Practicing in Public

Edited: November 1, 2019, 9:06 AM · I am accompanying my son to Senior Regional Orchestra for two days next week. Normally, I wouldn't practice those days because I learn a lot from sitting in on their orchestra rehearsals. However, the day after we get home, I am participating in my teacher's adult recital. As made evident in my lesson last night, two days off the violin (I have been playing viola in orchestra) resulted in unsteadiness with the pieces I intend to play. I feel like I will need to find time to practice while my son is in his all-day rehearsals to make sure my pieces stay under my fingers.

Rehearsals are held in a high school which will be in session on Friday. I suppose I could hide in a bathroom or the corner of the common area with a heavy mute, or go to the parking lot if it isn't too cold. Practicing in public has always been difficult for me because I feel judged for not being a good player. People see an adult and assume we have been playing forever when almost every student there will have been playing longer than me.

What would you do in a similar situation? Any suggestions for getting past the self-imposed criticism?

Replies (15)

November 1, 2019, 9:59 AM · If you're going to practice in a high school while classes are in session, your biggest problem is not self-imposed criticism or public embarrassment but rather whether you will disrupt the activities of a functioning school. My suggestion is to ask the organizer of the event whether they can confer with the school principal to find you a suitable venue for practicing your violin. The home of another participant who lives close-by, or a motel room, might be alternatives.
November 1, 2019, 10:14 AM · Unfortunately, our hotel check in time is close to the end of rehearsal. Last year we were in a school with plenty of area that did not impact classrooms and a couple of the school directors were utilizing the public spaces for sectionals. This year we will be in a different school so I'm not sure of the layout which is why I was wondering about a heavy mute in an area out of the way of classrooms. Typically high school orchestra and auditorium spaces are in their own wings or near a common area.
November 1, 2019, 1:21 PM · Definitely ask permission first and probably you should use the heavy mute.
November 1, 2019, 1:31 PM · I will definitely ask the organizer beforehand and use the hotel mute. Thanks.
Edited: November 1, 2019, 2:33 PM · Takes getting used to. I used to hate practising near anyone, but I started bringing my violin to school to practise in stairwells and the music room and such. I now love practising in public spaces because it forces me to be vigilant. Just don't take yourself too seriously!

Practise practising, I guess.

Edited: November 1, 2019, 3:06 PM · Go and practise in the street or in a park - you won't disturb the orchestra and who knows, you might pick up a cent or two, especially if you leave your case open (but leave the spare bow and strings at home/in the hotel, in case they get half inched).
November 27, 2019, 12:15 PM · I love practicing in parks, you can usually find a nice quiet spot and people who do walk by enjoy it in the open space. Even if its "beginner" most people wish they have time & energy to learn something new so they are more likely to be impressed than judgemental. However, it can be cold this time of year, and I think people covered the considerations about practicing while you are traveling. Enjoy!
November 27, 2019, 12:31 PM · I've been in somewhat similar situations, and I've chosen the path of damn-the-torpedos. I call them dress rehearsals. I'll select a public park with an outdoor stage, and play to whoever walks by at the time. I've also stood on a dock and just gone at it. Finally, I go to local open mic evenings and play whatever I like. What these experiences teach me is focus. I just can't concentrate on what is happening around me (i.e. Birds flying, cars on the street, people walking or simply standing there and listening.) It really helps.
November 27, 2019, 7:57 PM · I'd simply contact the school, explain the situation and ask if there is a staff room or anything else suitable available to practice in while waiting for your kid.
Edited: November 27, 2019, 10:48 PM · I often fiddle with a guitar at Starbucks over coffee, and generally lucky if I can even hear myself between the traffic. And I've taken a violin a time or two which is easier to hear than a smaller classical guitar. It's really just a way to get a few moments of time back and keeps me focused a bit- I'm not performing but occasionally people hand me money, which I sometimes take.

It's generally NOT good practice compared to more focused time at home with a music stand, but can be good for improvising and technique and getting a little bit used to playing in front of people.

Today I got spat on- it wasn't an outright attack, but a non-gentleman approached me and in between two quick gender insults within about 20 seconds, managed to spit into my face as I sat in lotus with my guitar and he was babbling his thinly veiled hostility. It was on purpose though. pretty sure. I didn't start to relay this story, but as I wrote on, there it is.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Edited: November 28, 2019, 11:29 AM · For logistical reasons I've moved my violin practicing at home from the loft to the front downstairs room, in view of people passing by outside. They usually glance at the violin playing movement inside but I guess don't hear much because of the double glazing. I like to enhance the effect by having a poster in one of the windows advertising my next orchestral concert!
November 28, 2019, 10:59 AM · Nancy, that was horrible. Did you call police? In the UK, behavior like that gets stamped on PDQ, and often results in a court conviction.
November 28, 2019, 11:52 AM · Actually, it is not complicated.

"Treat others the same way you want to be treated."

November 28, 2019, 12:01 PM · Outside, in the park -yes. Heavy practice mute - yes. Now, if only someone could invent a practice mute for singers...
November 28, 2019, 5:25 PM · A practice mute for planes, trains and gas guzzling vehicles would better serve those most constantly noised,,,,,

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