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This might sound like a stupid question but I'd like to ask if and how it is possible to learn guitar without making noise at all. I'd like to prevent making noise other people in the same flat could hear. Does it even make sense or should I just forget this whole idea? It's not about driving people crazy or anything like that - I just really want to "hide" my guitar-lessons and surprise people when time has come (probably in a few years at least). I got an acoustic guitar in my room but everyone knows that I can't play - and I'd like to change this in secret. Please don't question this attitude - I got a few reasons to surprise them ;)

I got guitar lessons which is no problem at all but for getting into this stuff this is clearly not enough and I have to practice at home as well. Should I buy an electrical guitar which I maybe can plug into headphones and listen by that? Or is there anything which reduces the sounds guitars make significantly?

  • Is it an option to practice in another location, or would leaving the building with the guitar be observed, and raise suspicion? – Caleb Hines Sep 6 '14 at 2:18
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For acoustic style (nylon string or steel string) there is also the possibility of buying a silent guitar. Such guitars create the same output volume as electric guitars when not plugged in.

3

If you can get an electric guitar, that'd be the easiest approach. Just play it without amplification. And you could even use headphones to make sure you could hear yourself.

If you're using an acoustic, you can do a few things to muffle the sound:

  • Put a t-shirt inside the body (inside the soundhole) to dampen it a bit.
  • Weave cloth between the strings by the bridge to mute it.
  • Play with your picking hand's palm touching the the strings (your right palm, if you're right handed). This is a technique known as palm muting. It's not really ideal to learn like this, but at least it would get the job done.

On either acoustic or electric, you can get a modest amount of practicing done without playing the instrument at all -- just getting your fingers comfortable on the fretboard with chord shapes, for example.

Good luck!

3

Most of the other answers have covered your options, but there is one more possibility you might want to consider before buying an electric guitar. They make sound-hole dampeners for acoustic guitars that are used to fight feedback when playing an acoustic amplified on stage, but they also provide some dampening of the volume of the guitar. Check the link below for one such device. Again, this isn't exactly made for your purposes, but it would help. It won't make the guitar silent, but it would reduce the overall volume a bit. Stuffing the soundhole as someone else mentioned would also go a long way towards dampening your overall volume. A t-shirt or two can be pushed inside without much effort.

I can tell you that when I play acoustic guitar in my apartment, especially late at night, I put the pick away and just strum lightly with my thumb/fingers to make the least amount of noise possible. Doing this results in a pretty quiet overall volume, and I'm pretty sure no one outside of my apartment can hear me playing. With a light touch it is possible to play an acoustic guitar very quietly, it's really just up to how hard you strum/pluck the strings. Of course I do have more experience and have been playing for many years, so it might not be as easy for a beginner to modulate the volume like I do but it shouldn't be very hard to learn how to do so.

I would reiterate that the quietest solution (albeit probably the most expensive), might be an electric guitar. It does make some small amount of noise, mostly from the picking of the strings, especially if you are strumming forcefully, but again this can be controlled with a careful right hand. They make tons of headphone amps for electric guitars, but you can also just play one without an amp and it's loud enough for you to hear what you are playing but not so loud that anyone outside your room would notice.

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/accessories/planet-waves-screaching-halt-guitar-soundhole-plug

  • 1
    Don't expect too much from buying a sound-hole cover: these do lower the volume, but only slightly; they're most effective in shielding internal microphones from outside noise, whereas the guitar sound is transmitted from all the walls to both outside and inside. The outlying faces still emit sound, no matter what you do to the sound hole. Stuffing the entire body with t-shirts is more effective, because it damps the vibrations of the wood itself. – leftaroundabout Sep 6 '14 at 13:36
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I agree with the others that you should try an electric. Quite with no amp. Or would it be possible to find a place other than your flat to practice?

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Same problem; I'm very eager to practice my guitar but my grandma doesn't want noise. I ordered online a 6 frets pocket guitar; it's only a frets, having 6 strings but no body. With it, I learn a lot of chords and strumming patterns without disturbing other people. The string can be adjusted into a bit sound or you loose it then no one can hear that you're strumming; only you alone can hear you strum. It costs only 10 dollar for 6 frets, you can order via lazada or amazon. Search for pocket guitar; it helps a lot...

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If you had an electric guitar you could play it without using an amplifier. The sound would be very low but YOU could hear it if there wasn't too much other noise around. Also some amplifiers have a headphone jack that can cut off the speaker and send the sound only thru the headphones. I also think that you can play an electric guitar through your computer and use headphones to listen.

But with an acoustic guitar the only option that I can think of is to play it quietly. Pick or pluck the strings very lightly to keep the volume down. Do you have a closet you can practice in? That sounds silly but I often go to the back room 1/2 bath and close the door, sit on the toilet (lid down) and play softly. My sleeping wife cannot hear it that way.

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Old thread... but I've just worked out a way to do this perfectly well. Take a small kitchen sponge and slip it between the strings and the body so that it dampens the strings in a way similar to (but more effective than) palm damping.

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