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I'm looking for an portable quiet instrument that I can have fun with without disturbing the neighbors at night. And listening to flutes in recordings, I got the impression that they are relatively quiet. But looking around the net, I couldn't get a good idea about the instrument's loudness. How loud is it? As loud as a classical guitar? an acoustic guitar? a piano? a clarinet? a trumpet? Can I play it at night without disturbing others?

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3 Answers 3

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Loudness is only one factor.Sound works in many ways, and this will compound the answer. Listen to a band playing when you're outside the hall, and you'll hear the bass far better than guitars, drums etc. The low frequencies can travel better. So, a higher register instrument may be better. Consider the piercing aspect of a sound. In fresh air, it'll carry well - too well, maybe! However, if there is a decent brick wall separating you and the neighbours, the piercing sound tends to get absorbed by the concrete etc. A trumpet, for example, tends to be more easily heard than a flute. But, you can use a mute in a trumpet, to take lots of decibels away.An acoustic guitar is quite quiet, and if you put some foam inside it, it's even quieter.The flute is probably the best portable for you. I take one on holidays, so's not to annoy too many folks, but continue playing something.An electric piano is your best bet, with headphones. However, you did mention portable, and it ain't !

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Which intruments would you compare it to when listened to directly, and when listened to from behind a brick wall? –  Anthony Jun 1 at 15:35
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The acoustic guitar, most likely, in both cases. And both can be played quietly anyway.You may find that your bathroom, for example, is built next to the neighbour's bathroom. People don't spend too long there, so it could be a good place to play. great acoustics, too !! –  Tim Jun 1 at 16:00
    
Thanks for the advice @tim and the thorough answer. Looks like the flute's sound is a bit louder and more penetrating than I expected. I guess I should stick to playing an unplugged electric guitar at night. –  Anthony Jun 1 at 16:15
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Why don't you use the amp's headphone socket, or that on an effects pedal, or even, as I used to, an old cassette or minidisc set to record, with earphones? That way you get a more satisfying sound. If you don't have the facility, it's not expensive, and it solves your problem. –  Tim Jun 1 at 16:34
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@Ivan - maybe you played the piano and guitar better than the flute... I use all three, and the flute is quietest. –  Tim Jun 1 at 18:16

I play classical guitar, which isn't particularly loud, but loud enough to be a problem in hotels. So I bought myself a silent guitar, which is basically a fingerboard with strings, a pickup, and foldable struts to simulate the full guitar size. I use it with headphones. It isn't completely silent, but it certainly can't be heard outside the room.

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Welcome to Music SE and thanks for your answer. I guess you were trying to comment but were not able to, you need 50 reputation points to comment on other people's posts. I normally wouldn't upvote comments posted as answers, but hey... you need every point, and it's a stupid rule anyway ;) –  Anthony Dec 9 at 17:58

I recently started playing flute and like you thought it would be pretty quiet. This is not the case. As well as packing a surprising amount of volume, it is pretty piercing the moment you come out of the bottom octave. And especially when you're learning, you will play higher notes more loudly because playing high notes quietly is not easy (or low notes loudly).

I would say it is louder than a classical guitar for sure, and perhaps on a par with a piano. It rather depends on your house construction but my neighbours can easily hear me play my flute and they cannot hear our TV. I would certainly not play it when anyone in the house or next door was trying to sleep.

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