Low Tech Practice Room Necessities
Today I want to talk about some essential low tech items every musician should have in their practice space and how I use them. If you’ve got any tips for low-tech practice room gear please share them in the comments section below!
My first bit of low tech is a good music stand.
Now before you say, “but Jay, you are always telling us to play by ear, why do you have a music stand?”
Well, sometimes even I read sheet music, but mainly, I use my music stand to hold other things. Namely my smart phone, tablet and other high tech practicing tools.
I also have pencils attached to it and like to keep a book of blank staff paper here to write down ideas, licks, and transcribed solos.
This is the Manhasset Music Stand made in the USA and it is the best music stand there is in my opinion but it’s not portable. So if you have a music stand that stays in the practice room this is a great choice. If you need to take one with you, it’s a little impractical.
On the other hand, those cheap, flimsy fold-up stands are more annoying than they are useful. I don’t even have one to show you.
Next up is super simple, cheap, and absolutely necessary. It’s my mirror. I had never used a mirror for practicing until I got to university. The first thing I worked on with my teacher there was correcting lots of mistakes and bad habits using the mirrors that could be found in every practice room
Watching yourself in the mirror allows you to auto correct in real time things you may not have been aware you were doing in the first place.
I still spend a lot of my practice time in front of the mirror.
It’s important to watch your posture, finger movement and hand position, embouchure, keeping your shoulders and neck relaxed, and excess body movement. Using a mirror can help you keep an eye on all of that.
Playing in front of the mirror also helps keep me from wandering around too much which I’m prone to do.
(The extremely small size of my practice studio also helps keep me in one place.)
Lastly, the mirror also mirrors my sound back straight back to me since it’s a nice flat and hard surface. So if you don’t have one already, get yourself a plain rectangular mirror for your practice space.
Regular Ear Plugs
My last piece of low-tech gear that may be the most important are ear plugs.
I got turned on to these by a bass player friend of mine a long time ago when I used to play lots of really loud gigs in bars with small stages.
The horn players always end up right in front of the drums or the guitar amp and your ears get blasted. The volume goes up every set as well. After these gigs, my ears would be ringing like crazy.
I can’t overestimate how much of a life changer these are.
Now I don’t play a lot of those sort of gigs these days, but I still use these earplugs in the practice room everyday.
If you practice the saxophone or other loud instrument on a regular basis without ear protection, you are probably going to damage your hearing over the long term.
Custom Ear Plugs
I noticed at some point, the same ringing in my ears after long practice sessions. So I started using custom earplugs and not only do they protect my hearing which is really important, they also dampen the sound for me while I’m practicing which I think is a good thing since it forces me to push more air through the horn rather than hold back while practicing.
Depending on the type of performances you’re doing, this kind of synthesizes a more realistic playing situation.
These here are custom fitted and have removable inserts that filter the sound by different levels. I’m using the -15db inserts. I had to go to an ear doctor where they made moulds which were then sent to the company to make my ear plugs which fit perfectly. I’ve had this pair for almost 15 years. So although they are expensive, you definitely get your money’s worth.
If you don’t want to go that route, you can just pick up a nice pair like these for about $20. They get the job done, and if you lose them, no big deal. I keep these as a backup pair, they come with a handy case you can put on your key ring.
Also, If you go to loud concerts, don’t forget to bring your earplugs…