Minimising Piano Practise Disturbances

The set-up and placement of the piano at home may be the cause of disturbances during practise, or the cause of infrequent practise.

In most Indian homes, the piano is placed in the hall-cum-living room. Unlike with the violin or guitar, the pianist cannot just take his/her instrument to another room when there are guests. So learning to get quality practise done often means learning to manage disturbances.

Read on, to learn how to work minimise practise disturbances and work around them.

Where you place your piano matters

Your piano will do better away from the direct heat of the sun, strong breeze and moisture. It’s best kept covered if dust is a problem – a fabric that breathes is best if you cover it completely. If your living space is small and you have no choice – invest in curtain fabrics or film on your window panes that cut heat and be careful about closing windows that let moisture blow in during the monsoon.

Placing your piano correctly will help minimise disturbances :

  1. Place the piano in a quiet, less trafficed area of the room if possible. Away from doorways and in a section of the room where the student can practise undisturbed, even when there are guests. A carefully chosen layout really helps.
  2. For students using a portable keyboard : Keep your keyboard set-up and connected, so that you just need to switch it on when you want to play. The reason most students don’t practise regularly is because the keyboard needs to be unpacked each time. Students who don’t have access to their keyboard for short bursts of practise when they’re in the mood will eventually give up.

When the cause of the disturbance is your family

Many student families don’t really understand the kind of focus that is required during practise and think of it as fun time. It is, but students need concentrated, undisturbed practise time so that they can have fun. Because, they need to think and understand to enjoy playing.

Constant disturbances – like answering the phone, the door and attending to visitors – often result in a very stressed student who has tight tense shoulders and hands. And this gets in the way of good playing technique.

Children need support at home so that they aren’t interrupted during practise time, while older teen and adults need to learn how to communicate with their family so they understand.

Some tips :

  1. Inform family members who are likely to need to talk to you, that you’re practising. Talk to them before you practise and ask them to answer the door until you’re done. The way they would when someone is doing school/college work.
  2. Guests, relatives and friends who drop in will learn to let you practise without disturbance when family learns.
  3. Piano students need to learn to cut out when there are disturbances from outside. We all live in flats in buildings and students will need to learn to be tolerant and ignore sounds from outside. Talk to the piano teacher when the student is too rigid and lacks tolerance, as this just won’t do. Your teacher has experience dealing with it and will be able to help.

When family can’t understand the need for focus

I talk to piano parents and ask my older student to talk to their families, explaining the need for focused, undisturbed practise time. But sometimes, they just don’t understand, or don’t want to.

And that’s when we ask them in at piano class, and teach them to play something easy by rote. Either on their own, or as a duet with the student. It works EVERY time!

Some examples and possible solutions

  • Close family members that can only visit during practise time : A great way to deal with this is short practise sessions with breaks. It’s an excellent way to practise, as students retain more this way, than with a long practise session. And, it makes family time possible.
  • Music or television in the next room : Close the door if possible, else – ignore, ignore, IGNORE. While silence would be great, we often live in small homes and students need to remember that things don’t need to come to a standstill, for piano practise. Family usually helps by toning down the volume, but the rest is the students job, because pin-drop silence is an unreachable state.
  • When the doorbell rings constantly : Scheduling and setting a routine helps a LOT. Building friends in Mumbai housing societies often drop in unannounced, and setting a routine lets everyone know when you’re busy and when it’s ok to drop in. Students who have no daily routine learn to sort this out quickly, if they want to stick with piano lessons.

Piano students deal with all kinds of disturbances, ranging from really funny to downright irritating. The students that wish to last need to develop the maturity to handle them effectively and need their family to understand and support their efforts.

Dealing with disturbances effectively helps piano students relax, understand what they play and then, have fun learning to play the piano. Every successful piano student knows how to find a quiet place to work from during practise time.


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