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While practicing flute I noticed I find it much easier to have a good tone when I practice in my living room then when I practice in my normal (music)room. I was thinking that this could be because of how the room acoustics influence the sound.

My living room is spacious, while the other room is a lot smaller, more cluttered and has a large surface covered with textile.

I find it easier in my living room to get a big clear sound out of my flute, making me more comfortable and relaxed, which makes me sound even better. In the small room it's a lot more difficult to get a good sound, I have to push more and generally struggle in the high register.

I'm not sure if this can be attributed to the room accoustics and how it would influence my playing. I think I am less hesitant to play louder in the large room, which makes it easier to make a well supported sound, making all other aspects easier. But I also wonder if it's subjective because I maybe get more feedback in the small room and I'm more aware there of the faults in my sound. I'm only guessing and have no idea!

I ask this question to know what's the best room for efficient practice, and if I have to do something about the accoustics in my normal practice room? Is the best room to practice in the large living room, that encourages me to fill the room but maybe hides my faults, or is it the small room, where I instinctively make my sound smaller but makes me aware of how I sound?

There's another question that kind of asks the same for voice, but it doesn't really answer the question I'm asking here: Room Acoustics for Singing

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  • Surely playing louder would emphasise any faults that may occur. What are other rooms in the house like acoustically? The bathroom, for example, may be small, but have a big reverberation factor. Bright rooms give bright sound - it's good to have less sound soaking material like carpets, armchairs, curtains or soft furnishings. Try removing those from the practice room. Also where you stand will make differences. I think we all compensate, often without realising, when playing in different acoustical situations.
    – Tim
    Jun 1 at 9:44
  • With regards to playing volume: quality of sound in wind instruments is related to support. For playing louder it's natural to engage the midrif more. Because of that it sometimes is easier to find a good sound when you try to play louder, while it is more difficult for beginners (like me) to play soft and steady. So my theory is that in the bigger room I'm forced to play with more support. But I'm not sure.
    – Tim H
    Jun 1 at 13:20
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Particularly on flute the room acoustics have a huge influence on the way the instrument sounds. If you are playing in a larger room with a lot of reverb you think you are producing a huge sound, and if you are playing in a room with highly absorbent walls you think you are producing a weak sound. Really you are producing exactly the same sound, it just feels different. Practising in a room with bad acoustics can be very disheartening, so it's best to find a room with just enough feedback that practising feels good. It sounds like you might need to make your practice room a bit 'livelier', maybe add a couple of wood surfaces, or reduce the amount of textile on the walls.

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While it's pleasing to play/practice in a room which enhances the acoustics, if you really want to improve the "source sound" (i.e. what you're generating), a well-damped or anechoic room is best. It'll sound crummy, but will reveal the tiny faults in pitch or tone, allowing you to improve your technique.

Every now and then, switch to a place with great acoustics just to keep your spirits up. I knew one trumpet player who would sit in a 4-story concrete stairwell -- the sound was excellent!

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I would recommend practicing in a mixture of different settings. Personally, I used to have problems playing too quietly in small spaces, because it felt like I didn't need to play as loudly to fill the room. As a performer, I think it's important to get used to a lot of different environments, so that you can feel comfortable no matter where you are.

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Room acoustics can be an important factor when practicing/performing music. If you are like me, I need to hear pleasant sound when I'm practicing or performing. That's part of what makes it appealing. But I also need to be somewhat versatile and be able to maximize the quality of sound in different environments. To accomplish that, I will practice in different environments focusing in part, at least, on what I can do to make things sound better to me in each environment. This helps me hear things in one room that I might not hear in another room and allows me to experiment and adjust. It also helps me develop a more critical ear which comes in handy when ear training. Stair wells and shower stalls are often fun places to practice too.

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Both are suitable but I would recommend:

  • Practice room for normal practice
  • Living room as a treat

Which is exactly what you're probably doing. I used to habitually practice in the bathroom because the acoustics were excellent. It made me slightly lazy and a little physically weaker than I could have been. I didn't have to work hard, so I didn't flex my playing muscles. But I did develop a good ear.

A dampened room will make you work harder. You'll develop better muscles for playing through the hard work and you'll be able to play loudly with less effort.

An echoey chamber will develop your ear. You'll hear nuances in your tone and tuning that you can't hear in your normal practice room.

And just as a final note, if you're practicing loudly, please do consider earplugs (particularly if you end up on piccolo). You'll protect your hearing and you might find out different things about your playing.

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