An Audience of Leaves

May 3, 2018, 2:47 AM · In the past month or so I have found myself repeatedly drawn to practicing in the grove of trees that are arranged in a semi-circle in our backyard. I have found that I enjoy practicing outside much more than practicing in the oppressive walls of my room. In addition to enjoying the outside more, just being able to practice outside is a huge motivation for me especially after a long day of homeschooling in that very room, which has neither much light nor much space. The set up outside is fantastic, a branch over my head has a small hook where, if I need to put my bow somewhere, I can just hang it in a very accessible place, a natural bow holder if you will.


Another thing I have noticed about practicing outside is that it is quite helpful to release tension. The best way for me to describe it is that I am practicing in an area that I use specifically to practice.

When I practice in my room, I have school books that constantly remind me to study, art tools that make me want to draw and paint, and electronics that contain a plethora of distractions. When I can go outside the biggest distraction I have are the mulberries a few feet away. I suppose others deal with this by having a practice room, however, I much prefer to be outside. The only downside to playing outside is that if school is out I quickly have a small crowd of African children peering over the hedge asking for mangoes, but this only happens on weekends or holidays.

I'll never forget the time I was practicing outside and a wasp landed on the violin bridge. Now we have a pretty severe wasp problem with nasty black wasps, but this wasp was big and had a yellow stripe on its abdomen. My brother had been stung by one a while ago and it left a pretty big welt about an inch wide. So I didn't move... at all. I just stared out of the corner of my eye as the wasp proceded to 'lick' the bridge of the violin. Eventually, I slowly put the violin down on the picnic table and backed away. But it didn't leave for like two minutes. I guess it just liked the taste of rosin? At this point, the novelty of the situation had worn off and I was ready to start practicing again so I grabbed a cloth and quickly threw it over the violin. I then slowly pulled the cloth off while hiding behind a chair, and it flew off. Hasn't happened since.

Do you ever play outside?

Has anything unusual happened while you were doing so?


May 3, 2018 at 02:24 PM · I haven't played outside recently, although I remember playing in a local park some years back with a small group of friends. Before this, I had played a little out in the woods during my senior year in high school. It was late spring, so the weather was warm enough for it.

My nearest thing to outdoor playing these days is playing in the garage. It's warm enough here, north-central Alabama, USA, to do this about 8 months each year. The garage has the reverb I like -- although I don't get the full effect of it, because I use foam earplugs, dB factor of -33. I've used the garage for evening sessions about 13 years. I evidently have a different audience each day -- neighbors and passers-by tell me that they stop to listen.

Unusual happenings? Nothing like the wasp experience you described. But I did have one unusual visitor I wish you could have seen. This was 6 years ago. It was a neighbor's kid, about 6 y/o. He had been riding his bike outside and had stopped to listen. He parked his bike in the driveway, walked up to garage door, and knocked. You guessed it -- he wanted to try out my instrument.

Well, I'm not a teacher, and I had my doubts about a 6-year-old's ability to hold up a 4/4-size instrument. But when a little one plants both feet in front of you and holds out his hands and says, "Show me" -- well, what else can you do? No mishaps -- my instrument didn't fall to the floor, although I was right there to catch it in case it started to.

May 4, 2018 at 02:15 AM · I'm an avid pipe smoker, and because my wife is more gracious than anyone deserves, I have a little outside "study" in my back yard. I often practice out there or in the back yard. I quite enjoy practicing outside, but I'm sure my neighbors don't.

May 4, 2018 at 10:18 AM · Whenever the sky is clear and it's not too hot, my apartment balcony is my favorite place to practice. It actually got me an audition for the semi-professional orchestra I play in. A member of the orchestra walked past my apartment and heard me practicing, told me I should audition for a viola section opening, and put in a good word with the director. I don't think I would even have had the chance to audition without that chance meeting, because I had a very thin musical resume and was almost completely self-taught at the time.

I've played a whole bunch of outdoor concerts since then. No unusual experiences in those; the only especially memorable thing about any of the outdoor concerts was that the power went out near the end of one of them and we finished the concert using our cellphones as impromptu stand lights.

May 5, 2018 at 04:17 AM · I have a very happy memory from childhood; I was at camp up in the mountains near Colorado Springs ("Starr Ranch") and for the first time, I was learning how to play the Pachelbel Canon. I practiced it and learned it out in the mountain air, under the Aspens, standing next to a very big rock!!

May 5, 2018 at 01:33 PM · I tend not to play outside - it doesn't actually occur to me. But my lounge room is so full of potplants that I have an audience of leaves anyway :-)

May 5, 2018 at 05:30 PM · I like to practice outside in my backyard when the sun's out and the temperature's decent. I also like to practice in my sun room when the temperature is right. I like to practice in these places because I love the warmth of the sunshine and being in the fresh air. I also like the acoustics in my sun room.

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