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Skinnyman

Keeping it down a bit

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There's a chance that we'll be moving house soon and the property we've seen is a nice big semi-detached.

Weirdly, given how often we've moved, we've never before lived anywhere with neighbours the other side of a party wall so my concern is that practicing at moderate volumes is likely to cause annoyance. Plus, Mrs S plays (acoustic) piano and that can get some volume to it when she's in full Rachmaninoff mode.

Any advice on how to set things up to prevent noise leakage into next door? The property is about a hundred years old and pretty substantial. The only option for "The Music Room" (as we shall grandly call it whenever we get chance) is on the side of the house with the party wall although speakers and the piano can be placed around the room, away from the shared wall itself.   

I'm not talking about late night sessions - just practice and playback at sensible volume during the day. 

Am I worrying too much? Should I consider some sort of isolator to put a cab on to decouple the bass from the floor? 

Edited by Skinnyman

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Talk to your neighbours. Tell them what to expect, let them know it won't be late, or long hours. I'd imagine your bass will be the hardest one for them to cope with - at least with the piano they'll hear a bit of a tune. So do anything you can do to keep your volume down as much as possible (headphones, unplugged), and tell them that you are doing this. You are allowed to make some noise, and as long as you are being considerate they really shouldn't mind.

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First of all, I would have a chat with your new neighbours and explain that you do play instruments and have to practice. Ask them about what hours would be least disturbing, and make it clear that it is OK to let you know if sound traveling through the wall becomes a problem/ nuisance. Of course you take whatever precautions you can without tip-toeing around your own house, such as moving bass cab. away from floor and wall, playing at moderate levels an so on.

Disclaimer: I have never lived in a semi detached house, and my nearest neighbour at the moment is about 150 meters away form my house. 😎

Mykesbass beat me to it...

Edited by JvJazz83
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We live in a semi detached property.

Our attached neighbour bought his house 4.5 years ago, coming every weekend to do major work on what was a run down Victorian home with a lot of work needed. 
I was happy to have a set of keys so I could let trades people in during the week before going to work myself, as he lived a fair distance away.
Problem was that every weekend he came over to work in the house, so we had to listen to drilling, floor sanding, hammering, on the days we were at home relaxing. It was torture as we never knew when it would start or finish, it wound me up badly at times. He’s a nice enough fella though, so I asked if he could just let us know when he was going to be doing any work that would likely involve prolonged and excessive noise, and for how long. This was a game changer, as I knew when to expect it and could plan my day around this, so I felt I had an element of control and choice. 

Funnily enough he and his girlfriend have moved in, and they’re quiet as mice, but he did ask whether I could hear his stereo the other day. I could, but thought it was his washing machine! 
 

So, I’m basically saying what the others have suggested. But from the perspective of the neighbour. Talk to them and come to an agreed arrangement? 
Having said that, you might be moving next to a drummer! 😲

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I'll state the obvious and say headphones.

Preferably through one of the many multi fx/amp modeller units currently available at many price points.

And get Mrs Skinny a keyboard.

Edited by Cato
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To dampen the sound travelling through the party wall you could think about some heavy drapes about12" off the wall. This will muffle any noise transfer.

You can find heavy drapes cheap at local charity shops - nobody wants then as most people see these as "old fashioned" but they can be a feature.

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I was working on a song one night and didn’t realise the time, and my neighbour knocked ( I thought to complain) and asked me what the name of the song was as they recognised the bassline and really liked it 

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13 minutes ago, Cato said:

And get Mrs Skinny a keyboard.

Not an option I’m afraid. She’s very, very good and plays a very nice Yamaha piano. 

Headphones are an obvious choice late at night but in the daytime and early evening I’d like the option of playing through an amp or just listening to the stereo without causing the neighbours any issues.

It obviously makes sense to talk to the neighbours and I’ll do that but I’m also wondering if there are any practical solutions that might help too....

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5 minutes ago, Reggaebass said:

I was working on a song one night and didn’t realise the time, and my neighbour knocked ( I thought to complain) and asked me what the name of the song was as they recognised the bassline and really liked it 

I had a friend bashing away late at night on her keyboard with headphones on. She heard a neighbour knocking on a wall and started to get cross that they were doing this late at night. After it went on for a bit longer she took her headphones off to discover they hadn't been plugged in 😄

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3 minutes ago, Mykesbass said:

I had a friend bashing away late at night on her keyboard with headphones on. She heard a neighbour knocking on a wall and started to get cross that they were doing this late at night. After it went on for a bit longer she took her headphones off to discover they hadn't been plugged in 😄

That reminds me of when I was younger and my dad was listening to his new Hi-Fi late one evening. Just as I was dozing off Black Sabbath's Paranoid started shaking the house. I ran downstairs to find my dad sat on the floor in the living room with headphones on. Totally oblivious to the earsplitting volume pumping from the speakers. 
He didn't realise you had to manually switch the speakers out of the signal path.

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I had a roots-y rock n roll 3 piece that used to practice in my old house. The neighbour came around to say how much he loved it. He had young children and everything but ultimately people have to live their lives. Good communication, being flexible and looking to minimise issues all lead to better relationships. Whacking a stack amp up against his wall at 3am is a bit different from evening practice at a sensible volume.

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Headphones have to be the way to go for the bass. The problem with low frequencies is that they travel through the structure of a building. This is especially true of older ones, with wood floors, joists, etc. Moving cabs away from shared walls, etc, does little to alleviate the problem. Even when I play quietly, with the cab well away from walls, my neighbour (I live in a terraced house) can still hear/feel it.

Not sure whether speaking with the neighbours will be productive. If someone knocked on my door and said "I've just moved in next door and may make a lot of noise", I'd be unlikely to be overjoyed.

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The isolation pads definitely do help with the vibration, I’ve got them at one of my houses that has bare  floorboards and you notice the difference 

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28 minutes ago, Dan Dare said:

Not sure whether speaking with the neighbours will be productive. If someone knocked on my door and said "I've just moved in next door and may make a lot of noise", I'd be unlikely to be overjoyed.

Possibly not but I’d like to hope that I’d come across as being considerate and adding “please let me know if it disturbs you” would hopefully head off any antagonism before it started.

21 minutes ago, Reggaebass said:

The isolation pads definitely do help with the vibration, I’ve got them at one of my houses that has bare  floorboards and you notice the difference 

Thats good to know.

”One of my houses”, eh? Nice. 😁

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1 hour ago, TheGreek said:

To dampen the sound travelling through the party wall you could think about some heavy drapes about12" off the wall. This will muffle any noise transfer.

You can find heavy drapes cheap at local charity shops - nobody wants then as most people see these as "old fashioned" but they can be a feature.

 

41 minutes ago, Reggaebass said:

The isolation pads definitely do help with the vibration, I’ve got them at one of my houses that has bare  floorboards and you notice the difference 

Two points here:

Firstly if you want to minimise the noise transfer you need to plan the room properly.

Although drapes would be good, 3" of rockwool set behind a hardboard facing would be better, but its not easy to do and makes the room smaller.  What you need is something that absorbs the soundwaves on the party wall - a bookcase full of books would be a good.  Don't forget about the ceiling either if its an upstairs room sound will transmit through the loft space.

Bare floorboards are a complete no no.  Unfortunately the things you should do to minimise the impact on your neighbour are exactly the things you don't want to do for it to sound good.

Secondly, I had noise issues with a neighbour previously.  I knew he was a professional musician, and we'd played together a few times but his idea of socially acceptable times and mine were vastly different, and when we did have an issue with the volume it was so loud in his house he couldn't hear the front door/phone.  Given that he was mostly playing an electronic keyboard there actually wasn't any need for that volume in the first place.  If you come from the school of thought that your bass is only loud enough if you can feel the vibration through your feet maybe a semi isn't the right choice.

 

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8 minutes ago, Nicko said:

If you come from the school of thought that your bass is only loud enough if you can feel the vibration through your feet maybe a semi isn't the right choice.

Haha. I really don’t - I just want to practice at a sensible volume. I’m not a guitarist 😁

I like the bookcase idea. Fortunately, I have some of those!

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I used to live in a semi detached old railway cottage. Walls really thick and built to last. Our next door neighbours were lovely, and one day I asked if they could hear much from our house. Bearing in mind I had a reasonably loud hi fi and practiced piano, guitar and bass a bit. They said that the only thing that permeated through to their place was the acoustic piano, which was in the room furthest away from the adjoining wall. Something about the frequencies I guess.

Agree with Dan Dare about moving in somewhere and notifying your new neighbours you’re going to be making a racket - not a great start. At my last property, (an end of terrace Victorian house with quite thick walls) the neighbour’s teenage son started playing drums. His acoustic kit may as well have been in my house, it was that loud. When I mentioned it to his folks, I said it wasn’t really on to expect us to put up with it. His mum ( who seemed quite okay at the time) came round and asked if we would agree to him rehearsing for an hour each day in the early evening. Think she thought as I was a musician we wouldn’t mind - I tried to explain to her it was like working at a factory and then coming home to the same noise. Anyway, we reluctantly agreed, despite it being a major intrusion in our lives, in order to be neighbourly and maintain good relations. Things were okay for a week or two, and then of course it reverted to him bashing away at the kit whenever his parents weren’t in, which was quite a lot. I went round to explain it wasn’t on and was met with disbelief. In the end I had to say I would contact the local council to assess the noise if it didn’t stop, and suggested they got him an electric kit. They did this, but from then on for the next 15 years they struggled to say hello to us and were generally a pain in the a*se as neighbours. Probably the main reason we eventually moved out too, so trying to be reasonable doesn’t always seem the best route. I honestly believe you have a right to a quiet environment in your own home, and anyone regularly disrupting this should be advised it won’t be tolerated. If not, where does it stop? What someone thinks is okay may not be the opinion of a neighbour who is at their wits end - whether it’s music rehearsal, loud recorded music, DIY or whatever. Sure we all need to live our lives, but have to choose very carefully how our behaviour affects others in all respects.

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I live in a terraced cottage, 200 years old so really thick Cornish stone (slate) and granite walls. The living room and kitchen, each with a chimney breast, are on the adjoining wall of each house so reasonable sound isolation. The only way for me practice without disturbing anyone is to use headphones. I actually prefer to be able to really lose myself with headphones on rather than use an amp and always be aware others can hear me. No matter how nice my neighbours are about, the reality is they'd rather not hear me so I use headphones, in fact I haven't even got an amp in the house anymore. 

Unfortunately I feel there are three options/outcomes for practice at home. 

1, Headphones, no noise so no neighbour agro. 

2, Amplified or acoustic instruments, Discuss with neighbors and set boundaries, but accept they still would rather you were quite and annoyances will probably build over time. 

3, Who cares, play loud and f 'em all, pretty guaranteed outcome of fall outs. 

Electric instruments are easy, plug in headphones and there's guaranteed peace with the neighbours. Personally I don't see the need to have a big speaker in an amplifier turned up to a decent volume for my ears in a room when I can have little speakers in headphones which will supply that same volume direct to my ears. 

Acoustic instruments are trickier and I don't think there is any perfect answer. When let rip on, a piano is a very loud instrument. 

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1 hour ago, casapete said:

What someone thinks is okay may not be the opinion of a neighbour who is at their wits end

And that’s exactly what I want to avoid.

I’m hoping that i can be quiet enough for there to be no issue - but if there is, I’d like them to tell me. If my practice is too loud and is annoying then I’ll stop and use headphones. The piano is harder but if it’s a problem then it will have to be played during the day when there’s no-one in next door.

I don’t want to cause any problems to my new neighbours and would expect the same courtesy in return - if I need to adapt my behaviour, I will. But if the bookcases, thick curtains and an isolation pad will help the issue even arising then they’re useful tips and worth trying

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6 minutes ago, Skinnyman said:

And that’s exactly what I want to avoid.

I’m hoping that i can be quiet enough for there to be no issue - but if there is, I’d like them to tell me. If my practice is too loud and is annoying then I’ll stop and use headphones. The piano is harder but if it’s a problem then it will have to be played during the day when there’s no-one in next door.

I don’t want to cause any problems to my new neighbours and would expect the same courtesy in return - if I need to adapt my behaviour, I will. But if the bookcases, thick curtains and an isolation pad will help the issue even arising then they’re useful tips and worth trying

I think sometimes them telling you, or not, is the problem. You clearly don't want to upset them but a lot of the time they feel this way too and refrain from complaining until they're ready to explode, all the while you've been oblivious to the irritation you're causing. 

As well as isolating and keeping the noise down as much as possible, the best thing is to really make them understand that if they say something then you really won't see it as complaining and would rather they acted like a noise meter and gave you constant feedback over bottling it up until breaking point. Most people just want to keep the peace and say nothing but that's not always best. 

Other than that, just get the smoke machine and strobes out, and when they knock to complain, fill the hall with smoke back-lit by strobes and answer the door in full Gene Simmons costume, make up and blood with an Axe bass strapped on. 

P.s. Flame thrower is optional, but a nice touch. 

Best of luck. 😉

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Budget for a breeze block construction, heavily sound-proofed garden practice room. Heavy airlocked entrance doors, isolated window, double sandbagged ceiling and air con with sound baffles. Put in an en-suite bog so you can describe it as a 'guest annexe / granny flat' when you move on.

Or don't buy a semi.

The alternative is fear, loathing and madness, either for your neighbour or for you when you're practising those disco octave stops and your brain's worrying whether you're pi55ing off them next door.

Or both of you go mad and the news report ends with the words 'before pulling the trigger on himself'.

Edited by skankdelvar
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I've just had a brainwave, we're all trying to stop the sound at source, so to speak, but why don't we look at the other end. 

How pleased would your new neighbour be to receive a little gift when you move in?

Noise cancelling headphones! 

Nobody can be angry at someone who's just given them a gift. 

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Just to recommend trying a good headphone setup and physical feedback device like a Backbeat, Bassboard or rumble seat. Well worth it IMO - no worrying about annoying anyone, complete isolation from any vibrations or unwanted room noise, Hifi quality monitoring and immersive when playing along with other stuff. It makes playing through an amp at home seem crazy when you get it right. 

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Similar to Col. Del Var's advice, I am 1970s semi-detached, and trust me, you could hear a mouse farting next door.

Luckily I have an unattached rear extension to the property, with a weapons grade sliding door to the 'main house'. This is where my own mouse farts.

If you can't put the Johanna in a non-adjoining room at least -- I'd consider a different property mate. With all the love in the world.🙂

Edited by Ricky 4000
clarity
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