group collage early in 2015!