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I've been having some issues with neighbors and I am looking for ways to reduce noise from my accoustic piano.

One of the things I understand is that low frequency notes propagate a lot more than high frequency ones. I have been reading about bass traps recently.

I know bass traps are aimed at improving sound quality by "trapping" low frequencies, but would this also help with noise reduction for the neighbors?

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    Interesting question. My gut reaction would be 'no' but I have no actual evidence either way. – Tetsujin Jan 4 '17 at 10:58
  • Not an answer to the question, thus a comment. Have a look at 'Quiet Keys'. – Tim Jan 4 '17 at 11:02
  • The question doesn't explicitly say this is an acoustic piano, though most of the answers seem to make that assumption, and otherwise the obvious answer would be "use headphones". – user19146 Jan 4 '17 at 17:26
  • I think this question would be a good/better fit for sound.stackexchange.com – user18706 Jan 4 '17 at 17:32
  • @Tim I updated the question – nsn Jan 4 '17 at 18:39
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There's a company called Real Traps whose main business is bass traps and acoustics. This is from their web site:

Note that RealTraps products are intended to improve the sound inside a room. They are not designed to prevent sound from traveling to other rooms, or reduce outside sounds from getting in. For that we recommend Green Glue and other products sold by The SoundProofing Company. More than just listing products, the Library section of their web site contains a wealth of information about sound isolation.

Bass traps only absorb a small amount of the bass frequencies, sometimes in a very narrow range. Their main purpose is to prevent those frequencies being reflected back into the room and canceling out or reinforcing the sound heading away from the speakers. The acoustic power reduction that does occur in a bass trap is very small, and not enough to turn a noise violation into a tolerable murmur.

There are other question on this Stack about sound control and living with neighbors. As a musician who practices daily and as a person who has studied acoustics and sound engineering for over 20 years and as a person who has tried many strategies to practice without annoying neighbors, my advice is to set up a quiet rig for home and try to find a secondary space, like a rehearsal space or storage unit, where you can play at whatever volume you desire. Trying to build a loud room in your residence will soak up huge amounts of time and money that would be better spent improving your skills and musical tools.

  • a much better explanation than mine. – SaggingRufus Jan 4 '17 at 14:19
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    As someone who paid to have Green Glue installed on the ceiling of the downstairs apartment when it was remodeled: It works for most noise. Not 100% but greatly diminished. Except: drum/base thumping still comes through strong, and since unfortunately that's present in nearly all "modern" music - you've still got to pick your neighbors carefully. (Next chance I get: Green Glue under my floor too.) – davidbak Jan 5 '17 at 5:42
  • You can also look into home theater design for suggestions for this if you really want a home setup, a lot of the ways to actually get noise insulation involve essentially building a room within a room. If you search for dedicated DIY home theater designs you will see this (which can help solve the original problem, though it will cost $$ and time). – enderland Jan 5 '17 at 19:18
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Todd Wilcox is totally on-point here. The best method for eliminating sound leakage in a shared structure is the room-within-a-room method. I'm a musician and engineer with 15 year's experience, and I spent a modest sum treating my studio. We used rigid fiberglass bass traps in the corners, rigid fiberglass wall panels, and absortive foam panels. We also did our best to seal the room's windows and doorframes with green glue. And let me tell you what, it sounds GREAT in there now, but you can still hear my piano 15-20 feet away from outside the studio. Suffice it to say, true soundproofing on a budget is a fool's errand.

Mitch Gallagher's primer on acoustic design goes into great detail on the difference between acoustic treatment (bass traps, absorption, diffusion) and just what makes soundproofing so challenging. It can be done, but I bet Todd would agree you're not probably not going finish a proper soundproofing project for any less than a couple grand...and that's wishful. Get the book, weigh your options, and go from there. Mitch is a great writer too; you'll really enjoy reading Acoustic Design for the Home Studio.

  • Great info. I'll be checking out that book. Welcome to Music.SE! – Todd Wilcox Jan 5 '17 at 18:09
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The existing answers explain why bass traps don't help with airborne noise - say, if both you and your neighbors open a window, or if the sound travels across doors and corridors. (The bass traps are typically not even located in those paths.)

Are your neighbors living in the same house? Can you hear your piano while you are walking the corridors to visit them? Piano sound often also travels via the building constructions (structure borne sound). Structural borne sound is quite difficult to analyze. In this case bass traps won't help either but most other changes that you can try will. You will want to make sure that the instrument isn't touching a wall, or that it isn't standing directly on a concrete floor. If you can move it around your flat (while keeping an eye on temperature gradient and humidity, so as not to sacrifice the instrument to this experimentation), you may be very surprised how its location makes the problem better or worse. Note that this will typically not change where your neighbors can hear the piano, because the sound will still be travelling through a similar path, and re-radiated from the same wall of theirs. But the intensity of the re-radiated sound may change drammatically if the sound has to travel one more joint to the destination.

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    Well, they live in an adjacent house. We share a wall. There are no corridors whatsoever. We need to go trough the street. – nsn Jan 4 '17 at 16:36
  • @nsn - If you don't hear the piano in the street (or no louder than in your neighbors' appartment), and if the piano is on the first or second floor, then you are dealing mostly with re-radiated noise. Try to move the instrument away from the shared wall and/or put some furniture or soft draperies in front of a part of that wall, but in way so that any resonator (like wooden furniture) does not touch the wall or hard floor. – Jirka Hanika Jan 4 '17 at 16:45
  • The most troublesome part of the problem is usually the sound being transmitted through the piano legs straight into a wooden floor. The only real cures for that are to replace the floor with a concrete slab (obviously impossible in most situations) or build a false floor in the room which is isolated from the building structure (not impossible, but usually too expensive and disruptive to be practical). – user19146 Jan 4 '17 at 17:25
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    @alephzero Actually, there are piano isolators that go between the legs and the floor (soundaway.com/Piano_Cup_Mount_Isolators_s/202.htm), and a concrete slab actually can transmit a fair amount of sound depending on coupling and frequency. – Todd Wilcox Jan 4 '17 at 22:03
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Bass traps are used in recording to catch low frequencies so they don't bounce all over the room and muddy up the recording. I am pretty sure they would not help with noise reduction. The sound is still being produced, just after it hits the bass trap, certain frequencies will be absorbed.

  • That's exactly my point. If the trap absorbs them they won't propagate further. – nsn Jan 4 '17 at 13:27
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    The brass band I play with has bass traps in the corners of the band room. We also have frames full of rockwool suspended from the ceiling. I confirm these improve the clarity of the sound within the room (it's much deader acoustically than it was) but they don't make any difference to the volume of the sound heard from outside the room. – Brian THOMAS Jan 4 '17 at 13:36
  • @nsn The fact is the noise is still being produced and hitting the wall/floor/ceiling. Most of the frequencies the bass trap will catch are arguably not even with in range for humans to hear. These lower frequencies will however affect a recording. – SaggingRufus Jan 4 '17 at 14:18
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    @nsn You only have to absorb like 10% of the acoustic power of only a narrow range of frequencies to dramatically improve the bass response inside a room. 10% of a narrow range is a very small amount of acoustic power, so the rest of the sound is more than enough to annoy the neighbors. – Todd Wilcox Jan 4 '17 at 14:20
  • @ToddWilcox that's a good point. Thank you. – nsn Jan 4 '17 at 15:27
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I put the mats that you put under washing machines to reduce the noise of the vibrations under my upright piano and hang a thick blanket over the top and back. Also, the back of the piano is about 10 cm from the wall. That seems to do a fairly decent job and it´s a cheap solution. I live in a rental apartment. I don´t hear the piano until I open the door to my apartment. My acoustic piano has a silent system (Yamaha) as well. This really helped in terms of showing how much effort I put into reducing the noise level for my neighbors when I got a pretty nasty complaint.

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No. I think Todd Wilcox is wrong. I do not believe it should be very expensive to gain reasonable noise cancellation under a fairly moot budget. I think it should be rather inexpensive. I think any claim that these bass traps would reduce the noise of most instruments is far fetched; not saying that this particular claim was made. However, here is a list of suggestions I would make to you.

  • pillows, drummers stuff them in their bass drums to reduce noise. I don't know the size of you piano but I know a fair amount of midsize pianos could accommodate these in between the rafters on the back.

  • carpet, I do not know if you stay in a condo, apartment/duo-plex, or single family home so I do not know in which directions this sound is being the most burden-sum to your neighbors/roomates, family, however, placing carpet down in rooms where people live above one another is a time proven method for reducing noise complaints and increasing quality of life inside of houseing complexes. Think about it, you can get carpet whole sale and with the right tools you can put it anywhere. Floor, walls ceiling, well you get the idea.

  • and lastly OSB, short for Oriented Strand Board. Oriented strand board is very think, especially if combined with other materials can be used to build a sound booth or omni-directional noise shield. This stuff is a cheap alternative to plywood however rated much stronger because the manufacturing process is much less difficult. It has replaced plywood in almost all aspects of construction. I would suggest 3/4 inch, and if you want to build an inclosed structure i wood be sure to a some room for run of the mill sound proof cubes in here because that will help you reduce the very strong acoustics that could be potentailly generated inside an enclosed structure. Carpet pad would probably be a cheap alternative to commercial foam square noise isolation/cancellation pads. You can purchase OSB from any of you home improvement stored. I would recommend lowes at about 12$ for a 4x8 foot sheet.

Also, it would benefit you to think about placement of this stuff. You may have a specific aesthetic preference, or you may just want to stuff a bunch of pillows between the back of your piano and the wall. It really up to you! All and all I would say this project should cost you between $100-$150.

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    When you soundproofed your piano, how much did it cost you and how effective was it? What methods did you use? Was there an impact on the sound quality? If you have not done this yourself, then it seems like you're just guessing. I have gone so far as to bulld a room within a room (along with a friend) using framing lumber and 5/8" drywall. I designed and built a portable "silent" speaker enclosure. I've measured SPLs, tested all manner of equipment, performed, practiced, and recorded several different instruments in many different environments. I'm not guessing. – Todd Wilcox Jan 5 '17 at 8:01
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    "pillows, drummers stuff them in their bass drums to reduce noise" Noise is not the same as level. Pillows don't make kick drums substantially quieter, they shorten the decay time and resonance. "placing carpet down in rooms where people live above one another is a time proven method for reducing noise complaints" - False. Written as if by someone who has never gotten a noise complaint. If only it were this easy. Regarding the OSB enclosure, you might add a suggestion/caveat about ventilation. Breathing is necessary for practicing, but air holes destroy STC. – Todd Wilcox Jan 5 '17 at 8:08
  • I have built homes before. I understand the effects of building materials. Not a guess. – 1911 Soldier Jan 6 '17 at 9:52
  • Additionally, lower frequencies travel further because their wavelength is longer. So the way I see it is the effect on tone for a drummer is moot because the OP is interested in a piano. However, home owners in condominiums often install carpets because it soften the impact of the sound produced by walk and or objects coming in contact with the floor, which is polite to neighbors living below you. The tone of the piano will probably be changed but it depends if the OP can tolerate it, for the cheap experimentation is possible. You said you built a room inside a room. perhaps you can suggest. – 1911 Soldier Jan 6 '17 at 13:39
  • I just wouldn't suggest moving the OP into a storage unit, that shit sucks. Just sayin, room inside a room number is definitely the way to go when possible. If afforded the luxury. OP, please share more information your present situation so we can help you further, are you renting/own, condo vs single+ family home vs townhouse vs apartment. This would make it easier for all of us. And also budget, if you can. – 1911 Soldier Jan 6 '17 at 13:43

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