Landlords complaining about violin volume

February 26, 2005 at 05:52 AM · Dear all,

I have a dilemma! I rent the top floor of a house. My landlords recently informed me that my violin practicing is disturbing them downstairs. Their schedules vary so I'm never certain when they'll be in. I also hate practice mutes (they distort sound too much). Does anyone have tips on rudimentary soundproofing, like putting foam on the floor or walls? Have any of you done it yourselves? Or are violins just too loud and piercing to be soundproofed?

Thank you,


Replies (33)

February 26, 2005 at 06:01 AM · Sound proofing the room is a difficult job, and I'm not sure whether you would be allowed to do it if you are renting. Explain to your landlord that you need to practice, and that if he'd like it quieter he could soundproof the room. Look for some quotes, and offer to pay for half or more of it. That should sweeten the deal.

Privately, I think he's got very sensitive ears if your violin playing is annoying him.

February 26, 2005 at 07:33 AM · Ben's suggestion is a good one. I think you should have a talk with him and 'thrash things out', figuratively. That said, though, this is by no means an uncommon problem. My own parents complain about my practising sometimes! I think it comes down to a bit of give-and-take on both sides of the coin. Of course, it all gets worse when you're practising something you don't know awfully well! =)

February 26, 2005 at 07:48 AM · Silly mortals! Have they no appreciation for our artistic struggle! For shame!

If you're about keeping the peace, getting a practice mute might help. When I joined the reserves, I was shocked when they told me I couldn't bring my violin to boot camp (yes, I asked). After the 9 weeks though, I had a 4-week MOS (military occupational specialty) training during which i had a bit more freedom. The second I could, I got myself to the local music shop and rented out a decent student violin for the month, to work up my chops before I went back home--i'd be starting college as a performance major soon. Ever try picking up a violin after 2 months (or longer!) of never even seeing one? Good gracious, it was surreal. I'm sure it was worse, though, for the poor guy with whom I shared the barracks. With him and others in mind, I got a metal practice mute. It worked quite well--the sound hardly escapes your room, and you can practice well into the night :-D Anyhow, this is probably the simplest (and cheapest!) solution, short of selling the instrument and taking up miming.

February 26, 2005 at 01:38 PM · Hi,

Janani, I had that problems for years in a place where I live (condo). The only thing in the end is to find out what hours you can practice at and then arrange your schedule accordingly. Although our art is a struggle that requires work, respecting a neighbour or landlord's rules are an essential part of society. Maybe you could negotiate quiet hours with him. I think that would be the best first step.


February 26, 2005 at 04:55 PM · I notice it's the landlord's tenant who is complaining. It's too bad the tenant could not have gone directly to his violinistically inclined neighbour. I am blessed with four sets of neighbours: above, below, on either side. The one below is also above being sandwiched between our basement which is my son's room, and our upstairs (It's a really weird layout) and it can happen that my son is practising viola downstairs while I practise violin upstairs. She's o.k. about the instruments but hates the sound of water running. The one on the left told the one on the right to tell me what time her son goes to bed. The one on the right is a night owl which is good as their bedroom is adjacent to where I like to practise (considering the other one with the young son). The one upstairs grabs his chair and sits on the balcony if I play recorder on mine (I can hear him). One way or the other, we affect our neighbours. Call it "practising playing in front of invisible audiences".

Generally speaking I communicate with new neighbours and find out their hours so that I can coordinate my practice if possible. The very fact of my having contacted them usually makes them quite tolerant.

On an ironic note, a rather proficient violin student has moved in and on summer days the most gorgeous music can be heard throughout the courtyard. Upon her moving in, I got a phone call from a neighbour further down telling me how much my music had suddenly improved and she was really enjoying it. Yeah, right. Didn't she notice me sneaking outside for a listen whenever that lovely sound resounded from the top window?

February 27, 2005 at 06:45 AM · Inge, I love your story.

Now here's a true story of my own. I live in a condo, and the fellow who used to live in the unit next to mine is a musician and teacher. He was sometimes really bothered by other neighbors playing country or rock music (Ache-y Break-y Heart, for ex.) really loudly when he was trying to get to sleep. He would leave his bedroom and come into his living room, where he could hear me practicing through the walls. He later told me that he had especially enjoyed listening to me play Bach. A few years ago, he organized a community symphony orchestra, and he invited me to play in it. Little did I know, when I was practicing at night, that I had an appreciative audience and that I was, in effect, auditioning for an orchestra. Once in a while, a story has a happy ending. :-)

February 27, 2005 at 04:17 PM · I am lucky and my landlady loves to hear me practice at any time of day. However, there is sound proofing foam that you could put on the floor ( has some). Maybe you could try extra carpets and/or extra carpet foam. Maybe you could ask them for thier schedule (long shot) or there is always the option of moving.

February 27, 2005 at 04:28 PM · I agree it's a problem; I want to buy a place of my own, but I teach twenty-six students from home. Thus living in an apartment would be annoying for my neighbours, so I need a house. But a house-share would be unfair on my housemate. It's a problem.

My own practice is very loud, and I'm aware that some of my past flat/housemates have found it irritating (although others have enjoyed it). These days I think I've found a good set-up; the neighbours on the other side of the wall go upstairs after dinner, which is my regular practice-time. My family do likewise. So I practice downstairs in the kitchen on the other side of the house. Sometimes if I practice at a different time for whatever reason, I hear distant groans (which surprise me as the neighbours' daughter is a flautist)... but it works out for the most part.

February 27, 2005 at 07:58 PM · why not use a mute

February 27, 2005 at 08:37 PM · No good for tone production - mutes are very forgiving, rather like playing an electric violin.

February 27, 2005 at 08:41 PM · I know its no good for tone production but playing with a mute is the only way I can practice

February 27, 2005 at 11:43 PM · Inge, your story is interesting... And Pauline, you gave an interesting idea: why not organize violin classes for neighbours? If it would be a group class, so your landlord could be a group leader. It means he needs to practice a lot so he will respect others practicing. LOL

I live in a private house because four people from my family should practice, and what is interesting, our neighbours (their house is cross driway) bought a violin for their son.

Make your neighbours love you and your playing:)

February 28, 2005 at 03:12 AM · Greetings,

this question crops up fairly frequently for obvious reasons.

Aside from all the above points I also think it is worth thinking about differnet kind sof practice you -can- do. For example:

1) Mental practice- in a comfortable position run through the work vizualizing yourself playing from a total physical perspective. Workign diligently from this point of view (or other kind sof mental practice) you can learn huge amounts of repertoire, and with application, develop mind muscle connection and actually technical ability.

2) Although not every great violnist has agreed with them (Milstein disliked them) there are a lot of benifits to be derived from silent left hand exericses. Do an archive search for my oft repeated explanation of the Geminiani chord position and how to use it...

Consult Flesch Urstudien, Basics , Dounis Daily Dozen, Keivman-Practicing the violin mentally/physically, and Appllebaum `The Art and Science of Violin Playing.` Don`t forget the vibrato exericse in Basics either!

3) There are many silent bowing exercises. A lot of them can be found in Basics. These can be a combination of very small and very large movemnts, for example rapidly moving the bow from heel to point keeping it exactly 2 cm above the string. Tricky....

Also son file one cm above the string can be done building up to twenty minutes or half an hour a day.(Or even on the stirng- aone minute bow stroke does not make a great deal of noise)

All in all, if you are really dedicate dand smart ther e is potential to do at least an hour or two on almost completely silent mental and physical work.

In essence ladies and gentlemen,

There are no excuses!



February 28, 2005 at 10:21 AM · I regularily use practise mutes of different calibrations, to give others a break; my neighbors are always around. Our own ears need to rest periodically as well (I had a friend who used to practise with ear -plugs, to ease his ears; he teaches at Julliard now).A silent violin is an option I have been averse to trying.

Heifetz divorced one of his wives for her comment he overheard at a cocktail party: " of course I adore his playing, but six hours a day, every day - who could stand that?" When she got home after being ditched at the party, she found he had changed the locks,wouldn't answer the door, and the divorce papers went out the next day!

February 28, 2005 at 12:30 PM · Omg, is that true? Blimey, I'm doomed to remain single:( Thomas, add that story to the quotations thread!

February 28, 2005 at 01:45 PM · Wait a minute - ONE of his wives?

February 28, 2005 at 02:21 PM · Inge, he was married twice.

February 28, 2005 at 02:48 PM · I used to drive my neighbors insane also. I think it had less to do with loud volume and more to do with what I played. I liked to practice a scale over and over again but I'd only play the first seven ascending notes. I'm not sure why this bothered them so much.

February 28, 2005 at 06:17 PM · ROFL

February 28, 2005 at 06:50 PM · Sue, what was that?

February 28, 2005 at 08:20 PM · Rolling on the floor laughing.

I'd like to invent ROFHL - rolling on the floor in hysterical laughter.

February 28, 2005 at 10:30 PM · how about FOMCROTFLOLH:

Falling off my chair rolling on the floor laughing out loud hysterically.

February 28, 2005 at 10:42 PM · FOMCROTFLOLHWDIH:

Falling off my chair rolling on the floor laughing out loud hysterically with degree in hand.

February 28, 2005 at 11:38 PM · guys are just a box of laughs!

March 1, 2005 at 01:31 AM · If monitors were round, would we be a tube of laughs?

March 1, 2005 at 05:07 PM · I teach in the home and so does my wife, often at the same time. The only soundproofing I did was to put a double door setup on my studio (one opening in, one out, with a foam pad occupying the space between) . I can only hear the piano from her studio through my AC/CH vent when both doors are closed. You will need a pro to hang the extra door, but it's cheaper than a lot of other methods. BTW, the foam pad is covered by a large piece of dark gray fabric stapled to the top, bottom and sides of the door.

March 1, 2005 at 05:40 PM · Mike, I don't understand. Why do you need an extra door? Isn't the foam effective by itself?

March 1, 2005 at 08:58 PM · A little physics: Sound-proof barriers are air-tight; thus, a second door seals in the sound.

March 3, 2005 at 05:15 PM · Exactly, Michael. If I close only the door with foam on it I don't get nearly as good sound-proofing results. Also, that door is traditional interior (hollow core). The outer is a solid core.

March 4, 2005 at 10:05 AM · Double doors must work. They have ordinary doors in the classrooms at the music school, only there are two of them with a narrow space just enough for one to squeeze in if both are shut (to give you an idea of the gap), but if either one is left slightly open the difference of sound that gets through is amazing.

I don'tknow if the landlord would allow for double doors or foam/cork floors though.

Here, where most people live in apartments, one has to have a certain give and take. It is generally understood that most people have a right to make whatever noise (music/TV/vaccum..)from roughly about 8 to about 10ish in the evening. If you think somneone is really loud, you can call the authorities who measure the decibels that are actually heard by the complainants from their place. However, I do not think they would turn up in a hurry if you compalined about someone playing the violin...esp. during the day.

Just to put it into perspective, I have a violin/clarinet/piano/harmonium playing nearly everyday, my neighbour across the landing oboeand piano, the neighbouring flat beyond clarinet/cello/, plus another playing the bassoon on the same floor, and the poor guy in the middle of all this is in the medical profession, somtimes on emergency call, and has never complained even once...although he did say his cat was becoming exceptionally musical.

March 4, 2005 at 02:59 PM · We live in apartment. We turn on air conditioner & close all the windows/doors whenever anyone plays the violin. Sometimes I heard the sound of my neighbour closing the door . So, we have 'double doors' too. :)

March 17, 2005 at 02:52 AM · A cellist friend of mine stuck cardboard egg cartons to her walls and apparently that worked as sound insulation very well.

March 21, 2005 at 03:00 AM · I believe all states have laws allowing us to practice. Here in NY if you are a musician you may practice anytime between the hours 10AM-10PM without any legal problems. Call the environmental protection agency and find out if there are similar laws in your state. Although there might still be grumbling and complaints, there is nothing your landlord can legally do to kick you out.

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