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I live in an apartment with paper thin walls. My bedroom shares walls with two other apartments. Both my neighbors don't care for music that isn't hiphop, especially someone practicing guitar endlessly. They bang on the wall and turn up the TV and shout and laugh. Though I'm not half bad, it's somewhat understandable but they are 'holes about it all.

I usually practice on a telecaster UNPLUGGED, that is enough to upset them. My housemates don't care so I think it's more my neighbors being mean and intolerant.

Sometimes I will bike several miles and practice on a hill but that is exhausting before I even start playing. When I practice at home I try to palm mute as much as possible but some strings slip though and guitar is about being loud sometimes. Any advice?

edit: 2 years later, but I finally have my own house. Now I can practice guitar 24/7! Very worthwhile lol

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    learn to play along with hip-hop backing tracks. :) Sep 23, 2014 at 11:03
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    Play louder. ;)
    – Kyle
    Jun 13, 2016 at 7:59

7 Answers 7

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This has been covered to some extent before, but you have a few options. I live in an apartment so I understand where you are coming from. I play both acoustic and electric and have never had complaints from the neighbors. I actually bought a small practice amp for daytime playing on the electric, and late at night I'll either play electric unplugged, play my acoustic softly, or hook my electric up to my computer and play through a VST amp like Guitar Rig that can go to headphones or speakers on a low volume.

Your problem sounds pretty extreme though- if even playing an unplugged electric is bothering the neighbors there isn't much you can do. You must be really strumming pretty hard for them to be able to hear that through the walls. Usually the loudest part of playing an electric unplugged is the percussive slaps of the pick on the strings, so if you are playing heavily you can dial it back a bit and it shouldn't be audible to anyone outside the room.

If you want to amplify yourself a bit, the easiest option would be a guitar processor/multi-effects pedal with a headphone out, that way you could play softer and the only sound will come through the headphones.. surely that would be quiet enough to satisfy the neighbors. If you have an audio interface you can do the same thing on your computer using a VST guitar amp like Guitar Rig or Amplitube.

I am actually looking to move to a more isolated living space (a house further out of the city) so I can do more playing/recording without worrying about neighbors. If the people in your building are so intolerant, it might be worth it to consider a move if guitar is important to you, but they sound like they are just being unreasonably sensitive to the situation. Might be worth a talk with the landlord.

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  • unfortunately i cant move until next year. i dont really want to get confrontation because my neighbors are pretty cranked out. i can hear normal volume conversation from their room, let alone the unattractive sex. there might as well just be a curtain between us lol. if there is no device or trick to silent a guitar (so i can work my finger muscles), ill just have to find a closer/easier place in nature and practice or shell out some dough for a practice space somewhere. hmm. ive sold my expensive amp and just have that fender mustang amp i can plug some cans into...if only.
    – smackenzie
    Sep 22, 2014 at 5:12
  • I see. There are a few different Silent Guitars out there, but like I said if your neighbors are complaining about an unplugged electric, even one of those so called silent models won't be much quieter. I can get pretty quiet with an unplugged electric though..you sure you can't just play super soft? I appreciate having a spot in nature you can go (I do the same sometimes to practice my highly undeveloped singing skills), but it's hard to get any kind of daily practice in when you've got to leave your place.
    – charlie
    Sep 22, 2014 at 8:25
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If you're playing unplugged and they can hear that, the walls must be VERY thin!

I don't think you can do much about the guitar sound itself though. I assume it's a solid body tele ? They're not exactly loud.

Do you have to apologise to them if you fart enthusiastically too ?

Maybe an answer would be to put some sound deadening up ? If your walls really are that bad at stopping sound, just putting up a thick curtain along the wall would help, or daft as it sounds some carpet with underlay along the wall. You only have to hang these, not 'install' them so assuming you're renting, your landlord shouldn't get uppity as it'd be a bit like hanging a picture.

ps. Next time you have to listen to them having sex, return the favour: laugh out loud. (just kidding - don't do this lol)

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Could there be another room in the flat that doesn't share a neighbour's wall? Like the bathroom, which may share another bathroom wall - your bathroom is free a lot of the time, just like your neighbour's is - so it puts a bigger space between you all. I suggested in a similar question to use the car, but I guess you don't have one.

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    its a shotgun apartment, there is no escape heh. ill try the bathroom tomorrow.. tho playing in my closet wasnt quiet enough lol
    – smackenzie
    Sep 22, 2014 at 9:09
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Perhaps you're strumming too strongly because you're unplugged? Try practicing with one of those small headphone amps; I use one by electroharmonix, works great. It's better to practice with an amp anyway, even a headphone amp, because you can hear better all the details of your playing and can work on your technique.

And with a headphone amp, when they bang on the wall and shout and laugh, maybe you won't hear them anymore, so it's win-win (for you, heheh).

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I play the Violin, and there are things called "practice mutes" for Violins, Violas, Cellos, and even stringed-bass instruments. There is a wide variety of practice mutes for guitar, and they're quite cheap as well. I recommend you buy a decent practice mute and try it out.

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  • It's true that heavy dampers can do wonders to make bowed strings quieter, but their working principle is tied to the particular machanism of bowed-string bridges. AFAIK there is no equivalent for guitars. Maybe you mean sound hole covers? Those actually don't make the guitar quiet, their purpose is mostly to reduce feedback when playing acoustic guitar with pickup system on a loud stage. And mind the OP asked about electric guitar being “too loud”. Despite an unamplified electric guitar already being much quieter than a violin with damper. May 20, 2021 at 20:21
  • there are actually practice mutes for guitars. the principle they depend on is limiting the transfer of vibration from the strings to the bridge. Guitars have bridges, which is why there are practice mutes for them.
    – SupBruh
    May 20, 2021 at 20:26
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    @leftaroundabout good point, but if he mentioned an electric guitar, couldn't he change the volume (I'm not familiar with E-Guitar, so If changing the volume isn't a thing, my bad)
    – Ginger
    May 20, 2021 at 20:33
  • @Wasabi the OP mentioned unplugged electric guitar. I.e. electric guitar with the volume turned entirely off. An unplugged electric guitar isn't completely silent (it has still real vibrating strings, and the solid body and headstock can still transmit some sound), but it is much quieter than any acoustic guitar or violin. If that was still enough to annoy the neighbours, I doubt any damper can help either! And again, I'm not aware of any dampers that can “limit the transfer of vibration from the strings to the bridge”. If you know of a model, refer to it. May 20, 2021 at 20:42
  • Right. He could also try asking his neighbors? Maybe working it out and seeing if it is too loud for them, and if so, what times they're fine if he plays? Humans are built to cooperate with each other, that is how it has been since we were still wielding stone tools and hunting mammoths. Don't be afraid to ask!
    – Ginger
    May 20, 2021 at 20:46
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I have lived in apartments where they had full bands playing covers I did not complain I was also playing guitar nothing happened to get stolen, My buddy lived in a condo where some guy would play bass at the most ridiculous times like midnight either way nobody seemed to complain. Most people do not want to hear drums even if they are electric the bass drum is loud on the floor, I would say just do it, get an attenuator..

turn your living room into your bedroom and the bedroom into a den so you can shut the door and reduce the sound. Depending on the wattage of your amp you could also build a sound dampening tent with a grow tent for your amp.

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  • That is a unique idea. But don't forget that if you have a "den", and some tents, it may get a bit messy and hard to walk in.
    – Ginger
    May 20, 2021 at 20:35
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I am making a video about this but the answer is ... ... use a toothbrush ... the bristles ... soft and medium have different sounds but both allow you to strum an acoustic at full force very quietly.

In addition take painters tape, paper tape, and wrap it around the brush head, then squeeze the tape covering the bristles. Now you have a 'paper pick' that gives a different tone and is still quiet. Take scissors and cut a curve onto the far end to make the edge of the tape-pick now more resemble a regular pick.

It's not the same as taking a regular pick and covering with tape ... the entire pick is the tape so you get a more 'flapping' action.

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  • Did you ever make that video? Good ideas, would like to hear them executed
    – smackenzie
    May 17, 2023 at 23:28
  • No, as I am blocked from posting because I have received too many negative votes on other questions. There is apparently no way that I can redeem myself to come back in and try and help people. May 20, 2023 at 5:26

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