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Has anyone had a next door neighbor in a detached home complain about their piano playing? And, does anyone have ideas on how to test the outside "noise" level from a 7 ft grand, prior to buying the home?

I plan to buy a small home in a neighborhood near the city. Homes in the neighborhood are well-made and detached, but are close together. I am buying a house because a neighbor in the downtown apartment where I live complained about my practicing. I want to avoid a similar issue with a house. Thus, my two questions?

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Record some of your piano playing on something, test the recording at your existing location to determine what level to set the volume on your playback device to match your live instrument.

Carry the playback device to the new location, start playback. Go outside (or next door or whaever). See what happens.


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FC:

I seriously doubt that any portable playback device is going to give the results that the OP is looking for. What a portable playback device can't duplicate is the resonance radiating from the instrument through the contact points with the floor and even through the walls. Unless it were a massive stereo system, nothing portable, I think, would equal the full effects of a piano. It's not just volume, it's the multi-directional resonance that comes from a 7-foot instrument that can't be equalled by a portable recording device.

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I agree with Bruce on this - I would expect an acoustic to have far more resonance than any portable playback equipment. Then again bass on car stereo's can be pretty loud, so maybe it is possible to bring some loud bass music (bass travels through walls easily), put it at 100 decibels and see if you can hear it outside with a respectable speaker system.

A simpler solution might be to meet the neighbor and ask if they like piano music. I share a wall with one neighbor and asked him before I bought a 7 ft grand. He was so excited at the possibility of having a piano played next door. His only complaint after I got the grand is that I don't play it more hours of the day, seriously - I have an awesome neighbor. Of course this is valid as long as the neighbor doesn't move. He claims he can barely hear it through the wall, but it can easily be heard outside with all windows and doors closed.

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I had similar concerns when I bought my baby grand. I was actually sure the sound could be heard a hundred feet away. I asked my beloved, who is also a pianist, to play a loud piece while I would walk around the house.

With all windows closed, our piano at ff level can be very slightly heard at the very most 20 feet from the windows/door of the piano room. So if you keep the windows closed when you play, I really doubt you will have problems.

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I am in a similar situation as the OP and others that have commented here. I live in a home that is called zero-lot-line out here in CA. Which essentially means that the outside wall of my home constitutes the boundary with the yard of the house next door. I'd estimate that there is literally a distance of perhaps 5 feet between my home and the wall of the home next door.

I have done several tests to see if the sound from my 48" upright can be heard outside. Now, these results are for a 48" upright which is quite different from a 7' grand but perhaps the information is useful. The first test, was to have my piano tuner play several pieces he had memorized very loudly while he was tuning one day and I went outside and could barely hear the piano right outside my home. I had all of my windows and doors closed.

I also have a digital piano that I set to play some of the pre-recorded pieces that it contains (Fur Elise, etc.) I cranked the volume to max and tried the same thing. The result was essentially the same.

The other thing to remember is that whatever you hear outside will be further reduced when you are physically inside one of your neighbor's houses. So as long as they also have their doors and windows closed I really don't think it should be noticeable to them. And if they have their doors and windows open then they can close them if it is annoying to them.

I practice loudly at all hours for the last year and a half and I'm not even sure my neighbors know I own a piano. I've never had them comment at all. Honestly I am not too concerned about my neighbors because I have to hear their kids screaming and running around like banshees at all hours of the day so a little piano music isn't going to hurt them. Hope this info helps. I wouldn't worry too much, keep the windows and doors closed and you should be good.



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I'm in full agreement with blackjack's post. As long as these are detached homes, you are fine. Just keep your windows closed when you play if you are concerned about the neighbors.

A 7-foot grand is indeed loud, but not beyond the confines of your house.

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I think there are bylaws depending on which city you live in that limits the hours which you can be loud which I consider piano playing to be part of this noise law.

Usually if you're in a detached home the cut-off is between 9-11 pm so if you're practicing in the day, I think that's your right.

Also I have a 6 foot 1 grand in a townhouse which is connected to many neighbours and have another row of townhouses 5-7 meters in front of my row of townhouses. No one has complained and I often play until 11 pm.

Depends on how picky your neighbours are I think. I mean if they want to say you're being loud, even if you played an upright or digital, it's likely they can still hear it from outside your house and they could complain about that too.

Basically what I'm trying to say is that I don't think the piano's size being 7 foot would be too loud in the sense that if your new neighbours want to complain, even an upright or digital would be enough noise for them to complain about.

We have many people with uprights in the neighbourhood and I can hear their children playing while walking around on the street all the time.

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Live piano will project sound much stronger than a recording. You are fortunate you have detached home so I would just buy they house you want then plan having additional funds for upgrading your piano room with sound isolating walls, ceiling, doors and thick double pane fixed windows with min 3" gap of air space.




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In a detached home with the windows closed you should be fine. Open the windows, and anyone on the sidewalk or street will hear you.

For those who have common walls, ceilings, or floors, it's a different story.

1. A Piano teacher got kicked out of his apartment by the management.

2. The neighbor sued a client of mine.

3. A client is not playing his Kawai upright due to a neighbor complaint and wants to sell it.

4. I played a digital piano with headphones in an apartment and the downstairs neighbor complained about the thumping of keys going though the piano, into the floor, and was audible for them.



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Take a couple friends to the property you are considering. Have them shout at each other in the house while you are outside.

You could also talk to the potential neighbors about how much they can hear each other.


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I have a 9' in my home, and practice at all hours, including some 3AM sessions from time to time. I've never had a complaint from a neighbor. If I'm playing full stick on a piece with some FFF sections, you can hear the piano a couple hundred feet down the road, but I'm very doubtful you can hear anything inside my neighbors houses.

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Has anyone had a next door neighbor in a detached home complain about their piano playing?


You are entitled to the enjoyment of your property, that's common law. There might be some local laws saying you can't be loud after 10 pm, or something, but you have the right to play your piano.

People who live in condos or apartments and think they have to right to absolute quiet 24/7 need a reality check.

I specifically chose a ground floor condo. I've never had a complaint from the neighbors, but I restrict my playing from 9 am to 9 pm. The neighbors have told me they never hear the piano.


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Some of this MIGHT be tongue in cheek but the message, overall, is sincere. Now then:

There is no right to silence. If there was, I could shut up the squealing kids playing behind my house. I could shut down my woodworking neighbor and I could stop the incessant construction as my post-war cottage neighborhood is turned into a two story contemporary neighborhood. I don't understand how acoustic music practice has been relegated to some nuisance status with less right to exist than the completely accepted as normal sounds I've listed above.

In our city, the larger city around us and the airport authority have decided that the jet airliners that pass over our house can now be safely run 500 ft lower and 30 seconds closer together to lower wait times at the gates and to increase revenue from landing fees. What do you think they care about my "right" to silence?

It's a rare community that doesn't have noise ordinances. Know them. Those ordinances and not the relative crankyness of your neighbors establish your baseline rights. Let them call the city/cops. Most of them don't even know the statutes and try to make them up or play peacekeeper. None of that matters, you have the same right to make some noise as your neighbor does to run a gas mower or listen to a boom box while working in the garden.

If I can't have silence, I'm not going to play at being your scapegoat.

Advice: If you're buying detached and are trying to keep a peace, make sure you have at least double paned windows that make a good seal and if you can, put the piano on the side of the house that has the best distance to house measurement. Sound loses power at a rate of 6db with each doubling of distance in free air. That's about the same as turning your T.V. from 20 down to 15 or two clicks on your stereo receiver. You know, not massive but more than slightly noticeable difference. There are triple pane windows and you can order windows with laminated glass which is stiffer and more efficient at killing sound.

As far as zero lot lines, small house sub-divisions etc, these are usually developments with HOA's and the like. They will have their own rules that they feel trump local ordinance. I don't know if they do or don't, that's for a lawyer or community officials to decide. Decent windows and some distance should keep you well under any noise ordinances. One's tolerance for being a "bad" neighbor is something each of us have to decide. I practice freely with the windows open on a bog standard 50x100 lot. The windows are on the side where the closest house is about 30 feet away. I asked those neighbors about both my piano and recorder playing and they told me that they could only hear it at quiet times when they were outside and it never bothered them.

If your neighbors complain, I recommend buying an outdoor ping-pong table. It's great exercise and they'll beg you to go back to just playing the piano.


Kurt


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My closest neighbor is about 300 feet away (the length of a football field, USA smile ). He says that he can hear me play my piano(s) sometimes late in the evening when things are quiet, but faintly and not loud at all. Every time he visits, usually with his 3 young sons, he wants to hear me play the piano; so, I give him and sons a concert whenever they stop by to say hello.

This afternoon, I heard a knock at the door, and it was the neighbor's two youngest sons, with a friend (ages 8 to 12). They were out walking the dog stopped by to say hello and asked if I'd play the piano for their friend. So, I gave them a 15 or 20 minute concert on my Yamaha C7. They specifically requested "Charlie Brown/Linus & Lucy". Of course, it was my version of the tune, but it turned out very well and I saw big smiles on those kids faces.

Thing is, those boys actually thought I could really play a piano. smile

Moral of the story... let a little bit of that music out so the neighbors can enjoy it (or not smile )

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I can only answer the first question.

Yes, I had a neighbor complain. In California, where one part of the house is only 9 feet to the neighbors.

I had a 5'7" Schimmel that I would play at 6:30 AM before going to work. My neighbor sat on my doorbell one morning.

I didn't realize how loud that piano was.

The piano is gone, with no regrets, and an upright is much nicer, at least for this small house, and the neighbors.

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I am so appreciative of all the terrific feedback. Thank you all for your insights, experiences and suggestions!

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About 30 years ago, I knew a professional drummer who built a double-walled practice room in a detached garage. He had brass players in to rehearse, and no complaints at all because the isolation was so good.

I have a 9 ft. at home, my across the street neighbor is the only one who's commented about hearing it. Fortunately, he likes the music.



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I built a room for my drums and other instruments back when I still kept a foot in the rock world. Double Walled. Double solid core doors and each wall has it's own set of sliding window so right now from my desk, I look out through 2 sliding window each double paned and one of the panes is laminated so it's six layers of glass. Fifteen years ago, each window (4) cost close to a thousand dollars on special order as well as what the contractor charged to put them in. Why did I spend so much? Well, as a suburban homeowner hurtling through his 40's, I had had enough of playing in "caves". I also wanted the room to function as a normal room of the house such as occasionally being used as a guest room, my office and man cave. The doors, always a weak point, could be better sealed but my contractor screwed up the custom metal door jam. I share a wall, four layers of drywall, with my daughter but I still can play the piano, if not too vigorously, 24 hours a day.

I once played in a band that rehearsed, live drums and all, in an apartment and the neighbors tolerated it. It was also the kind of apt. building where the neighbors would have impromptu building wide barbecues on a nice weekend afternoon. It was also the kind of building in the kind of neighborhood where the police were not viewed as valuable allies.

Kurt

Last edited by KurtZ; 04/12/16 11:13 AM.

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Okay, since KurtZ shared a bit of his "rock" history, I'll share a bit of my "oldies rock/pop/country" history. smile

I've actually told this same story on PW before (a sign of getting old?), but it seems relevant again at the moment.

I have not always lived on my small 20 acre farm in west central Georgia. I was raised in a little town a few miles south called Zebulon. Yep, it's on the map, and you can Google Zebulon, Ga.; and, you guessed it... it is the county seat of Pike county (named after the explorer Zebulon Pike). You can Google that too. smile

Okay, back to the neighbor story... In Zebulon, we lived a stones throw (as we say here in the south, meaning close proximity) from the courthouse and the county sheriffs office and the jail. In fact, we were almost across the street from the court house square, and just behind the jail.

As a boy, around the age of 12 or 13 or so, I had been learning to play the guitar for a few years. Being somewhat of a fast learner, I learned to play a few popular tunes on the guitar fairly early. Also, my parents bought me a pretty big amplifier (Kustom) to go with my electric guitar.

I'd get out on the front porch of our big two-story house and play my electric guitar, and I liked to play it loud. I could hear the sound echo off the walls of the court house, and some friends and school mates, who lived across town, would tell me they could hear me playing my electric guitar clear across town, several block away.

Also, as I said, the county/city jail was close by too... maybe 50 or 75 yards or so away. Sometimes when I'd be playing the electric guitar on the front porch, the prisoners/inmates at the jail would holler out the window and ask me if I could play this or that... At the time, James Brown was pretty popular, as well as Johnny Cash. Folsom Prison Blues was a favorite of some of the prisoners, and I could play it well!!! grin

I could also play a little of James Brown's "I feel good".

Ironically, none of our neighbors, which were in very close proximity, ever complained, nor did the sheriff. smile

Of course, when I'd get out in the back yard and shoot my .22 rifle up into the top of the pecan trees, we did get some complaints... from some of the neighbors and the sheriff. smile

Guess I could write a book about my childhood musical experiences...

Rick


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