The Challenge of Living in an Apartment as a Musician

Living in an apartment as a musician poses challenges; compromise and ingenuity are key.

Woman Playing Cello

Living in an apartment as a musician poses a challenge in balancing the need to play music with respecting the peace and quiet of neighbors. I’ve experienced it countless times as an avid pianist and vocalist; neighbors pounding on the wall for me to quiet down. Which begs the question: can an avid musician live in an apartment or condo? In an HOA?

Of course they can. Many hit songs have been written and even recorded in apartments by countless aspiring musicians. But musicians need to be considerate of neighbors just as neighbors need to be understanding in return. Here are some tips on keeping up with your craft while maintaining a good relationship with the folks on the other side of the wall:

Plug in.

The most obvious and common solution while living in an apartment as a musician playing an instrument with an electronic outlet is to use headphones. Invest in a pair of good studio phones and you can play to your hearts content – you might even notice that headphones are often superior to amplified sound. I even know some drummers who have a secondary electronic kit so they can play at home.

Timing.

Living in an apartment as a musician means practicing music during normal hours (late morning to perhaps 9pm) at a reasonable volume. shouldn’t be an issue for your neighbors. This is a reality of living in an apartment. Check with your neighbors to see what works for them, but also check your bylaws for designated “quiet times” for your complex. You should be considerate but also don’t let them dictate when you can and cannot play.

Share your phone number.

I always make sure my neighbors have my cell number so that if I am playing a little too loud or lose track of time and am playing late, they can shoot me a text message. It’s much better than an angry fist on the wall and they appreciate the gesture, plus is shows you respect their peace and quiet.

Find external practice space.

To avoid all of the challenges of living in an apartment as a musician, consider renting you rehearsal space.  Check with local recording studios, colleges or universities, and churches to see if they offer space for rent. Often they even supply equipment and rates are reasonable. Or, ask friends if they can spare some space in their garage or basement in return for payment or a favor.

Insulate.

It’s not the cheapest option, but applying sound-dampening foam or investing in a sound booth (or building your own) can help keep the sound from traveling through the walls. Even better for you, it keeps sound from getting in, too.

Sometimes even the most considerate musicians wind up with a neighbor unrealistically demanding silence at all times. Before you give up or move out, know that there are reasonable legal sound standards set by local and national government – usually the agency managing environmental protection. Chances are, you’re well within the standards.