How early is too early to practice the piano?
October 20, 2011 8:19 AM   Subscribe

How early is too early to practice the piano if you live in an apartment?

My neighbor in the upstairs apartment has taken to practicing the piano at around 8am. I can say with a certainty that they aren't very good. It usually starts with some simple framework of a song but eventually devolves into them just kind of banging away at different notes. Needless to say, this is starting to really annoy me.

While I'm awake during the week at 7am I try and sleep in a bit on the weekends. But it's really hard to do with Liberace going at it upstairs.

Is there a time that is considered too early in the morning to make this kind of noise? Would I be totally out of line to ask them to practice later on?
posted by Sandor Clegane to Human Relations (34 answers total)
Let them know politely what time on the weekends you'd like to be able to sleep in until. May require actual human interaction.
posted by hermitosis at 8:25 AM on October 20, 2011 [6 favorites]

8 seems completely reasonable to me.
posted by juliapangolin at 8:25 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't agree with 8am. Legally, probably. Socially, it seems over the line. Would you call people at 8am on a weekend? I think that 9:00 or 9:30 is the earliest that I wouldn't find pretty inconsiderate.
posted by mercredi at 8:27 AM on October 20, 2011 [7 favorites]

There's no general answer to "how early is too early". There are a couple of guidelines that might apply:

- There may be particular regulations in your building, or a municipal noise ordinance or bylaw in your city that specifies a particular time. Where do you live?

- Your own preferences matter. Regardless of whatever external standards might exists as to what is/isn't too early, your neighbour may not want to bug you. If there are particular times that work best for you, it's not unreasonable for you to ask whether they might be able to avoid practicing during the times that are most disturbing to you.
posted by ManInSuit at 8:28 AM on October 20, 2011

Part of living in an apartment is agreeing to refrain from doing things that will disturb those who share your common space, and part is agreeing to put up with it (within reason) when others do things that disturb you: by living in a shared space, you cede some degree control of your own personal comfort to others. I personally wouldn't practice piano that early. You may want to stop by and politely let him know that you tend to sleep in on certain days. This is not unreasonable, but it would be reasonable for him to refuse. At the end of the day, you can mitigate your own reaction, but you can't force him to stop. Look into white noise machines (or white noise apps on your phone), or noise canceling headphones that are comfortable to wear to bed.
posted by quiet coyote at 8:29 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Weekdays, 9am.

Weekends, maybe 11.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:29 AM on October 20, 2011 [9 favorites]

I agree that 8am is reasonable. Hell, 8am isn't too early for everyone to mow their lawns in the morning...
posted by litnerd at 8:30 AM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's totally fine to ask them. (I'd accommodate you if you were my neighbor and had a similar issue with something I was doing.) If it's just an issue on weekends be sure to mention that.
posted by nangar at 8:32 AM on October 20, 2011

This is totally my own opinion, but I have always operated on the theory that it was polite to keep things quiet until 8AM and after 9PM on weekdays and until 10AM and after midnight on weekends.

I don't see 8AM on weekdays being out of line- it may be their only time to practice. It's too early for weekends though. Leave a polite note or just speak with the neighbor. Don't escalate to the super/cops unless they epeatedly ignore your (entirely reasonable) wishes.

I'd advise against murdering them horribly, as your username might suggest. ;)
posted by Wretch729 at 8:33 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Two things:
1. 9 am is reasonable for weekdays, 10 am on weekends. That's my schedule and I've never gotten complaints.
2. Some people may be very sensitive about being told their playing is less than pleasing to others. So perhaps don't directly cite the piano, but rather just general noise before a certain time.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 8:36 AM on October 20, 2011

Is it possible that your neighbour doesn't know that they can be heard? I was this bad neighbor making too much noise in the AM (listening to music) and when my neighbor said, "hey, I can hear your music in the morning please turn it down" I was mortified and stopped immediately. Perhaps just a mention of the audible piano practice will be enough.
posted by AmandaA at 8:36 AM on October 20, 2011 [5 favorites]

Everyone has different gut feelings about what's an unreasonable time. Even if every single person on MeFi agrees that 8:00 is too early (whihc already seems not to be the case), that's not going to be persuasive to someone who thinks 8:00 am is reasonable. Different non-crazy people can reasonably differ on how early is too early.

If you want a standard of what's reasonable that you and your neighbour can agree on, it will likely have to be something external and objective, like a building regulation or a local noise ordinance.

But you really can appeal to them without even really having to persuade than that 8:00 is, objectively, too early. It can be enough just to explain that 8:00 happens to be disturbing for you. There's a big difference between saying "Practicing at time X is unreasonable, and so I request that you stop", and saying "Practicing at time X happens to be disturbing to me, and so I wonder if you could practice at other times". You might be surprised to find that the second approach, in itself, is effective.
posted by ManInSuit at 8:36 AM on October 20, 2011 [6 favorites]

No, it would not be out of line to ask them to practice later. You should talk with your neighbors. Everyone has a different idea of what times are "appropriate" for making noise that might be heard by neighbors, so the best way for us all to live together in harmony is to talk with our neighbors to find out when our noises will be least inconvenient for them, and to accommodate reasonable requests for schedule modification. Definitely talk to your neighbor and let her/him know that you'd really appreciate it if the weekend banging--though when you talk to her/him, you should probably refer to it as "music"--took place in the afternoons.

It is not reasonable to wake people up at 8 am on a Saturdays, whether it's with musical instruments or lawnmowers or whatever your particular noisy hobby is, just because you think people should be awake then, just as it's not reasonable for me to keep people awake until 2 am on a Saturday just because I think people should be awake then. We all know that a substantial portion of the population wakes up after 8 am on weekends, just as a substantial portion of the population goes to bed before 2 am. It is reasonable to make some effort to avoid annoying your neighbors, even if you disagree with their schedules.

From your description, it kind of sounds like the piano player is a kid who I bet wouldn't mind being able to watch cartoons on Saturday morning instead of playing Chopsticks, if that makes you feel any better about asking.
posted by decathecting at 8:40 AM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

I agree with what decathecting says about involving other neighbours, if other neighbours are affected. That's a good idea, and it's another way to get to an external standard of what's fair/reasonable: If you have five neighbors who *all* think that 8:00 am is too early, well, you might then be inclined to agree it's too early, even if 8:00 seems reasonable to you.
posted by ManInSuit at 8:57 AM on October 20, 2011

If you don't tell him that it is bugging you, he won't know. Talk to him about it and ask politely if he'd please tickle the ivories only after such-and-such an hour on weekends.
posted by Elly Vortex at 9:15 AM on October 20, 2011

I think 9 would be a perfectly reasonable request. I was taught as a child never to telephone anyone before 9 am (so as not to wake them up) - not sure where my mom got this rule, but it still feels natural to me. Just one more bit of anecdata for you.
posted by naoko at 9:18 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Surely, if your neighbor managed to get a piano into an upstairs apartment, it must be an upright- and those often have apartment pedals. Perhaps liberal use of this could be encouraged?
posted by heyheylanagirl at 9:29 AM on October 20, 2011

I'd think someone practicing a piano before 10:00am was kind of a jerknozzle but wouldn't merit complaint unless it was before 9:00am. 8:00am is not a reasonable start time.
posted by Justinian at 9:47 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Count me in with the 9AM crowd.

As for being not good, you have to suck first. True of any instrument.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:30 AM on October 20, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks folks. Lots of good advice here.
posted by Sandor Clegane at 12:00 PM on October 20, 2011

To figure out if a particular time is too early (or too late), see if it sounds appropriately shocking when inserted into the following sentence: "Can you believe that idiot woke me up at -- !"

Using that test, I don't think 8 am quite qualifies. However, you are certainly within your rights to ask your neighbour to start later. Do NOT phrase it as, "Your current schedule is unacceptable." Getting indignant about their behaviour will only cause resentment. The best approach to take is: "We appear to be operating on different schedules; can we work something out so that you can get your practice in while I still get my sleep?" If you do that, they will probably be happy to accommodate you.

(You didn't mention this, but my experience of apartment living makes me want to add: Under no circumstances should you bang on your ceiling. I would invite the local teenagers over for a battle of the bands if my neighbour did that.)
posted by Perodicticus potto at 12:00 PM on October 20, 2011

"Hello! My name's [your name] and I have been listening to you play piano from my apartment for a while now, and its nice to hear that you're getting better! Unfortunately, I try to sleep in on the weekends. I can't speak for our neighbors, but I'm up during the weekend at 7am -- so playing at 8am like you have been is fine -- but on the weekends, I'd really appreciate it if you could hold off until [the time you usually get up.] Incidentally, are you taking lessons, or just learning by ear?"
posted by davejay at 12:15 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

er, up during the weekday at 7am...
posted by davejay at 12:15 PM on October 20, 2011

Maybe it's because I live in a 24-hour town, or because I've pretty much always worked strange hours, but to me there is no time when it's okay for me to hear what someone is doing in their home. Yeah, most people are awake by 9. But a lot of people are just getting home and hoping for some sleep. This is exactly why I bought a house, which I've sealed up tight. No one hears me; I hear no one. Ever.

But if I have to do yard work or some other noisy outdoor activity, I generally do it between noon and 6, when the neighbors' kids are screaming their heads off outside anyway.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:58 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

I play piano and am often an apartment-dweller. My vote is later than 8 AM, for sure. I'd say 9 AM is a marginally-OK time to start playing a piano. Before I got my digital piano, I restricted my piano-playing to between the hours of 10 AM and 9 PM.

(Also, for the record, I think it's inexcusably rude to play an acoustic piano in the morning in an apartment complex these days. Unless you're a concert pianist and you need a really amazing piano, a digital piano with weighted keys should suffice for just about anyone who lives in close proximity to others, is likely to be cheaper than all but the most terrible of upright pianos, and has the amazing benefit of a volume knob and a headphone jack, so you can practice whenever you want without disturbing anyone at all. You're well within your rights to complain.)
posted by kataclysm at 1:03 PM on October 20, 2011

I think it's reasonable to ask him to hold off until 9 or 10 am on the weekends.

When you ask, be as neighborly and non-confrontational as possible. Ask him in person - never via note - and phrase it like "hey, I can hear it when you play the piano. That's fine most of the time, but it wakes me up on weekend mornings. Could you push it back an hour?"

Your building might have designated quiet hours - check your lease or ask your landlord - but don't yet mention to the landlord that you have a complaint, and don't wave a copy of the rules under the neighbor's nose. Don't poll your other neighbors yet, either. Don't assume he's going to be upset by your request or push back; give him a chance to be considerate. If he's an ass about it or ignores you, that's when you appeal to the rules/landlord/neighbors.

(Since most apartments don't have much room for pianos, he might have an electronic keyboard, in which case he could turn it down or wear headphones. That'd be a pretty good compromise.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:03 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow. When I was living in shared apartment buildings, I think I tried to stay quiet til noon on weekends. Because even though MOST people might be up by 8 or 9 or whatever, there are LOTS of people living there. And how do I know my neighbor isn't, say, a bartender who came home exhausted at 4 am the night before and this is his only chance to catch up on sleep? That's what weekends are for. I wouldn't get mad if my neighbors were being loud on a weekday morning, but on the weekends it really pisses me off. Same goes for the people who mow their lawn on at the crack of dawn on weekends- RUDE!! I always try to err on the side of being respectful of other people's needs when it comes to noise. Especially on weekend mornings because that is the only chance lots of people have to catch up on sleep. It's a lot easier to postpone practicing your piano, or mowing your lawn, than it is to postpone the 6-8th hour sleep you may be in the middle of. Waking people up sucks. And its the worst when that loud person lives above you. Actually, now that I think of it, when I wanted to learn to play an instrument I specifically worried about whether it would be heard by my downstairs neighbors and planned to use headphones so as not to bother them. I don't even think I'd want to own a real piano in an apartment with neighbors below me for this exact reason. (But then I guess I just get easily annoyed by neighbors, so thanks for reminding me how grateful I am to have moved into a coach house apartment. Boy, do I highly recommend those!!)

Anyway, my point is that I think it's totally reasonable to say something. I don't necessarily think you need to knock on their door- putting them on the spot may make them uncomfortable. Can you just leave a polite note or something? ("Hey, I sleep til 10 am most Saturdays, is there any chance you could keep the music down before then?") Notice I said music, and not piano playing- if you left me the note davejay suggested, i'd probably be mortified- 'Well, you were crappy before, thank God you're getting better but it's still annoying!' By calling it music, I guess you're being generous. And vague.

I'd advise against murdering them horribly, as your username might suggest. ;)

Ha! I was also amused by The Hound asking for advice on how to be polite about something.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 1:10 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Brass player here, I don't start until 11am any day out of utter guilt and finish 8pm. (I know a lot of people work in the apartments nearby so I try to have the bulk of my practice between 5pm and 8pm.) Seriously 8am on the weekend is evil and dumb. Dumb piano players.

Ask them to hold back until 10am on the weekends. 8:30am weekdays.
posted by jujulalia at 2:45 PM on October 20, 2011

Your town probably has bylaws about things like when construction noise can happen, when quiet hours can be enforced, etc. I'm not suggesting that you throw those in this guy's face as a first step, but you should figure out what they are.

For example, in Toronto, construction noise is allowed after 7am on weekdays and after 9am on weekends. Given that, I'd say playing piano at 8am is fine on Thursday, but not on Sunday.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:04 PM on October 20, 2011

8 AM isn't too early for ASSHOLES to mow their lawn in the morning. But 10 am is more like what a reasonable person might appreciate. Remember that you might live a building near people who work nights (like me!), and if sleeping in til 10 seems lazy to you, it might not to someone who works til midnight. Which is more people than you might expect.

10 AM weekdays. 9:30 if it will absolutely kill you. And under NO circumstances before 10 AM on weekends, 11 if you're feeling generous.
posted by custard heart at 6:05 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Can you just leave a polite note or something?

I really don't think this is a good idea. What you think of as a polite note may not seem polite to them, especially if you write it when annoyed. Putting it in writing also gives the impression of taking it to a serious/formal level - which you may eventually need to do, but it's not a good place to start. No, have a friendly chat at first. That's the best way to ensure that everyone remains on good terms.

Seriously 8am on the weekend is evil and dumb.

Um, no it's not, and acting as if it were would be a good way to ensure this situation developed into something very unpleasant. I know it may seem to the OP like the neighbours are deliberately being a pain in the ass (I know the feeling!), but in truth they're probably just trying to live their lives like everyone else. Yes, their timing is less than ideal, but that is something that can probably be fixed with a polite request. If, after being spoken to, they make clear that they don't care how their behaviour affects their neighbours, THEN they can be assumed to be "evil and dumb" and dealt with accordingly.

It also occurs to me that, given the poor playing and the moodling around, this could be a child just starting lessons - in which case, any neighbour who went in with guns blazing would look like an asshole.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 8:23 PM on October 20, 2011

My downstairs neighbour agreed to only play his bagpipes (that's right, I said bagpipes) between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

I'd actually been losing my mind that anyone would play the full bagpipe (not just the cantor) in a multiple family dwelling at all, but then when we ran into each other in the courtyard and he asked if we could hear it ("Like you're in the room with me!") he mentioned the 10 to 5. He made a point of not wanting to be playing when I got home from a long day of work. Just knowing he had actually given it some thought softened the irritation. It helps that the hours are reasonable (I, too, would lose my shit if someone were waking me up at 8 on the weekend).

So, yeah, your best bet is to go talk to the person. Even just putting a face on the horrible din might help you hate it less.
posted by looli at 8:31 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

10 am sounds right to me for early weekend music.
Are there specific hours that the laundry can be used in your building?
You could use that as your baseline.
BTW, if the music starts too early, I would show up in my jammies, knock on the door and ask that they wait another hour or so.
posted by calgirl at 9:17 PM on October 20, 2011

9 am on weekdays. 10 am or 11am on weekends.
posted by desuetude at 10:18 PM on October 20, 2011

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