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How to not get the cops called on your practice session



"It was like 3pm, and we were practicing jazz... and the cops show up at our house," says Billy in our interview on Zeitgeist Radio. "It really just came down to we had one bad neighbor." Billy just wanted to play jazz with his friends. We're talking 3pm on a Tuesday.


Because of that, "we used our student loans and maxed out our credit cards and built this place." He's referring to Sauce Pot studios in San Luis Obispo. It turned out to be a good move for Billy: "It worked out so well we got the next warehouse, built some more rooms, got the next one, built some more..." And Sauce Pot Studios was born.


But not everyone has the ability to just go find a warehouse and practice there every day! Here are some pointers for making sure your practice sessions don't land you in trouble.


There are 2 key things to consider: practical courtesy, and boundaries.



Practical courtesy

When it comes to practicing (especially with loud instruments) without attracting unwanted attention, here are a few tips you can consider.


First, invest in soundproofing materials for your practice space. This can include acoustic panels, curtains, or even DIY solutions like heavy blankets to dampen the sound.


Additionally, using electronic instruments with headphones allows you to play at any volume without disturbing others. This isn't always possible, but it can work with certain instruments.


If you're unable to soundproof or use headphones, or if it still ends up being noisy, try negotiating specific practice times with your neighbors. Obviously there are basic things like ensuring that you practice during reasonable hours when noise ordinances are less strict. But if there are other schedules you can work around without issue, it's always worth an honest conversation (keep reading for scripts you can use).


And of course, if worst comes to worst, another option is to explore local rehearsal studios or community centers that offer practice rooms specifically designed for musicians. People like Billy have built these centers for exactly this reason!


By being considerate and proactive, you can often find creative solutions to practice your instrument without encountering any noise complaints or unwelcome visits from the authorities!



Boundaries

So you've tried being courteous... but don't be overgiving! It's also important for people to understand that this matters to you, and draw boundaries to make sure your needs are respected as well.


One of the most critical elements to your success is setting boundaries with your household. It's important to have open and honest communication with the people you live with, ensuring that your desire to practice your instrument doesn't create conflicts or unnecessary stress.


Here's a bit of a journey from inside to out that I recommend you go through in your conversations:


OBSTACLES: Before you even start talking with others, consider potential obstacles that may arise during your practice sessions. Identify your fears about what others might say or any other factors that could prevent you from practicing regularly. By acknowledging these concerns, you can address them proactively and find solutions to overcome them.


WHY: Start by identifying what excites you about learning your instrument. Share your enthusiasm with your household, explaining why it means so much to you. This will help them understand your dedication and support you in your musical journey.


WHEN: Determine specific times for your practice sessions each day. By setting a consistent schedule, you can avoid surprising your household members with impromptu sessions and ensure that they are aware of your availability and need for uninterrupted practice time.


WHERE: Decide on a suitable location for your practice sessions. Find a space where you can concentrate without disturbing others. It could be a spare room, a basement, a garage, or even a closet!



Scripts

To effectively communicate your boundaries and expectations, here are some scripts you can use when discussing your practice routine with your household members or neighbors.


Something you'll notice in each of these is the framing of "please don't say anything negative." This is recommended because often the reason people are annoyed by someone's practicing is that they don't think they sound good... yet! But you will NEVER get to where you want to be if you don't go through the stages of learning. Asking for compassion is easier than fighting off


Script 1: "I want to learn to play guitar! I just got a new amp, and I'm really excited about it. I'm going to be practicing and making all kinds of weird noises. I'd like to ask that you don't say anything about how I sound, even if you're joking. Only positive feedback allowed!"


Script 2: "I'm going to be taking a voice course and learning how to sing! I'll be practicing in [place] around [time] every day. It can take a long time to get really good at singing, so just let me do my thing, okay? Don't say anything negative while I'm learning."


Script 3: "I'm learning to play drums! I may sound terrible for a little bit! That's okay because I'm being awesome and trying to learn a new skill as an adult, and I am so excited! I need you to not joke about it and not tell me I'm bad or make fun of me."


Script 4: "I'm learning something new! I'm going to learn saxophone. I'm looking forward to [reasons], but I'm nervous about [reason]. If you have thoughts about how I sound, please keep them to yourself."



Effective communication and mutual understanding are key to maintaining a supportive environment for your practice sessions. Respectful dialogue with your household members and neighbors will ideally help foster a positive atmosphere that encourages your musical growth.


And hey, you can't win them all. There are stories of complaints even against professional musicians. Ultimately it's important to know your ordinances, know your neighbors, and make a good faith effort to be polite. Sometimes you might just have to deal with someone not liking it.


Finding practice space can be a challenge, but with clear boundaries and open communication, you can ensure that your passion for music doesn't lead to conflicts. Learn from the experiences of musicians like Billy, who took the initiative to create their own practice spaces, but also strive to maintain a harmonious relationship with those around you.


By establishing a supportive environment, you can focus on honing your skills and achieving your musical goals without unnecessary obstacles. So, let your love for music thrive, and make sure your practice sessions become moments of inspiration and growth, rather than causing any discord in your household.


Listen to my full interview with Billy Gerhardt on Zeitgeist Radio

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