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Doniell Cushman loves to use her teaching experiences to inspire ways to improve music, teaching, and learning.
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Written by Doniell Cushman
If you, like many people, are limited on space, having a creative mind is key when it comes to enough space to practice, and also to store things. Musicians need places to hold books, scores, tools of the trade (metronomes, Kleenex, cleaning supplies, etc.) and their instruments, without impeding their lifestyle. And, unless you have a room you can dedicate to practice, you likely have to solve a problem with storage and cramping your home up, making it feel smaller than it is.
I was reading blogs and searching Pinterest today for some great ideas on space saving. My personal favorite that I've been using for years is using magazine holders to store books, scores, etc. They often fit perfectly into your bookshelf, and neatly organize all your music. You can leave them open to pull things out of, or turn them for a more aesthetic look.
If you don't have room in your piano bench, you need more dual purpose furniture. I read a great blog today by Kristen Uppercue that shows a fabulous way to hide shoes ... in your ottoman. An ottoman is perfect home accent if you share music space with living space. Stuff your books, reeds, metronome, flashcards, and other like materials into a storage ottoman that can be used during the normal times as a foot stool or sitting space. If you have an actual music room, it's handy to have these around for seating instead of a regular chair.
Shelving is obvious; you must have furniture to put things onto. Pick up a cheap bookshelf at IKEA or Target for less than the cost of dinner out for two, and neatly arrange your repertoire and materials close by your instrument. You could even store your instrument on top if you get a mid-sized shelf.
Another option Uppercue points out is that floating shelves can do wondrous things if put in the right locations. If you have a little nook by the door that isn't being used, buy or build a few floating shelves to use the space. If you have a really narrow space, floating shelves with a lip edge can hold up books like an art gallery, leave space to charge your device or even hold it up to record, and also to store pens/pencils/cleaning rods and things. If you are a keyboardist with a small electric or digital piano, these are fabulous to place above the instrument, within easy reach.
Throwing a rug down doesn't seem necessary to most people, but a tiny space means sound travels. If you have a saxophone student living in the 10x10 bedroom right next to yours, chances are there could be a great chance a rug on the floor (or even the wall) can help catch a little more of the sound reverb from bouncing off the walls. Uppercue thoughtfully points out that a lighter color will not only brighten up your space, but make it appear larger.
A performer needs a mirror. This sounds silly, right? But think about it. If you're a violin player, you might catch out the corner of your eye that having your hair long and loose isn't the best for your playing style. Having a mirror (or set of mirrors) handy within eye line can improve performance style. You can see if you're bobbing your head too much with the rhythm, or if your instrument is awkwardly grasped, etc. And added bonus, mirrors reflecting light create the illusion of airiness and space.
Placing a lamp close to the music stand, or having excellent lighting is important. You must clearly be able to read your music without eye strain. If you're a piano player without a desk lamp/piano lamp, you should check out sites like Amazon, PianoLamp.com, Target or Wayfair for relatively inexpensive to moderate solutions that won't break the bank and are stylish additions to your home. I personally recommend a metallic color that matches the color scheme of your home, not the hardware of the instrument. If you match the instrument, you run into monochrome issues, and the instrument itself should truly stand out - not the lamp. If you can't afford a good desk/piano lamp, getting a small book light and clipping it to your music stand as a very cheap way of making this work.
Use thoughtful arranging to make everything easy to reach. Small baskets with cleaning supplies or office supplies are important to have close at hand. If you have oddly shaped and stored objects like a metronome, this is a great way of getting things out of the way. If you can't grab a pencil while you're playing your instrument, you're not practicing efficiently.
If you have windows in your practice space, place the instrument to the side of the window, never directly in front. You don't want to be distracted or blinded, but you want good lighting and inspiration. Curtains and/or blinds are also a great idea if the outdoors are too distracting or bright, and great to close and keep light in the practice space at nighttime. If you're using curtains, Uppercue recommends matching the wall color to give the appearance of space. This works especially nicely with a linen or sheer fabric, which can let a little light in as well without feeling boxed in your practice area.
Finally, place your practice area close to a corner. Small space equals encroachment of the worst kind if you're a serious musician, or a child with developing organization skills. Let that area primarily serve as a practice space for this reason. Fill the space as vertically as possible, with as much storage as possible. A folding stand/chair and again dual purpose furniture will really help out here. Don't be afraid however, to spruce up this area with a plant, or decorative object like a bookend or inspirational quote. It'll help the flow in your home as well as look organized.
You can see Uppercue's full article with helpful picture tips here: www.hercampus.com/school/wvu/decorating-tiny-apartment