V.com weekend vote: What time is too early to start, or too late to finish, practicing?

July 21, 2018, 12:49 PM · When living in an apartment, townhouse, or anywhere with close neighbors, what time do you find works to start practice and what time do you think is best to cut off practicing?

Common courtesy would dictate that we should not make excessive noise while neighbors or other people in the house or apartment are trying to sleep. The best way to ensure harmony (so to speak!) with neighbors and roommates is to communicate and agree upon the parameters.

neighbor practicing

Beyond that, many cities have ordinances that actually dictate what time you can begin making noise in the morning and what time you must end and night. Fortunately for string players, our instruments are relatively quiet and often don't exceed the decibels requires to call the police on us! Still, I've heard of incidents when neighbors complain to landlords or even try to bring a suit against a musician, even a string player. And certainly it's a concern for those who play louder instruments, like the trumpet or drums.

What are the limits that you put on your own practice, as far as how early to start or how late to finish? Have you even had a complaint from a neighbor, roommate or family member about the hours you practice? Have you ever had to deal with a more serious complaint that threatened your livelihood or living situation? How did you resolve it? Please participate in the vote, rounding to the nearest hour, and then share your thoughts in the comments.

Thank you to Michael Kennedy for the idea for this week's vote. I always welcome your ideas! If you have one, please click here to e-mail me.

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Replies

July 21, 2018 at 08:15 PM · I was reminded of a send-off to a moving neighbor: "May your new neighbors not be beginners on the violin."

July 22, 2018 at 12:26 AM · My apartment complex won't let me practice after 10pm. My neighbors have said they don't mind, because they're all night owls too, but I once got a noise complaint from someone who doesn't live adjacent to me, so I stop practicing at exactly 10pm. (I'm rarely able to start practicing before 9pm on weekdays.)

If it were entirely up to me, I'd do 100% of my practice between midnight and 4am.

July 22, 2018 at 04:06 AM · I don't live in a townhouse or an apartment, so I can pretty much practice anytime, as long as it's not between 11 pm and 5 am, I'd say. I voted "I don't have to worry about neighbors or housemates" because that is the closest to the truth. In reality, I am a little scared of practicing before breakfast since I have been criticized for early morning practice by family members. The good news is that I don't need to practice before breakfast most of the time and I actually think I'm restricting myself and am worrying more than necessary.

July 22, 2018 at 06:07 AM · I’m in an apartment. My neighbors have said they don’t mind the practice, but if it’s after 9pm I’ll use a mute. It seems to work well enough for late night playing.

July 22, 2018 at 01:10 PM · I practice mostly in the evening because that's mostly the only time slot I have.On the weekends I can sometimes be more flexible.

I am in the country with neighbors fairly far off, so this isn't usually a concern. If my wife lays down for a nap though I just don't. That can be frustrating when I have a weekend to practice. I've gone out on the back patio and practiced too. Never heard any comments from my neighbors....yet.

July 22, 2018 at 01:51 PM · I live in a townhouse with a middle school across the street. I asked Laurie to post this survey because of an episode that happened the first day I tried to play a violin. It was a beautiful Saturday morning in May of last year. I had the windows open and I was trying to teach myself how to play a violin. Since I already play a mandolin, and since mandolin strings are tuned to the same notes as a violin, I thought it would be rather easy. (I’ll pause here so you can roll your eyes, shake your head, grunt, and laugh.) I won’t go into detail about what happened, other than to say scratching fingernails on a chalkboard would have been more musical than the sounds I was creating. After about ten minutes, I took a break and sat on the front step of my townhouse to clear my head. As if the humiliation of realizing I’d stepped into deep waters wasn’t enough, a police car pulled up in front of me. The dark window rolled down. “Sir, would you step to the vehicle, please?” I stood up and leaned in seeing a stern police officer looking at me. “There have been a couple of calls about some sort of disturbance in this block. Have you seen or heard anything?” Well, for crying out loud! Someone called the cops? It's the bad? I stammered, “Well, the crows around here make a lot of noise. It gets pretty irritating. Nothing beyond that." He silently stared at me. I continued. "Nope. We're fine. Everything is good. Nothing to see here. How are you today?” The officer just shook his head as the window closed and the car rolled away. After watching him slowly turn the corner, I ran upstairs and closed the windows. I didn’t pick up the violin for a week until I found a teacher. Then, I played through the summer with the windows closed, and only during the day. It wasn’t until this spring that I took the risk of opening windows while I played. Being retired, I have the advantage of playing during the day when others are at work, although the teachers and kids in the middle school can probably hear me play. To my surprise, the neighbors have stopped me on the sidewalk to say encouraging things about my music, and a couple even thank me for playing. While that is great, just to be safe, I keep the windows closed when doing scales, and only play between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

July 22, 2018 at 06:42 PM · Just use a mute. I've practiced past midnight with a metal mute without any complains. I know using a mute is not ideal, but it's better tha nothing.

July 22, 2018 at 07:59 PM · I voted "I don't have to worry about neighbors or housemates." Homes in this neighborhood are about 100 feet apart from each other. So no one above or below me -- or on the other side of a wall.

My days begin at 4:30 AM and end at 9 PM. With the demands of my schedule, practice options are limited to mid-afternoon and early evening. I like to play the evening session in the garage -- and it's warm enough here to do this about 8 months of the year.

The latest I recall playing was in summer 2005, when I had a series of fiddles shipped to me and finally selected two after a long comparison tryout. There were a few nights when I had so much fun with this that I kept playing till about 1:30 AM; but by that hour, I had moved indoors from the garage, since I didn't want to risk waking anyone next door or across the street -- or, possibly, making the neighbors' dogs bark at that hour. Neighbors and passers-by have told me that they hang around outdoors to listen, and they've told me to keep it up; but that's during early evening hours. Not sure that they'd appreciate it in early morning.

July 23, 2018 at 04:53 AM · For many years I've avoided trouble by using a 'Hotel Mute' when touring as a concert soloist & in Airport Ladies' if delayed in transit & there are delays in planes to board after an initial long flight, & one has time + pre concert nerves to contend with! This has worked well excepting a few stare's from some passengers on their way to & from! But if practising well, I've received some kind words ~

At home, in close proximity to neighbour's, I always practise the Warm Up routine with a steel mute gifted to me by one of my violin mentor's, who used it for decades! Very concerned about not disturbing other's, I use that steel bridge mute very regularly & rarely start practising before 12:00 mid-day, unless one's teaching schedule is earlier than a usual 3:00 ish start time.) I must be warmed up & feel prepared to help, advise & suggest technical & musical phrasing changes via bowing's to pupil's studying major violin concerti, Unaccompanied Bach, Ysaye or Bartok Solo Sonatas, etc. When my pianist is on hand, I really try to start by 3:00 PM to an end time of 7:00ish or rarely, & in Summer, have been so involved, the coaching has stretched into a late 8:30 or 9:00 PM ~ But I try to not trouble neighbours & always have closed front doors, windows in Summer, especially, & sometimes in major Violin Concerto lessons on the Brahms or Sibelius, etc., ask my pupils to use steel mute's starting by 6:00PM & avoid disturbing neighbour's ~

Hearing astonishing stories of famous violinist's of long ago as a child from both of my professional musician parents I was utterly determined to never bother other's if at all possible when practising my violin!

The story of Mischel Piastro, (a close friend of my father) being ordered by his wife to practise in a closet so her ears wouldn't hurt, was gross! Try Imagining one of our greatest Violinist's being forced to practise on his great fiddle in a closet by his spouse? To me, it doesn't bare thinking about ~ He was more than a patient man and shared his lament w/my father whom Piastro adored. For some who may be unfamiliar with the Piastro name, Michel Piastro founded the Longine Sinfoniette, which gained fame in America, from weekly radio broadcasts and inherent publicity of Longine Watches! (A brilliant P.R. name for his orchestra & a p.r. 'genius'), Michel Piastro lived well in Manhattan, but had to endure practising his violin in a closet of his beautiful NYC home. What can one say??

The only trouble I've incurred has been with a neighbour who lived just above & thumped up & down on solid hardwood uncarpeted floors at all hours of the night from 2:00 AM to 5:00 AM & sometimes starting at 10:00 PM to 4:30 AM. Losing so much sleep, one actually had to seek help & due to such nastiness, I deliberately began deferring my practising until the mid afternoon's (if not jet-lag tired), or even between 4:00 PM to 7:00PM & then Stopped! This was a horrid experience & to combat any 'complaints' from above, I always used a mute, no matter what ~ Actually, the softer sounds were soothing to my ears & nerves which led to listening much more intently to my

intonation in precious quiet times which increased awareness of all which might have gone otherwise unnoticed ~

Practising is a 'Way of Life' for we musician's & we learn early on to make do as best we can to practise without upsetting those around us who aren't musical or even family members who complain ~ When now practising, household member's go to sleep & don't wince! A Blessing from Above, all false notes are missed & only the good one's are heard when awake! I do occasionally exclaim, "listen to this!"

This subject was a brilliant idea from Michael Kennedy, whom I wish to applaud and thank! For now I remain

Musically from America ~

Elisabeth Matesky

July 23, 2018 at 06:24 AM · I do practise with a mute very often and so I can play before I go to work at 7 am or play late in the evening. I really like your story Michael Kennedy!

When we moved into our townhouse, one of the kids in our street played drums. EVeryone could hear that very well. So the parents made a deal with the neighbours that the kid could play every day between 2 hours after dinner (always the same time) and that worked very well for everybody because we all knew it was only those 2 hours. I always keep that in mind: the neighbours don't mind me playing, as long as I keep them informed and it is in a convenient time for anyone.

July 23, 2018 at 12:45 PM · "if practising well"????????? When can it be that someone of your standard DOESN'T practise well?

July 23, 2018 at 01:19 PM · Dear John Rokos ~

Thank you for such a lovely compliment!!! To answer your question ~ That's for me to know and you to figure out!

What kind hearted thoughts ...

Accept a Sibelius Hug!

Elisabeth Matesky

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