I can't practise when someone's around, dang it!

August 2, 2018, 5:49 PM · I dunno man. I just can't! It's been plaguing me for years.
Performing? No problem. Recording? Piece of cake. Practising within earshot of another human being? No can do! When I was younger, if anyone else was in the house, I'd hop on my bike and ride out to a deserted farm field and practise there. Nowadays I know better and I either wait until everyone leaves leave or confine myself to small room in the basement and use a mute. It's the only way I can get any peace of mind. Otherwise, I get all fidgety and lose focus, and forget my music, too.

What do I do? It's becoming a real handicap to be unable to focus without an isolation chamber to practise in, especially waiting for my lesson time or in an orchestra. So, do I try hypnosis? Force myself to practise in the living room? Drive everyone out of the house/ school/ rehearsal room with a flyswatter?

Replies (18)

August 2, 2018, 7:46 PM · I like the flyswatter idea.

When you say "I can't" you've talked yourself out of it.

Edited: August 2, 2018, 8:04 PM · Honestly, from the bottom of my heart, I'm trying. I used to have really bad stage fright when I was a little tyke and I got over that with brute force method. But this just sticks. I hate having anyone hear me play anything not meant for the stage.
August 2, 2018, 9:46 PM · Maybe make a schedule with your family so that you can all agree on a time each day where you can play in a certain room when they're not home or in a different part of the house?

Maybe sound proof a room in your house so that no one hears you, especially when you don't use the mute, so you can play anytime you want.

If not, I think maybe rent a practice room (which are usually sound proof) at a music school or university if they provide such an option.

August 2, 2018, 9:51 PM · "I hate having anyone hear me play anything not meant for the stage."

And why is that? Are you afraid they are going to think less of you or is that you are afraid to annoy them? Whatever the source of your concern, you'll need to talk it through with them if you intend on practicing and have no "safe" place to escape to. You can practice with a mute, but that is not always a good thing.

August 2, 2018, 10:42 PM · When other people are around, even family, I use a practice mute, to not disturb them. Now, if only someone would invent a practice mute for singers,...
Edited: August 2, 2018, 11:56 PM · I had a similar complex, but mine is from my parents being angry at me for practicing (at the time acoustic guitar) in the same room/section of the house as them. I would be yelled at and told to stop.

I also find myself a little self conscious when practicing while waiting for orchestra to start. I think in your case all your problems can be solved with exposure therapy - just do it until it doesn't bug you anymore. That's what I did with guitar - when I got to university I would practice in public spaces all the time - classical guitar is not something that would offend people and make them want me to stop and at the time I was using a quiet sweet little guitar (her name was Carmen).

Now I have no issues - my partner is usually in the room when I practice, sometimes when I'm away from home strangers are near by. I just ignore them and focus on the music, maybe ask for feedback once in awhile if they're the type to pay attention. Eventually it will stop bugging you - maybe make the active choice to practice around someone (with their agreement!)

Edited: August 3, 2018, 8:15 AM · When you undertake a hobby like the violin, there are some things you just have to get over. This is one of them. When I was a kid, going swimming at the city pool meant being seen naked by total strangers. Either you want to go swimming bad enough, or you don't. If you simply can't practice when others might hear, either you need to build yourself a very well-insulated practice booth, or you need a different hobby.
Edited: August 3, 2018, 12:01 PM · I have the same problem. I just can't practice when someone is nearby. I find it very annoying. I don't think it's because there is someone else hearing me, but I don't like having someone else in the very same room doing nothing but hearing my practice.

But my case is a general thing, I get VERY upset if there is someone in the same room when I'm busy with something.


What I do: I practice when nobody is around. This usually implies playing early in the morning or close to midnight. I also play with a mute, so people won't hear much outside my practice room.

August 3, 2018, 10:44 AM · This is where being a returner comes in handy. When we were kids, there just weren't that many rooms in the house. Also, when you practice the piano, you pretty much do that in the living room because that's where the piano is.
August 3, 2018, 5:30 PM · Hi,one thing I thought of you could try is to have some 'white noise' (like a fan going) in your practise room.That way you wont be the only person/thing in the house making noise.Also it will help drown out external noise.

Hope it helps :-)

August 4, 2018, 11:22 AM · When practicing, remind the person present that you're trying to master what you could not heretofore. It will sound messy and out of tune but that is the reason to practice. It should improve. We practice at home, not on stage.
August 4, 2018, 11:29 AM · A fan in the practice room is a horrible idea. You will get a chopped sound from your music. Just play louder if the sound of other people is bothering you. If you don't want them to hear you set up the noise maker in their room.

When I play violin or viola I can't hear much else - barely hear the other people I'm playing with - except for the winds.

August 4, 2018, 1:03 PM · maybe one of those apocryphal stories; a newspaper reporter asked Heifetz' neighbor what it was like to hear him practicing. The answer was something like; "I like coffee, but I wouldn't want to live next to a coffee factory".
August 4, 2018, 10:50 PM · @Andrew, when I was a kid I found I could concentrate very well on my piano practicing (in the living room, of course) when the dishwasher was running in the kitchen. The process of tuning out the noise made me focus.

The problem with the violin is that you actually need to hear much better than you do for the piano. I agree with Andrew especially that fans are bad. I tried ONCE to practice in a room sitting under a ceiling fan and it was an absolutely awful experience. "Chopped sound" is a good description.

August 6, 2018, 2:21 PM · Hi,I read the opinions on a fan in the practise room......I should have been more specific.....I have a small fan-heater on the floor.I can imagine how bad a ceiling fan would be,lol

Cheers

August 11, 2018, 5:11 PM · Fans make it so you don't have to vibrato, which is a great bonus.
August 23, 2018, 3:08 PM · I have the same problem, and I always have, though I have been less able to deal with it recently as I could a couple of years ago.
I try to practice as much as I can when everyone is out of the house. When they're home, I might practice violin if I'm in the right mood. Piano, I don't.
I've been trying to work something out with my family that they leave several times a week so I can practice. Maybe you could work out a similar arrangment?
A small outdoor studio would be beneficial. I'd thought of that, but apparently it'd be too expensive and there's not enough space on our five-acre property for a small six-by-ten studio.
You could try practicing at a friend's house, or at a university, or something.

I also like the flyswatter idea.

August 23, 2018, 3:10 PM · I play OK at home alone. I play OK undercover of other people in the orchestra. I play like crap at lessons (was getting better but then she was out of town for 2 weeks and now I'm all self-conscious again!) and I have to put on my mute and hide in back rooms to warm up before orchestra rehearsal. Need to get over it LOL.

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