Not allowed to pratice?

June 17, 2011 at 01:27 AM ·

I was playing my viola, working on Kruetzer and scales. My dad then comes home and tells me to put my instrument up. For no reason that I  can understand. I mean, I am not William Primrose or Lionel Tertis, but I am not bad either. If it had just happened this one time I would forget it, but this has been going on for a while. I want to go to Juilliard or Curtis, and he knows this but when I pratice when my mom isnt home he tells me to put it up. I just dont get this. My parents have always said follow your dreams, but its like he is saying follow your dreams anywhere but there. How can i make him understand that I love viola, and would rather die than stop playing?

Replies (45)

June 17, 2011 at 01:30 AM ·

That's a pain. Have you asked your father, in a respectful way, why he wants you to stop?  Maybe it is late? Maybe he had a really hard day?


June 17, 2011 at 02:14 AM ·

Well, I don't know your father, so I will throw out some possible reasons. Keep in mind this is my attempt for a problem-solving equation; someone says ..., so I try and decode possible generalized motives. None of these are targeted toward your father.

He doesn't like the sound of viola music
He is uncomfortable with the sound, and can't relax when it is in the background
He mentally tries to follow the melody, so practice parts that are start/stop/start/stop are very discordant to him
He is afraid that a musician will never be anythign but poor
He has a stereotype of musicians he wants to avoid you becoming
He and your mom had a discussion about it before you started to play; he lost the argument, and when you play, it is a personal rebuke to him
He has a planned future for you, and the viola is a threat to that
He is afraid of the future cost; if he has been told that a good viola will cost in six figures, he is trying to sabotage your development because he is uncomfortable with the compromises he will need to make to purchase the instrument.

There may be other possible reasons, but if he behaves different when your mom is home, she would not be the person to talk about this for you. I would possible find someone you trust that knows both your parents (grandparent? Clergy?) and see if you can find the core to his objection.

Once you find the core, you can then decide what action would be the best to ersolve the conflict.

Is there a chance you could practice at school after school, at church at off-hours, or somewhere else?

June 17, 2011 at 02:38 AM ·

this morning i was writing a post and had your old man in mind:)  

if you were a bad kid doing drugs and getting stoned, he will be so happy you are home playing your viola.

parents these days are so spoiled... 

June 17, 2011 at 02:43 AM ·

My old man was the same way. I just had to find time when he wasn't home.

June 17, 2011 at 02:43 AM ·

June 17, 2011 at 03:48 AM ·

I will second the recommendation to take this up 1:1 with your dad -- and the sooner the better.  The off-premise practice venue -- e.g., school -- is worth pursuing, too, if you hit an impasse.

You say that your dad does this when your mom isn't home.  Does your mom know about this?  If not, she ought to.  If I were in your shoes, I'd call a conference with both parents and get it all out on the table.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I was a practice freak from the very first lessons.  My parents didn't have to tell me to practice.  In fact, there were a few times when they thought I was overdoing it a bit, although I never ran into the same situation you described.

But I recall one time when Dad was coming back from a business trip and wouldn't arrive home till 8 PM or thereabout.  Mom knew he'd had a long day and a long trip; so she asked me privately, before his return, if I could be working on repertoire at that hour instead of hard-core drills or studies.  No problem.

Around that time, I settled on a routine in which I wrapped up practice for the day by 9 PM.  I also found a split routine that worked well -- one that I've carried over till now:

  • Afternoon session: Hard-core practice.
  • Evening session: More pleasure-playing; lighter on practice.

Let us know how things turn out.

June 17, 2011 at 05:24 AM ·

Roland gives a great list of possible reasons - I would guess you suspect the reason.  Since you invoke more than just noise (resistance to follow your dreams) I am going to guess you think he wants you to take up some other, perhaps more practical vocation.  This is obviously a very delicate situation since you neither want to trigger a blow up - which might do more than inhibit your practise - and you don't want to create (or worsen) arguments between your parents.  I guess thats why you are asking the question here and not at home ;)

Look inside yourself for the answer with your dad.  You must have more evidence - what does he encourage you to do?  Does he talk more about homework or even social life (maybe he thinks you should get out more or have more friends)?  Listen to him - after all you want him to listen to you and its always the best strategy to solve any people problem.  Pick up on what concerns him and talk about that NOT the viola at first.  Maybe you can allay his concerns (re homework, social life etc etc) in such a way that he will become less troubled by yours.  At the very least you may find out what is at the core.  If it is a concern about your future as a musician you need him somehow to discuss this with to your viola teacher to get a feel for how good your prospects are - since you are aiming very high I have to assume that they are excellent.  Perhaps in that process he will develop more pride in your efforts and turn into a supporter rather than a detractor.

With such a strategy the worst is that he will not change but the best is that you may get more liberty with practise and your goals - and improve your relationship with him in the process.

Good luck!


June 17, 2011 at 08:17 AM ·

 on the other hand, he could have just had a rough day at work and wanted silence when he got home to regroup.  I've had plenty of those days myself over the years. I wouldn't take it personally, but WOULD ask for the reason to stop practicing.  The discussion may result in a solution that meets both your needs (practice earlier, later, in a different room at a certain time in the evening, etc...).



June 17, 2011 at 09:37 AM ·

Hunter your dad is probably is music lover. 

Buy yourself a metal mute and practice with it behind the closed door when he is around. Your dad will wonder why you are so quiet and come and look if you are still alive.

June 17, 2011 at 12:57 PM ·

One thing you might want to do is ask your Mom why he does that.  Might give you some insight into what his issue is, if you are not sure.  But, eventually, as many have suggested you will probably want to talk with him to get it all out on the table, perhaps with her present.  Then, if it's something other than what you suspect ("you'll never make a living playing viola"), you can figure out strategies to avoid whatever his problem is.  Talking first with your Mom may also help you figure out strategies if the problem is not what you suspect.

June 17, 2011 at 01:57 PM ·

Aside from speaking to him about it, I have a feeling you will probably have to compromise. Unfortunately, the joyful sounds of practice can be grating to some people, especially after a hard day's work. I encounter the same issue with my mother's live-in boyfriend...and I have agreed to not practice after 8 pm and before 7 am (although I do cheat and practice *quietly* around 7:30 sometimes). It's sort of a pain in the behind, but at least it makes me organise my practice sessions better so I can get everything done before then. You'll probably have to do the same. Respect the other people who live with you. Of course they want you to follow your dreams, but think about it...if you were a non-musician who just came home from a hard day at the office, would you necessarily want to be listening to someone practice possibly annoying material? Humans are imperfect. Talk with him, find a compromise, better organise your sessions so everyone is happy. :)

June 17, 2011 at 06:02 PM ·

 While I was in Europe at a hotel and I wanted to practice, but not wake the people in other rooms, I used a practiced mute to mute the sound. Yes, the tone sounded crummy, but it's better than nothing. Maybe determine a time between your parents and you where using a practice mute would allow you to continue to practice and allow your parents to relax in silence. 

Also, I've seen similar things happen to me, and I don't take it to heart. I'm not the only one living in the house, and my parents usually ask me to put the instrument down only to help me (give me a break) or to have family bonding time. 


June 18, 2011 at 11:54 AM ·

 Hi ! I am 67 and a learner since 3 months now.  I do have a wife who love her TV series 24 hours a day.  She goes to sleep after one in the morning !  I had to shut myself in my small office room.  If, like me, during your practice, you make more noises than music, then, this may be the problem.  Nobody likes noises.  Only a mother may accept it.  After making 3 months noises, now I am managing to play some music, and the problem is solved by itself. My wife calls me Beethoven ! 

June 18, 2011 at 01:45 PM ·

Beethoven is a great start, but the red lettered day will be when she names you after a violinist :D

June 18, 2011 at 02:01 PM ·

The Mom of one of my teen students once expressed a little exasperation at his constant OCVD (Obsessive Compulsive Violin Disorder) practicing.  With some humor, I pointed out:

  1. Her son wasn't doing drugs
  2. Her son wasn't selling drugs
  3. No one was addressing her as "Grandma"

She took it well. (Smile) 

Communication is your ally.  Enlist your teacher's help, and have a sit down talk with your father.  Explain your goals and practicing needs, and come up with a practicing schedule that the whole family can live with.  Good luck!

June 18, 2011 at 03:09 PM ·

I have 2 rubber mutes - the little one sounds airy and ugly and the big one all the way down sounds like a snotty nose. But if you put the big rubber mute on the bridge only a little so it just barely stays on It sounds alright. Its brighter... but about 1/2 the volume. Maybe he dosent like Kreutzer etudes? Maybe Bach instead?

June 18, 2011 at 06:55 PM ·

 Hi Elise,


Yes, Beethoven is a great start !  By the way, with my 3 months making noises, now I can play Ode to Joy.  Next time I want to learn and play  "Fur Elise"..


Enjoy a blessed Sunday and have a very good week ahead. 

June 20, 2011 at 03:34 PM ·

Heather, you wrote:

I encounter the same issue with my mother's live-in boyfriend … and I have agreed to not practice after 8 pm and before 7 am (although I do cheat and practice *quietly* around 7:30 sometimes). It's sort of a pain in the behind, but at least it makes me organise my practice sessions better so I can get everything done before then.

I never experienced this kind of living arrangement; but I've heard and read over the years some stories about live-ins making life difficult for the kids -- although some lawful wedded wives and husbands are notorious for causing just as much grief.  Sigh -- would that it might not be so; there's a long way to go.  As you mentioned, humans are imperfect.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Hunter, one other idea came to me: Unless you're paying for your viola lessons, my guess is that your parents are paying for them.  I'm sure your dad understands that you need to practice to keep your playing at a level that meets the requirements of your teacher and orchestra director.  Would he pay for these lessons and, at the same time, not allow you to do what it takes to keep your playing in shape and make the investment worthwhile?

I have no idea what your all-around schedule is -- or your dad's schedule, for that matter; but you might consider practicing right after you get home from school and then doing your academic homework afterward -- in the hours when your dad is home.  But again, communication is key; everybody needs to be in the loop.  Hope this helps.

June 22, 2011 at 04:32 AM ·

 All these are good suggestions, so I'll throw out a silly one: take up the trumpet  and he will be begging you to go back to viola (it's the old date-a-biker trick to get your mom to like your artist girlfriend or boyfriend.) My viola-playing daughter took up trumpet a couple years ago and was self-taught at first. Listening to a trumpet newbie made me really appreciated the Walton concerto. 

June 23, 2011 at 03:01 PM ·

You should just ask him. Then you'll know for certain. 

Just guessing however:  It can be hard to manage a household - and try and give everyone the space they need.

I play the violin/viola, and I try to play when no one is sleeping (which is actually hard some days).  I was also playing the soprano sax (still a beginner)...that drives everyone batty...even my dogs...I'm scared to start up

My daughter plays advanced piano...and practices 1.5-2 hours a day...she'll often do 1 hour in the morning (say from 5-6: which wakes me up) and then again from 8-9 or so...while we're trying to veg and watch TV...

So while I want her to play, and don't mind most of the time...on those days that I'm overtired and need to relax...being woken up at 5 a.m., and not being able to watch TV to unwind...can be annoying...

And no...given the layout of our house...we cannot move the piano (or the TV)...I do however have a small  music room for myself, so I can close the door when I need to (however, even that's not  enough to dampen the saxophone , lol) 

That's one possibility...


June 23, 2011 at 08:11 PM ·

You can throw me in with the people suggesting a metal silencer. Also, practice as far away from your dad as possible. It reminds me of growing up with my grandparents. My grandfather, who was a super strict, old-school Italian immigrant, couldn't stand hearing my brother and I practicing guitar during our high school years. It didn't help that my room was right next to his! I ended up practicing with my electric guitar unplugged and developed a soft touch with regards to my finger picking. Aah...memories.

As far as violin goes, I have an NS Wav electric violin that I use unplugged to practice in the early morning/late evening when the wife and kids are i bed. Sure it's more expensive than a silencer but if I ever go the electric route, I have this.

June 24, 2011 at 06:42 PM ·

Hunter, I think you may have ignited old wounds!  I am 68 and about a year and a half ago took up the violin after a 50+ year hiatus.  I ended my burgeoning career at about 16.  I also had a father that would come into my room and tell me to put it up.  Never could figure it out either.  However, I always attempted to practice when he wasn't around and progressed that way.  As an adult and finally thinking about it I attributed it to the fact he was probably jealous of my playing and /or was just mean spirited.  Anyway I finished the Bruch Gm vc and proceeded to stop playing.  I loved the instrument however my entire life and restarted about a year and half ago.  I am playing all sorts of things and again working on the Bruch--I now recognize it, so I guess thats progress.  My advice is don't stop for anything--if you need to find a spot away from home to practice, then do it.  You didn't tell us how old you are, but it doesn't matter just find time and a place to do what you love and time will take of the rest.  You're getting a lot of good advice from this forum and perhaps you can piece things together to help--and I hope this adds to the mixture.  Good luck!! 

June 24, 2011 at 09:43 PM ·

Charles just reminded me too Hunter: I grew up in a family with 7 children so there was nowhere really to practise at home even though my parents were tollerant, it was just a nuicance.  However, my music teacher at school let me practise in the music room at lunch or when I had a free period.  Come to think of it, its probably the only time I did pracise at the time :)

Perhaps you could stay at school for an hour?

June 24, 2011 at 10:49 PM ·

Being forbidden to practice as such, as a youngster was not really an issue - but my parents did have this quaint notion that homework should come first. But when I got to the Sevick book of position changes - well, let's just say that i did not make things very pleasant in my household!

But Hunter, have you spoken yet with your parents?

June 25, 2011 at 01:43 AM ·

I havent spoken to them yet. I cant pratice at school. "School" is 30+ miles from where I live and legally I cant drive yet. It got better when the plastics plant he works at switched him to 12 hr days instead of nights. I guess he finally realized  that he cant stop me from praticing after I didnt stop when he came home one day. I did have the mute on though. Oh yeah, just found out that im supposed to play in an orchestra with my instructor in Oct.! :)

June 25, 2011 at 12:46 PM ·

Hunter - I really feel for you. And I suspect that there are some problematic family issues and dynamics apart from the viola itself, though maybe after a long day at work, he just doesn't feel like hearing it. But sooner or later you have to talk. Maybe begin with your Mom?

June 26, 2011 at 09:49 PM ·

Hunter, if your dad is working 12 hour days I guarantee he is tired and just wants peace and quiet when he comes home!  Trust me.  He's just tired!

Try to practice when he is not home and use a mute when he is home.  If you let him know that you are trying to give him some quiet time, it will go a long way to him easing up a bit on your practice time.  I'm sure your dad knows that you have goals and that you are passionate about the viola.  At the same time he is working very long hours to put food on the table and make your viola playing possible.  I have weeks when I work 12 hour days myself.  It's not fun.  I drains everything out of you and you do need some rest after those days.

June 26, 2011 at 10:27 PM ·

I encounter the same issue with my mother's live-in boyfriend … and I have agreed to not practice after 8 pm and before 7 am (although I do cheat and practice *quietly* around 7:30 sometimes). It's sort of a pain in the behind, but at least it makes me organise my practice sessions better so I can get everything done before then.

I thought about making a thread about it as well but since somebody else already did, I'd rather refrain. I moved a bit more than half a year ago and currently am living with mom, sister, 4 month old brother and mom's .. fiancee. I've been playing for half a year without any complains but probably because he's more on the shy part and can't really tell me face to face if he has a problem. But then one day, I heard from mom that I am no longer allowed practicing after 9 pm.

As time went by, the restrictions got tighter and tighter and now, the limit is when he comes home. So yes, nobody else minds but just the fiancee. He doesn't listen to classical music ever, he is not used to hearing classical instruments, he is not a "classical" person. That's why I cannot play when he is at home.

The 4 month old brother does not mind. I do tend to refrain from playing when he sleeps tho because he got a lot more sensitive to sound lately. So if I still haven't picked up my viola and/or violin before 6 pm, then I go outside, open the door to the storage room and play there. The acoustics are awful, there isn't much space to put my violin/viola case onto but it does the trick.
(Especially when curious chicks come knocking on the door) < it happens ;; really ;;


June 27, 2011 at 07:29 PM ·

If it makes anyone feel better...when I started, I had to play in the basement bathroom, with the door closed.  I didn't have a music stand, so I had to prop my music on the toilet...

...come to think on it...I can probably trace all my musical inadequacies to that...

(jk.  Mostly I just remember it being cold down there and my music didn't want to prop properly on the toilet seat.  I've since graduated to not one, but TWO sturdy stands.  One is higher for when I play standing, the other is at seat level.  The perks of being a grown up.). :D


June 27, 2011 at 07:44 PM ·

Well when I started, I used to play in my room and prop the music up on the pillows of my bed. After several months, my husband built me my own 'practice room'.  It was had candles for atmosphere, a wonderful mirror for bowing, was beautifully decorated, painted, and furnished.  I hated to leave the room; it was so nice - so conducive to practice..

My kids told me later on that my husband got right onto building the room because my bedroom sat right over the den, and he couldn't stand hearing classical music over his sports channels.  Turns out, the 'music room' is on the opposite side of the house -  nowhere near the den or TV.

---Ann Marie

June 27, 2011 at 09:30 PM ·

well, you have one amazingly considerate husband - took the constructive (yes in both senses) way out.  How easy it would have been to instead initiate an argument....

June 28, 2011 at 05:23 AM ·

 It sounds like he hasn't given you a reason. Have you asked him why he does this? If I misread, I apologize- it is well past my 'bed time.'

June 29, 2011 at 08:45 PM ·

I just feel uncomfterable asking. Music just seems to make him mad sometimes.

June 29, 2011 at 09:18 PM ·

Then perpahs you need to talk to someone else about it Hunter, to stop it become a THING between you and him (assuming of course it isn't already) and you have to be able to get on.  Ideally your mum but if not that perhaps someone you trust - an aunt or something? 

July 2, 2011 at 03:48 AM ·

 I think I know what the problem is here, guys.

He's playing a viola.  Put down that monstrosity, and pick up a violin good sir.  Problem = solved.

July 3, 2011 at 09:58 PM ·

Funny you mention hair......

July 4, 2011 at 03:43 AM ·

 Aw :(. The topic of music tends to upset my father, as well, though I can thankfully practice.

Is he ever not at home? Perhaps practice during the hours he is out? If your house has two stories: perhaps purchase a good mute and practice on a different floor?

If people are sleeping and I need to practice I put my mute on and practice in the laundry room.

July 10, 2011 at 07:24 PM ·

 My parents didn't want me to hear me practice, though perhaps it was a good thing they were often at work, so I practiced when they were not home. If that wasn't possible, I rented a practice room in a music school downtown for $1 an hour. 

Perhaps ironically, my parent's neighbours enjoyed hearing me play, and when I moved in an apartment building with my husband, we've had a number of fans of our playing! One of my cousins was and still is a big fan of my playing, his older daughter (who is 4 1/2 but is way smart beyond her years) will be starting piano with me in a couple of weeks.


July 12, 2011 at 12:27 PM ·

LOL!  Great idea John.  

Why not also find out what his favorite music is and learn that (yes, bluegrass, jazz, rock, rap (well maybe not) - its all good for your learning).  He might be touched by the thought.

July 13, 2011 at 11:45 AM ·

 Practice at school, go in early, practice at lunch and after school

July 14, 2011 at 01:26 AM ·

I would pratice at school, but for 2 reasons, i cant.

1. I HATE getting up in the mornings.

2. the school I go to is about 30 miles away and I dont have a ride.

GOOD NEWS: My dad hasnt said anything about my praticing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If that is a good thing, or if he is just coming up with was to keep me from praticing, I will just have to find out.....

July 14, 2011 at 02:28 AM ·

Hunter: maybe he read this topic and came to his senses ... :D

Great news.... Lets hope it lasts.

July 15, 2011 at 08:18 PM ·

Hunter, if your dad is pulling 12-hour shifts in a plastics plant, I can guarantee you that he comes home tired, crabby, and pretty well used up.  If he's not a big music fan, he probably doesn't understand the extent to which practicing is work for you.

Do you do your share of the chores around the house?  If he comes home and sees another couple of hours of things that have to get done, his mood will not improve.  In every household there are chores that no one wants to do.  Take on a couple of these.  (You may already be doing a lot of this- I, of course, don't know.)  As a working parent, it means the world to come home and find that one of my three teens has actually done the dishes, cleaned up after the dog, folded laundry, pulled some weeds, anything like that.

Otherwise, if he's gone 12 hours + commuting time, you've got lots of hours to practice when he's not around.

July 18, 2011 at 05:31 PM ·

Well, my dad was going to name me Hunter Fisher Miller. I guess what John Lennon once said was true, " Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans".  I think I am the only person in the world named Hunter who dosent enjoy hunting and would rather go to NYC than the deer lease....

July 19, 2011 at 03:41 PM ·

Hunter College in New York has an excellent music school.

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