Do you like to sing or practice music in an apartment setting with neighbors right on the other side of shared walls?
Depending on how much sound you make when you practice, you may find yourself on the receiving end of some neighborly, shall we say, feedback – and it’s probably not as much about your performance abilities as the noise level!
So, what can an apartment musician do to satisfy his talent and keep calm in the neighborhood?
This singer shares some tips that may work for you.
- Use technology to your advantage. Remember that headphones are your friends. You can plug electric instruments directly into an amp and monitor the sound through headphones, disturbing no one! Depending on your instrument, use appropriate sound-dampening methods (mutes for horns, the “quiet” pedal on a piano) that make your playing environmentally-friendly.
- At what time of day do you prefer to practice? If you keep your music-making to business hours (9 to 5 or 6 on weekdays, a little later on both ends come the weekend), then your playing likely falls within a reasonably acceptable time window. If you tend to play late in the night, you’ll need to take steps to shield others who perhaps don’t share your passion. Adapting to a less-preferable practice time may be a challenge for a musician, but it’s a necessity when you choose to play at home.
- Be aware of where your neighbors might be in their adjacent apartments. With the apartment layout in mind, consider where you play, and try to practice in the right room for noise-making. Does your music room, for instance, share a wall with a neighbor’s bedroom? If so, you might relocate your drum set to a different playing space, especially if you jam in the evening. (Oh, and about drums: these are notoriously difficult to noise-dampen. Think rubber mallets and padding.)
- For singers, choose a highly-upholstered room or even a large, yet comfortable, closet. Environments like these can muffle vocal projection, allowing you to sing out with less worry about being an un-neighborly nuisance.
- If you play with a band, remember that one plus one plus another equals that much more sound to control!
- Musician, know thyself! Consider the kind of music you play. If you play in the style of early, folky Joni Mitchell on acoustic guitar, there may be no issue at all with neighbor noise. But if you plug in a Gibson to play your brand of countrified Nirvana, you might need to make some neighborly concessions. Different musics produce varying sound pressure levels, when performed. Keep in mind that low, deep frequencies carry lots of vibration. Use your instincts and good, common sense to guide your behavior.
- Keep conversation channels open and friendly with your neighbors about the noise level. If you remain respectful of neighborly concerns and attempt, within reason, to accommodate them, everyone should be able to get along.
Have a gig coming up? You might offer free tickets to neighbors so they can see what your noisy efforts are working toward!
THINKspot studio space includes soundproofing by Eileen Kane used under CC BY / Text added
What about soundproofing?
Here’s another angle: why not try to block to the sound of your music-making from getting out to nearby apartment units?
Soundproofing involves placing an object of heavy, dense mass between the sound source and other listeners in order to separate and isolate the two.
While the most effective sound blockers appear to require permanent installation – not ideal for renters, whose leases likely prohibit these changes — products are available to help achieve the effect which are conveniently removable.
An acoustical door or window seal can reduce sound transfer between connected spaces, though changing out an entire door might prove challenging. Consider an acoustical door jamb seal which closes the gap at the bottom of a door.
A company called Audimute offers temporary soundproofing solutions with a clever name, Peacemaker. These are acoustical dampening rugs made of rubber, available in different thicknesses. The company also offers sound absorption sheets, which they describe as “soundproofing blankets,” which reduce volume levels when placed correctly, for example, in windows.
The interestingly-named SoundproofCow sells acoustic panels and other soundproofing materials which could work in an apartment unit. A variety of products can be used to create a space that’s sound-friendly on the inside, but sound-resistant to the outside world.
For a more DIY approach, the use of both egg carton-like foam and heavy camping mats were discussed in online forums on the topic of soundproofing.
If you can’t beat ‘em…
There are certainly enjoyable ways to share your music socially.
Consider organizing a concert event. Consult with your landlord or apartment community manager about whether your music might be a good fit for an evening of entertainment at the community pool or in a shared space.
For an alternative away from your apartment, why not join a shared rehearsal space, perhaps at a music store? While this likely wouldn’t be free – and a little less convenient — you’d have the leeway to play without concern for being noisy.
Rock on, friends… just, perhaps, a little more quietly when you’re at home in your apartment!
Photo credits: Shutterstock / FCSCAFEINE, Nikitin Victor; THINKspot studio space includes soundproofing by Eileen Kane used under CC BY / Text added; Shutterstock / melis