There are three rooms in my home that I practice in depending on who’s home and how much I care if they hear me practice. My favorite room to practice in, my living room / music room, has been out of commission with Christmas stuff all over the place for close to a month. That meant I practiced either in my den or my bedroom. My den is my second favorite room to practice in but most of the time someone is watching TV in there.
I’d been a bit down about my playing and in particular my sound. In my previous post I mentioned how my horn teacher, Lynn, wanted me to open up my embouchure a bit because my sound was more closed that usual. At that lesson we were playing in my bedroom. Lots of rugs, pillows, stuffed animals (yup, even at age 58) and a big comforter on a king size bed. My sound really wasn’t great. I was practicing in that room most often so I had gotten used to what I sounded like.
Well, I finally got my living room cleaned up last weekend. In contrast to my bedroom, there’s only one small rug, three chairs, no sofa, a huge window and a baby grand piano. There’s also only a half wall between my living room and my kitchen. The difference in my sound is huge. It’s hard to describe but the sound was open and ringing and I didn’t sound stifled. What a morale booster. Instead of the ‘oh gee, I have to go practice’ feeling I was back to my more normal feeling of looking forward to practicing.
I really didn’t think there was that much difference between the three rooms I practice in. I was listening more carefully this week and I think, from best to worst, it’s living room, den, bedroom. My living room clearly stands out from the other two rooms and it really makes practicing much more enjoyable. Even so, if no one is home, I usually go through my warm-up in my den while the TV is on and I don’t really listen. (I think of warm-ups as a means to an end – get loosened up and flexible. Scott Bacon, my horn teacher that I take lessons from once a month or so, wants me to think musically about everything I do. Work on phrasing and musicality no matter what exercise I’m doing.)
The difference in acoustics between my rooms makes me wonder how students learn to get a beautiful sound out of their horn when they have no choice but to practice in a dead room. Or is there a reverse of that? If a student always practices in a room that has fantastic acoustics, do they still learn how to make their horn sound good without the enhancement of the room’s acoustics? If I had my choice to practice anywhere I would pick the auditorium where my Riverhead community band rehearses. I sound incredible there. I don’t have to do anything but put air through my horn and it sounds wonderful. On the other hand, I had to work really hard to make my horn sound good in my bedroom. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe not. I had to make a subtle change to my embouchure to get the horn to sound good. (See Breakthrough?) Do students do that without realizing it if the acoustics change from practice room to practice room? I’m just a student myself so I can’t answer that but it is something to wonder about.