Piano noise control suggestions, please

Posted by: Brunhilde

Piano noise control suggestions, please - 02/03/08 02:01 PM

First of all, I'd like to clarify that "Brunhilde" is the name of my piano (not myself) -- a unique and beautiful red mahogany 1926 art deco style Knabe grand with double legs. She was bought (unseen and unheard) through a piano broker, and lovingly restored by a Swiss piano builder. Now, she is an exceptional instrument, both in appearance and sound, with a very deep, powerful voice (the reason behind her name). Positioned in a corner of our living room only three feet from our property line, I feel constrained playing with full dynamic range, particularly during the summer when the neighbours almost live outdoors. These neighbours have complained about the sound of our garage door going up and down. They haven't mentioned the piano -- probably because I try to play when I know they're not home.

I'm wondering if anyone can suggest temporary solutions to reduce the sound -- something that would neither damage the piano or affect its action (eg. some sort of sound insulation attached to or placed between the "ribs" under the sound board). Something that could be attached and removed quickly would be preferable, so I can really pound away and enjoy when I feel I can do so without being a bad neighbour. Although trying not to care what the neighbours think is a recommendation I've already received, doing so would not be consistent with my character. Our relationship with this people is polite, but strained, due to various incompatibilities, and we'd prefer to keep our noise to ourselves and avoid further judgments from them.

Perhaps pianists living in homes with common walls (apartments/condos) might have suggestions for me. Thanks.
Posted by: currawong

Re: Piano noise control suggestions, please - 02/03/08 10:43 PM

Hi Brunhilde (the person)! I'd love to see a photo of Brunhilde-the-piano. She sounds rather beautiful.
I don't have the neighbour thing, but last year when my son was working hard on his final school exams I took to playing with the lid down. I mean all of the lid (apart from the fallboard of course \:\) ) so I had to rig up something to stand the music up against. This really cut down the sound considerably. I also left the cover on, just folded it back enough to get at the keys. This mightn't be enough for your purposes, but hopefully you'll get some more suggestions.
Posted by: CHAS

Re: Piano noise control suggestions, please - 02/04/08 12:23 PM

I used a cheap rug cut to fit over the plate. Kept the lid down. This was when I lived in a townhome.
The neighbors never complained. Now I live in a remote house and started wearing earplugs when I went back to playing the piano.
About to buy a rubber backed rug to put under the closed lid. It will be easy to pull out when I want.
You could google WhisperMat. They have materials that could help.

Wondering who makes a piano that has a smaller, more delicate sound than what I have.
Posted by: quantumm

Re: Piano noise control suggestions, please - 02/04/08 12:50 PM

How about heavy curtains against the wall?
Posted by: Steve Chandler

Re: Piano noise control suggestions, please - 02/04/08 01:30 PM

There are two factors that affect howthe sound of your piano gets from your house to your neighbors, mass and transmission.

Mass, recording studios will have multiple layers of drywall on both sides of a wall. Three layers of 5/8th inch drywall will stop a lot of sound, so will concrete. They usually use multiple solid core doors into between rooms. These doors are well sealed.

This brings us to transmission. Recording studios generally float their rooms. The entire structure of a room will be floating on a layer of rubber that disconnects the room structure from the rest of the house or building.

The problem with sealing up a residence is that you live there. One open window and all your efforts to seal in sound go for naught. If you have a solidly built house then adding another layer of drywall may help, glue it as well as screw it into place.

However, you may do well to speak with your neighbor and ask them if the piano bothers them. They may actually enjoy your playing. One other item of note the sound may not bleed out of your house nearly as much as you think. My 17 year old son has a drum set in our basement. I was concerned the neighbors might be bothered because it's very loud in the room just above. So I went outside and listened while they were banging away and could barely hear it just outside the house.

Which brings me to the garage door opener. The only time it's functioning the garage door is open to some degree, so its sound easily escapes into the open.
Posted by: Tmoose

Re: Piano noise control suggestions, please - 02/04/08 02:18 PM

You could try one of these quilted covers. I have a non-quilted one and it does muffle the sound somewhat. I'm sure the quilted ones would do a better job, and protect the piano too:


(I have no connection to this PW-supporting business).
Posted by: duncantwo

Re: Piano noise control suggestions, please - 02/04/08 06:24 PM

The Edwards company, who is known for making high-quality wool string covers for grand pianos, also sells noise control kits made of foam that fit between the beams underneath and/or on the plate under the lid. They appear to be easily removable. (Note that their string covers do not change the sound of the piano that noticeably---by design.)

Posted by: Brunhilde

Re: Piano noise control suggestions, please - 02/05/08 02:20 PM

Thanks, everyone, for your suggestions. After viewing the website links provided, it looks like we should be able to achieve a sound reduction of as much as 50% if we combine insulation that sits over the plate and between the beams. Most of my time at the piano is spent practising individual passages over and over again, as opposed to playing entire pieces from start to finish. I'm looking forward to being able to do so without feeling I'm either bothering the neighbours, or being evaluated by them. Because, in these situations, I sometimes find "banging things out" with little regard for accuracy of notes is the only way to get past a performance plateau in tempo or dynamics.
Posted by: theJourney

Re: Piano noise control suggestions, please - 02/05/08 02:29 PM

In Europe where we tend to be stacked next to each other in tight quarters, the hybrid / silent instruments are very popular.

As Steve has alluded to, achieving meaningful sound insulation is an expensive and complicated affair. The cheapest and most effective way to deal with it is to make arrangements with any neighbors who might be bothered to play at times and for length of time that doesn't inconvenience them. Producing sound is not a problem. Any problem only arises when someone has the subjective experience of noise pollution.

I personally study first my scores away from the instrument, then work out fingerings and get my initial coordination learned on a digital piano and finish up pieces on my acoustic grand.
Posted by: Ovaltine

Re: Piano noise control suggestions, please - 02/13/08 02:57 PM

I guess I have a knee-jerk reaction against compromising the acoustics of the room or the instrument by deadening the room with carpets or muffling the piano with padding. I currently live in a townhouse-style building with one neighbor (a shared wall). My sound control strategy is simply to play when I think no one's home (I word from home so I've got some flexibility there).

I'm starting to think I should defer my plans to trade in my upright for a grand until a later time when I can afford a detached house--not an easy thing in the California real estate market. I got a complaint from a neighbor (strangely enough not my shared-wall neighbor, but my back-yard neighbor) in broad daylight on a weekday. I'm sure I can accommodate my immediate neighbor, but I'm not sure I can accommodate a radius full of neighbors!
Posted by: askena

Re: Piano noise control suggestions, please - 02/13/08 03:05 PM

Posted by: Innominato

Re: Piano noise control suggestions, please - 02/13/08 04:52 PM

Ovaltine, without wanting to sound like a warmonger, I think it is important to understand what is (at least here) meant by noise pollution.

Here in old Blighty noone is required not to let any sound be audible from outside the home.

What is required is that you emit these sounds only within certain hours (by me: between 9am and 11pm) and that - during the permitted hours - the sound that you produce is within the reasonable.

Now, one would understand if you had a mega-hifi pumped at maximum power in order to wreak havoc among your neighbours.

But you are, it seems, just another chap wanting to play a piano in broad daylight.
If your backyard neighbour does not like it, tough luck, tell him you don't like his fence either and that's that.

With neighbours is always like among countries: I for myself am nice and peaceful in my foreign policy, but never become an appeaser at the cost of what is reasonable and important to me.

I bought those strange piece of wood that one puts under the wheels of the piano, I suppose it also increases sound insulation; again, I try to minimise the effect of the piano playing, today (first day of piano exercise again) I practiced only with the practice pedal after dinner and stopped before 10 pm.; but again, it comes the point when there is nothing more I am willing to do.

And without sounding too fussy, an unruly child or a nervous dog make much, much more noise, much higher pitched and much more unpleasant than a piano.
Posted by: Aliwally

Re: Piano noise control suggestions, please - 10/19/08 09:03 PM


Check it out.......
Posted by: Aliwally

Re: Piano noise control suggestions, please - 10/19/08 09:05 PM

Posted by: Aliwally

Re: Piano noise control suggestions, please - 10/19/08 09:07 PM

Sorry it did not paste right:

Here you go:


Click on Sound Control for Apartment/Condo Living
Posted by: Aliwally

Re: Piano noise control suggestions, please - 10/19/08 09:08 PM

I think the site does not take the three letters ***, so where you see ***, put ***.
Posted by: Aliwally

Re: Piano noise control suggestions, please - 10/19/08 09:09 PM

It does not, funny. I will send you a PM.
Posted by: Paul Kolodner

Re: Piano noise control suggestions, please - 10/19/08 09:34 PM

Perhaps I missed this, but: have you asked your neighbors what they think? Maybe they're not bothered by your playing. If they are, then asking them would show your concern and respect for them, and this might stimulate them to collaborate with you about setting a schedule for when you can play loud, or telling you without rancor if you are bothering them, as opposed to fighting with you over noise. I live in an attached house with neighbors on both sides who can hear my playing and actually say they enjoy it. I have a colleague whose neighbors are a married pair of professional pianists. She says she enjoys listening to them practice. So this can turn out to be a non-problem.
Posted by: Aliwally

Re: Piano noise control suggestions, please - 02/03/09 10:23 AM

This is it, they changed the web address:

Posted by: Supply

Re: Piano noise control suggestions, please - 02/03/09 12:40 PM

Ali, you may have noticed after your third or fourth try that this web site does not "like" certain three letter words, and probably some four letter words as well. (I have never tried it out)

Call it automatic censorship or editing in for good taste and cleanliness - sometimes an innocent word gets hit. Next time try using the word "donkey" instead.

Posted by: charleslang

Re: Piano noise control suggestions, please - 02/03/09 01:16 PM

Brunhilde, I have had problems with sound and neighbors in every apartment I have lived in (which is three). I have also been on the receiving end, when I lived in a house where I had made my own piano available to others in the complex (a residential college) to play -- I was two levels above the piano but still was bothered by it!

I have always tried to find solutions that allow the player to get as much sound as possible, and most importantly, the most balanced, full sound possible. It's possible to reduce overall volume by muffling a piano, whereby you lose balance AND volume, or you can reduce overall volume and retain as many frequencies for the player as possible.

Unless you have concrete flooring, sound transfer to the floor is always significant, and the floor acts as a second soundboard. This can transfer sound through the whole house, and then on to the neighbors (it's worst for those living underneath you, but it can even transfer to the side and outdoors through the floor).

The best way to get rid of floor transfer is to buy caster cups and then cut out circles of neoprene foam (wetsuit material) and put them under the caster cups. There are also caster cups made of pure neoprene, but they are expensive. No other foam will work like neoprene.

Another great way to insulate is to address the sound coming from beneath (grand) and behind (upright) the piano. If you pile pillows and blankets under the grand you will still be able to open part of the lid and get great sound from the top, while drastically reducing the overall volume. Keep in mind that the whole cabinet of a piano vibrates and creates sound. If you cover it in blankets except for the small front lid, you reduce noise even further.

Personally I like to hear the sound reverberate around the room, so my ideal situation would be to insulate against ground transfer very well, and then to insulate the walls so the sound doesn't get outside and over to the neighbors.