Where/when to practice?

Where/when to practice?

I am a new, passionate whistle player, a new dad, and a new homeowner. I mention this because I can’t find a time or place to practice for fear of bothering the neighbors, or waking the baby. When my baby is awake, I am spending time with him, as he is an active boy. I only find time to play the whistle when my son has his grandparents around to watch him for me (or when he’s occupied, and patient enough to hear me play imperfect music, which is rare, as he is a tough critic). How does anyone practice an instrument? How and where? My whole life I’ve never heard a neighbor play an instrument, which makes it feel abnormal for me to be doing it. But how does the rest of the world of musicians practice musical instruments? Thank you so much for reading, and if you decide to answer, thank you again in advance.

Re: Where/when to practice?

Keep whistle in car, there’s always going to be time wasted waiting for something e.g. in heavy traffic. I play lots with year old daughter, she crawls around doing her own thing, everything tricky with a newborn. Good luck.

Re: Where/when to practice?

Personally, I have lots of cheap whistles around/in different places and just play them whenever the mood takes me, which usually means multiple brief 15min sessions every day.

I don’t have the baby complication, but I live in a semi and I’ve asked my neighbours and they say they don’t usually hear it/quite like it, but am careful never to play in a room with an adjoining wall and have told them I’ll never play after 10pm (leave zoom sessions at this time etc).
I think asking them/putting a note through their door saying “I’m learning, I’ll never play after 10pm, please call me on this number/knock on my door if it disturbs you” is a good idea for both of you as neighbour noise is less annoying when you know you have a way of escaping/the person doing it is being considerate + makes you feel ok about doing it.

As above, it’s surprising but the insulation on my car makes the whistle completely inaudible to someone standing directly outside, so simply sitting in it and playing is a good way to practice (or driving somewhere secluded if it feels odd practicing in your street).

When I was a complete beginner I also did the trick of putting a bit of electrical tape over 2/3 of the square windhole/blade.
This does affect the tuning, but reduces the volume very significantly if you need to be quiet but want to play.
It’s definitely worth trying this to see if it works for you.

Alternatively, you can also make it almost silent (but this really doesn’t sound like a whistle), by blocking the area you blowing into with your bottom lower lip and actually (with same position as normal) blowing over the top of the square hole/blade (a bit like a vertical flute). You can’t get octaves with this, but you will hear the results of different fingering so “can” be useful for practice and is extremely quiet.

Good luck with new house, baby and whistle.

Re: Where/when to practice?

To quieten the whistle, try rolling a small lump of poster putty into a sphere, and sticking it to the middle of the ramp below the window. The size of a pea is a good starting point. If still too loud, move it up towards the window.

That, plus all the other tricks above might get you going again.

When I was in my 20’s I lived for a while in a hostel beside the lake in Canberra. I found a tiny room that housed the circuit breakers in a little-used part of the basement to practice in.

And I’d wander down to the lake shore on a nice morning for a bit of outside air practice. One day I was playing away, and spotted a tiny wake heading towards me, such as a tiny speedboat would leave behind it. It was a fish. It swam right up to my feet on the edge of the water. I stopped playing to reach down to touch it, and it suddenly realised its error, turned and sped away. I can only think the music attracted it.

Re: Where/when to practice?

I play flute, pipes and concertina, and live in a semi and practice (a lot) in an adjoining room. You just have to embrace it. It’s extremely unlikely anyone will be bothered and you’d be surprised how much it’s appreciated when heard from a distance. I do limit it to between 11am and 9pm. But I agree the whistle mute or silent playing is very handy.

Re: Where/when to practice?

We do our children a diservice if we try to maintain silence for their sleeping ending up with kids and adults who cant sleep wothout it…. in this day and age thats a disadvantage . Train them to be able to sleep anywhere despite noise and disturbances . Their life will be commensurately easier.
The brain recognises familiar noises and ignores them while waking instantly to an unfamiliar noise , hence disturbed nights in a new house .

Re: Where/when to practice?

I play high D and low D whistles, clarinet, alto sax and live in a terrace. I received one complaint from a neighbour who worked night shift. We agreed when it was appropriate for me to play and we remained friends.

Re: Where/when to practice?

I always say dance like nobody’s watching; love like you’ve never been hurt; play the accordion like your neighbours actually enjoy it.

Re: Where/when to practice?

You could try practising in the garden. I played my fiddle on the drying green overlooking the River Cart. I am bipolar but gossip went that this proved I was quite mad… Enjoyed it however. Cheers. (It was twilight).

Re: Where/when to practice?

@susan k - River Cart, Snuff Mill Bridge, Lynn Park … my old stamping ground! Are you in one of these really old but posh tenement blocks (that overlooks the Cart) ?

Re: Where/when to practice?

Hi Tinman,

I’ve got a similar situation with two little guys. My trick is actually practicing in the bathroom. It may sound odd, but it’s a great set up because much of the sound is deadened when the fan is on and I have had zero problems with waking them up, even when the Mrs. goes to bed early. It may sound odd, but you can also use the mirror to your advantage by checking habits, posture, etc. Another good spot is a walk-in closet if you have one. The clothes will provide even more insulation from sound transfer. That’s where I will take my highland pipes and it is barely audible elsewhere in the house, as verified by my wife. Stick with it and find what works for you!

Re: Where/when to practice?

Try playing in front of an open wardrobe. That may lessen the noise.

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Re: Where/when to practice?

Your query made me chuckle as well as reminisce. You reminded me, that 30 odd years ago, my daughter would grab her Sit-N-Spin, and self merry-go-round whenever I pulled my GH Bagpipes out to practice. Spinning and laughing her heart out the whole time.
My son and daughter in law, lived next door in our rental, and they would bring my granddaughter over when she was fussy, and would quickly calm down to listen while I played on my mandolin. For some unknown reason, playing any other instrument didn’t work, only the mandolin.

It is a struggle and balancing act when you’re a new parent, to find the time for practice. Since whistle’s are easy to take with you, Collywobble’s suggestion might be your best option.
A more expensive option, would be to soundproof a room in your house and dedicate it as a practice space. The ability to do that though, is probably not an option for most of us I assume, so it’s practicality is a question only you and your spouse can decide. I’ve a room set up for that (a small spare bedroom), I use to record. The baffling panels cost me around $500, about 10 years ago. No doubt it would cost more if I attempted it today.

Re: Where/when to practice?

I have an inexpensive whistle that I covered about half the windway with tape. It made is exceeding quiet, thought the notes are more like different tones of hissing air than notes. Still, it allows me to practice new tunes and practice any time without disturbing anyone. Parks Whistles makes a with with a tone ring which quiets the sound. I have no experience with it, but it may be worth checking out.

Recently my neighbor told me he hears me playing and noticed I’ve gotten a lot better… hahhaha, that is encouraging!

Re: Where/when to practice?

I would say play away during the day as long as the neighbours know you stop at night and won’t have to worry about that.

Baba could crawl around and do his own thing while you play. I would worry about your wife or partner more than anyone else: do what is right for their sake.

Additionally, practice when you can and enjoy yourself rather than any prescriptive approach which might suck the joy out of making music, ie don’t be concerned about feeling you should play or practice for a certain time each day, and that your family or neighbours are getting in the way.

Playing in bathroom with doors shut also good and sounds great.

Emergency: bringing out in car or to remote area

Re: Where/when to practice?

The tone ring on the Parks whistles works well for that, you can set it partway closed to "take the edge off" the sound, or almost all the way closed to make your whistle barely audible. It’s basically the same as the poster putty trick (I wouldn’t buy a Parks whistle just for volume control, but they’re pretty nice-sounding instruments in a kind of mid-range price, the tone ring is just a bonus).

I’ve seen that Warbl digital whistle controller thing, and it looks like a lot of fun, but a bit too much money for me at the moment. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a midi controller you hook up to your phone that lets you play whistle, flute, pipes or other sounds, using breath and touch sensors to simulate the experience of a whistle or pipe chanter.