How do you cope with practicing with family members bustling around the house?

Edited: April 25, 2018, 6:48 AM · I am a pianist and a violinist (obviously, or I wouldn't be on a violinist site), and even though if I am practicing the violin with my family home I'll do it in my bedroom, it's still distracting, but at least there's a wall to separate us.
My piano is a different case. It's out in the open, where the most traffic is. It can't fit in my bedroom, and I've wished a million times that it would, although that would be no good, either, because I have a ball python in my room, and the piano's vibrations would stress her out.
Anyway, I don't think I've practiced the piano in at least two weeks. I walk by it every day, and I'm pierced with guilt and sadness and annoyance.
It kind of started in October when my mom had a concussion. Obviously I couldn't practice until she was out of the house, which was fine, because she couldn't help it. Same for the violin.
Once she was better, I tried to practice a bit with people home, but couldn't. They are too distracting for me. It never bothered me much before (occasionally, but not often), but now it does.
I wait until everyone is out of the house, but that doesn't happen much, especially now that the truck is at the mechanic's and my brother has to take the car back and forth to school.
I love both instruments dearly, but I can't focus with everyone going about their daily lives.
Does anyone else have this issue, and how are you able to practice?
Thanks in advance.

Replies (24)

April 24, 2018, 6:30 AM · You could maybe find a local church that would let you use a room somewhere (most are not fully utilized during days).
Or you could just do it at home, developing the kind of steely concentration that will see you through any situation (I read an article about a man in prison who learned to meditate... If that is possible ...)
Believe me, I do feel your pain. But where there's a will...
April 24, 2018, 8:26 AM · I would look for a weighted action 88 key keyboard and practice it in your room with earphones on.Most of them have an earphone jack on the back.

Alternately you could play in front of them and charge them for it. It is an honor to hear good piano playing.The pleasure is theirs right?

Seriously, a decent portable piano is a good answer to this problem.

April 24, 2018, 10:59 AM · This'll only work with violin and when the weather's decent, but maybe you can find a quiet place outdoors? Maybe you can find a nearby distraction-free building to practice in? I practice in noisy environments and just ignore the noise. However, everyone's brain is different, so maybe ignoring won't work for you.
April 24, 2018, 2:38 PM · Before October, you could usually practice with people around. Now you find it difficult to impossible. This is you, not them. What changed in you?

People yelling and shouting are a distraction. In your case, it seems that they are just walking about, mostly. Can you think of them as an audience for your etudes? Is this an opportunity to improve your concentration on critical difficult passages? Are you embarrassed about your sound - if so, why now? Does one person taunt your sound?

Your situation is not ideal, but you may benefit from thinking deeply about the reasons you are shutting down. And then deal with those specific reasons.

April 24, 2018, 4:25 PM · If it is appropriate, a pianist may go up a level from the portable keyboard that has already been mentioned to a real "silent" piano that can be used as a normal piano with all the playing characteristics of the real thing (which it in fact is), or in the silent mode where the pianist can only hear it through headphones.

Yamaha are specialists in this area, and this link tells us what they've got (I believe there is a similar link for the US market):

I've had the opportunity to play on a Yahama silent upright belonging to a friend, and was very impressed.

Con: unfortunately, but understandably so because of the technology involved, silent pianos are significantly more expensive than the usual run of portable keyboards.

April 24, 2018, 6:33 PM · Play really, really, poorly for 10 minutes (maybe start with bad violin playing that's even better!) And after they all run for cover the house is yours!

In all seriousness, and I'm not a professional just an obsessive amateur, I have four kids and quite time is non existent in my home. I just concentrate and do my best to ignore everyone.

April 24, 2018, 9:01 PM · Focus and concentration, are related to willpower, and they are not really talents. They are skills that need regular practice to maintain them and improve them. You are hurting those skills of yours by not doing it because "it is difficult" or distracting.
I would bet that your step back was the time you had to stop practicing because of your mother's recovery at home and now you have lost the mental rythm of practice.
Stop looking around for reasons of "it's not my fault". Bite the bullet, sit down and practice the amount of time you have programmed to do. It will be horribly difficult the first day, and maybe some more days, until it isn't any more.
April 24, 2018, 11:59 PM · Yesterday morning I decided to go to work a bit late to get some practice time after the rest of the family were off to work/school. After about 20 minutes the phone rang. It was my 18 year old daughter asking me to stop. She had the morning off from school and was calling from her bed......
April 25, 2018, 7:01 AM · Unlike say, reading an email and talking to someone on your cell phone at the same time, music needs to be heard and in order to improve you need some degree of concentration, so I can sympathize with the the OP.

For me practice is a very private kind of thing. I can find my zen moments occasionally during practice. No concentration, no joy.

Women tend to be the ones juggling multiple tasks more than men and I think some of them develop better multitasking abilities. The result of having done it by necessity for so long. The difference I think, is good music practice demands 100% concentration. This isn't "just another task". Especially the violin.

The answer to the dilemma is probably different given the mix of those in the household and the understanding they have of it. I have had to get a little firm at times in my house when an interruption could have waited until later. Please don't pop in just to chat if I'm trying to practice.Unless it's important, leave me alone.Understand this is my time and I need it.
This is one reason I'm adding another separate room while construction to my house is underway.This room is detached from the rest of the house. I can't wait until I move in! Granted it hasn't been bad lately. Everyone understands everyone else.

April 25, 2018, 8:23 AM · A few solutions might be getting a violin mute, plug the f holes to muffle the sound, practice outside if it's a nice day or if you're practicing technique use an un rosined bow. Sometimes I even practice late at night when my family is asleep. And for piano if you could you might be able to buy an electronic piano and just use your headphones.
April 26, 2018, 7:59 AM · Consider buying one of those portable Booth rooms.
Mine is a 2m*180cm and i don't have problems with neighbors who complain about my practice sessions anymore.
April 28, 2018, 3:15 AM · Never mind humans, my cat Lola would do anything to stop me practicing. She was either a true music lover and critic, or she hated it.
April 28, 2018, 5:22 AM · I just don't do anything. Your family is distracting because they're around. My family is distracting because they don't waste a second in telling me that I should just stop. But I just tone them out. :)
April 29, 2018, 4:31 AM · You have to learn, like most professional players do, to work in a noisy distracting environment and blank everything out except what you are playing. Practising in an orchestral environment in a tea break say, when lot's of other players are bashing away, means you have to concentrate on just what you are doing. It's easy to find excuses, but hard to bite the bullet. (End of sermon).
April 29, 2018, 5:11 AM · An electric piano is an obvious solution, but do you really want to solve the problem or give up piano?
April 29, 2018, 5:34 AM · Enjoy them while you have them.
April 30, 2018, 4:48 AM · I also find useful the question 'how to not distract other members of the house from doing their work when I put on my cat-screaming show'.

Seriously when I play the violin, I think I am disturbing others more than they do to me, no matter what they are doing :)

April 30, 2018, 10:11 AM · A violin practice mute fixes half of the problem. But they haven't yet invented a practice mute for singers so I can't practice my vocal stuff when anybody else is in the house. When my daughter plays scottish bag-pipes all other activity in the house stops. It's so loud it's like having your brain nailed to the wall.
April 30, 2018, 5:01 PM · Oh bagpipes are the worst! No offence but I’ve no idea why such instrument still exists, and becomes national sort of icon.

Violins probably come close. Even an impeccable performance wouldn’t be able to please everyone if they aren’t in the mood, let alone practice. (It’s the same for any instruments but in my experience people are much more likely to welcome an unexpected piano or guitar showdown even if they aren’t into music.)

P/S I dislike practice mute so I’d continue playing unmuted to have my own enjoyment, at the expense of others in the house, while sending good thoughts to them as compensation.

April 30, 2018, 6:36 PM · Timothy, not to go off on a tangent, but there was at least one televised study that shows women in general are much better than men in multitasking or dealing with multiple pieces of information at the same time, Men on the other hand are better at focusing on one thing. So there is something to the “single minded male”
May 1, 2018, 2:12 PM · Even if you're just playing the violin and doing nothing else at the time, there's still some multitasking going on. Your left and right hands are doing two entirely different things, and whether you're reading sheet music or improvising your next notes, that's a third task either way.

Maybe that's why there are so many good female violinists...

Edited: May 2, 2018, 11:24 AM · Arnie wrote:
"Men on the other hand are better at focusing on one thing. So there is something to the “single minded male”.

I wonder what it is that men tend to focus on? ;-)

May 2, 2018, 11:49 AM · I once attended a seminar about the differences between men and women.

There is a saying, " Men are like waffles, women are like spaghetti".

IOW men are more compartmentalized thinkers and women tend to have the ability to interweave their thinking more.

When you look at this from the perspective of men being the hunters, they needed to have the concentration necessary to hunt prey in the wild.

Women OTOH might need to be tending two children and cooking at the same time. Not to stereotype because there are always exceptions.

May 7, 2018, 8:51 AM · We're getting into quicksand territory here.....

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