when you’re a musician who needs to stay at home and neighbors don’t want you playing your instrument

A reader writes:

I’m in a graduate program for music in New York City. Fortunately, my classmates and I have been able to work from home during this crisis. Unfortunately, this means we have to make all our music in our tiny apartments.

Last week, one of my classmates got a text from her landlord that one of her neighbors was upset by the noise. After some back and forth with the landlord, the neighbor said they were okay with music before three pm. This is unreasonable because a lot of our work is synchronous in the afternoons and evenings and doesn’t have any scheduling flexibility. My classmate basically said she’d try to keep it down and hasn’t heard anything else, but is still worried about it.

I think I heard once that there are special ordinances to protect musicians in New York, but I can’t find it anywhere. What do we do when our neighbors are trying to restrict our ability to earn our livelihoods?

Conversely, my neighbors have never complained to me (although they have acknowledged they can hear me) but they are themselves extremely loud. It doesn’t bother me personally, but I do worry sometimes about making a live broadcast and picking up their background noise. Thoughts about how to handle that?

It does appear that New York courts have found that “musical instrument practice is one of the certain inconveniences which people living in populous areas must tolerate.” (Source, source.)

That said … you’ve got to have some sympathy for neighbors who are home all day and stressed. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it without trying to accommodate others’ needs as well.

To be clear, I’m not saying you shouldn’t make music in your apartment. You’re stuck there, you don’t have anywhere else to go, the law seems to be on your side, and you’re entitled to the use of your space just as much as your neighbors are. And it’s true that you’ve got to deal with some level of noise when you live near other people.

But I’m sympathetic to someone who’s trying to work from home or just nap or chill out and is hearing hours of drums or tuba though the wall.

In general, when neighbors are bothered by your noise, you should try to work with them on compromises. Maybe that’s restricting playing to certain hours (even if it means trying to reschedule the playing you need to time with other people) or agreeing on quiet hours, maybe it’s looking into better noise-dampening materials in the room you play in, maybe it’s moving to another area of your apartment (like not right over someone’s bedroom), maybe it’s just being apologetic and explaining what you’ve tried and the bind you’re in.

What you shouldn’t do is take the stand that it’s allowed and so, shrug, too bad. When you live in close proximity to other people and can hear each other’s noises — and especially when everyone is stressed and trapped at home — some appearance of trying to work with each other and having real concern for others’ needs (on both sides) is crucial to everyone’s quality of life.

It’s going to help if you don’t look at it as your neighbors “trying to restrict our ability to earn our livelihoods,” but rather as people trying to have some peace in their own space and possibly being driven mad by music they can’t control, in the midst of the most stressful time in most of our lives, and when they can’t leave.

Regarding your worry about your neighbors’ background noise when you’re doing a live broadcast: If you approach them nicely and explain the situation you might be able to get an agreement to keep the noise down during certain times. You’ve got to be judicious in what you ask for; one hour is more reasonable than three hours, and occasional is more reasonable than daily. But decent neighbors, if approached kindly, will be be open to an arrangement where you occasionally text them when you need quiet for an hour (just as you hopefully would be for them).

{ 393 comments… read them below }

  1. CTT*

    You mention that a lot of your work is in the late afternoon/evenings; would it be possible to suggest to the department that these be moved to earlier in the day? Evening practices make sense under normal circumstances, but with everyone having to be at home, temporarily moving them to earlier would help people who have close neighbors or roommates.

    1. MK*

      Yes, I don’t know what the OP means by “no scheduling flexibility”, but in these times you need to exhaust all possibilities before saying something can’t be done.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Or “this is unreasonable because” but that line stood out to me. There is nothing about sound waves that mean they can only travel properly at 8 p.m.

        1. feministbookworm*

          well, yes, but if they’re trying to livestream concerts s a way to make a little money while every performance space in the country is closed, that’s probably going to need to happen in the evening when people are available to tune in.

        2. Jerry Larry Terry Garry*

          It sounds like they are coordinating with several other people- that’s a hard meeting to move.

        3. Beth*

          Yeah, but there may be legitimate scheduling issues that have nothing to do with sound waves. An instructor or group project partner may have relocated to a ‘home’ area in another time zone. A live streamed performance may need to happen at a time when the target audience is expected to be available to tune in (and a decent percentage of people are still working normal hours, even if they’re doing it from home). A group project may need to happen after a member’s kids are in bed, or during a time slot when their partner isn’t on a work call.

          There probably is more flexibility than ‘none’, but it’s not reasonable to assume that group work can be scheduled whenever OP (or their neighbors) want, either.

          1. Courtney Kupets*

            I actually would be more annoyed during the day. Because I’m trying to work and do conference calls and stuff, so I guess it depends on what everyone is able to do spread out.

      2. Anonymity*

        He also could put up some sound proofing boards as this music is intruding on others living spaces. People working from home, shift workers who need sleep, elderly people, sick people and babies. Spend a few hundred dollars. Also the musician statute is only for reasonable use during select hours. And it should not be hours on end.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Aren’t DIY shops closed during lockdown? I’d love to spend this time at home putting up shelves for all my books but I can’t buy wood.

          1. Amber*

            In the US, hardware store are considered essential businesses. They’re all open, just like grocery stores and gas stations.

            1. KinderTeacher*

              What you’re allowed to buy at them varies by state. Michigan has required hardware stores and the big box versions of them to close sections dedicated to flooring, carpeting, painting, furniture, gardening, and they may be something else. So depending on your location supplies may or may not be available for in person purchase?

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                I wish they would do that in my state. My dad keeps using “but the hardware store is open” as a reason to believe that the stay-at-home order basically doesn’t apply to him. I can’t make him understand that it’s only open so that if like his toilet explodes he can go buy things to fix it instead of being quarantined in a house with an exploding toilet. Not so he can go whenever he’s bored.

                Anyway, if they have soundproofing stuff I think going to get things to improve your Stuck At Home situation is valid and a good idea if neighbors are complaining. Especially since it will continue to be useful even after quarantining is over.

              2. Ace in the Hole*

                Very interesting. In my area hardware stores and garden stores can still be open for all services. We’re a rural county so a lot of people depend (at least partly) on food from their gardens, and things like paint are necessary to keep buildings from deteriorating.

                Furniture is also a necessity for some people… I’m young and healthy, so if my bed breaks I can just sleep on the floor. But if I was elderly or arthritic that would hardly be an option! Same for all the people who suddenly have to work from home with no appropriate chair or desk.

        2. wittyrepartee*

          Alternatively, egg cartons that you get from grocery stores work well for this.

          And a few hundred dollars may not be feasible for a student in music.

          1. Mrs_helm*

            No, egg cartons help with resonance, but don’t soundproof. You can get order soundproofing material from Amazon, though. Or hang every blanket, towel, curtain, etc. on the wall between you and neighborX.

    2. fposte*

      I was thinking that, but then I thought about neighbors trying to do work during business hours; I might, as a neighbor, prefer the sound in the evening rather than when I’m trying to talk to my boss on Zoom.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        That’s my thought too. Given everyone else is working and schooling from home too, daytime may not be the best time; although, when people normally sleep is obviously the worst time to be noisy.

        Although the musician may be livestreaming music during the after work hours in the evening.

        1. Quill*

          The most onerous times for making noise are always going to be some time in the early afternoon (when people with children young enough to nap are trying to make that happen,) and then late evening to midmorning. A concert that starts at 8pm and goes at least until 9, 9:30, possibly 10 is going to bother the crap out of parents of young kids.

      2. AK Climpson*

        I come down on this side as well.
        My neighbor’s daughter plays in a band, though not as a professional thing, in NYC as well so everyone’s been home for a month. A different neighbor coordinated the best times for everyone else and talked to the family about limiting practice, and the decision ended up being that 6-8 pm a couple nights a week was actually ideal because the rest of us had finished Zoom meetings and concentrated work. (And I’m super grateful that everyone was friendly and respectful about trying to find a solution — that goes a long way.)

        1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

          That’s a great story about things working out. It really shows what can happen when both sides admit what they need differs from what they want. Reasonable is key there.

        2. Momma Bear*

          I wonder if the neighbors are aware that these are paying gigs? They may be thinking of it as noise but if they are informed that it’s a job and the OP tries to work with them, it might be better for all.

          1. Chelsea*

            I did music for my undergrad and a lot of the grad students were the ones giving the one on one lessons to the undergrads. Private lessons were typically scheduled later in the day, while classes earlier. If this person’s university is structured anything like mine was, then that is what’s probably going on with the lack of flexibility in scheduling. Most music schools also have extremely rigorous requirements for how much each student should be practicing. Mine required an hour a day per credit on your primary instrument, and you would take 2-3 credits depending on whether you were there for performance, education, or tech. That’s not counting requirements for a secondary instrument and ensembles. That’s also not counting the noise from any lessons you are teaching or recieving, or ear training courses that typically require you to sing and/or use a piano.
            It would be virtually impossible to meet all of those daily requirements within restrictive quiet hours that require someone to stop playing by three pm. When physically on campus you can meet those really without disturbing your neighbors by going to the prayer rooms. I am really not sure what this guys actually feasible options are without them.

            1. Tiny Soprano*

              It’ll depend what OP plays as well. I can get away with a strategic 20 mins every few days when I’m not doing an opera, just to keep everything in order. But a string player or a pianist can easily need hours a day for the same purpose, especially when they’re in school and their technique is still a bit vulnerable. Hell I wouldn’t have been able to get away with a cheeky Friday/Tuesday top-n-tail when I was in grad school.

          2. xtine*

            I was thinking the same thing. They may be assuming that the OP is playing because they feel like it and not realize that it’s their livelihood.

    3. Ew, David*

      Except, as someone who is on video conferences from 7a-6p every weekday, I would be really inconvenienced by a consistent mid-day practice session.

      This is one of those cases where there’s not one right answer, and everyone has to give a little bit.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        Yeah, I would say, given that you will probably never negotiate a time that’s good for everyone, post a schedule (a specific one, not “I will be playing at various times from 9am to 9pm”), and, if you want to be able to ask other people to be quiet at specific times, maybe offer that you may be able to make adjustments sometimes if they have specific needs, and that they can ask via text/email/carrier pigeon if that comes up.

        I think for a lot of people, it’s just going to come down to “make it predictable, and be willing to extend to others what you are asking for yourself,” and acknowledging that, yeah, both you and they are going to be inconvenienced and frustrated sometimes.

      2. Doc in a Box*

        Agree, this is a “use your words” time. (And maybe a shared Google Calendar!)

        As an example, I am doing telemedicine visits from home 2 days a week. Neighbors practicing music, such that I can hear it in my space, during those hours would be a flat no, or they’d get some sharp words. (Sorry.) But one day a week I’m in office doing procedures, and two other days are my research days; I might not love having report-writing interrupted by music but it would be more tolerable.

        1. Lilian*

          You might want to consider the fact that music is also work and you don’t get to just give “a flat no and some sharp words” one sidedly. This is what this whole discussion is about.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Yeah, if my neighbors gave me “a flat no, or some sharp words” and expected me to just stop doing my job for that reason, I’d just ignore them and continue doing whatever I was doing.

          2. Tiny Soprano*

            Yeah that’s when I’d enthusiastically decide I could totally sing Sieglinde in a small opera house.

          1. Tate Can't Wait*

            But sound proofing is a misnomer. Realistically at home, unless the walls are built with a secondary outer wall and concrete in between (which the best recording studios have), you can only do sound treatment, and that will only have a very minor effect.

            Even covering the walls with extremely heavy blankets (which will required strong ceiling supports) will only have a moderate effect on sound traveling through the walls. Most of what it will do is to stop sound reflections inside the musician’s apartment, deadening the sound.

        2. Librarian1*

          You should invest in a good headset or pair of headphones with a microphone. It’s not feasible to ask a professional musician to just not practice for two days a week.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree. 3 pm as a hard cutoff is probably too inflexible, but how late into the evenings are they going? Surely they have the ability to rearrange a bit. If only one person is having neighbors complain and they all need to work with that person, it seems like they should try to schedule around what that person works out with their landlord (though again I think there’s some room to push back on a hard cutoff at 3 pm).

  2. Grits McGee*

    Also- for me personally, it makes a huge difference to be warned about noise in advance. Unexpected loud noise of unknown duration is so much harder to handle with equanimity than something you can make plans to deal with ahead of time.

    1. Archaeopteryx*

      Yes if someone didn’t have the decency to pre-apologize and explain about this kind of situation, it would be so stressful and frustrating, and would signal that they might react badly or retaliate if I complained. You need to assure your neighbors that you’re a sensible person who is doing everything they can to mitigate the situation, and tell them what to expect and when.

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        Not to attack OP, but the statements about “doesn’t have any scheduling flexibility.” It reminds me a bit of the letter last week from the manager who wanted to know how get his star employee to keep up to pre-quarantine production levels while she was working from home with toddlers.
        The rules have changed. I think if OP talks to more people in his/her situation, he/she will discover many people creating a new normal as they go along.

        1. Fikly*

          Except that if you read AAM’s response to that letter, you’d notice that she talks about some tasks being flexible and some tasks not being flexible. If there are concerts scheduled, they almost certainly cannot be moved. At which point, neighbors saying “you cannot earn money” or “you cannot particpate in activities you need in order to graduate” is really quite unreasonable.

        2. Daisy*

          I don’t think this is the same thing at all. Comments like yours are acting like this is an optional thing. OP has to work (i.e. play music) from home now. That IS how the rules have changed. If anything she’s analogous to the parent in that other letter, and the neighbours are the boss who have to give a bit more leeway.

          1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

            Not that the entire situation is optional. I think there are points where the OP can find flexibility. I tied it to the employer because that person has pre-quarantine expectations and is not open to compromise.

            1. Peach*

              Not sure if you’re implying this LW is also not “open to compromise”, but speaking as a performing arts person…the job honestly doesn’t work that way a lot of the time, and it’s not fair to lump LW and That Boss in together. I agree the comparison to the parent is much more accurate.

              1. Annie*

                I earn a living from the performing arts. My entire industry has been gutted overnight, leaving thousand penniless and the entire industry at risk of permanent damage.

                And yet we have pulled together to find brand new ways of making work, and ways of supporting each other. The fact the LW is being so rigid does not represent the spirit of generosity and flexibility our peers are showing.

        3. Brett*

          Most likely these are coordinated rehearsals, where as few as 4 or as many as an entire orchestra are rehearsing live from their homes by listening to a click track.
          Especially if this is for a large ensemble like a school orchestra, there is probably very little flexibility since so many people would have to be rescheduled. These rehearsals are specifically put in the evening because it is so difficult to have a 2-3 hour open block for so many students (similar to how labs are scheduled).

          1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            I had a coworker some years back in a classical music program, these were classes taught at fixed times. I remember he had a full orchestra rehearsal one day a week, 8 am – 12 pm. If school suddenly went online? He’d be playing from his apartment at 8 am to take his class.

    2. Mid*

      Exactly that. I’d just talk to my neighbors and see what compromises can be made. If they’re unreasonable, that’s different. But talk to them first. Also try hanging up towels/rugs/curtains on the walls to help cut down on noise.

    3. MissGirl*

      Yes to this. I am going to be way more annoyed by random trumpet music blasting at odd times and for varying intervals. If you tell me you’ll be playing from one to four or whatever, it will help so much.

      Also, we’re all trying to earn our livelihoods.

      1. Fikly*

        There’s a difference between making something more challenging (and really, there are a thousand and one ways for the person being bothered by noise to prevent or reduce hearing the noise on their end) and flat out saying no, you cannot earn your livelihood at all.

        1. G*

          I don’t get your push back here. No one, on either side, is flat out saying ”you can’t earn your livelihood at all”. And there are plenty of examples where excessive background noise could hinder – even with mitigation steps (if applicable as headphones/earplugs don’t help in the case of presenting/being on calls etc) someone else’s ability to earn a livelihood. The answer is to work together on a compromise, not to take a blanket stance on one side. I don’t know why you are pushing so hard for siding only with the musician without taking anything else into account. There are multiple households, and livelihoods, to consider and it shouldn’t be all or nothing.

          Just a gentle recommendation to re-assess your own bias and take some deep breaths.

        2. Archaeopteryx*

          The noise-maker has an obligation to try to reduce the sound bleed too (soft surfaces, mutes, etc) and to be polite and try to work with the people they’re inconveniencing. Your apartment building is a community, not a bunch of tiny warring city-states, and compromise helps everyone feel secure in their own home.

    4. SomebodyElse*

      I was curious if the neighbors knew this was a job/study thing vs. the guy in 3B being bored and taking up the tuba for something to do in quarantine.

      1. Not a Blossom*

        Yes, this. The noise might be annoying either way, but I’d only be irritated by the noise, not the neighbor, if I knew it was mandatory.

      2. Washi*

        Agreed. I would be quite sympathetic if I got a class and practice schedule from the OP. Studies have shown that if you know when it’s going to over, the waiting is less unpleasant!

        I wouldn’t really expect the OP to schedule around me, unless I were the only neighbor or had a truly serious reason why they couldn’t play at a certain time (like being a medical professional who works nights and sleeps during the day.) That seems like it might get too complicated. But I’d be really happy to get a schedule in advance.

      3. Rachael*

        That’s what I was going to ask. If I was one to complain about noise, I would give grace for those who are working from home and those just playing music to pass the time. By the way, I’m not one to complain about noise. The court decision makes me laugh.

        If you live in an apartment there is going to be noise. “I’m playing my music h’eah!”

    5. Turtle Candle*

      Agreed! Uncertainty makes it so much worse; if I can make an attempt to schedule around it (within reason), though, I will.

    6. Holly*

      I just want to flag here that OP says they live in an apartment building in NYC. It’s honestly not feasible to knock on everyone’s door and give everyone an individualized warning.

      1. no apples today*

        Seriously. I have a guy who lives above me who plays the drums and guitar at all hours of the day or night, but because of the way the buildings are built, I have no way to ever contact him to tell him to knock it off outside of standing outside the building and trying to yell up and hope he hears me via an open window.

        1. Bowling, or maybe WWE reenactments.*

          The people above me may actually be bowling given what it sounds like, but I have no way of asking them to tone it down past 10pm without getting building management involved and I don’t want to do that. Our elevators are locked and only allow you access to the floor you live on. Since I live on the first floor, I can’t use the elevators at all. So I live with the bowling.

          1. no apples today*

            Plus, most of those sounds doesn’t carry outside the apartment so there’s not much building management can do. My lease says it’s only a problem if it’s loud enough you can hear it from the sidewalk and guess what? The drums/guitar might be incredibly loud through the walls, but you can’t hear it outside, so it’s not necessarily enforceable and not necessarily a noise violation.

            It’s annoying and grates on me, but as long as it’s for 1-2 hours and isn’t a 1 AM jam session or 8 hours straight, it’s something that comes from living in close quarters with other people.

      2. Tiny Soprano*

        Also it’ll depend on the instrument. Woodwinds and strings don’t travel as far as you think, but when you’re an opera singer who tops out at 115db + (hi!) the guy three doors down knows exactly what aria you’re singing. And I live in a house in the country now. When I lived in flats in the city I was so paranoid about practicing. You can’t warn everyone in a 700m radius. That’s how I found out some downstairs neighbours really don’t like Bizet.

        1. Julia*

          I only just started singing lessons in 2018, but even I cannot practice at home anymore because those high notes travel. All I can do is practice breathing and humming and hope that all my hard-earned progress won’t be undone when this is over, because I finally got to have the hobby I always wanted. And I’m not even a professional who relies on this for money, I just want it for my mental health and life goals. I feel so bad for my teacher now, because this is her living…

          1. Tiny Soprano*

            Fortunately my teacher is a tenor, and they operate in their own special bubble where they don’t realise other people exist. His neighbours could be egging his front window and he would be like, “oh, hello!”
            I’m lucky that I know my neighbours don’t mind a bit of Puccini and I’m not still at the stage where I have to make extremely ungodly sounds…

      1. Astral Debris*

        Yes! It’s a big help to know when the noise will start, but it’s so much easier to tolerate if I also know when the noise will stop.

  3. LeisureSuitLarry*

    Aren’t there mutes you can use to silence yourself for practice at least? I did a quick search on “trumpet silent mute” (because trumpet is the loudest instrument I could come up with) and saw several options. I swear I saw one the other day that works with headphones and allows the player to hear their music without creating a lot of external noise. Surely there’s something that can be hooked up to a computer and transmitted too.

    1. Rachel*

      It seems like they might be doing live streams and classes with other musicians so they would need the people on the other end of the computer to still hear them.

      1. TL -*

        You should still be able to hear with a mute on; it dampens the noise but doesn’t eliminate it. Most instruments have a mute available that I know of; even some pianos have a softening pedal that quiets down the noise.

        It does affect both volume and quality of sound, but I do think that some trade-offs need to be made. Also seconding phira’s suggestion below – make a schedule, share the schedule, and stick to it. People can then know not to (for instance) schedule Zoom meetings during your practice time.

        1. Courtney Kupets*

          That might be ok for practice, but not live performances if they were doing those. Unless I don’t understand the technology available.

          1. Cabbagepants*

            Yes, for some instruments like a trumpet, a “mute” does a great deal more than just reduce the number of decibels.

            1. Will the Ex-Trombonist*

              There are the various “performance” mutes you’re probably thinking of (straight, cup, Harmon, etc) and the quieter practice mutes LSL is referencing. Yamaha, for example, has a line of practice mutes with built in electronics, so to the performer wearing headphones or earbuds it sound like an unmuted horn, but to the bystander is sounds like a really silent mute.

        2. Quill*

          Also, a trumpet mute doesn’t just turn the sound down, it changes what you’re playing.

          I once watched my brother’s high school orchestra enthusiastically ram their trumpets down on their mutes for a section, in an obviously choreographed move… only for two people to get their mutes stuck and for the increasingly unhappy orchestra teacher trying to communicate “either unstick your mutes or SHUT UP you two rogue trumpeters,” as they alternated squeaking through the next segment, which did NOT require a mute, and trying to pull each other’s mutes out.

          It was a highlight of the performance for me (Because I was laughing too hard to sit up straight) but it was not a professional concert moment

      2. Dust Bunny*

        This. You can still hear with the mute on, it’s just not full volume.

        I have a fiddle that is the loudest [bleeping] stringed instrument on the planet, but a clothespin on the bridge can keep my housemates from wanting to murder me. It’s still audible, of course, it’s just . . . muted. If these are classes and at least some of the class is about something that doesn’t require the students to hear absolutely all of the nuances of the sound, they can probably do at least some of it muted.

    2. bassclefchick*

      Former musician here! Yes, there are mutes for the brass instruments (Trumpet, tuba, and all those). However, most woodwinds (clarinet, flute, bassoon) do not have mutes. Or, they didn’t when I used to play them. Percussion can mute or use practice pads, but if they’re in a class and need to be playing with other students that wouldn’t be practical. Not to mention piano.

      Honestly, the neighbors are jerks. I’d much rather listen to a musician practicing than my neighbor blasting their stereo with music I hate, their sex noises, children running and screaming up and down the halls, or all the other various noises that come with apartment living.

      1. Not a Blossom*

        I don’t think someone should be called a jerk just because they don’t like hearing loud instruments from other apartments in general, but ESPECIALLY during a time that is this stressful. Most people are feeling at least some level of anxiety and are at least a little frazzled; noises you can’t control are going to add to it. I think everyone needs to give the people around them some leeway, which includes not only allowing musicians to play but also understanding why others might be frustrated by the sound.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Considering that the LW said their neighbors are extremely loud themselves AND only want them to play music before 3 pm (!) I don’t have much sympathy for the neighbors.

          (Partly influenced by my aunt’s experience- she played the piano for years, loved it, and then her whiny new neighbors basically insisted she wasn’t able to play it ever and she had to give it up, which was really painful.)

          1. Fikly*

            This. They’re jerks because they are demanding behavior that they are unwilling to do themselves.

          2. LizB*

            There are actually two sets of neighbors being conflated here — the LW’s neighbors are very loud, but haven’t said anything about the LW’s music. The LW’s classmate’s neighbors are the ones who complained and requested only until 3pm (and we have no info about those neighbors’ noisemaking levels).

          3. EddieSherbert*

            It’s actually different neighbors…

            OP’s *friend* had the complaint from a neighbor that led to their landlord asking them to only play music before 3pm. *OP* is asking separately about their loud neighbors (that are not playing music but just loud).

          4. MissMeghan*

            No, there’s two sets of neighbors in the letter, LW’s who are loud but have not complained (nor has LW complained) and the friend’s who are not loud and have complained.

          5. A*

            Those are different sets of neighbors. OP said THEIR neighbors don’t mind them playing, and are very loud themselves. The neighbors of OP’s CLASSMATE are the ones who complained, and requested no music after 3pm.

          6. Traffic_Spiral*

            It’s actually the opposite. LW both thinks his bandmate’s neighbors are unreasonable for wanting quiet after 3pm AND wants his own neighbors to be quiet for the after 3pm practices.

      2. OhBehave*

        Calling them jerks is unreasonable. You are/were a musician so you think it acceptable to hear ‘music’ coming from a neighbor. These neighbors are working while their kids are home (if they have them), including little ones who need to nap. It would seriously tick me off if someone’s practicing woke up my baby. That nap time was golden time to me.

      3. Wintermute*

        we don’t know what’s going on in said neighbor’s lives. They may be on work conference calls and being told that the instruments in the background are “A problem”– a lot of companies aren’t handling this situation exceptionally well and trying to hold people to unrealistic standards. They may have children that are having their nap schedule disrupted and as a result are becoming irritable and frustrated, or even not eating properly because they’re irritable and can’t rest.

        It’s quite possible they have extremely valid reasons beyond just being “jerks” for this being a non-trivial problem in their lives right now.

        1. Annie*

          Exactly. It’s just as likely that enforced music concerts are “banning” the neighbour from being able to earn a living.

      4. A*

        That’s harsh. We don’t know the neighbors circumstances. Depending on the instrument and volume, this could become a huge issue for me when working from home. All households and livelihoods should be taken into account and a compromise reached. Why is this so hard? What is wrong with people?!?!

        1. Essess*

          I was thinking this too. I have almost continuous work conference calls and I can’t be on mute for all of them since I am the presenter in some of the meetings. If a neighbor was performing with musical instruments while I was on the conference call, it would be impossible for me to do my job because of the noise.

      5. Cafe au Lait*

        I work at a music school. Some music I really love, some music I grit my teeth when I hear it. Since I willingly knew what I signing up for when I took the job, I know listening to music I dislike is part of the job. Listening to when I’m at home? It’s a completely different matter.

      6. Leah K.*

        Yes, those jerks! How dare they allow their children (who have been cooped up in their apartments for a month now with no ability to play outside) to run up and down the halls!

        1. Washi*

          Huh? As far as I know, children are allowed to be taken outside to play in most areas of the country. The hallways are NOT a good place to play unless they are extremely wide because it’s very hard to stay 6 feet away and at least in my building, the sound carries a crazy amount. (I can hear the nearest family with kids every time they come in or leave and that alone is noticeably loud.) I’m very glad my neighbors do not allow their children to run up and down our halls!

          1. Bowling, or maybe WWE reenactments.*

            Yeah, it’s been taking me 10 minutes or more to get my dog outside (this should take 30 seconds at most) because of people in the halls. I would lose my shit if I were trapped inside by children using the hallways as play areas.

          2. Leah K*

            In my city, all playgrounds and parks are closed. And even many of our suburbs don’t have sidewalks (we are not a pedestrian friendly city). So, the only other alternative is for kids to play in the streets dodging cars.

      7. Courtney Kupets*

        I love beautiful music and piano, but honestly, hearing it from another apartment of pieces I don’t necessarily want to hear at that time is super grating.

      8. EmbracesTrees*

        I understand your perspective! And … a lot of people would rather hear any of the noises that you dislike than the ones you prefer. We all have to remember that no one noise/sound, value, style, etc. is better than another or “should be” more tolerable to other people. We don’t get to decide that!
        I’m a professor at a college that has a very strong school of music. Some spring days (BC – before … you know), it was joyous to hear, through the open windows, the sounds of students practicing voice, or violin, or the oboe, or whatever. Other times, other compositions … ugh, couldn’t walk by fast enough. And I’m sure many of those who were loving that “ugh” wouldn’t appreciate my loud Led Zeppelin or Sublime or even the Beatles. (Hmph, tasteless commoners!)

      9. Ella bee bee*

        That’s not really an argument though because it’s not an either/or situation. The options here aren’t that the neighbors can either listen to a musician practicing OR sex noises and stereo music, so the preference doesn’t really matter. All of those things are disruptive and can be annoying for some people. Just because one disruptive thing is preferable over another doesn’t mean it isn’t still disruptive.

        1. EmbracesTrees*

          Ella bee bee, I know its not clear but I was responding specifically to the comment:
          “Honestly, the neighbors are jerks. I’d much rather listen to a musician practicing than my neighbor blasting their stereo with music I hate, their sex noises, children running and screaming up and down the halls, or all the other various noises that come with apartment living.”
          What poster would rather listen to is irrelevant!

      10. Dessi*

        This is such a biased response. Nobody is a jerk because they can’t reasonably work, sleep, or just enjoy a few hours of peace because their is beating on their drums or playing tuba. I have ADHD and misophonia, and unless they explained that this is a necessity for school/work/money, I’d literally go postal on my neighbor. It’s still be absolute hell either way. Not to mention those who work, those who need sleep, have kids that need naps. Just because you enjoy it doesn’t mean everybody else has to. That’s incredibly unfair.

      11. Ace in the Hole*

        As a long-time apartment dweller and sometimes musician, I have to disagree with you on the jerk comment.

        Different people are sensitive to different kinds of noise. You might hate the music your neighbor is blasting from the stereo, and they might find your practice far more frustrating. I have never heard sex noises or children playing that was as loud as most classical musicians practicing. For me personally the issue isn’t type of noise, it’s volume… my neighbor might be the world’s best musician, but being subjected to that level of noise will still hurt my ears, destroy my focus, and give me terrible headaches.

        If the noise of any kind is unavoidable, then it’s on me as a neighbor to cope (ear plugs, hooray…). That’s true whether it’s music, crying babies, repair work… whatever. But if the neighbors don’t realize this is a professional obligation, they’re being perfectly reasonable to get upset over that much noise.

    3. Amy Sly*

      Brass instruments all have mutes — a tuba mute is a thing to behold!

      I’d also think about ways to deaden the sound in your apartment — practice in the smallest room possible (other than the bathroom) and hang up blankets or even sheets on the walls to absorb the sound.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        The first time I ever saw a tuba mute I was enthralled and had to take a picture! Luckily it was during an outdoor “festival” concert and not in a concert hall. Super cool and I can’t believe it took so long for me to see one!

        1. Anne of Green Gables*

          My dad still teases me about the first time I saw a tuba mute in concert! I practically flew out of my chair, and it *was* in a big concert hall! I was in band & orchestras all through high school & college and go to the occasional symphony concert now, so how it was that my late 20s was the first time I saw one, I don’t know, but man, was it memorable!

      2. feministbookworm*

        Yes, brass instruments all have mutes, but most of them aren’t really all that muffling (they mostly change the timbre of the sound) and the ones that are “silent” aren’t meant to be used 24/7. They mess with the air resistance and tone, and can screw with you long-term. It might be reasonable to offer to do your practice sessions with a silent mute in, restrict full-volume playing to specific times, and have some kind of dialogue about what specific times are workable.

    4. Genny*

      You can mute most instruments, but it can really change the quality of the sound. For brass instruments, not only does a mute lower the sound, it also lowers the timbre (tonal quality) of the instrument. The string world seems to be divided between the value of practicing with a mute. It’s worth OP looking into as a temporary or intermittent measure, but it might not work everytime they have to play, especially if self-isolatuon lasts through the summer.

      1. Manon*

        It’s similar for string instruments – a mute can mask poor tone and intonation, making it difficult to practice effectively.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Came here to say this. String players have mutes as well, even heavy-duty practice mutes, but they really change how the bow works on the string and make a real difference in how you play and how you might troubleshoot any problems you are having. So while they can be useful for a little while, they actual might be detrimental to your playing in the long-term.

        1. TL -*

          I do want to point out that everybody is making sacrifices right now, and that should absolutely include musicians who need to practice. A lower quality of practice is a reasonable sacrifice right now.

          There may be some sessions (performances) where they have to take out a mute, but the majority of the time, a mute should be fine. Suboptimal, but fine.

          1. Mill Miker*

            This isn’t detrimental in the “it will take you longer to get as good” sense, but more in the “You’ll be actively learning the wrong thing, and have to retrain yourself out of it later” sense. I know at least one musician who feels they’re better off not practicing at all, then only practicing with mute.

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              So much of technique is muscle memory, too, so unlearning/retraining is not easy.

            2. Back of the seconds*

              Yes, exactly. Amateur violinist here–a heavy practice mute that I used for one year for practicing in an apartment changed the distribution of weight, pressure, and muscle tension through my whole body as I played. I am still trying to undo those habits. Yes, others are making bigger sacrifices, but for professional-caliber musicians the solution is not as simple as “use a mute.”

      3. Essess*

        Agreed. The mute on my violin still made the sound carry a long distance, but reduced the extreme edges of the sharpness of the notes (not a technical sharp, but the feeling against the eardrums)

      4. Bassoonish*

        Amateur bassoonist here, the bassoon like most woodwinds cant be muted. What I’d do when i need to play is probably get some soundproofing panels, set them up in my closet, try to cover every inch of wall, floor, door, and ceiling with the panels and/or loosely cover with clothes, then practice in the closet. It’s more about intentionally deadening/distorting the sound waves than trying to make a mute work. Try a closet since there is less surface area to cover with distorting material, and ideally in the middle of the apt, not touching exterior walls. Maybe look into sound engineering articles online to see if theres anything else that can be cheap and effective.

        1. feministbookworm*

          fun fact, there *is* a piece of woodwind chamber music that calls for muted bassoon (Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles). The basoonist in my group used a sock stuffed in the bell.

    5. Dumpster Fire*

      My dad was a trumpet player – he would hang multiple blankets in a closet in a bedroom, and play into that closet. That did a great job of muffling the noise throughout the house, but if you were in the room near the closet, you could still hear it pretty well.

      Saying that there isn’t any flexibility in the schedule is completely unreasonable. The rest of the world is having to adapt in terms of schedules, working conditions, being unemployed, and far worse. Are you really complaining about people trying to “restrict your ability to earn your livelihood” when 17 million people have filed for unemployment in the past three weeks and 22,000 people have died in the US alone?

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        One could say exactly the same thing about these loud neighbors insisting on silence even if it prevents OP from being able to earn a living!

        1. Triumphant Fox*

          Different neighbors. Loud neighbors are OP’s and haven’t said a thing. OP’s classmate’s neighbors are the ones making the complaint.

        2. G*

          I’m starting to get the sense that a lot of commenters did not read the letter carefully.

          Different sets of neighbors.

        3. Dumpster Fire*

          My point here is that OP is saying there is NO flexibility in the schedule. The classmate’s neighbor said that it was OK before 3 PM, and OP responded that “this is unreasonable because…doesn’t have any scheduling flexibility.” The neighbor was being flexible – do it before 3 – and OP said that’s unreasonable.

          Also, OP, if you’re worried about picking up background noise when making a live broadcast, you should re-think living in an apartment in NYC.

          1. Courtney Kupets*

            It may be that they did live broadcasts NOT in their apartment before. Which I would think is probably the case given the letter. I mean, it’s not ideal that I may have children running behind me on important calls. That normally would not be the case.

            1. OP*

              We didn’t use to do live broadcasts at all; we used to go and do our jobs at our places of work, in person, with live audiences. The compromise that we’re all making for safety is taking all of our performances onto Zoom from our homes.

              I should have articulated more clearly to Alison what I meant by my last question. I’m not at all bothered by my neighbors being noisy and I wasn’t planning on talking to them about it, especially because they’ve been so accommodating of me, but I more wanted reassurance that no one is expecting perfection right now because we’re ALL working under less than ideal circumstances, and that it’s okay if I do wind up with a little background noise.

          2. kt*

            Dumpster Fire, you’re being unkind and unflexible. If a person were living a reasonable musical life and never, ever practiced — much less played a concert — in their apartment before March 2020, and then had to both practice and play concerts in their concert in April 2020, that would be the fault of exactly one thing, the coronavirus.

          3. Mily*

            Telling a neighbor you are restricting their work hours based on your needs is not being flexible.

  4. phira*

    Former musician here! I grew up in a small suburb with lots of distance between houses, and then played in college where there were lots of practice rooms, but since then, I’ve lived in lots of apartments in buildings close to other apartments, and when I practice, boy, can people hear me.

    What I have found helps is to talk to the people most affected–for me right now, it’s our upstairs neighbor–and make it clear what your needs are and what kind of flexibility you have. “I’m in a music program in graduate school and I’m required to play–I’m very sorry. I have synchronous classes at X times on X days, and they last for X amount of time. Is there anything I can do to mitigate the noise for you? Right now, I practice in [room], but I can practice in [other rooms] if that would help.”

    By speaking with them directly, you’re more likely to get a positive or neutral response (they’re much more likely to complain and get really frustrated behind your back than to your face), and honestly, if they know WHEN you’re going to be playing and for how long, it’ll take a great deal of stress out of the equation. A lot of the time, when our neighbors have been noisy, most of the stress is the surprise of the noise starting and the uncertainty of when it’s going to finally end so I can have some peace. If I knew in advance that my neighbors were having a party on Friday night at 7pm and it was going to last until 10pm, it would suck less hearing the noise because I wouldn’t be wondering if I’d be able to go to sleep at 11pm.

    And if you do have any flexibility (you say you have some synchronous classes, so I assume you’re not 100% flexible), offer it to them. If you have to practice for 2 hours a day outside of your classes, are there times that work better for your neighbors? Maybe one of them is trying to get a toddler to nap around 1pm, or another one has an important meeting every Thursday at 3pm, or another one works nights and good lord if you could wait until 5pm to practice that would be amazing.

    I wouldn’t send out a doodle poll or anything–I’d mostly talk to your immediate neighbors (upstairs , downstairs, adjoining walls) and make it clear that you’re going to do your best to minimize disruption but that you’re not able to simply *not* play.

    (I know you aren’t having the same issues with this as your classmate; this applies to her as well though.)

    1. beanie gee*

      These seems like the best option for everyone. The resolution is really going to depend on neighbors talking with each other directly to come up with something that works for everyone.

    2. SJPxo*

      Exactly this! Especially the part about knowing when it’s doing to end is most important and trying to be flexible to suit others also.
      I have a ‘DJ’ (I use that term loosely) above me in my building, who is forever practicing and even held a lovely DJ set’ the other night On a Friday. They only knocked to come and tell me that when I banged loudly in frustration..
      I have to be up at 5.30am everyday so I go to bed early, I’m also still working from home, supporting medicinal researchers so go figure how important that is right now! I’m stressed, tired and frankly wanted to murder my neighbours (more than usual) but if they were more accommodating to others than live in this building and using a mute (they’re using a modern DJ set up which definitely could be heard solely through headphones but whatever*eye roll* ) then everyone would be happier

  5. Kiwi*

    The biggest issue for me is always the irritation of the unknown. I would much rather have someone say, “I am required to practice for X hours on Y days of the week, and right now plan to play from X pm to Y pm” than I would have to deal with something sporadic and of unknown duration.

    To the extent that you can set, keep, and warn your neighbors about a practice schedule, it would definitely go a long way with them.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      Sounds like the best plan – not really the same situation, but for a while I lived next to the “noisy neighbours from hell” who had music on (playing recorded music not actually making it themselves) and the most stressful part was not knowing when it was going to start up or how long it would go on for… If they had scheduled themselves for loud music from 7-8pm on Monday and Thursday (or whatever) it would have been bearable!

  6. Cat*

    It does seem like one of those situations where everyone is going to have a neighbor who prefers a different time so it’s going to be impossible to accommodate everyone. I think a blanket “just before 3” is unreasonable on the neighbor’s part. “Not before or after 8” would feel more reasonable to me. A practicing musician is better than a lot of the sounds one hears in dense urban apartments.

    This does remind me of when I was in law school and had a roommate who was a very good cellist. One day she was practicing and our neighbor asked on our door and said “can you stop playing? My wife just had a miscarriage and it’s making me cry.” I told her it was a compliment to her playing.

    1. Bee*

      I used to live in a building with multiple Juilliard students, and oh boy I VASTLY preferred them to the early-twenties guy below me who would yell obscenities at his video games.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      A practicing musician is better than a lot of the sounds one hears in dense urban apartments.

      Not for those of us with misophonia. The sound of barely muffled music gives me terrible headaches, causes stomach problems, and makes me very angry – like, aggressively so.

      1. Secret Squirrel*

        Yup. I get the anger too. It also depends on the instrument. Wind instruments with reeds like the clarinet or saxophone bother me, as does for some reason french horn.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Saxophones. Saxophones are the bane of my existence. I can handle other brass instruments in small doses, but saxophones turn my brain into a rabid gerbil.

          1. Cedrus Libani*

            I am glad to have found a fellow saxophone hater. My music-nerd partner loves the kind of jazz music that’s basically a saxophone and a beat, but it drives me right up the wall. It doesn’t sound like music. It sounds like someone got hopped up on PCP and went on a rampage inside a warehouse filled with whoopie cushions.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        I don’t have misophonia, but my neighbor has a garage band and practices frequently and even though they’re pretty good, it’s not at all like listening to a piece of music. It’s part of a song, back up and repeat a section four times, start from the beginning and stop halfway, tune something, adjust something, start over and hit a tricky part and play it over and over, etc.

        I don’t mind because it’s a hobby and doesn’t go on that long, but I think I would start to go slowly mad listening to it for hours at a time every day while trying to concentrate. (Which doesn’t mean that I’d get angry at a musician in your position–nothing right now is ideal for anyone–but I can understand the need for communication and maybe some scheduling to compromise with neighbors.)

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          This is why using mutes for practice and removing them for performances might be a useful compromise. Good practice is at best very boring to listen to, regardless of the skill of the performer.

          (Very grateful not to live in an apartment during this time, and that all the instruments in this house plug in!)

      3. Courtney Kupets*

        But then you probably wouldn’t be living in an apartment, and if you did, you’d be set up with all kinds of things to block out the noise. In NY, you can hear car music, people on the street playing, etc.

        1. Secret Squirrel*

          I live in an apartment in Manhattan in a very lively neighborhood downtown. Street noise is one thing, constant noise from neighbors is totally different because it’s unpredictable and you don’t know how long it’s going to go on. I know what time the restaurants/bars close, when the garbage trucks are coming at 4 am, and when the provisioners deliver food to the restaurants at 6am. Some person playing an instrument can go on for hours.

      4. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        I get anxious when there’s rumbly bass. I like music, music is one of my main hobbies, but I will turn into an anxious pile of goo if you get exuberant with your subwoofer.

        The last two times I shared walls with anyone, I had musicians next door. Once was in grad student housing and I had a music student below me. It mostly worked out, since we could negotiate hours and he had his studio space below where I had my office space rather than my bedroom (my grad program meant I was mostly at school rather than my apartment anyway – I pretty much was just there to eat and sleep). The second time I was living in a 3 bedroom townhouse in a mostly-families apartment complex while working full time and Three Young Dudes in a Band rented the adjoining townhouse. It was awful. Eventually, the family on the other side of them yelled at them and they got better (“they didn’t know the walls weren’t soundproof”, which is the kind of thing only 3 Dudes in a Band living on their own for the first time might say), but it definitely sold me on living someplace with no shared walls, which I am lucky enough to now be able to afford.

        The worst is when I can’t leave even though I’m anxious because I’m supposed to be doing something in the room with the loud rumbles. This is one reason I try to avoid running sound boards for events even though I know how.

        1. Diamond*

          Omg yes, the bass! If I can hear music, I might be annoyed. But if I can hear bass, even the kind you can only feel but can’t hear, I’m on edge, aggro, anxious, all the bad things. I don’t know what it is about it. It just gets right into your head and body.

        2. Lady Heather*

          Certain bass seems to do this thing where of reverbrates through my body, particularly my stomach and the bit of ear that caused motion sickness, and makes me want to throw up and faint.

          It seems to mainly be caused by speakers though, not by acoustic instruments. The volume matters as well.

        3. Prof*

          Oh man, bass…it literally causes me to have a panic attack. It’s awful and it should never be on in an apartment.

  7. ALT*

    I live in a large, hi-rise, apartment building in the DC area and there are at least 2 professional musicians living in the building. I know this because they’ve both posted in our building’s resident portal about it. The basics of both of their messages was that yes it’s probably annoying to hear them practice, here are the hours they generally practice, what apartment they live in, and their phone number and that they are willing to be as flexible as they can be during these crazy times. One of them even mentioned that if someone living near them has an important call/video to make to please let them know and they would make sure to not practice during it. If you can do something similar or ask your landlord to pass on a message that may be helpful, even just acknowledging that it’s not an ideal situation could go a long way to making your neighbors feel better.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      That’s extremely considerate and the resident portal is a good idea – I’m actually going to suggest this to my own building management.

      1. ALT*

        I should note that my building is huge 300+ apartments, 21 stories, owned by a company that has many such buildings. The portal is also how management communicates with the residents. But it is super nice. People also post things like items for sale or moving boxes wanted or up for grabs.

      2. Cedrus Libani*

        My housing complex (~400 units) has a Facebook group. It works well for us, and does not require IT savvy. As in ALT’s case, it’s low-traffic; it’s used occasionally for neighborhood messages, but mostly it’s people who have surplus furniture or other items to give away.

    2. EddieSherbert*

      Wow, a resident portal is a brilliant idea. I wish we had something like that when I rented :)

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      That’s a really great idea. I’ve upped my viola playing as my isolation continues and fortunately my neighbors have been very happy to hear me play. I’ve mentioned more than once that if they ever want me to shut up they should not hesitate to let me know.

      That being said, most of what I’m doing is just playing music, I’m not doing any serious practicing. It should be noted that practicing and playing can be two very different things. I as a musician actually _despise_ listening to other musicians practice. And by practice I mean playing the same thing over and over and over and over again until you get it right, then keep playing it a million more times until you can play it right way more often than you play it wrong.

      So maybe what the friend’s neighbors are complaining about is the annoyance of listening to someone practice, not just playing music.

      1. Diamond*

        Yes exactly, I could listen to beautiful viola music for a few hours. I would be less happy listening to a viola play scales for a few hours, or play the same three bars over and over again…

  8. not all karens*

    Can you/your fellow musicians temporarily “sound proof” the practice room? I’m thinking about the people who hang those foam egg crate bed pads, thick quilts, etc. on their walls if they have drum kits to help muffle the sounds. I know getting those materials might be tricky at the moment, and they wouldn’t be completely sound proof, but it might help with the noise at least a little bit.

    1. LunaLena*

      Yeah, I was going to suggest the same thing. People have been constructing DIY soundproof rooms in a closet (just Google “closet sound booth” or “closet recording studio”) so they can have a noise-free space. That would probably help with not picking up any sounds from the neighbors as well.

    2. not all karens*

      And by “practice room” I mean the rooms in your respective, separate apartments.

    3. ACDC*

      I didn’t know there were DIY options for sound proofing! I tried to order sound proofing foam on Amazon last week and it won’t arrive for about 5 weeks since they are prioritizing shipments right now.

      1. TiffIf*

        If you have a clothes/coat closet–try using that area. Put some blankets on the floor and possibly above if there is a shelf, and clothing on all sides, it can work as a temporary (maybe not super effective, but better than nothing) baffle.

        1. LizB*

          This is one of the reasons why several podcasters I listen do have been recording from their closets lately — it’s the room in their living space with the most built in soundproofing from all their clothes hanging up!

          1. CC*

            Heck one of the radio people on the CBC was broadcasting from his daughter’s closet, surrounded by her stuffed toys… I suspect it was the only place he could be that would muffle outside sounds. Most of the radio announcers on the CBC have various spots in their homes that they’re broadcasting from these days.

        2. Amy Sly*

          Heck, if you have a stuffed animal collection, get them out and put them in roof! Every soft textured thing will help muffle the sound.

          1. Amy Sly*

            Umm … “in the room.” Not on the roof. Though definitely post pictures of stuffed animals on the roof.

      2. c-*

        There are lots of DIY sound-proofing-on-the-cheap tutorials for musicians! Lots of artists need cheaper ways to achieve a comparable result, so you’ll likely find many useful tips on the internet. For example, Soundproof Guide on YouTube has good videos on the subject, and many people use packing foam (expanded polystyrene) to soundproof walls and corners. You can also make a pop filter for your microphone out of a wire hanger and old pantyhose.

      3. Amy Sly*

        Also, my experience with Amazon lately is that how quickly you’ll get non-essentials is luck. That five weeks out is their guaranteed deadline, but I’ve been receiving things ahead of schedule. e.g. A new bullet journal said it would take 4 weeks, but arrived in one. Just depends on your local distribution center’s workload.

      4. PeanutButter*

        If you can order from a home improvement store, rigid foam insulation is really good at sound-dampening and can be had pretty cheap. I used it in my windows and under my bed when I was working nights in an apartment with a lot of kids and the playground right outside of my window. After putting two layers of insulation (I think it cost about ($40) total on the exterior wall and under my bed I did not hear ANYTHING from outside, no matter how high-pitched the kiddos got.

      5. Ranon*

        Try acoustical duct liner board if you’re willing to spend some money. That’s what the architectural acoustics folks like to use for improv acoustics improvement (also more fire safe than most foams)

      6. RadManCF*

        Paper egg cartons work good. Fiberglass insulation is another good choice. I would not use foam insulation; if it catches fire it will burn long and hot, and produce a large amount of thick black smoke. While paper egg cartons are combustable, paper has nowhere near the energy content as foam.

  9. AdAgencyChick*

    I’m the neighbor who hears the guitar playing for hours on end. Please don’t be cavalier about how much you are driving them crazy. Especially if you want them to be quiet while YOU’RE broadcasting. If you go to them and ask them to keep it down without also giving them a plan for how you’ll be minimizing your impact on them…don’t be shocked to hear very loud music playing through the walls right when you were asking them to be quiet.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Was just getting on here to say this: If you’re tempted to be flippant about the amount and volume of your playing because it’s technically legal, don’t you dare get huffy about their background noise while you’re trying to record.

      We’re all in very close spaces right now. Trust me, I would MUCH RATHER be typing this from my actual office instead of listening to my neighbors’ dogs bark all day. But I’m not, and won’t be for at least a few more weeks.

      1. Fikly*

        The issue isn’t that they’re being loud. The issue is that they’re being loud while simultaneously demanding silence. That’s ridiculous.

        I had a roommate who would flip out at me if I made the slightest noise while he was sleeping, but not only refused to tell me when he was asleep or awake, but also found it fine to pound on my door when he knew I was sleeping (beacuse I told him what my sleeping times were) for absolute non-emergencies.

        1. arjumand*

          No, they’re not. You’re conflating two sets of neighbors.
          The classmate’s neighbors are the ones who are complaining, and we have no information about their noise or lack of it.

          The OP’s neighbors ARE noisy but they AREN’T complaining.

          1. JM60*

            But the letter is about the scenario in which the neighbors do complain. The fact that it’s (currently) hypothetical is irrelevant to this double standard, because the OP is complaining about their neighbor’s noise.

    2. Uranus Wars*

      Did I miss something in the letter? Did OP say they were mad at their neighbors? I thought he was trying to be proactive with his own neighbors in response to what one of his classmates went through?

        1. LoriLipar*

          Except they mention they have been searching for a “special ordinance” that says their playing is ok, rather than talking to the neighbors. Sounds quite entitled, to use a popular phrase.

          1. OP*

            I wanted to know that we weren’t in danger of getting in legal trouble and that our landlords couldn’t retaliate about it. It wasn’t INSTEAD of talking to the neighbors, it was to make sure that I knew my rights and what was reasonable.

            Also, I foolishly omitted this from my letter and realize now that it was really important context. My friend has no idea which neighbor complained, and therefore has no way of talking to them and determining what a reasonable compromise is. The neighbor complained directly to the landlord, who texted my friend, and was not willing to reveal their identity.

            1. Charlief*

              You guys should be talking to all of your neighbours.

              Being considerate by speaking to them will go a long way.

  10. 'nother prof*

    I agree with AAM. It may be help to put your situation together with your friend’s: when *you* are the neighbor, and you can’t get your work done because of someone else’s excessive noise, doesn’t that mean that this theoretical other party is “restrict[ing] [y]our ability to earn [y]our livelihood?”

    I’ve been in that position, where neighbors’ noise was making it impossible for me to work (which often necessitates silence). Your neighbors chose their homes based on a number of factors, and the amount of noise that they anticipated being exposed to was one of them.

    1. in the air*

      Right, but no one anticipated being stuck in their homes 24/7 for an unknown amount of time. This is a new playbook we’re working out of now.

  11. Chili*

    If possible, to help alleviate some tensions I think you should 1) try to have some semblance of a schedule and 2) making sure your neighbors know you are a professional musician who is working. If I know “my neighbor is playing tuba from 2-3pm most days, I can avoid scheduling my own meetings then, take a walk, shower, or whatever I can do to make the noise less bothersome. I’d also really encourage you to let your neighbors know your situation because folks will be more sympathetic to “my neighbor needs to play tuba right now because they are on the radio/ doing a final performance for their graduate program” vs. “my neighbor has decided to play tuba right now for shits and giggles.”

    1. WellRed*

      Yes, to this and all the comments re: communication. I can schedule walks, dishes, etc during tuba time if I know when it’s coming. I also appreciate knowing it’s a finite time period.

    2. pretzelgirl*

      Yes, yes, yes. Also as a parent of young kids, this would be particularly helpful. If I can schedule naptimes, bed times around the music that would be great. I also would be much more understanding if I knew it was a music student/professional.

    3. Manon*

      Part of the problem is that performance majors often practice 4+ hours per day in addition to any ensemble rehearsals, so even if neighbors are aware of the situation it’s not likely that they can schedule half the day based on a musician’s practicing habits.

      1. allathian*

        This is something that needs to give. Music students have no right to expect to be able to practice as much as they would at school in appropriate practice rooms where they disturb no-one else. I also think that music schools should offer some flexibility here to their students and lower the requirements a bit. It’s unfair to expect the neighbors to tolerate music practice for hours on end during the workday, or when they’re trying to sleep.

  12. Pipe Organ Guy*

    That is a truly rough spot to be in. I haven’t had to live in an apartment for many years, and it’s hard to imagine life in an area where apartments are the dominant form of housing. If you’re a performance major, you have to practice a lot. I would think, though, that keeping communication open with the neighbors on all sides could go a long way in mitigating conflicts.

    Pianists have the option (considered heretical in some quarters) of using digital pianos with headphones, although the key response isn’t exactly the same as an actual piano action. Organists, too, if they can afford them, can use digital organs with headphones. But there just aren’t digital-device-with-headphones equivalents for much else.

    1. Chris C.*

      Actually, there are options for many (but not all) instruments. Brass instruments can use a Yamaha Silent Brass system (which works well, but makes playing “normally” a bit harder due to extra backpressure). Drummers can use electric drums, or put pillows and practice pads on their skins. Woodwinds are harder, I guess the Akai EWI or Roland Aerophone is a MIDI controller which would work, but I don’t think that is nearly close enough for most practicing tasks.

      1. c-*

        Also, if your instrument is electrical or has a port to transmit the sound into your computer, it tends to have a way to mute the sound. Electric violins are a thing in the professional folk-rock scene, so I assume there are more alternatives (though I don’t know how cheap or easy to get they are right now, nor if conservatory professors would forbid students from playing them).

        1. Violin/Viola player*

          As a professional classical violin and viola player, I can say that an electric violin would be fairly useless for the type of study which I need to do.

          1. Violin/Viola player*

            However, a practice mute would be effective.

            I live in Italy, so I’ve been in lockdown for over a month now. Fortunately my neighbours don’t mind me playing at home (I’ve been playing outside doing informal concerts too, which has been fun, and they appreciated that) but I did check with them that it was OK first. I’m also doing online lessons, and I explained what that would involve: hearing a musician practice, or play short extracts to explain things to students, is very different to hearing a short concert every day.

      2. need a new screen name and have no imagination*

        Years ago I had a roommate who was a professional drummer. He practiced for hours a day but used only his electronic drumkit when I was home, so all I ever heard was a sort of “tick tick tick” noise.

        He was a pretty good roommate because our lives were so opposite–I worked 9-5 and he mostly worked evenings/nights, with some studio gigs here and there. We hardly ever saw each other. He loved to cook and hated doing laundry, so every once in a while he’d leave me a bag of dirty clothes and a note saying, “there’s a container of X in the fridge for you if you will do my laundry.” Always felt like a fair trade to me.

    2. Kotow*

      Married to an organist so I love your instrument :-) I’m a musician as well though not an organist and I don’t make my entire living off of it. I don’t think I’ve ever known organists who have used headphones for practice purposes and I can’t imagine that would help to hear if the registrations sound right together. For a live stream performance though or any of those “living room performances” I can’t imagine how an organist would function in apartment living. There is no way to mute it when it’s on full organ! When I come home and my husband is practicing I can hear it outside the house!

      1. Pipe Organ Guy*

        I’m lucky. Our house is not attached to any other houses. When the doors and windows are closed, not much sound escapes the house. The organ is a four-rank pipe organ that is voiced gently and makes for a lovely house instrument. My husband is the son of an organist, so he grew up with that and is very tolerant of the incessant repeating of the music-learning process. In fair weather, if I have the patio doors open and the Jewish neighbors next door have their windows open, they may hear me practicing. They tell me they love it.

        Our church is doing live-streamed services right now with just a handful of people present, including me. At some point, I always have to go there and practice to get registrations set and all the stop-changing and manual-changing rehearsed. And 59 ranks of pipes is a far cry from four.

    3. WS*

      I play piano but had to give it up for many years due to arthritis. Now that digital keyboards are pretty good, I have one because the action is much, much gentler than an actual piano, so I can play again (for limited periods of time). Definitely not the same thing as actual piano practice, but great for me!

  13. MK*

    OP, I am trying very hard to be temperate in my comment, but your letter is coming across as incredibly entitled. The neighbours aren’t “trying to restrict your ability to earn your livelihood” (did you listen to yourself as you wrote that, as if these people are ogres who want you to starve because they complained about not only daily musical practices, but also performances*), they are in all likelyhood trying to earn their own living while working from home, apparently to musical accompaniment, not to mention staying sane during a pandemic. And after castigating people for daring to object to what sounds like constant noise, you turn around and want to know how you can make thesame complaint about your own neighbours, who have been totally accepting of your own disruption…it boggles the mind.

    * Not a U.S. lawyer, but you might want to consult one before you proclaim that you have the law on your side. The sources Alison cited are about “musical practice”, accepting that musicians need to practice in their homes. That doesn’t necessarily apply to actual concerts and/or brodacasts; many jurisdictions have laws about where and when you can do those.

    1. LSP*

      I’m not sure it’s fair to go after the OP here either. I think they are stressed, their neighbors are stressed, and all of our responsibilities haven’t decreased (and have increased for many people) while the ability to handle them have. I read the letter as frustration and concern, rather than entitlement, and I don’t think it’s helpful in these conversations during this high stress time to come down on someone for feeling completely normal feelings.

      1. MK*

        I get that, but frankly it’s because of the universal nature of the problem that I am less patient with people seeing only their own side of the issue. Under normal conditions it’s only human to not consider others might have problems of their own; now you know for a fact that they almost certainly have pressing problems of their own.

    2. Tessa Ryan*

      I agree with you, MK. In the nicest way possible, OP, just remember that other people are working from home too. I’m currently dealing with my upstairs neighbor playing music loud at all hours, and the constant thump thump thuuuuump from 6am to ten pm finally got to me. I went upstairs, knocked, and talked to them through the door. After some back and forth, we realized they had their music set up right by a vent and when they moved it over to their kitchen I couldn’t hear anything at all. I know that’s not possible for everyone, but even having quiet hours clearly communicated can be a saving grace. At least the neighbor would know when to expect it! There are two sides to every story, and I know it’s your livelihood, but imagine a parent working from home putting their baby down for a nap, only to be woken up by an instrument. If they knew about the music ahead of time, they probably won’t be as frustrated. Clear communication with your neighbors (in a safe social distance way, like text) can only help at this point.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        +100. It’s much much easier to relate to your neighbor(s) when you just talk to them directly and learn what they’re experiencing on their side of the apartment wall.

    3. ThatGirl*

      This is kind of mean and unnecessary. The OP wasn’t asking about themselves, more a broad “what if” question, and said nothing specific about performances. They are clearly trying to be considerate but also need to be able to work.

      1. MK*

        She said she is broadcasting live and that they are doing work for pay; that means they are either live-streaming concerts or recording them and uploading online, not just practicing. And I see zero mention in the letter that they are being considerate of anyone but their colleagues.

        1. let's play nice*

          A lot of commenters have offered advice in a measured, polite way. I think you need to dial it back in your tone.

        2. JediSquirrel*

          that means they are either live-streaming concerts or recording them and uploading online, not just practicing

          You are off-base in your assumptions. They’re in a graduate program; it’s more likely that they are teaching undergrad music students.

          But it really doesn’t matter. I don’t see any sense of entitlement in OP’s letter. But I do see a high degree of dudgeon in your tone. OP did not call these people “ogres” and the person I see doing the castigating here is you.

          And I see zero mention in the letter that they are being considerate of anyone but their colleagues.

          Again, all we have to go on is an excerpt of a letter sent by a total stranger in New York. We have no idea how much Alison edits these, but even if she printed the entire letter, we still wouldn’t know the entire situation.

          FWIW, “I think I heard…but I can’t find it anywhere” is NOT the same as “proclaim[ing] that you have the law on your side.”

          Someone is making mountains out of molehills, but I don’t think it’s OP. These are rough times, but they won’t last forever. Consideration needs to go all ways.

      2. A*

        I don’t see where OP is being considerate. Yes there is a veil of being proactive in reaching out for advice – but the letter clearly reads as a request for affirmation that they are being unjustly persecuted for trying to earn a living. There wasn’t a single shred of willingness to compromise, and a blatant disregard for the neighbors livelihoods/circumstances/lives.

    4. JM60*

      Additionally, I suspect those court cases might be different during a shelter in place order, when, as you state, the OP’s noise level may be affecting their neighbor’s ability to earn a living. Based on the little bit I’ve seen of those court cases, the word “reasonable” seems to come up a lot, and what’s reasonable now is different from what’s reasonable normally.

      I’m sympathetic to the OP, but they do come across as a little entitled. If it is causing the issues for the neighbors, the OP should try to reasonably accommodate that. Maybe try to give them notice, rearrange their schedule, etc.

    5. Third or Nothing!*

      Since OP is clearly super concerned about being restricted to playing before 3 PM and mentioned doing broadcasts, it’s possible that she’s live streaming performances as a way to earn a living during a time when no one can attend concerts. Or doing lessons. I don’t think she’s being entitled because of her worry about her livelihood being affected…I’d worry about that too if I could only work in the late afternoon/early evening and my landlord told me I have to keep it contained to the morning hours. Her letter reads like a fear/worry response, not a HOW DARE THEY TRY TO IMPOSE ON ME response. It’s exactly the type of letter I’d write during an anxiety attack.

      I think the solution to this conundrum is what others have said: communicate, acknowledge that this sucks for everyone, and be as considerate as possible. We all have to (FIGURATIVELY…seriously stay the heck home people) come together during times like these and have grace for one another.

    6. Fikly*

      They may not be trying to do that, but that is what they are doing.

      Your argument is essentially the same as people who say “but they meant well” when people hurt other people with good intentions. Doesn’t make it ok. Makes it worse when it’s explained to them and the behavior continues.

      And in what way have they been totally accepting the LW’s domination, given they are complaining about it and trying to stop it?

      1. fposte*

        Nobody’s complained about the LW, though, or tried to stop her. It’s her classmate that got a complaint.

      2. MK*

        By the same reasoning the musicians who are playing music while their neighbours are working from home are actively hampering their ability to earn a living too, so where does that leave anyone?

        Also, your misread the letter. The OP’s neighbours have never complained, it’s the neighbours of her friend who did so.

    7. allathian*

      Although to be fair, I would much rather listen to a concert than to someone practicing the same few bars over and over and over again.

  14. rehtaej*

    For OP specifically, if your neighbours are NOT complaining about the noise you make, then leave well enough alone. Everyone understands why there might be background noises during a livestream at this moment, and you asking them for anything other than a quite rare favour is going to turn into each of your neighbours asking you for the same, in reverse, at different times, and the one person who is a jerk being extra loud during that time just to annoy you (or because you can’t be silent at the specific time they want). Don’t search out trouble when your living situation is working out fine given the circumstances.

  15. L*

    This is the kind of thing that really needs to be brought to the attention of your professor – they need to be flexible, too. I cannot imagine that arranging play prior to 3pm is an insurmountable obstacle.

    1. Anonymous Canadian*

      I actually can see it being insurmountable if it’s for a class. Think about it. Most students take multiple classes at a time (and most of those class schedules will be different for each student). Then an instructor may teach other classes themselves. You would have to find a new time that fits into everyone’s schedules and only have essentially half a day to fit it into (most schools in my experience run classes from 8-9 am to 9pm at the college/university level) to observe the no noise after 3pm the neighbour is requesting.

      I think there needs to be more compromise on both sides here.

      1. Annie*

        Millions of students have had their educations cancelled (temporarily) completely. That includes medical students and other essential workers. I know many friends who will not be able to graduate this year but instead will have to choose between dropping out without graduating, or finding the money for an unexpected extra year of study.

        Worst case scenario music students have to quit studying for a few months. (Except not really because they can still study music theory, and still do practise at home.) Big freaking deal. Why are musicians so super duper special that they can’t skip a month, when medical students are being told they have to halt their education entirely?

        1. Julia*

          Well, a lot of music is muscle memory. If a singer quits singing for half a year, they’ll have a much harder time picking up again than a medical student who can still read his textbooks at home.

    2. LilyP*

      It depends. If it’s a scheduled class with several people in it they probably can’t (or at least won’t) reschedule just to accommodate one student’s one neighbor. But definitely do ask professors about flexibility and see what’s possible given the exceptional situation.

    3. Koala dreams*

      Well, if you need to play about 8 hours a day then you need to start at 6 or 7 am, that’s very early for some people. (Especially if you also have evening performances.) Also, if they are practicing together with others, it may get complicated to reschedule. Not impossible, but I can understand that it is difficult. Of course, you need to put in some effort to find a solution before giving up. The neighbours have already showed themselves willing to compromise, you need to make an effort too.

    4. Prof*

      I’m teaching college remotely now, and as a professor I’m only permitted to teach synchronously at the same day/time the class met before to avoid conflicts. There is absolutely no flexibility available there. And I’m the one in charge. These are the students…they really have no ability to get flexibility in their classes and it would be tone deaf to even ask.

  16. Roja*

    I worry about this myself–I’m not a musician but livestreaming my classes (that necessarily have music) involves some level of noise. So far no one has talked to me about it but I feel terrible that anyone might be bothered by it. If I were doing something really loud, like playing a noisier instrument, I think I’d have to talk to them in advance and keep them updated. It really is always harder to put up with things when you don’t know when they’ll end. I’ve heard some people do little care packages for their neighbors with earphones; you could try that as a way to buy goodwill. You could check into inexpensive ways to do some soundproofing; even moving rooms or moving rugs and curtains and pillows will help. I’d also recommend talking to your classmates and professors, since I’m sure you’re not the only one dealing with this and maybe others will have suggestions. It’s just a really hard situation for everyone, I’m afraid.

  17. TiffIf*

    I was listening to the radio the other day and, apparently, a lot of people in radio are currently using their closets to broadcast/record from as clothing is a good sound baffle. Now depending on the instrument played or the particular apartment you are living in, this may or may not work but I wonder if trying it could help at least a little.

  18. Cordoba*

    If I were the neighbor I would definitely respond better to a musician approaching me with “how can we all work together to deal with the inconvenient realities of the current situation” than I would if the same person opened with “why are you trying to restrict my ability to earn my livelihood?”

    I’d abandon that second line of thinking entirely, both because it’s not helpful and also because it’s probably not accurate. The neighbors are *trying* to get some quiet in their homes, any impact on LW’s livelihood is just a side effect.

    1. Turtle Candle*

      Yes; if they’re trying to work from home, arguably you are restricting their ability to earn their livelihood; it’s hard (sometimes impossible) to have a conference call with lots of constant background noise, and it can even interfere with one’s ability to concentrate deeply enough to get work done. This is going to seem especially wonky if you then ask them to keep it down for their performances. You need quiet sometimes, and so do they. You both have the same need, it’s just that meeting both needs at once is a very real challenge.

      I think the way to approach this is “this is frustrating for everyone, what can we do?” rather than “the law is on my side and you’re trying to keep me from making a living.”

  19. Bridget*

    So many good suggestions so far – I have just one thing to add: as someone who has dealt with noisy neighbors before, what I would appreciate the most would be predictability. If it’s possible, could you (and your friend) give your neighbors a schedule of when you’ll be playing for the week? It’ll make it easier for them to schedule their days around the noise. For example, if you’re playing from 1-3pm, that’s when they can go for a walk or put in headphones and watch a few episodes of a TV show. They’ll know not to plan on taking a nap or schedule a work meeting on Zoom. Good neighbors should appreciate the consideration and conscientiousness, and will hopefully return the favor.

  20. New Fed Here*

    I would try to make an overture (get it?) of friendly outreach and ask them if there is any music that they really like, and serenade them specifically at the end of the day for a few minutes.

    1. Tic-tac*

      Oh, I like this suggestion. I would love to hear some classic Bowie on a tuba. Or anything else, really.

    2. Kat*

      Thst doesn’t help for people who need to be practicing specific compositions or styles….

    3. Anne of Green Gables*

      Yes, I feel like there is a chance to build some goodwill here by, say, asking when people’s birthdays are and playing Happy Birthday or a favorite song. Could help lift some of the tension.

    4. Threeve*

      Wouldn’t this only work if just one neighbor could hear you?

      If I live in 201, and the musician in 202 is playing something specifically for 203 when I really just want them to be quiet…

  21. JM60*

    It may be worth keeping in mind that others may be working from home too, and the noise you create may be affecting their ability to make a living too. Aside from being harder to concentrate, a neighbor playing music may make participating in meetings more difficult. I think you need to work out compromises with your neighbor.

    From a legal perspective, while there are court cases affirming that musicians can play music in their homes during reasonable hours, I wonder how courts would rule during shelter-in-place orders. It could make a difference, since people previously could leave their home to work, but now they can’t. Now it affects their ability to work.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Yeah, I don’t think we can apply pre-pandemic case law post-pandemic when it comes to this issue.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        This is a good point. My apartment adjusted quiet hours to basically 24/7 due to so many tenants having to work from home.

        1. allathian*

          You’re lucky in that you don’t have any professional musicians or music students in your apartment building…

  22. Astrid*

    The attorney cited good case law but neglected to mention one that immediately stuck out in my mind even though I read it about a decade ago – Twin Elm Management v. Banks (Queens County, 1943) (I’m quoting because I can’t find a link to a free copy of the decision). The landlord was trying to evict the tenants because of the piano sounds emanating from the apartment. I love the conflicting testimony: “The neighbors called as witnesses by the landlord testified that the noise… consisted primarily of thumping sounds and repetitious playing of the scales throughout the day and that they heard nothing that resembled a complete musical composition… it was the dull, monotonous, repetitious playing, usually associated with the practice efforts of a young novice piano student, coupled with the fact that it continued each day for a twelve-hour period… The testimony offered on behalf of the tenant discloses that the tenant’s daughter… is sixteen years of age and has played the piano since she was seven. She apparently is a concert pianist of note, having given recitals in several eastern cities and has also been a pupil of outstanding pianists in the musical world.”

    The court ultimately concluded that the repetitive piano practice did not constitute a nuisance. (“Mere annoyance in and of itself does not create a nuisance or make the tenancy of the occupant undesirable. Of necessity, the practice work of a talented pianist would require some finger-exercising on the keyboard together with the playing of musical compositions”)

    Here’s the language that I recall reading many years ago: “The court is not unmindful of the fact that continuous piano practicing can become nerve racking, particularly to elderly persons and those with a nervous temperament. Apartment-house living in a metropolitan area is attended with certain well-known inconveniences and discomforts. The peace and quiet of a rural estate or the sylvan silence of a mountain lodge cannot be expected in a multiple dwelling. Mutual forbearance and the golden rule should, but unfortunately in many cases do not, act as the yardstick for the conduct of tenants in apartment houses. Reasonable consideration of the comforts of neighbors should be exercised by the occupants.” Good stuff!

    N.B. I think the instrument makes all of the difference. I play the harp and I have never received a complaint about my practicing in 25+ years of living in an apartment building with tissue-paper thin walls. In fact, my next door neighbor said she would put her newborn daughter in the room on the adjoining wall to lull her to sleep. However, when I’m cycling on the bridge, I regularly pass an opera singer who apparently has the singular mission of singing as loud and off-key as possible. I think my rage would know no bounds if I had to listen to this for more than the 3 seconds it takes for me to whiz right past her.

    1. Astrid*

      Also, my favorite quote from L.A. Story:
      Sara: “Do people here get up early or late?” Harris: “It depends, why?” Sara: “Well, if a person were to be making a lot of noise, what time should they start?” Harris: “What kind of noise – like construction?” Sara: “No – like deep sustained booming sounds” Harris: “Aaaah – deep sustained booming sounds – around nine, nine fifteen” [We later find out she plays tuba]

    2. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      Instrument difference is definitely important! I’m reading this while my upstairs neighbor plays beautiful classical music on the piano, which they do for anywhere between 5 to 9 hours a day. I would have very different thoughts if they were playing the drums or the tuba or the saxophone.

  23. Kat*

    City dwellers should invest innear plugs if neighbor noise is bothersome. Easy and cheap solution.

    Music is work! Imagine having someone tell you that you can only use your laptop between certain hours. Yuck.

    1. Roscoe*

      That is absurd. These are hard times for everyone, but its not like anyone really wants to live next to someone practicing an instrument. Its not normal neighbor noise, its playing something meant to be loud. Thats like if you live near a DJ, and they just HAVE to see how loud their speakers are and blast them at all times practicing a set.

      Also, lap tops don’t by nature make noise, while musical instruments do. That comparison really doesn’t work

      1. Sam I Am*

        DJ’s can work with headphones, in fact, almost all of them already do. Probably not the best example.
        Musicians working from home are. Working. From. Home.
        We all need to give a little at this time.
        It seems like headphones are the go-to on this site every time someone hears something annoying while trying to work, but somehow that’s off the menu in this situation? I don’t get it.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If the neighbor wrote in, we’d mention headphones. The OP is on the opposite side of the equation, and needs to grapple with what’s courteous. (But also, headphones won’t solve it completely — the music will be audible to anyone the neighbor is on calls with.)

      2. HelloHello*

        Laptops don’t make noise, but they do use up bandwidth when they’re on the internet. Right now so many people are working form home that my internet is fairly frequently getting slow or even shutting off during the day. Do I have the right to block other people in my building from using their computers at certain points because it’s affecting my ability to do my job from home?

        Right now, we’re in a really unique situation where a lot of people’s needs are contradicting each other. There’s no perfect solution to things like this, but neither banning musicians from working at home nor telling everyone else they have to live with constant loud music is the right approach.

        1. JM60*

          I don’t see people in this thread arguing outright banning musicians from working at home during this pandemic. What I do see is is people arguing that musicians should reasonably compromise, with one of those compromises being limiting the time musicians create noise. I think some limitations on when they can musicians create noise are reasonable, but user Kat above seems to object to these compromises.

    2. A*

      Seriously? A compromise on BOTH SIDES is in order. Earplugs/headphones are of no help when someone needs to present, or be active on a conference call etc. There are plenty of examples where this would be a conflict.

      How shortsighted. All of the households, and all of the livelihoods, in this scenario matter. Not just the musicians.

    3. Karia*

      Laptops don’t affect other people Kat, and earplugs prevent you from answering the phone / attending video conferences.

      1. allathian*

        Laptops do use internet bandwidth, though. So conceivably there won’t be enough of it in the building for everyone to be on video conferences at the same time…

  24. Roscoe*

    This is one of those where, while I’m sympathetic to the musician, I’d be on the side of the neighbor here. I’m on phone calls and doing product demos all day. If I had someone practicing music all day long, it would be hard to not be annoyed. That would be actively making it hard for ME to make a living. There is something that just seems so entitled about basically saying “yeah you can hear it, too bad”.

    1. Sam I Am*

      Yes, we’re trying to make a living. All musicians and non musicians should be deploying headphones as much as possible right now. But we’re LUCKY if we can work right now.
      Lord knows there (correctly) aren’t any live shows happening. Venues will be the last places to reopen.

      1. Annie*

        Exactly. In my field of the performing arts, 90% of us have become unemployed overnight. It incenses me that someone so incredibly privileged as to be able to earn money from a performing arts career wfh is complaining about being expected to show the tiniest modicum of compromise or sympathy for someone else, who’s ability to earn money is likely being badly affected.

        1. TechWorker*

          ?? I really think this is not a fair reading of the letter. OP sounds worried about their landlord putting into place similar to their friends landlord (all music has to be before 3pm) – that’s not complaining about being expected to show sympathy, it’s concern about trying to fit their entire work day, some of which they don’t have control over prior to 3pm.

          I often have conference calls with folks in other timezones, if I was told I have to do all my calls before 3pm I basically couldn’t do my job.

        2. Lyka*

          “…someone so incredibly privileged as to be able to earn money from a performing arts career wfh”

          Seriously unfair. You have no idea what the OP’s situation is.

  25. Penelope*

    My house and my neighbor’s garage where he runs a business are right next to each other, as my neighborhood is quite small. I schedule my individual practice time for the times when he’s going to be right outside my window, banging and thumping as he loads his work truck or does wood work. He’s also super into yardwork after traditional work hours and can spend hours weedwhacking and trimming. I’m not actually sure that’s it’s always legit work, come to think of it. Sometimes I think he HAS to be disposing of some kind of evidence. Nevertheless, if it’s loud enough to disturb my peace for an extended period of time, it’s time for me to bust out the piccolo and work on some Sousa.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      I used to live next door to a concert cellist. She played beautifully… and she also gave lessons. I don’t know how many times I hear scales! She was very proactive making sure she wasn’t bothering us, and really for the most part she didn’t and we’d let her know if something came up. (like her student’s parents parking in our driveway).

      Our funny story is the day she had a student practicing and my husband was splitting wood in the back yard. At some point she yelled out “3/4 time if you please, you’re screwing up the tempo” so my husband (being a former band kid) obliged with his best count.

  26. Employment Lawyer*

    Don’t forget practical fixes. And make sure to check with the super or the building folks.

    It is quite possible that everyone in the building would rather give up the use of the ping-pong basement room (so to speak) if only you would play down there. Maybe there’s an empty apartment and you can play there. Maybe there’s a closed store adjoining you. Hell, maybe everyone in the building would HAPPILY chip in to rent you a space, just for peace and quiet.

  27. AvonLady Barksdale*

    A good friend of mine is a voiceover artist and has a home studio set up in a corner of her small NYC apartment (it’s a sight to behold, she was really efficient when building it). Before all of this business started she had a neighbor who would play loud music during the day, presumably while most people were at work. My friend’s studio is really well soundproofed, but old New York buildings kind of are what they are and there’s usually some noise bleeding. My friend ended up speaking to the neighbor and explaining that she was picking up the neighbor’s music during her work sessions, and the neighbor kept it down– mostly. After the initial communication was established, my friend was able to ask for quiet at certain times, though she conceded to some music during certain hours (which kind of sucks, but it was a negotiation). I think what it boiled down to was that the neighbor didn’t expect anyone to be home and working, much less needing quiet, during the typical workday (not a great assumption, of course, but not completely unreasonable). So my friend had to speak up.

    My point is very much like what others’ are saying, really– you have to talk to people. Especially now. You’re used to practicing in a designated facility, and, well, your neighbors are used to working in one too. Absolute quiet is impossible in most buildings, but it’s also important that we who live in these types of situations are as conscientious as possible. If you came to me and said you needed to practice between 4 and 7 pm, I would say thanks for the heads-up, but if you were still at it continuously until 9pm, I would be upset. Also, let’s not forget that this is practicing, which is not the same as playing your part of a symphony straight through from beginning to end.

    I am a singer, albeit an amateur one. I don’t own a piano. My weekly online “rehearsals” are very precious to me and the only time I vocalize these days. If someone complained to me about 30 minutes of a scale here and a line there, I would be pretty irritated because I think that’s unreasonable– but if I were doing vocal exercises for two hours straight every evening at the top of my lungs, I would think my neighbors had every right to ask me to tone it down a bit.

    1. OP*

      Hi! OP here! Something I left out of my letter to Alison is that my friend’s neighbor complained to the landlord, and all their communication came through the landlord. My friend never found out which neighbor it was, and therefore was never able to have a real conversation about what might help alleviate the neighbor’s concerns. I think both my friend and the neighbor were able to catastrophize the situation and blow the other person up in their heads as an anonymous bogeyman because they were never able to talk. I think people are often embarrassed to talk to each other about these kinds of things, but avoiding it often makes it worse. It’s hard because my friend feels trapped without the option of reaching out to her neighbor. I like what someone suggested about putting a note on the door.

      And we do have fixed musical events, mostly Friday evenings (Definitely no later than 9:00) and Saturday mornings (No earlier than 9), that are nonnegotiable.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        Ah yes, the old anonymity removes humanity problem. I do hope your friend can come up with a better solution with her landlord. Or even get the other tenant’s name so they can work out an agreeable solution together.

      2. Apartment Bagpiper*

        I would make a note to slide under the doors of all the possibly affected neighbors. Direct communication: here’s my deal, I play X instrument because I am a in a graduate program for it, we have fixed musical events at these nights at these times, I plan on practicing X hours a week, mostly from Z – Y pm, here is my number to text me if I’ve chosen a particularly bad time, or if you have a very important call that can’t be interrupted.

      3. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Then I think your best bet is to have a notice of some sort ready to go. Something you’ll put up by the mailboxes, maybe. Something that tells your neighbors what’s up and asks them to text you personally (or email you, whatever works best for you) if the noise is disruptive or disturbing. You can even say things like you realize this isn’t ideal, but it’s how you make a living, and you’ll be happy to work something out if it bothers them.

        HOWEVER, big caveat, if no one has said anything to you yet, I wouldn’t worry about it too much at this moment. You just need to be prepared not to get super defensive and to put yourself in the “let’s work something out” mindset rather than the, “but this is my work and I have to do it this way” mindset.

      4. Koala dreams*

        I somehow imagined a more full schedule when you wrote of non-negotiable events. As long as it’s limited like that, most neighbours are probably okay with it as long as you warn them beforehand. A note next to the mailboxes or the stairs, maybe?

        1. OP*

          Yeah, it’s really actually not a huge number of hours. We’re singers, so we don’t usually practice more than two hours a day. We’re not performance majors and many of our classes this semester are academic or focus more on written music more than making it. I am of course biased, but I would assume that we are relatively less noisy than many professional musicians. However, I wonder if that also led the neighbors to not realize that my friend is a musician doing her job, if all they hear is sporadic singing and guitar.

          1. Genny*

            That’s a very strong possibility. If I heard the people who live above me occasionally singing and playing guitar, I’d assume they were picking up an old hobby or learning something new to stave off quarantine boredom. I’d also be much more sympathetic knowing they were actually a professional musician or music student.

  28. It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s SuperAnon*

    When I was in elementary school, where my parents would have me practice my clarinet on the front stoop in Queens because they couldn’t handle it in the house. I now realize they must not have liked any of our neighbors to subject them to my squeaking.

    No advice, just a mildly amusing anecdote.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      LOL, reed instruments make some of the most annoying sounds when people are learning! I remember when I took up the saxophone to help out some classmates who needed a fourth for a quartet…oof, the squeaks still haunt me. (I play the flute and it’s surprisingly easy to play both since they have the same fingerings for the majority of notes. Just gotta master the different embouchures.)

    2. SweetestCin*

      My child’s music teacher sent home their soprano recorders and music workbooks when schools were closed in our state.

      My child is particularly dedicated to doing all of the enrichment that he’s been provided, including thirty minutes of recorder practice every.darn.day.

      I’m feeling serious empathy for all parties in this letter. And I’m giggling about your clarinet. :)

    3. Threeve*

      The kid in the apartment next to mine is learning the clarinet. It barely qualifies as music at this point.

      It doesn’t bother me, because I know she’s not going to be doing it for more than half an hour a day. If she was squeaking through Hot Cross Twinkle Lamb at all hours with an indefinite duration it would be much more difficult.

      1. Nerfmobile*

        My daughter is on her second year of violin. It was definitely a relief when, this past fall at some point, it turned into music instead of just random noises. It’s still simple, but you can sing along now with tempo and rhythm and notes all in reasonable shape.

    4. Filosofickle*

      Yeah, a downstairs neighbor kid started the violin, always outside where it traveled up through our windows. It was a godawful racket! Happily, she wasn’t very interested and it went away quickly.

  29. cheeky*

    I have a friend who is a professional horn player. She has had a lot of trouble over the years finding a place to live where she can play freely- the truth is, music practice is loud and does impose on neighbors, who have a legal right to the quiet enjoyment of their homes. Some people will find it incredibly grating to hear bits of music played over and over when they’re trying to work or relax.

    1. PeanutGallery*

      That’s true, but playing music (below a certain decibel level) is also considered “quiet enjoyment” of one’s home. Legally, “quiet enjoyment” usually means things like the landlord can’t rent out an apartment that’s undergoing loud renovations at all hours of the day. Lots of cities have rules around what the cutoff for reasonable noise is. But I do think you’re right to point out that we’re talking about what’s courteous, not just what’s legally permitted.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        It’s also important to remember that music practice can be a lot more annoying to listen to than playing a full song- repetition, starts and stops, only hearing part of the piece… kind of like how hard it is to tune out half a phone conversation.

    2. feministbookworm*

      I am a horn player (though no longer for money) and I’ve taken a month off from playing because I can’t figure out how to do it without driving my fellow apartment dwellers insane. My original plan was going to be to take the horn to the large park outside my apartment and practice there, but all our parks are officially closed to the public, and somehow I think the cops might not be as tolerant of horn playing as they appear to be of dog walking.

  30. CatCat*

    One challenge right now is talking to neighbors at all when you don’t have contact info for them other than their door and you need to keep at least 6 feet between you. Our neighbors were making a bunch of noise upstairs (no idea what they were up to, but it went on for hours). We tried knocking on their door and then going partway down the stairs, but they didn’t answer. We left a kind note explaining our situation (note not usually ideal, but circumstances are not ideal) and offering to talk to them on the phone or text about it and my spouse left his cell number.

    They did stop whatever was making the racket.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Meh, even in a regular situation, I’m not answering the door if someone knocks on it. Being a single woman who grew up in a bad area, go ahead and leave a note. No I’m not calling you either. We’re just renting space in the same building, go ahead and go through the landlord…that’s what they’re there for, tbh.

      Just like I’ll call the cops if it’s a noise complaint if it’s past ordinance in our area. Dad always taught me to talk to the actual authority figures, cops or landlord not to individuals because they can then know you complained and know where you parked your car, etc.

      1. Breeze*

        Cops have an unfortunate tendency to brutalize and/or murder vulnerable people (even during the response to non-emergency calls such as noise complains) so they’re my absolute last resort for stuff like this.

        Same goes for the landlord, but to a lesser extreme. I don’t want somebody to lose their access to housing because I sicced the authorities on them, especially without at least trying to work something out directly like a couple of adults first.

        1. Karia*

          I feel like you’re completely ignoring the context here, which was ‘grew up in a bad area’. From experience, trying to work things out like adults doesn’t often work. Instead it can lead to vandalism and acrimony. If the communication comes from the landlord, the person involved doesn’t know it was you. That way they don’t smash your fence down, attack your pet etc. (Source, tried to work things out like adults, should have gone straight to the authorities).

          1. Breeze*

            Actually, I’d expect that “bad neighborhood” would increase the chances of problems from aggressive cops and predatory landlords.

            It also probably increases the chance that the people you’re setting them on are in a vulnerable population, and therefore much more at risk from this sort of thing.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          So I risk myself getting my property or persons damaged over this extreme fear. Hell no.

          I’m calling over something that’s against the rules or law, I’m not just mad someone is stomping or some nonsense.

          I’m an advocate for prison reform. I’m still calling the cops when someone is a possible danger to myself or my property. I’ve seen windows busted out, cars keyed and tires slashed over trying to handle things yourself.

        3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I feel like you’ve never had a gun pulled on you for asking someone if they’d move out of your parking space…I’m glad you haven’t, it’s life changing.

          I call the landlords and have them do their GD job.

          1. Breeze*

            So to be clear, somebody you don’t know who is playing their music too loud qualifies as a “possible danger to yourself or your property” in the absence of any other context or information?

            I’ve never had a gun pulled on me as a result of a parking dispute, but I did have a deranged biker neighbor threaten to kill me and burn my house down because I asked him not to park his van in front of my driveway. So partial credit, I guess?

            I’m still not defaulting to calling the cops for non-emergencies unless I have reason to expect somebody is dangerous beyond “They’re a stranger and their BBQ is too loud” or similar.

            1. Crop Tiger*

              Uhh, yes? And I hope you called the cops on deranged biker dude?

              Also, The Man Becky Lynch didn’t say to call the cops. They said to call the landlord. I’m a landlord and please, call me. I’ll pitch a problem tenant out on their ear, and call the cops if they threaten violence.

      2. CatCat*

        Our goal is to work with the neighbors and communicate with them. It would be total overkill for us to go straight to the landlord or the cops. Especially since it turns out going to the neighbors resolved the issue.

  31. LQ*

    One of the things that you should keep in mind is not only are there likely people working from home. But you may have some medical professionals in your building who need to sleep during unusual hours. My building is about half medical folks, not everyone works a different shift, but enough do that the building sort of settled on, they are all quiet hours. Please be kind to folks who have to sleep during the day too.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Another good point. My building also has a lot of medical professionals in it, so they definitely need rest and relaxation right now.

    2. Three Cats in a Trenchcoat*

      Honestly, as a medical professional who frequently works odd hours… I understand that the entire world can’t work around my schedule. My husband has to be quiet when working from home while I sleep during the day, but that’s different than expecting musicians to give up doing something important (practicing while being a part of a music program is important!) or doing their best to earn some money. Anyone who relied on live gigs is in a lot of financial trouble right now!

      I’d certainly appreciate an effort to be polite and keep the sound as contained as possible (above, a lot of commentators had sound proofing ideas) , but I very much understand that when I moved into a large apartment complex I was risking noise from my neighbors.

  32. Captain Kirk*

    Speaking as someone who’s brother plays the trumpet and the bagpipes, the bagpipes are in a whole other world compared to the trumpet. He hasn’t tried practicing them in his apartment; he’d probably have a mob with torches and pitchforks outside his door. I think you’d be stuck practicing on the practice chanter right now, but it’s just not the same.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I have been in the same room with bagpipes played indoors and cannot recommend it. And that’s from somebody who really loves bagpipes.

      I went to college with a piper and his solution was to ask a local farmer–small town in the midwest–if he could practice in his cornfield. Yes, you could still hear it.

    2. KoiFeeder*

      My dad still has his old practice bagpipes just in case of neighbor trouble.

      I don’t believe he ever actually learned to play.

    3. Apartment Bagpiper*

      I’ve been playing my bagpipes in my apartment. I slipped a note under all my neighbors doors explaining, saying what time of day I’d be playing on what days of the week (after work M-F, afternoons on the weekend), and gave everyone my cell number and said they could text me and ask that I stop if I chose a particularly bad time.

      And yeah, practice chanter is just not the same.

  33. KR*

    I’ve recently picked up the flute again after playing for 9 years and then taking a break. I definitely have sympathy for my neighbors as I can hit many of the high notes but my breath control isn’t good enough to play them piano yet. OP, it would probably help (if you play an instrument like mine) to do your drills down an octave until after the work day is complete.

  34. I'm A Little Teapot*

    OP, in addition to the be-a-decent-neighbor stuff, there is one thing you can do regardless: play on the quieter side. Yes, a tuba is loud. But it can be loud, or it can be LOUD. Do not do LOUD right now. Even if the music calls for it. Be very specific with your professor or others as needed – you’re deliberately not playing at fff because you’re trying to be considerate of your neighbors, yes you understand that increasing the volume is appropriate for the piece, but neighbors.

    If you’re just practicing for yourself, use a mute. Maybe won’t work for every situation, but it will some of the time.

    1. Eliza*

      OP mentions in one of the posts above that they’re a singer, which makes it a bit more difficult to keep things quiet.

  35. Styx*

    Haha the band right below me just started up! For the most part it doesn’t bother me, but they tend to turn up their amps full blast. If at all possible, I would recommend not doing that. There are ways to make this work for both parties!

  36. LilySparrow*

    Is there nothing in the lease or building bylaws specifying quiet hours?

    I realize not everyone is a direct renter with a written lease, but many are. This should be the first place to check.

    There’s a big psychological difference between “Eek, I’m in trouble and might get evicted” vs “I am doing everything I reasonably can to be a good neighbor.”

    If you & your friend know your rights, it can help you find a feasible middle ground, in case the neighbors aren’t inclined to be reasonable themselves.

  37. Koala dreams*

    I agree that the best thing is to talk to your closest neighbours and come to a compromise. Their livelihood also depends on quiet and peace at home right now, for sleeping or focusing on their work. Maybe you can put up a note where you explain your situation, and ask them to call you.

    Speak to your landlord, too. Many landlords have rules about quiet hours, and it’s better to tell them in advance, instead of waiting for the complaints to roll in.

    Meanwhile, you can look into ways to lower the sound, such as fabrics as improvised sound protection, electric versions of acoustic instruments for practice (those electric violins are really quiet!) or whatever else you can come up with.

  38. Beth*

    This is a case where it’s going to be impossible to please everyone. Having lived in Manhattan for a couple years, I’m familiar with NYC apartments, and a lot of ‘solutions’ just aren’t possible in most of them. For example, most are too small for ‘move to another part of the apartment’ to be a feasible option; that might change which neighbor hears you loudest, but all your neighbors are probably going to hear you still. You probably also have limited soundproofing options in a rental (especially since under the circumstances, you can’t exactly go out to buy things like extra rugs or sound dampening panels). And you have enough neighbors in very close spaces that no matter what time of day you play, you’re going to be interrupting someone–an office worker’s zoom call, a toddler’s naptime, an early riser’s bedtime, a night owl’s sleep-in. You probably have too many neighbors in your building to realistically negotiate with all of them, and it may be unpredictable which can hear you (given that many buildings are older, and sound can echo weirdly through pipes and walls). There’s not a reasonable expectation of quiet space in NYC in the same way as there is in even other big cities I’ve lived in; in my apartment, at pretty much any hour except from like 2am-6am, I definitely heard large amounts of sound from neighbors’ piano practice (I swear someone nearby must have been running lessons out of their apartment), salsa music, TV show noise, tuba practice, jazz, shouted arguments, loud phone calls, etc. It’s just part of the space.

    OP, I think your best option is going to be to just be as civil and polite as you can about it. If you have routine times (e.g. a synchronous class) that you know you’re always going to be playing, you might consider posting a note on your door with a brief explanation of your situation and that schedule. If you have a specific neighbor who you know is particularly bothered by it, you might try to accommodate their schedule where possible for you, not because you have to but because it will help preserve neighborly relations. But you also have to do what you have to do, and frankly as long as you’re not playing at top volume at midnight, this is somewhat par for the course in such a densely packed city.

    1. Bee*

      This is where I fall too. Be as considerate and accommodating as possible, use a mute, avoid sleeping hours (including babies’ naptimes if relevant and possible), but also…living in NYC means living with noise. (Frankly I’d welcome it if it dampened the sirens.)

  39. Willow*

    My brother is a professional musician. He now practices in the empty parking garage of an office building down the street. The acoustics are wonderful, and his wife (and their apartment neighbors) can work in peace.

    1. need a new screen name and have no imagination*

      When I was in college, one of my roommates was a music major who played the French horn.

      She frequently practiced in the basement of our dorm. She said the acoustics were nice down there.

      We could still hear her in our suite, on the third floor, but dimly.

  40. Leah K.*

    I really hope that none of OP’s neighbors has a baby or a young toddler and has to deal with constantly interrupted naps and nighttime sleep. Honestly, that would have been enough to make me homicidal back when my daughter was little and would take 40 minutes to rock to sleep and then wake up at the slightest noise.

  41. Apartment Bagpiper*

    Professional bagpiper who lives in an apartment here.

    When my (shared, public) usual practice space no longer was an option, I wrote a note to my apartment neighbors explaining the situation, that I would bagpipe between the hours of X and Y for no more than an hour. And that if I chose a particularly bad time, they could text me and I would stop.

    Another bagpiper I know took this approach when she started learning bagpipes and lived in an apartment building.

    1. Apartment Bagpiper*

      One of my neighbor actually wrote me a note back saying they appreciated my consideration and that they looked forward to hearing it!

      And, once this is over, I’m giving them a little gift card to the nearest grocery store.

  42. MistOrMister*

    I have been finding the need to vacuum a lot lateltly. It irks me to not be able to do so at 5am when I’m up feeding my cats, but I don’t because I figure the neighbors (townhouse dweller, here) would burn me in effigy. I try to vacuum no earlier than 8am and no later than 8 or 9 pm. If someone asked me to not vacuum after 3 I would try really hard to be accomadating. But I realize having to coordinate for work isn’t as forgiving schedulewise. Hopefully some sort of compromise can be worked out.

    I will say though, I have started playing the recorder and the room I practice in usually has an open window. I do wonder what my neighbors think when/if they hear it.

  43. TK*

    LW, if you told me to be quiet while you played your instrument for hours on end, I would go out of my way to make extra noise while you were playing. Why should I have to to tiptoe in my own living space while you don’t?

    1. allathian*

      Yeah. I could understand the request for quiet if it’s a streamed performance or ensemble practice. But for solo practice of scales or fingerings? Forget it.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        So you’d understand if it was the situation described in the letter but not if it was a different situation you just made up? Cool, cool. And you posted this to agree with the person who said everyone can be as loud as they want in their own home because eff everybody else that’s why? Got it.

  44. SovereignSF*

    We are having a similar issue… My husband is a professional pianist and we also live in an expensive, densely crowded city. We have a large apartment, but the large apartment below us (and the one below that) is filled with people – multiple people per bedroom – and directly below us, one of the people living there uses the living room as his bedroom. As one would expect, our piano is located in our living room, above his “bedroom”. Guy downstairs is now unemployed, unfortunately. My husband used to do his best to rehearse/practice while the guy was at work to avoid bothering him. The guy really hates the piano, which I get – it’s not like he can just go into another room to escape the noise, because there is no other room he can go to – and retaliates by blasting loud music. He and his roommates have also been historically awful and disrespectful (constant loud music from subwoofers in every room of the house, including bedrooms; same music, screaming and arguing in the middle of the night, among many, many, many other issues that you’d expect from neighbors like this), so it’s just difficult for me to feel any sympathy for them. It’s a tough situation.

  45. Mahkara*

    Just from a practical perspective, I’d try to talk to/warn neighbors and ask for what is easiest for them, what’s negotiable (practice) and what’s non-negotiable (performances).

    I could easily see this blowing into a thing where, if OP gets huffy and is like, “I CAN MAKE ANY NOISE I WANT WHENEVER I WANT TO AS IT’S MY JOB” that the neighbors could easily retaliate by blaring the loudest music they can find right back. It’s lose-lose. (Where as hopefully asking for quiet during the performances and agreeing to do everything else when convenient for the neighbors is win-win. I like music, but even I get a bit annoyed by “practice” music or hearing just one part of a symphony.)

  46. Also an apartment musician*

    I do want to commiserate with the LW – this time is so so rough on musicians. Not in a way that’s necessarily worse than for others, but in a way that’s very different. Not for everyone, but for many if not most musicians, music is both a job and a hobby, so being extremely limited in performance and practice situations is kind of like not being able to work well AND not being able to knit or run or do puzzles or what have you.

    I do think that trying to communicate with neighbors is a great suggestion, and I do think that we are all going to have to practice less than we would like to – those who are talking about an hour a day when neighbors are away likely don’t realize that many musicians play four or five or six hours a day. And we probably just cannot play that much right now. Trying to practice silently, and away from our instruments are going to be especially useful right now. But I also do think just like someone having a meeting might have an unavoidable noisy child sometimes, they might have a noisy music lesson sometimes. And equally, streaming concerts might have “audience noises” that you can’t control.

    I wish I had better suggestions! I think that, just like everyone, work is just going to have to be a little subpar right now.

  47. Kau*

    OP: Spends 3 paragraphs explaining how important them making music is and how the neighbors should not have complained.

    Also OP: My neighbors (who haven’t complained) are so loud and it will ruin my music (even though I haven’t talked to them about it)

    1. mf*

      The OP is making music because it’s “important” to them. They are doing it because it’s their job. And like the rest of us, they probably need that job to survive.

  48. Mynona*

    My partner is a musician who teaches from home, and we’ve only ever lived in rented apartments. It sounds like the OP’s situation is fine, and the classmate just has to negotiate hours with the landlord. If it’s not possible for her to only play before 3 pm, that’s a reasonable response. But for future reference, OP, this is an important issue to figure out when you are looking at apartments in the future. Is management okay with you practicing? Do the neighbors have kids? The manager will probably know if the unit is next to a serial complainer. Top floor/bottom floor/exterior wall units are better because they reduce the number of party walls. If you have to take whatever you can find (like in NYC), know that setting expectations with neighbors is part of being a working musician (much like flying with your instrument). In my experience, noise complaints are much more common in “nicer”/more upscale buildings than in crummier buildings.

    1. Jessen*

      It sounds like under normal circumstances, the classmate would be practicing in a dedicated studio space rather than in their own home. With the current situation, those spaces have been shut down and they don’t have any other options for where to practice. Most music schools have dedicated practice rooms for students so they don’t have to annoy the neighbors.

  49. Karia*

    Has it occurred to you that your music might be restricting their ability to earn their livelihood? Many work from home jobs require answering the phone.

  50. BeesKnees*

    I’m surprised by the number of commenters who seem to be ignoring the fact that musicians are…working from home.

    It would be great if their music never impacted anyone ever, but that’s not the way the cookie crumbles. I wish I didn’t hear the massive construction project outside my window, but that’s life in a quarantine. OP, communicate as much as possible to your neighbors, make reasonable attempts to schedule things at convenient times and muffle noise, but prioritize your own career as well. You get to earn a living.

    1. Karia*

      People aren’t ignoring it. They’re just acknowledging that a) so are other people b) so are medical professionals who may need to sleep during the day c) kids and babies may be napping.

      While yes, OP gets to earn a living, it’s hardly fair if they prevent ten other people from doing so.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Nobody is ignoring it, we’re pointing out that their need to do so doesn’t trump anyone else’s need to do so, either.

    3. Beth*

      Yeah, we’re not talking about a hobbyist doing this for fun. OP and their classmates need to keep playing–it’s their career. We’re in a scenario here where everyone is suddenly uncomfortably stuck with our neighbors and their sounds (OP as much as anyone! Hearing a neighbor’s baby or zoom call or whatever in the background can interfere with their livelihood as much as their neighbors hearing them play in the background might interfere with their lives!), and we all have to find ways to suck it up and deal. OP’s work isn’t higher priority than everyone else’s, but it’s not lower priority either, and as much as they should be accommodating where possible, their neighbors should also be thinking of it as an unavoidable consequence of the pandemic rather than something to file complaints about.

    4. mf*

      Yeah, I agree with this.

      Some jobs have more flexibility than the OP’s work. I have an office job that involves some phone calls and meetings via Zoom. If I had a musician living in the apartment next door, I could ask my coworkers to avoid scheduling calls during the musician’s recording or teaching hours. I can still conduct work via IM or email during that time. But if the OP wants to work, they have no other option but to make a lot of noise.

      1. Karia*

        I’m furloughed now but before that my office job had zero flexibility. I couldn’t ask clients not to call because my neighbour was playing his tuba. That’s not how most jobs work.

        1. allathian*

          No, but in these situations when people are working from home, both clients and employers must understand that there can be background noise in the call. Some from the employee’s own home and for apartment dwellers, from other apartments. It’s unrealistic to expect anything else. It’s not as if the music is equivalent of someone drilling the breezeblock/concrete walls, surely?

          1. Karia*

            I hope that they would understand , that’s true. It’s more that a lot of jobs involving clients, including customer service, support and marketing, work on the client’s schedule, not yours. If you have a queue of calls, you can’t just tell your boss that you’re not available for three hours a day because of what your neighbour is up to.

        2. Ego Chamber*

          Lemme make sure I get this: Your job had zero flexibility. You couldn’t reschedule client calls because of the job’s inflexibility. You’re now unemployed. You’re also resentful of your imaginary neighbor’s hypothetical tuba practice because that situation would conflict with the job you had if you’d tried to work from home, which wasn’t an option because of the job’s zero flexibility.


          1. Karia*

            Don’t be dramatic. I’m not unemployed, I’m furloughed and getting 80% of my pay. I worked fine from home, (except for neighbour’s drilling). Most jobs don’t have that flexibility – if a client wants to talk to you, they’re going to call, and putting them off because someone’s playing the Tuba is going to sound absurd.

            I don’t really understand why you so deliberately misread my comment.

    5. Koala dreams*

      I haven’t seen any comments ignoring that. The thing is, during this time, nobody can be expected to work as effective or be as productive when working from home, as in normal times when people choose to work from home because it made sense based on their personal circumstances. The advice to adapt the schedule, talk with your professor (manager) about reasonable expectations, and compromise with other people, are similar to the advice given to other work from home letter writers.

      We all want to earn a living, but in these trying circumstances, we can’t go on as normal. Some people can’t do their jobs anymore, some have had their hours cut. It’s great that some musicians can work from home, but it’s unrealistic to expect work to go on as usual.

  51. jeweled tortoise*

    Professional brass player here, addressing the mute suggestion and some other issues that have been brought up. Mutes are not practical for long-term use, because they screw you up physically over time. They change the air resistance on the instrument, which can lead to changed technique and actual injury which can seriously effect a professional musician’s career. So while a mute might be practical for short term use, say a half hour a few days a week, the demands of being a professional trombonist or trumpet player — which by the way, are similar to those of a professional athlete, in that a lot of the upkeep is very specific physical movements — require far more practice. It’s not a matter of compromise; it’s a matter of what actually needs to be done to maintain our physical shape in order to keep working.

    That said, as a brass player I also recognize that my instrument is loud. I live in a house with a toddler and I have neighbors. I have never had anyone complain — and that is because I immediately approached everyone around me to explain the situation and work out times that would be acceptable for me to work and practice in. There ARE compromises that can be made on that end. I don’t practice when the baby is sleeping, I don’t teach online lessons or classes when others need to have work zoom meetings and use up the bandwidth, etc. It can be worked out, and reasonable people understand that everyone is compromising right now.

    Regarding the inflexibility with scheduling, it is true that there are certain things that mean moving the playing time is impossible. These could mean set group classes in different time zones, unwillingness of course directors to accommodate their musician employees’ schedules, evening concerts that might send a trickle of money in because oh my god we are hurting right now SO MUCH (all of my performance work has been cancelled until August and even online concerts pay, like, a tenth of what I need to survive), juggling a million other student/musician schedules…the list goes on. But I think a real sit-down with neighbors and others who are effected by this goes such a long way. This is hard, but it can be made to work.

    As a fellow musician, sending solidarity. We’ll get through this.

  52. Noise disliker*

    I lived in NYC for many years and am a stressball about noise so I sympathize with both the neighbors and OP and even though I’m an introvert, I have to encourage OP to consider TALKING to the neighbors as the only solution here rather than hoping that manners or conventions or laws will tell both sides what to do without discussion. I also think there’s a tendency to consider your own noise necessary or normal and other people’s noise discretionary or weird, and that’s not helping here.

    My script for this would be, in a nutshell, “Hi, I’m OP, I’m a professional X player. I’m sorry if I’ve been driving you nuts but I need to do practice and record. I usually practice from noon to 2 and then I record with other people from 6 to 8. I can change my practice time because that’s just me, if that time is causing problems. The recording involves other people so I can’t change the time on that unfortunately. Sometimes when I’m recording I can hear your video games and I’m afraid they’re getting picked up by the microphone. Do you think you could try to minimize that sound during that time?” Personally if I heard this, I’d be relieved to be having a discussion about the noise and have some sense that I could influence what’s going on.

    My mindhack for getting stressed out about noise is to accept that humans make noise and be grateful for all the times they’re NOT. On my current street some nearby teens like to celebrate nice weather by blasting music from a parked car. At first I was kind of annoyed that I’m forced to listen to music that would not be my choice while sitting in my own tiny outdoor space. But I soon realized that they do it for about an hour at time. Not sure if a parent tells them to stop them or what. But they’re good kids who are just hanging out being teens, and now I know they’re not going to do it forever, so I don’t care. Something I’m telling myself about more than noise these days: nothing is forever!

  53. Anonnington*

    Noisy urban musician right here! I have dealt with this in numerous apartments, with a wide variety of neighbors. My strategy: I exchange phone numbers with neighbors whenever possible. I tell them, “I play music. I’ll do my best not to bother you. If it’s too loud or bad timing, please text me and let me know.” When I think it might be bothersome, I hive the neighbors a warning text. “I need to play music for twenty minutes. If it’s a bad time, please let me know. I can wait until tomorrow if that would be better.”

    I’ve only had one person be bothered by it, ever. She lived down the street, was at home studying a lot, and was sensitive to noise. I really tried to work with her, but it was hard because instead of being reasonable, she would send me angry messages or even show up at my door in tears. I played for about an hour once a week. I tried to ask when would be a good time, like when she would be in class or out running errands. No luck. I ended up just renting a rehearsal studio and that was that.

    Anyway, since the law is on your side, I say meet them half way. Tell them you need to play and ask when would be the best times. Look into sound dampening options and let them know you’re working on that. And maybe offer some small favor in exchange for their putting up with it and working with you. Or give them a small gift. Whatever fits the people/building, etc. Some people are really sensitive to noise, so I like to go the extra mile. But, realistically, they live in NYC, so if they are that sensitive to noise they can get noise-cancelling headphones and sound-proof their own apartment. It’s not just you; it’s a fact of urban living. They should appreciate that it’s not a loud party every night or something like that.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Ugh. The woman who lived down the street from you (!) and would send you angry messages and come to your door in tears because you played one hour once a week (!) has zero business living in a city. I literally lived in the apartment next door to a musician who’d practice at all sorts of weird hours, including 4 am, and I wasn’t thrilled about that but I sucked it up. (Don’t practice at 4 am! But you were being more than reasonable.)

      That kind of extreme noise sensitivity is an expression of a desire for control of others, or a “look how delicate and special I am” kind of affectation. I mean, the tears are manipulative BS. I once lived with someone who would have terrifying screaming rages at people who *walked* on the floor above him at night, so I really have no patience for that behavior.

  54. Rainey*

    I have sympathy on both sides because I dislike it when my neighbors play loud music for hours on end and well into the night…. and I’m also an opera singer and must practice. I don’t live in an apartment complex, but rather in a house where I have the ground floor and then have upstairs neighbors on the top floor. The first thing I told them when I moved in is that I sing opera and we agreed upon appropriate singing hours (and they were very kind – I can sing any time from 10am – 10pm). Fortunately for them, I can’t play my instrument all day long; I max out at about 2 hours. And if I’m sick, I won’t sing for days, sometimes a full week to two weeks. If our next door neighbors are out in their yards, they can hear me too (I have a half joking/half serious responses where anytime someone says, “I heard you singing,” I immediately respond with, “I’m sorry.”)

    Now, our neighbors two houses down like to blast mariachi music for 12 hours on end well past midnight at times, to the point where I can feel the walls vibrating, and they ignore all requests to turn it down. So while I am a noisemaker, I like to think I’m not the most obnoxious one on the block.

    1. YoungTen*

      I lived downstairs from neighbors who seemed to party every week. Baby’s Christing? banda and mariachi till 5am, birthday party? something! They weren’t bad people but when I would have to wake up for work the next day tired, the last thing I wanted was to reciprocate the cheerful greeting they would give me.

  55. Anonamama*

    These responses are all assuming that reasonable compromises with neighbors are possible. I lived on the 2nd floor condo for the last 4 years before moving to a single-family home literally the week before things went on lock down here in California. I also have a 5 year old and for the 4 years we lived in our condo we were constantly getting notices from the HOA that the owner below us was complaining about noise from us. Literally theyowuld pound on our walls for things like simply walking in our house, making a smoothie with the blender at 3 pm, etc. We tried to talk to them, but they refused to engage in anything other than phone calls to the HOA. After a while, we gave up trying to work with them. We, and our child, live in our house and are allowed to walk and make normal noise in our home. My point is that the neighbors may be unreasonable and not willing to listen and if that is the case, OP has to just do their best and live their life.

    1. ROI*

      Sure, there are some unreasonable people out there. But that doesn’t mean the OP should start by assuming all their neighbors are amongst that group and skipping the entirely reasonable approach of seeking compromise. To do so would make the OP the unreasonable one.

      Reasonable compromises with neighbors ARE possible, in many cases. Your anecdote doesn’t change that. OP shouldn’t avoid doing something because there’s a slight chance it won’t work.

      But I get the feeling your comment wasn’t really about helping the OP, just you seizing a chance to express your own experience regardless. I hope it helped you at least, as it’s not really helpful for the OP.

  56. YoungTen*

    The neighbors aren’t trying to restrict your or your friend’s ability to earn a living any more than you are trying to be a nuisance. It’s not like its a speaker that can be turned down. No! its live music through thin walls! Most people didn’t sign up for that. Remember that they are some people in life you are better off working with then pissing off. Coworkers and Neighbors are on the top of that list.

  57. Brett*

    Wanted to note that the laws quoted above are rare in other states.
    My wife is a music teacher and professional player, with colleagues throughout Missouri and Illinois. Neither state has such protections, and, as a result, many landlords include a clause in the lease that outright forbids playing any musical instrument in the apartment building (and even more have clauses forbidding music lessons of any type).

    As a result, music teachers and musicians in this area have to be very upfront with landlords about their profession before moving it and make sure that the lease clearly spells out when they can practice, play, or teach lessons in the apartment. They do this even if they already have a practice or teaching space available, because circumstances will come up that require using a home space. It makes finding an apartment more difficult (and more expensive) but prevents problems like these.

  58. OP*

    I appreciate learning about how having a musician for a neighbor can impact other people’s jobs. I didn’t really think of that in the context of how it happened.

    The original complaint was made at around 7:30 pm on a Friday, which seemed to me to be both outside working hours but too early to be a concern for people sleeping. I’m sure we both have been noisy during business hours, although that didn’t seem to be a concern for the neighbor who only wanted music BEFORE 3 pm.

    1. mf*

      I grew up in a family of musicians, so I have a lot of sympathy for you. I think as long as you are apologetic about the noise, keep your playing within non-sleeping hours (between 8 AM and 10 PM, maybe?) and try to stick to a predictable schedule, that’s probably the best you can reasonably do.

      A lot of commenters are saying that they “didn’t sign up” to listen to their neighbor’s live music at home, but the fact of the matter is, NONE of us signed up for this. I think it’s similar to people are who are trying to work from home while parenting small children: It’s just an unfortunate side effect of the pandemic, it’s going to effect how productive and stressed out we are, and there’s no good solution. We all just need to be patient and kind with one another until this is over.

      1. mf*

        Also, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend talking to each of your neighbors to try to accommodate their schedules (which has been recommended a few times here). What are you going to do if one neighbor has an infant that sleeps 12 hours at night and another neighbor works 12 hours during the day? It’s just not feasible to accommodate everybody’s schedule.

        1. Meh*

          But this is not reason not to try. It may very well be that both neighbors have a preference for no noise from 2-4pm, one because of a child’s nap, one because of conference calls.

          If the times don’t align it is what it is, it’s not like the OP would have promised to satisfy everyone. OP could communicate back if no consensus was achieved as to best times to practice.

          But let’s not give up on trying to arrive at a middle ground (especially since the OP may need to ask a neighbor to be quiet during an important time as well.

          1. Cabbagepants*

            I agree that trying to try is a very good way to start.

            I’d personally be very cautious, though, with the conversation. Certain types of people will interpret an offer of potential accommodation as promising to accommodate forever.

            1. Meh*

              Agree, Cabbagepants–setting the right expectations from the get go would be important. You want to show willingness to try to be accommodating, but making clear that it may not be possible to make everybody 100% happy under the limitations we are all facing

    2. Beth*

      Yeah, no, 7:30 PM on a Friday is an entirely reasonable time to be making some noise.

      The bottom line here is, yes you’re probably being disruptive for some people, but given the circumstances, there’s not that much you can do about it. You need to practice, you’re not allowed to be anywhere but home, and there’s only so much soundproofing one can do in an NYC apartment. As long as you’re being polite and trying your best to respect apartment social norms (e.g. no 2am tuba practice), you’re doing fine. If it makes you feel better, you’re almost definitely not the only intrusive noise people are getting; there will be screaming babies, vacuuming, the neighbor’s TV, etc. as well, so don’t feel like it’s somehow only you disrupting everyone else in an otherwise silent space.

    3. Tiny Soprano*

      Yeah I always used to look up the noise regulations for power tools whenever I moved (because that’s more the volume range I operate in) and comply with those. Everywhere I’ve lived that would have been technically legal. And more acceptable on a Friday I feel. I’d totally get it if it was a Sunday or a Monday!

  59. Snarkaeologist*

    Do you have a closet big enough to squeeze a chair in? Sound-proofing a small room doesn’t cost much if you’re only trying to get to 75% noise blocking rather then 100%. If the closets don’t work making yourself a booth/fort is doable. It’s obviously harder now that you can’t really scrounge for free materials, but some thick blankets, heavy curtains, and weather sealing will still really help.

    1. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

      Now I am envisioning a pillow fort like we used to make as kids. Strange noises are coming out of it, and when you peek inside there is a big man playing a full size cello.

      A pillow fort would be a slightly awesome sound booth if don’t need as much space, or at least my inner child is quite excited about the idea.

    2. Pennyworth*

      I used to live in a street where the the local teenagers used to rehearse their rock band in a nearby shed. I didn’t about it for some time because they had lined it with old mattresses for soundproofing. Amazon sells closed-cell foam sound absorbing sheets, they might help

  60. CAWilson*

    Old friends of my parents were fed up with kids kicking their football about at all hours, the ball going into their garden and things, so they sold up and accidentally bought a new house next door to the drummer from Deacon Blue.

  61. Lilian*

    So many people seem to be biased against accommodating musicians in the comments. It is a legitimate job, and while you obviously have flexibility with individual rehearsals, you cannot reschedule a whole orchestra rehearsal because of one member’s neighbor’s one-sidedly imposed restrictions – what about the other orchestra members’ neighbors? Before 3pm would probably tick off most people working from home even more. And of course you cannot reschedule concerts to before 3pm, I don’t think it even needs an explanation. My guess is that OP and their workmates are already doing sound proofing and other efforts because that’s the first thing you do.
    If neighbors are having issues with conference calls because of the music, they also should have some flexibility with them, and they shouldn’t have to sacrifice everything but it has to be a -two way street- – not everything coming “top down” from the neighbors.
    Lots of musicians are struggling right now much more then other people who get to work from home – so many of them are in danger of actually having no food on their plates – I don’t think they should be treated as if they are not doing legitimate work and have to be even more accommodating than anyone else.

    1. Karia*

      It’s not bias. Most jobs legitimately do not have the flexibility you seem to think they do. If the client wants to talk at 3, you talk at 3. If someone is playing the tuba next door, it may prevent you from doing your job. Consideration goes both ways.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Anybody halfway reasonable is understanding about background noise on calls right now, though. A neighbor practicing is not going to be so loud it drowns out a call unless it’s drums, heavily amplified, or ridiculously thin walls.

  62. NotMonkeyNotMyCircus*

    The problem with the noise in the background, is that people may be turning their tv or music on, or maybe louder to try and drown out your music. So I don’t think it’s really reasonable to be in the mindset that you have a right to play your music, and ask your neighbours to keep their noise down so you can record your music. The louder you go, the louder they may need to go. Start saving your egg cartons, and putting them together to put on the walls and ceilings to buffer the noise. Hang blankets on your walls, if you don’t have carpet put blankets on your floor. Cover heating or cooling vents, noise travels through the pipes. Bonus, if you buffer your place for incoming noise, you will also be buffering the noise leaving your place.

  63. oh wow yikes bad advice yo*

    Wow, uh:

    What you shouldn’t do is take the stand that it’s allowed and so, shrug, too bad. When you live in close proximity to other people and can hear each other’s noises — and especially when everyone is stressed and trapped at home — some appearance of trying to work with each other and having real concern for others’ needs (on both sides) is crucial to everyone’s quality of life.
    It’s going to help if you don’t look at it as your neighbors “trying to restrict our ability to earn our livelihoods,” but rather as people trying to have some peace in their own space and possibly being driven mad by music they can’t control, in the midst of the most stressful time in most of our lives, and when they can’t leave.

    No, uh, they should absolutely take the position that their making music IS not only allowed, but necessary. They have no choice. No one deserves to fail out of school simply for reasons of manners. This WOULD be interfering with their livelihoods. My god! Really? Yeah, they shouldn’t be dicks about it, but I think it’s pretty possible to talk to one’s neighbors and try to come to an understanding.

  64. Lady Farquaad*

    Basic courtesy and communication will raise people’s tolerance threshold by miles. I had neighbours with a colicky baby and would screech at all hours. The parents were sincerely apologetic and said they were doing all they can to keep the baby calm, but obviously his crying was beyond their control. While the disruption was annoying I understood their dilemma and tolerated it. On the other hand, I had another neighbour who just didn’t GAF about their loud drunken parties despite numerous complaints. Even though the parties were way less frequent than the baby’s crying it angered me so much more and I used to buzz their intercom at 5am to wake them up in petty revenge.

    You can’t make all your neighbours agree on an acceptable time frame to practice music. But definitely give a polite heads up like Alison suggested. Acknowledge the potential disruption and mention you will limit your music from x to z hours. Generally people will be much more understanding when you try to meet people half way, too.

  65. Fabulous*

    I have so much sympathy for the OP. I hope everything works out! I have my own story of crazy neighbors if it makes you feel any better…

    When I was living in Chicago as a working actor (of musical theatre) I regularly needed to practice my singing (and sometimes dancing) at home, and often in front of my computer which was in my bedroom. I tried to be considerate and always practice either on the weekends during the day or weekdays before 8pm, but shortly before I left town I got a new downstairs neighbor. This lady was Crazy with a capital C. She would yell and scream any time I started practicing, bang on her ceiling with a broom, the whole nine yards.

    After the first time, I’d left her a note explaining I was a working actor and I needed to practice singing for an hour or two each week and that I would do it at regular daytime hours, and that I had also contacted my landlord who said quiet hours started at 10pm so I was being more than considerate. I don’t know how often they had talked to this lady toward the end, but she would not relent. At one point she even came up to my door and we had a confrontation in the hallway where I ended up calling the police.

    I’ll just say I was so glad to move out, though she did piss and moan the entire time I was packing and moving my furniture. I couldn’t even walk across my apartment with a box without being screamed at. I sincerely hope she got a tap dancer, a yappy dog, or a newborn baby as a new neighbor! Some people are just pieces of work…

  66. Amethystmoon*

    Could they do this over the noon hour when most people are eating lunch, and then change your lunch hour to earlier or later, depending? Just a thought — but if it’s at a time when others are taking a break and not working, perhaps they would be less irritated?

  67. Rewe*

    We just had a story in the news about a opera singer (household name in my country) that is stuck here due to pandemic and cannot return to her studio in NYC. She lives in an apartment and posted a message downstairs “dear neighbours, I live in apartment x and I will be doing my vocal training approximately x h/day between the hours of x-x. I apologise for any inconvenience. Beat regards, x x.”

  68. Orchestral Musician*

    I’m also a professional violinist and I really worry about this! To be honest, I haven’t been practicing a lot during self-isolation since all my work is canceled and I’ve been dealing with mental health issues. And as I’ve lived in my current apartment building for 12 years, my neighbors are pretty used to me practicing. However, my roommate is now at home all the time. I try to practice with a practice mute when she’s working for the most part, and take it off after 5. So far it hasn’t been an issue, but we’ll see. OP, I wish you and your classmates the best of luck and hope the neighbors are understanding. We all have to make some compromises right now, but you should be able to do your schoolwork and earn a living as much as anyone.

  69. I Like Stripes*

    I urge you and your friend to post something on your door or somehow communicate with your neighbors and exchange numbers or something. Preferably something two way instead of one way.

    The reason we are home is because of a pandemic. Lives are at stake and neighbors must come together to help one another. Possibly your neighbors lives if they come down with COVID19. Should one become sick, it would be important they can contact you to adjust any arrangements you may have made in case they need round the clock rest. Lives first, then livelihoods. Just another perspective that hasn’t been offered yet in the comments.

    I’ve read some of your replies OP, it sounds like you are doing what you can, good luck with the trying situation.

  70. Retired but Read Religiously*

    Not to be a Pollyanna, but a silver lining for some apartment dwellers might be that the accommodations made during the pandemic could make life more pleasant if continued post-pandemic. Being forced to take others into consideration (even through gritted teeth) is not a bad mind-set.

  71. Leah*

    My sister lives in a large apartment complex and a retired tenant plays the bagpipes. He approached his neighbors when he moved in about it. They must be ok with it because he plays during the daytime between 11am-1am. Now that everyone works from home, he stopped playing by the apartment complex and was seen near the supermarket and in several school parking lots because the schools are closed. He got permission from the mayor to use the school lots for practice. The people living near where he plays have nothing but nice things to say about him! . He plays beautifully and people watch him and enjoy his music – from the proper social distance.

  72. Rachel*

    Our neighbor sometimes plays loud music, and sometimes practices his electric bass. I’m much more tolerant of the latter. My housemate, never having had to spend hours playing scales, wishes he would just shut up entirely.

    I’m with Alison – drop a note back to the neighbor, say “I’m required to practice during these times, and I will be as quiet as a normal neighbor during all others.”

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