Apartment Etiquette

Apartment Etiquette

Hello,
I’ve got a question for you experienced apartment/close-housing situation people. I’ve moved fairly recently to an apartment and I’m trying to figure out how to play my instruments without stepping on any toes. As far as I can tell, everyone is reasonably polite, but not terribly neighborly. I’ve got at least two slightly older retirees who hardly seem to leave, one directly below me and the other right next door.
I play my mandolin since it’s quiet, but keep it to business hours, but I miss my flute and haven’t had the guts to pull it out yet. There aren’t any rules in the contract about this, and I may be worrying over nothing, but everyone is so quiet and self-contained that I feel like I may rile them up by upsetting the noise balance.
Are there universal etiquette rules for this kind of thing?
Thanks for y’alls thoughts!

Re: Apartment Etiquette

Get the flute and the fiddle out out and play away. I play (flute and concertina) at my daughter’s condo, which is housing mostly for retired people, nearly every day. I’ve only been told how much they love hearing real music. One of them spoke to the manager and the result was that the place hired me and a couple of my pals to play a mid-day concert, which we all enjoyed and which was very well attended.
You could also ask them how they felt about your playing and, if they heard you, if they objected. They are lucky to have you there and I bet that’s what you’ll hear.

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In Durham University graduate student accomodation, we were not allowed to play any instrument in the building at any time of the day, not even a B whistle with some Blue Tac over the fipple to mute the sound (because believe me, I tried everything to be sneaky and get around the rule). This was **graduate** student accomodation. We were meant to be "adults." It was delightful.

If you’re living in a normal flat, you just play. So long as it isn’t at antisocial hours, not stupidly late at night or early in the morning, the neighbours have to suck it and deal. You probably have to cope with hearing their domestic disputes, television, and annoying music. They can cope with yours.

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I live in an apartment, and I just play. I hear my neighbors all the time, they can hear me. It’s all part of the joy of living in a 100+ year old house with two other apartments in it.

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Don’t stomp your feet or even tap it and you should probably be OK with a flute. I would enquire with your neighbors whether they feel the same way.

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Re: Apartment Etiquette

"Don’t stomp your feet or even tap it and you should probably be OK with a flute."

I agree - foot-tapping is more likely to permeate through the floor than the sound of the flute. This could be especially annoying if the neighbour below can hear the tapping but not the music it is accompanying. Tapping gently without shoes on, though, is unlikely to be a problem.

If you are learning to play an instrument, you have to practise - if you are already accomplished, then anyone overhearing should have no complaints, anyway. If you’re worried about it, mention it to your neighbours. You don’t have to *ask* them if it’s OK - just forewarn them that they might hear you playing and tell them to let you know, should it become a problem for them. Once you have voluntarily broached the subject, they’ll know that you are a considerate person and perhaps be more sympathetic, even if your playing is not to their taste.

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My neighbors hear me tap gently without shoes on, and they’re next door (inbetween house). It is on a hardwood floor though.

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Re: Apartment Etiquette

I play flute and learn the pipes. I never had problems with the neighbours, but I am also really careful. At home I play the flute really really quietly. I took some time, to learn playing in tune really quietly, but it is possible (I play a R&R style flute). On free days it can happen that I play well over 3 or 4 ours and never had problems with the neighbours, therefore I think that playing the flute quietly is definitely possible! It is also a handy skill, for carefully and quietly playing along to tunes at a session that you haven’t master complete yet.

The pipes are another thing..I usually only them for like 20 minutes, every couple of days. Obviously this doesn’t help with making fast progress! With mandolin and at least wooden flute, there shouldn’t be any problems. I mean, this instruments are probably not louder than a TV on a moderate volume.
Good luck!

Re: Apartment Etiquette

Older people are OK and, if they are usually at home, they can often be even more relaxed about things.
People are more likely to be "crabbit" if they’ve just come home from work, having issues with their kids, spouses, partners etc. Maybe even shift workers.

You could try and practice in a room which is not directly above or adjacent to where your neighbours are likely to be but, as others have said, it’s fine to play and practise within reason as long as it’s not during "anti social" hours.
Generally, I practise louder instruments such as the accordion, fiddle, tenor banjo and so on during the day and quieter ones in the evening. I usually stop around 10.00pm although I sometimes play the clarsach until Midnight. 9.00am is usually early enough to start but I’m seldom organised before then anyway. :-)

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When I moved, I always asked neighbours soon after arriving, asking when it’s ok for me to practise so it doesn’t disturbe them (pipes, so a lot more penetration than a flute). If two sides of the flat/house gave different time intervals each day, I’d move rooms to be further from the ones that might be annoyed. Most of the time though, most people said they don’t care at all as long as it’s not too late, and thus it’s not a problem.

Sidenote 1 - do you hear them? If yes, you are sort of being disturbed too, so if they mind your playing, you could equally mind their sounds, so one can sort of "trade" being ok, I guess. If you don’t hear their speech or tv, there is a good chance the walls are thick enough and they won’t hear you.

Sidenote 2 - While it’s nice to ask, at the same time, keep in mind you have the right to practise during the daytime, unless it’s explicitly forbidden by the owner, they cannot stop you.

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Well, I practice fiddle in my university dorm room at almost anytime from afternoon to evening. Someone across the hall practices flute, and frankly I enjoy hearing that. I’ve never been told it’s a problem, although I have been told I’m able to be heard outside the room…

Re: Apartment Etiquette

Can you ever hear your neighbors? Them talking, their television or music players? If you can’t, your apartment probably has good sound absorbtion. I lived in a studio apartment and played an entire full-sized standup piano and never got any complaints. I just followed a strict "business hours" rule. I think it was from 10:00a.m. - 6:00p.m. So I would say your flute would be fine.

Remember, acoustic instruments may project focused and full-sounds, but a lot of them(except for the horns/brass) aren’t relatively loud, unless you force them to be. You just think it’s loud because you’re alone in your own space and it’s the only thing you hear. Two people having a normal conversation aren’t much quieter, and two people bantering can get much louder. It’s loud to you because it’s in your bubble. Someone a wall away may not hear much of it, or any of it at all, in their own space. Some of them may routinely not even be home during your practice time.

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Be considerate, but play away. Don’t start before 9AM and Stop at 8PM on weeknights and at 11PM on weekends.

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You could always practice in your car as a last resort, if you have one. They are quite sound proof. I turned my radio up loud and got out and closed the door. I could hardly hear the radio at all from outside.

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In university people found my recorder playing objectionable befor 11 AM. As late as midnight would have been OK. I had a hotel bust me once for very quiet ukulele playing at ten PM. Someone had objected. My wife tolerates uke, bodhrán, banjo and whistle any time of the day or night /if I’m not in the same room/.

The joy of home ownership.

Re: Apartment Etiquette

Thanks for the suggestions, y’all. That’s a good point that if I’m not hearing my neighbors then things are more soundproof than I thought. I was thinking it was because they were just quiet, but really the only one I hear is baby elephant-like footsteps from the one who lives above me.
I’ll start ‘em off easy with the Irish flute, and then if I don’t get any complaints I’ll move up to the silver one;)
I’m a shift worker too, so I was trying to figure out if there are any 2nd or 3rd shifters that I need to be more considerate of with practice times, but as far as I can tell there aren’t.
DrSilverSpear, I never thought of trying to mute a whistle that way, does it really work?

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In 2010, I was on a cruise ship when I came down with chicken pox.

Subsequently, I was confined to my cabin and ordered to to leave under any circumstance. I passed the time away by practising a tunes but one day the woman in the adjacent cabin complained about the noise after returning from an excursion. This was only at 5pm in the afternoon and my better half answered the door.
I was a bit grumpy and shouted something about her "getting a life".

Her husband came to the door an hour later. He was about 6’ 5", built like a brick shithouse, and very angry. I decided it was time for a break. ;-)

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Get out the flute and play it. So the neighbors hear it. What’s the worst outcome? The flute’s mightier than the sword, after all, remember Bob and the old orange one.

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A friend of mine tells a story of a friend of his complaining that a neighbour was knocking his door at 3am. He said "he’s lucky, i only heard him cos i was up playing my (bag)pipes"!!!! Play but be considerate!!!!