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The Weekend Vote

V.com weekend vote: Where have you had your best practice?

January 11, 2008 at 7:05 PM

About a year ago, I was right in the middle of some Bach and Paganini breakthroughs when the holiday season interrupted. We were to spend the season in Orlando, Fla., with Robert's family, and Robert, the two kids and I would be staying at a hotel.

How on Earth was I going to practice? I took my violin on faith: faith that I'd somehow get my fiddle there without some airline bureaucrat insisting it be thrown into the belly of the plane, faith that it wouldn't get stolen or hurt while in a hotel room, faith that I'd find a place to practice.

After arriving, I realized pretty quickly that my deep probing into Bach (one measure, 20 times, then the next...), my exploration of 10ths runs in Paganini...this music wasn't meeting with a lot of audience acclaim in our tiny hotel room, particularly with the two cute but squirrelly kiddos.

So when the kids finally snoozed off at about 10 p.m., I grabbed my violin and went looking. I found a little exercise room on the first floor, with windows overlooking the dark lake, and not a soul in sight. I unlocked the door with my hotel card, and went inside. I turned off the T.V., and it was quiet. I eyed an interesting exercise contraption -- hmmm, an excellent music stand. I took out my fiddle and delved in. No one actually knew where I was, and I had no noise, no people, no phone calls, no computer, no dishes over there in the sink, no ears at the practice room door. Before I knew it, I was deep inside myself and the music, and more than an hour went by before I surfaced and remembered where I was.

Good practice!

Anyone who realizes the importance of practice tries to set up a good routine, to pick a place that works well for practicing, to find a time with few interruptions, to make a habit.

When I spoke to Ruggiero Ricci last month, one topic that came up was how he practiced during the peak of his solo career. His wife, Julia, said, "Sometimes he would play on the road, and almost every day we were in a different place. There was very little time for practicing, between getting the plane, getting to the hotel, getting to the rehearsal. Sometimes a kid would come backstage after the performance and ask, 'When do you practice?' and he would say, 'You just heard me practice!'”

Ricci added, "One minute on the stage is worth one hour off the stage."

Now, not all of us practice by putting ourselves in front of a huge audience every day to play at the pinnacle of our ability -- few of us do! But I'm interested in knowing, where was the place where you had your very best practice, and what's the story behind it?


From Richard Hellinger
Posted on January 11, 2008 at 8:09 PM
I love to practice outside, when there is nice weather. I seem to be able to play my best there.
From Samuel Thompson
Posted on January 11, 2008 at 8:21 PM
Where I have no distractions at all - there have been hotel ballrooms at 2am, basements (now), that wonderful apartment that I had in San Antonio (looked over the Riverwalk and the Hyatt Hotel)...strange, all we really need is the instrument, music, pencils, a timer, and a cup of coffee...
From Tom Holzman
Posted on January 11, 2008 at 8:30 PM
I practice in a Florida room looking out onto our yard and fish pond.
From Sarah Chang
Posted on January 11, 2008 at 8:39 PM
I usually practice in the bathroom since the acoustics sound better. :)
From Mara Gerety
Posted on January 11, 2008 at 10:39 PM
I get distracted or lazy if I try to practice anywhere but an actual practice room. Hotel rooms can also be OK.
From sharelle taylor
Posted on January 12, 2008 at 12:38 AM
In an effort to please my family, its the walk in wardrobe, door shut, door shut to the bedroom, and hopefully the sound is held in by the shelves full of clothing.
From Lawrence Price
Posted on January 12, 2008 at 3:46 AM
For a number of years I traveled a couple of times a month between New York and London. I carried my Hill double case with two old fiddles back and forth on almost every trip. I would get a few hours between meetings to add a little Bach to my life. It made the room at my club seem like a refuge. Of course this was in the days when no one was bothered about a big violin case being carried onto the plane.
From Carolyn Berger
Posted on January 12, 2008 at 4:17 AM
Believe it or not, the elevator in the school music building was pretty fantastic. Plus the elevator was round.
From Jasmine Reese
Posted on January 12, 2008 at 4:20 AM
Samuel, I belive it was Virginia Woolf who said all writers need is a room and some money. She could have added the coffee, pencil and piece of paper as well. It seems all artist share the whole, just needing a room thing, in common.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on January 12, 2008 at 2:43 PM
My best playing has always happened on the stage, even though not all performances have been my best playing. So, I guess if that counts for practicing...
From Anne Horvath
Posted on January 12, 2008 at 3:28 PM
Poor Sharelle, practicing in the wardrobe! Bless your heart!
From Ruth Kuefler
Posted on January 12, 2008 at 10:21 PM
I'd say I practice best in my bedroom . . . its quiet and private enough so that I can really concentrate, but not ugly and boring like the practice rooms at my school . . . so uninspiring, haha.
From Cecily Ward
Posted on January 13, 2008 at 7:43 AM
In my head!!! - often while still in bed after the alarm has gone off a bunch of times and I'm mostly awake but don't feel like getting up, or in the shower - or even while driving!
From Mendy Smith
Posted on January 14, 2008 at 3:46 AM
Most of my best practicing has been in my own music room. I've spent alot of time making it the most beautiful place to practice in (with the eye as well as acoustics). However, that time in the hotel hallway in Hong Kong while my room was being cleaned was quite an experience. :) That is more of the practice that I need: in a strange place, very public, and major jet-lag.
From Carrie Salisbury
Posted on January 14, 2008 at 9:07 AM
I'm with Sarah on the bathroom.

Big wide mirror and lots of ceramic to bounce the sound around

From mark dickman
Posted on January 14, 2008 at 8:50 PM
I live in an apartment in which the lease says no musical instruments (I moved in during a period in which I'd stopped playing), so I've had to be creative. On workdays, I practice in what's called the "memorial room" of the law library after work. Nobody can hear me there. On weekends or days off I practice in the laundryroom/storeroom basement of my huge old apartment building on Lake Michigan in the Rodgers Park neighborhood of Chicago. The only drawback to the memorial room is that sometimes the air is exceptionally dry, and as a clarinet player, that can play havoc with the reed. Fortunately, I have finally switched to plastic reeds which aren't affected by the weather. The drawback to the basement laundryroom is that the light is bad so that reading the music can be a problem. In addition to the place affecting practice, I also find attire an essential element in my routine. I recently bought a fancy/schmancy pair of shoes on sale (65% off)for the express purpose of wearing while I practice. These Hugo Boss "Sauls" (I've never before had footwear that had a name) improve my rhythm and allow me to play the Nielsen Concerto 10 per cent faster. I've dubbed them my "liquorice-stick slippers". Additionally, when I wear a black t-shirt, underwear socks and levis, my sound is substantially darkened. Maybe if the female violinists out there wear ballet slippers, you'd improve the agility of your bowing?

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