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Only few of us are lucky enough to have studio or some other dedicated place to practice. I think most of the time, musicians are going through their daily practice routines at home.

I'm thinking of changing a few thing around in my apartment, and came up with a question about designing a dedicated "corner" for practicing music. I think anybody will agree, that an environment around you, can affect effectiveness of your practice time just as much, as the instrument you play, or your practice schedule quality.

For example, I've noticed, that when I play in the kitchen, my acoustic guitar sounds much fuller, because sound is reflected from the tile, as opposed to my usual practice place in the bedroom, where I sit next to a bookshelf, and all the sound gets "sucked in".

I know, the question might sound subjective, but I am looking for solid tips on creating a good place for everyday practice. What should it have, what shouldn't? What is the best place in the apartment? Any tips on the acoustics, isolating and atmosphere related improvements? A picture of your "practice corner" with an explanation would be great.

I play an acoustic and electric guitars, but tips for other kind of instruments are welcome as well.

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I say don't mess with success. Set up in the kitchen! –  cornbread ninja Feb 16 '12 at 14:38
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don't set up in the kitchen. Do you really want an aerosol of cooking grease and water vapor settling on your equipment 2-3 times a day? –  horatio Feb 29 '12 at 15:28
    
Maybe you could set up the practice corner with ceramic tiling... –  American Luke Feb 29 '12 at 16:24
    
I think you've found one of the main points: it's all about the sound. That's what you want, so you should make sure you get it. Motivation is #1, rest follows. :) –  XTL Mar 7 '12 at 12:03

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A perfect practice area is really quite a personal space, designed around your personal learning style and really around your general psyche as a whole. It is really a reflection of who you are as a music student and your understanding of yourself and your learning needs.

As far as what the best place or area for a specific person in their home, I doubt anyone can really give an accurate answer because, above all else, your practice area has to be tailored to YOU.

What I will say is that your practice area should be an area that promotes relaxation, focus, concentration, physical comfort, and the ability to accurately hear what you are playing.

Relaxation helps to prevent physical tension, which can be harmful to developing a strong technique. Your practice environment should be a place where you feel relaxed or at ease.

Physical comfort is critical, as many of the worst technical habits on any instrument come from playing in an unsuitable physical environment. In other words, make sure you have a comfortable chair at an appropriate height (if you use a chair).

Focus/concentration is necessary to be able to get the greatest benefit out of your practice session. What this means depends on you - if extraneous noise distracts you, find a quiet place to practice. If visual motion distracts you, face away from windows, etc.

Auditory characteristics are important because the sound should be one of the most important indicators of your progress. However, I would personally shy away from practicing in an area that adds acoustic flavor to the music. For example, playing acoustic guitar in a bathroom can sound awesome, but this is partially because the reverb in the bathroom can mask some of the inconsistencies in your playing. To be able to truly critique your own sound while you play, it is better to shoot for an acoustically "dry" area. In addition, record yourself as much as possible for your "post-practice" review.

If there is any main point to my post that you should take away, it is that the only way to truly set up your perfect practice environment is to take the time to understand yourself, and what issues help or hinder your practice. What works for me may not work at all for you, and vice versa. Understand what you, personally, need from your practice environment and try it out, one thing at a time, until you feel you are truly able to phase everything else out.

One final thing I would suggest for any practice regimen - keep a timer handy. You will progress further and faster if you take regular breaks in your practice. This helps you maintain your mental focus while allowing you a physical rest period. I try to practice for 25 minutes, then rest for 5 - pomodoro style.

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Do see your point on dry acoustic environments but remember watching one documentary where a musician was recommending practice in areas with a lot of resonance because it gives a lot of feedback to the musician and confidence to make a stronger sound. –  Anthony Nov 28 '13 at 14:19

Generally, a good practice space has the following things:

  • Isolation. No matter how good you are, if you live with anyone else, they probably do not want to listen to you practice the same lick for 2 hours. Find a space where you can shut a door and not be easily heard by housemates, neighbors, etc. This is more difficult with wind and brass instruments, which are designed to be loud without any amplification, and bass instruments, whose low frequencies are more omnidirectional and more easily transmitted through materials that will absorb higher frequencies. Instruments that are normally amplified like keys, guitar and bass are easiest to isolate; invest in a setup that will allow you to hear the instrument through headphones, optionally with an auxilliary input such as a music track from a CD player or computer.

  • Comfort/Ergonomics. You want to practice. You will thus want to spend time in your practice space. Ergo, your space should be inviting to you in many ways. Enough room to stretch out or even dance around, nice comfy chairs and furnishings to sit in while practicing, listening, making notes, etc, a few decorations to make it look lived in, and generally good layout to avoid having to contort yourself to make adjustments to something you're using, will all contribute to good practice sessions.

  • Few or no distractions. You're there to practice, not to fiddle with things. If the space has a window, close the blinds enough that you can't see what's going on outside. If you have recording or other audio equipment, maintain it outside your normal practice time, and make sure it's always ready to turn on and go without a fuss. If the equipment includes a computer, I would try to avoid having games, IM software or even e-mail installed on it. I would also generally recommend not having a phone in the room, but sometimes you just have to have some way for people to contact you. For long sessions, keep some food and drink handy, but avoid succumbing to the munchies during your practice time. The general point is to keep you focused on what you're doing, so you should minimize the number of things you might need to do during your practice time other than practicing.

  • Acoustic returns comparable to your normal performance space. If you don't isolate the space using headphones, you will need to craft the space for desirable natural acoustics. But you have to be careful; what you want is not necessarily a very lively space where everything you do reverberates and sounds great, but a space that sounds as close as you can get to where you normally perform. A symphony hall has great acoustics, but any returns you get back without a PA system and monitors will be off of a lot of people and cushy chairs, and so it won't have the acoustics of your tiled kitchen or bathroom. In fact for many such spaces you'd be lucky to get anything back. For this reason, an acoustically "dead" space is generally preferred for a combination of isolation and acoustics approaching the average performance space. However, getting the acoustics 100% right is probably the least important aspect of a good practice space, and more often than not the acoustics you'll want is simply a question of "comfort"; being somewhere where you sound good is conducive to you wanting to continue to practice.

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What should it have?-

  • A place for each guitar. You shouldn't have to move half a dozen other things to reach a guitar.
  • A table. Personally, I cannot stand having extra things on the floor. These things make a very handy place to put books, instruments, etc while you're using them.
  • Specified places for extra picks, strings, and other little things. Losing that brand new set of guitar strings behind the pile of books is no fun.
  • A clock. Keeping track of time is important to being productive.

Location-

  • Since, you're in an apartment, a corner area of the building or another secluded spot would be preferable. Under, most circumstances, fellow occupants will not be wanting to hear you to all hours of the day (and night).
  • Another advantage of a secluded spot is that you won't have to hear others' din while you're playing.
  • Everything should have its own place in the room. However, don't try to keep to much in a small room. A cluttered room makes practicing hard.
  • Near a faucet. I play wind instruments and I don't like having to go to the other side of the building whenever I need a drink. I don't know if this one applies when playing guitars, though (unless you sing while you're playing).

Acoustics-

  • If you have a large room, with many furnishings, eg. curtains, shelves, and sofas, it will mute the reverberations somewhat. On the other hand, few furnishings, eg. an unfinished basement, will let the music resound.
  • No matter how few furnishings are in your room, a small room will always give a muted sound. You know the room's too small when you're playing to a wall whichever way you turn.
  • If you like the sound of the kitchen, why not 'recreate' the kitchen. Use tiling on the walls and floor. Be creative.

Atmosphere-

  • A lightly colored room provides a bright, vivid mood.
  • Likewise, a dark colored room tends to lend itself to a subjected, depressed mood.
  • More on colors- How colors affect your mood and abilities
  • Obviously, a well lighted area is desirable for reading music.
  • In my opinion, daylight is better than artificial light. It gives the area a fuller, less drab appearance and lowers the electric bills. However artificial light is necessary, obviously, on cloudy days.

You should be comfortable with the finished result. If it's distracting, its probably not doing you a favor. You're not going to have the chance to redo the area again anytime soon (most likely). You'll be living with the setup for a while.

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but the OP said he/she likes the sound on the kitchen, reflected by the tiles... I realise your answer has some good tips, but almost seems taken from a text-book (seems more related to building a studio). I was hoping to see some answers dedicated to the OP's particular need. –  jackJoe Feb 16 '12 at 9:29
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About color: Yellow is regarded to be a "creative/inspirational" color, so that would be a good starting point. –  awe Mar 1 '12 at 9:36
    
However, in addition to the above mentioned attribute, many sites state "Yellow has been known to be a frustrating color to work in". Orange on other hand, "conveys an air of exhilaration, cheerfulness, and a burst of the creativity. It evokes excitement, enthusiasm and energy." –  American Luke Mar 1 '12 at 14:41

I keep thinking about this question, and I think many of your sub-questions are a matter of personal preference.

How casual or serious is your practice? Do you already have an established regimen?

For many of us, playing and practicing music is relegated to free time. I go through periods of not playing any of my guitars at all. I just went through one such period and started playing again a few weeks ago.

Oddly enough, I had one of my classicals out in the living room on a stand. I spend a great deal of my free time at my desk at home, which is also in the living room, but out of reach of that classical. After the first or second day of picking it back up just because I was compelled to for one reason or another, I moved the stand to be within reach of my desk chair. I've played every day since then, and got my foot rest out a few days ago.

To make a long story interminable, you should set up wherever is most attractive to you. If you find that place to be the kitchen, that is wonderful. If you are worried about kitchen detritus, you could keep the guitar in a case in the kitchen rather than on a stand.

As far as what you should have there, others have covered this pretty well. I do want to suggest that you don't try to make it perfect prior to using it. Build your space gradually and let it be dynamic.

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I think these other folks made some great points. I would add that you should be careful what you keep in the immediate vicinity of your practice space. Don't keep anything that could be distracting you from what you're there to do. However also make sure to keep anything you use regularly during your practice sessions. Anything I use at least every other session is within arms reach. I do this because if I have to get up to get something from somewhere else, the likelihood of me getting distracted (especially by family) is much higher.

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