What are the Sydney Apartment Piano Anti-Noise Law
August 22, 2009 5:18 AM   Subscribe

I am a piano student will be renting an apartment on my own soon. I was wondering what are the anti-noise laws in Australia (Sydney) regarding practicing musical instrument at home.

I have heard that one should not disrupt neighbours' "quiet enjoyment". But I am trying to understand what this means.

Are there some hours that I would be allowed to play by law, for example would playing after 12pm before 9pm be ok without requiring to get a neighbours consent?

My ultimate goal is I don't want to find myself that I am not able to practice, or be kicked out of apartment due to my playing within reasonable ours.

Any comments welcome...
posted by neworder7 to Law & Government (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
why not get a keyboard and some nice headphones?
posted by Mach5 at 6:15 AM on August 22, 2009

I would look into getting a fully weighted 88 key keyboard. You can get a digital piano that focuses solely on providing the piano playing experience instead of wacky sounds like a more synth-oriented keyboard. Most of them sound reasonably good, and have an acceptable action compared to the real thing.

(FWIW, I'm a musician and professional sound engineer at a largish church in a major US city)
posted by chrisfromthelc at 6:28 AM on August 22, 2009

It might depend upon your local council. What suburb/local government area are you in?

Not sure, but it's usually council rangers/police that get called with noise complaints.

Your body corporate should also be able to advise you one what the building rules are.
posted by taff at 6:41 AM on August 22, 2009

Presumably you have considered a silent electronic instrument, but in the unlikely event that you haven't, be advised that good fully-weighted electronic pianos and controller keyboards have had key-feel as good as that of a quite expensive piano for some years now. You can also now get piano soft-synths for Windows and Macintosh that sound, quite literally, perfect; the only problems you might have with them are that the audio hardware in your computer can't quite play the notes as you hit the keys. Any half-decent music store can deal with this issue, in desktop or laptop computers.

To answer the question you actually asked: Regulations are, I think, a local-council issue, so the exact hours can change depending on the suburb you're in. A quick search of nsw.gov.au for "noise" and your suburb name will probably answer your question. Here's the appropriate page for Penrith, for instance (which is just the first one I found). Note also that there are often un-clear rules that just say you're not allowed to make a noisy nuisance of yourself at night, hours unspecified. These rules generally apply to parties, not instrument practice, but I'm sure many beginner trombonists have fallen foul of them.

I think you may be coming at this from the wrong direction, though. You really shouldn't approach your relations with your neighbours from a viewpoint of "this thing I want to do might annoy them but screw those dudes, man, it's legal".

Instead, go and say hello to your new neighbours and ask them if it'd be a problem for you to practice at time X. Pretty much nowhere technically allows you to make noises-audible-in-other-dwellings at three in the morning, but if your neighbouring apartments contain a shift-worker, a NYSE day-trader and a speed freak, that may not be a problem at all. And you're a pianist, not a drummer, so if you're living somewhere that isn't made of Masonite they may not hear much anyway.
posted by dansdata at 6:43 AM on August 22, 2009

An apartment really can't be your primary practice space for a full-size piano.

One problem is that your reasonable hours are not necessarily your neighbors', depending on what their situations are. For instance, if they have a baby, the baby would be napping a couple of hours during the day and then going to bed as early as 7 or 8. If something you are doing is audible enough to disturb sleep for a member of their household, you're interfering with their quiet enjoyment of their space.

Even aside from that, if I were your neighbor, piano-playing for the amount of time required for a piano student would make me crazy. Muffled piano -- piano-practicing, too, so small bits repeated over and over again -- through dinner, through a weekend afternoon reading -- oy vey.

The keyboard-headphones solution sounds good, but if that's not an option for whatever reason, I'd start by knocking on your neighbors' doors, letting them know your situation, and asking them what hours would be reasonable for them (a few hours per day, not nine, and other than that, you're in the practice rooms at school).
posted by palliser at 6:46 AM on August 22, 2009

The usual way that artists deal with projects that aren't appropriate for residential housing is to go live in a warehouse. Often there will be old commercial buildings that have been subdivided into smaller studio spaces. Officially you aren't supposed to live in them, but often such rules are ignored.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:18 AM on August 22, 2009

Be aware that your neighbours may have, in their own lives, concerns and challenges that trump your local anti-noise laws. I'm talking about shift work, colicky babies, life-threatening disease, etc. Don't expect to be able to wave the local by-law in their face when those people come to your door.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:55 AM on August 22, 2009

On the other hand, be aware that legal rights are often not very related to common sense. My neighbours (in Brisbane) renovated their damn house, starting with the power tools at 8am and going to 3pm every day (including weekends) for six months. I wanted to kill them in their sleep, but apparently it was legally ok. On the other hand, the socially retarded bastards had the nerve to call our landlord when we had ONE party that year, playing music at 2am on a Saturday. (Fortunately he was a friend of ours so just said nice things to them).
posted by jacalata at 12:50 PM on August 22, 2009

Just to be on the other side of things:

I have a huge Steinway upright. I was able to find an apartment in Montreal where I can't hear my neighbors and they apparently can't hear much of me either. I realize this is difficult to do, but it's possible.

I don't practice after 9 or 10 (except that one time I was drunk and needed to play some Brahms and then some Tom Waits and then write a song), and I've never heard a peep from anyone about it.

But if I or my neighbors had a piano in my last apartment building in Philly, there would have been trouble, as you could hear everyone around you at all times.

I had a nice digital piano in that apartment; I never practiced. Now that I live with my piano, I practice at least a couple of hours a day.

Good luck! Being a piano player makes you 10% more attractive, but it's a huge pain some days.
posted by nosila at 3:24 PM on August 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

p.s. All these people are absolutely correct about respecting people more than the letter of the law dictates you must.
posted by nosila at 3:24 PM on August 22, 2009

I had these neighbors I hated on a personal level for a variety of well-deserved reasons.

When they practiced their piano, even though they sounded fine, it echoed everywhere and reminded me of the existence of those neighbors across the complex - HATE. A thousand hates.

If I just heard them and didn't know them personally, probably wouldn't have minded so much. But their practice noise would always have been an intrusion into MY space.

Don't do it. Rent a proper practice space for musicians.
posted by jbenben at 4:51 PM on August 22, 2009

As per jacalata.... I have dealings with the owner of my former residence and routinely STILL joke about killing the "piano neighbors" in their sleep.

And there I thought I was the only one to take these types of issues that far (in my mind;))
posted by jbenben at 4:54 PM on August 22, 2009

Thank you all for your replies.

To answer some of the questions:

The council of the area I am interested in is Sydney city.

I am also considering the electronic piano but I would still like to keep the acoustic one to play it when I am sure it is absolutely ok to do so by my neighbours.

Currently I am living in a very urban building where it is "ok" to make noise, everybody is noisy and lots of parties going on at all times. Nobody complained about my playing here yet, probably because I keep it between 12pm-9pm or they just don't care I am not sure.

posted by neworder7 at 5:38 PM on August 22, 2009

If you must have a real acoustic piano, perhaps you should consider some means of damping it.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:40 PM on August 22, 2009

I live in Chippendale (which is Sydney City Council), and this guy used to live down the street from me in a ground floor apartment. We loved it. He restricted his playing the middle of the day, and sometimes he'd have a couple other guys in there jamming with him. The music would waft down the street and everyone would open their doors to listen. Of course, it helped that he was really, really good. I think he taught lessons though, because occasionally I'd hear someone playing who sounded like a beginner. Perhaps you could send him an email and ask? He's a professional musician so he's much more likely to know. And tell him his former neighbour Kris said "hi." :)
posted by web-goddess at 6:15 PM on August 22, 2009

The strata management said I can't play after 7pm :( Got the real-estate agent involved and scared me to evict me...
posted by neworder7 at 3:42 AM on September 24, 2009

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