Will my neighbors hate me for singing?
October 2, 2007 3:11 PM   Subscribe

Singers--a question about apartment living. Will my neighbors hate me?

I will soon be moving into an apartment for the first time in my life--I've heretofore been a house dweller. How much grief am I going to catch from other tenants about singing? I practice everyday for at least a half-hour. I do scales and exercises, then run through some songs. I belt it out. Will the amount of noise complaints I get depend on the building? Or is this sort of thing just par for the course?
posted by freem to Human Relations (34 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
These sorts of things are usually way more annoying if the person seems unapologetic about it. If I were you, I'd go around the building and introduce myself, or at least leave a note, explaining what to expect and apologizing for the inconvenience.
posted by saladin at 3:16 PM on October 2, 2007

Some people care, some don't. Check your lease for clues, some refer to "quiet hours" for example and some don't. My guess is if you're a noisemaker and they're not expecting it, you can mitigate any possible issues if you

1. tell them it's going to happen
2. tell them how long it's going to last
3. ask them if there are any times that are better, or any times that are absolutely bad for them
4. tell them to let you know if there is a problem

You're certainly not required to do any of this, but if you want to err on teh side of consderate, you'll get a lot of points for being proactive instead of waiting for complaints. My biggest issue with noise is the "when will this end?" part. If I know to expect it regularly and it will last an hour, I can just go do something else if I'm in a no-noise mood and know it will be over when I get back.
posted by jessamyn at 3:20 PM on October 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Sing while you're in the shower. It drowns out a lot of the noise and your neighbors will thank you for it.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 3:21 PM on October 2, 2007

I would just be reasonable and considerate about it. Definitely introduce yourself to your neighbors, and keep an ear out to see how thin the walls are. Don't practice too early in the morning or too late in the evening.

Whatever you do, don't climb out on the fire balcony at 1:30 in the morning while your neighbor is trying to sleep because I have to get up ass-early in the morning and I'm going to strangle them the next time they start yelling and lighting up right outside my goddamned window-

Ahem. Yeah, just be polite.
posted by backseatpilot at 3:24 PM on October 2, 2007

If you can, before you move to your specific apartment, do some in-person research. Ask your neighbors-to-be if they'd mind that kind of thing. Some people will think you're weird, but that's much better than being stuck next to someone who is quiet as a mouse and who's driven crazy by your loud singing. If you've already chosen and signed for that specific apartment, try making friends with your neighbors before you do your exercises. Get on a friendly basis with them, and then broach the subject of the singing. Most people won't mind both because you're so nice, and because you're up front about it. I don't think it'll be much of an issue anyway, but if you do the above, you'll earn the good grace of your neighbors-to-be.

I failed to do the in-person research before moving into my current apartment and am stuck next to people who seem to be unable to do anything without accompanying extra-loud, extra resonating bass. I am in the seventh month of my twelve-month lease and am not entirely sure I'll survive with my sanity intact. If I *had* done the research, I would have never moved to that apartment. Yours is a different situation, but the premise is the same. Learn from my mistake!
posted by minda25 at 3:24 PM on October 2, 2007

Yeah, be direct with your neighbors. Personally speaking, the woman in the apartment next to mine is a singer. When she moved in, she said something like, "By the way, I'm a singer. Let me know if my practicing bothers you," which I thought was nice. And I really rather enjoy it. The scales can get a little monotonous, but she really does have a good voice and I quite like it when she sings actual songs.
posted by trip and a half at 3:30 PM on October 2, 2007

I would go bananas if my neighbor practiced scales or belted out songs. Mentioning it to me ahead of time would help.
posted by birdlady at 3:40 PM on October 2, 2007

Yeah, I feel like I'm a real asshole, but it would drive me crazy, too. I'm one of those people who -- as a kid -- did homework in my room, with the door closed, in total silence. I hate distracting noises. I don't want to be that kind of person, but I am, and I don't know how to not be that kind of person.

But I realize that the world doesn't revolve around me. If I knew that it was going to come to an end ("I practice for an hour each day..."), I'd deal with it.
posted by grumblebee at 3:55 PM on October 2, 2007

I've lived with a wannabe opera singer. She could shake windows half way down our street. I've also lived with a cellist. I don't think either of them warned the neighbours, but honestly I think it would have been nice. The opera singer warned me before I moved in, and she let me know when she would be practicing, so I could either lock myself away of go somewhere else.

Can you stick to regular hours, and preferably ones when people are less likely to be around, like 3pm? Less chance of disturbing people.
posted by Helga-woo at 4:04 PM on October 2, 2007

Geez, don't worry about it. Half an hour plus some songs? Most people make so damn much noise they won't even notice. Maybe you'll get compliments on the "nice music" you were playing, as many people cannot seem to tell the difference between live and a recording. I have sung and played acoustic music for years with nary a complaint. Not at 11 p.m or early in the morning, mind you. You don't need to go and ask permission or introduce yourself, just be friendly as you would irrespective of the music. Don't invite complaints; if they have them, they will make them.
posted by Listener at 4:51 PM on October 2, 2007

I second Listener, don't worry about it too much. I have practised and played piano in apartments for years. Before me there were a drummer and a guitarist staying in this flat, having jams with a bassist and singers... with nary a complaint. Just stick to civil hours. Extra bonus for putting in some time when most people are out working, not in trying to relax.
posted by yoHighness at 4:57 PM on October 2, 2007

Are you hooked into your local arts community? Basically everyone I know is involved in musicmaking on some level, and shared practice spaces are everywhere. I just rented a space for $75/month where I can house my drums and play them on Saturdays. Arrangements like this are very common here in Montreal. Just ask around or post a notice in the weekly there (I forget the name - "The Scene"?) You could also post in the 'peg section of www.stillepost.ca. (It's not well used but there are some people hanging about.)

The reason I suggest this is because it provides you a dedicated space for your work that is anxiety-free. You don't need to curtail your practice for worry of neighbours. Spaces are usually located in industrial buildings or above stores. You'll have the bonuses of likely access to a PA for working with recorded music, the ability to bring in other musicians to work with, and it helps you get connected to other people making music, if that's your bag.
posted by loiseau at 5:50 PM on October 2, 2007

Is there a university near you with practice rooms? Stop by on your way home from work and spare your neighbors.
posted by chrisamiller at 5:54 PM on October 2, 2007

In addition to warning your neighbors ahead of time, you should also take some precautionary measures to block sound in the room you will be practicing in. Put down thick carpet with padding, as close to full coverage as you can, on the floor. If you have big bookcases or other large pieces of furnitures that will cover large swaths of wall space, put them in the room that you plan to use. Close vents that open up into building-wide heat or air conditioning systems and cover them with foam or other soundproofing material. You could, if you wanted to invest some serious cash in it, actually soundproof the room, but I don't think you need to go that far unless you end up getting into some sort of bizarre feud with your neighbors; just put a little thought into small, inexpensive things you can do to minimize the amount that sound will carry into your neighbors' apartments.
posted by decathecting at 5:59 PM on October 2, 2007

Chances are, your singing isn't going to be a huge issue, unless you're either extremely loud or a basso profondo. Problems I've had with neighbors' loud stereos in apartments have been related to high levels of bass more than volume per se.

Just in case you do have very sensitive neighbors and/or paper-thin walls:

Do you need to do your singing practice at a particular time of day? If not, you could ask the immediate neighbors what times of day are bad for them for noise and practice at a time when (a) no one's home or (b) the neighbors who are home are less likely to be bothered by noise.

Alternatively, use something to create white noise. The shower, as thebrokenmuse suggested, is the cheap way to go, but if you're big on water conservation and don't shower daily, there are white noise generators and machines that might help cancel out your voice.
posted by Cricket at 6:00 PM on October 2, 2007

I like the idea of practice rooms/spaces a lot. I've used them when in bands before. Maybe not a consideration for a singer but for people storing equipment in those types of places pay attention to security and talk to others using the spaces if you can. I had a storage room at an unsecured storage place broken into and lost PA equipment.

If you are going to sing in your apartment I agree with the suggestions to talk to your neighbors and figure out a schedule that's convenient for them and you. It's a lot easier to live with knowing when it will start and stop instead of something random with no idea of how long it will last.
posted by 6550 at 6:07 PM on October 2, 2007

I used to live right under an opera singer and teacher that taught from home. The piano was just over my room, it was pretty bad, it drove me fucking nuts. The scales are still burnt in my brain 15+ years later.

On the plus side, I can sing semitone intervals pretty good for never having had any formal training, according to a singer friend of mine.

White noise will not cancel your voice. Anything loud enough to drown your singing voice will be an added annoyance. My suggestion is that you try to practice during their "away from home" hours.
posted by kandinski at 6:14 PM on October 2, 2007

Sing while you're in the shower. It drowns out a lot of the noise and your neighbors will thank you for it.

Great idea, just put some plastic wrap over the piano first.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:59 PM on October 2, 2007

It would annoy me no end. Worse than a blaring TV or music fest.

Surely you can find another place.

If you must do it then pick a time when few are home. You could ruin dinner and an evening of quet.
posted by JayRwv at 8:39 PM on October 2, 2007

Less than an hour of singing? Absolutely no big deal, as long as it's not early in the morning or late at night. "I'm a singer, let me know if my rehearsing bothers you" would be lovely when you see the neighbors.

(This opinion brought to you by someone who just had a little talk with the neighbors explaining the concept of practice spaces and no, they cannot rehearse their rock band in the basement. Singing, fine. Drums and bass rig? No effing way.)
posted by desuetude at 8:55 PM on October 2, 2007

Last year I had an apartment neighbor who played the flute. She practiced at home, quite regularly, between 1 and 3 pm. I remember thinking at the time that that was a good time to practice -- not many people were around the building, and those of us who were (probably) weren't trying to sleep or anything.
posted by pril at 8:58 PM on October 2, 2007

If you set your neighbors' expectations as to the duration and timing of your practice, I don't see how even the most noise-phobic people could object.

But yes, singing is different than band practice or some instruments. I can't play the trombone any more, for example, because trombone is too loud for playing in an apartment. My neighbors would be totally justified in being irritable.
posted by winna at 9:35 PM on October 2, 2007

If apartment buildings were a political community, there would be two equally competitive political parties with respect to singing (one ready to celebrate you, one ready to lynch you) and absolutely no need for third parties at all.

Are you willing to make half your neighbors hate you and wish you were dead? Practice at home. Otherwise, take the excellent advice to find a separate practice space and use it to extend your life.
posted by gum at 9:52 PM on October 2, 2007

Assuming you live in modern construction with tissue-thin walls over stick frame:

It sounds horrifyingly awful. I would want to kill either you or myself.

Scales going on and on: just awful. Miserably nasty to have to listen to. Weird-sounded exercises: even worse. And worst of all, getting through two lines of a song, and then starting over, over and over again.

It's a horrible thing to do to anyone. As far as I know, even America under George Bush hasn't stooped so low as to send musicians to practice at Guantanamo detainees.

If you live in a nice old place with foot-thick walls, or one of those condos where the separating walls are solid concrete, this is a complete nonissue.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:57 PM on October 2, 2007

It sounds horrifyingly awful. I would want to kill either you or myself.


Appears that there are two kinds of folk answering here: city-dwellers and house-dwellers. There should be rules against the two intermingling.

What you are proposing is that people who already live in the apartment, and (it would be reasonable to presume) have been there for longer than you have, and whom have been living in peaceful harmony must now acquiesce to your needs.

Tell me, would you think it OK for someone to move in next door to you after you'd lived in your apartment for, say, five years, who is a two-pack-a-day smoker with a love for keeping his apartment door open? Or better yet, how'd you like your neighbors to get a pair of excitable, yappy dogs?

The rule is simple. The rule should be written in fifty foot letters across some mountain chain. The rule is: whatever you want, as long as it doesn't bug anyone else, and when it does, in slightly smaller script under the first line, in thirty-foot letters, the addendum to the rule is written: if unavoidable, seniority wins.

If you absolutely have to sing, I would throw myself at the mercy of my neighbors and try and work out an arrangement that is convenient for THEM, NOT YOURSELF.

Sorry if I'm a little on edge about this. I've just finished a lovely relationship with some here-today, gone-in-six-months neighbors and their touring Irish clog-dancing troupe children. Being so noisy that you impose your life on to total strangers who have neither interest in your life nor a desire to confound their own with your noisy existence is the fucking height of arrogant selfishness. Higher than those bastards that cut in front of you when standing in line. Higher than the morons that can't pick up after their dogs. Not quite as high as drunk-drivers, but well-past deserving of any treatment other than derisive swearing and injurious declarations and spit and a little vomit mixed in.

In my opinion, of course.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:26 AM on October 3, 2007

Will my neighbors hate me?

When my neighbor has friends over, he and his friends join in a falsetto chorus of classical music.

It's not the rap I had to put up with at prior buildings, but, nonetheless, I could strangle 'em.
posted by WCityMike at 9:37 AM on October 3, 2007

For several years my sister wanted to kill her singer neighbor. He used to practice his scales when her infant son was taking his nap. When asked to stop he basically told my brother in law to get bent.

Did I mention they wanted him dead?
posted by sic at 10:55 AM on October 3, 2007

Last year I had an apartment neighbor who played the flute. She practiced at home, quite regularly, between 1 and 3 pm. I remember thinking at the time that that was a good time to practice -- not many people were around the building, and those of us who were (probably) weren't trying to sleep or anything.
posted by pril at 8:58 PM on October 2 [+] [!]

This is a common nap time for toddlers.
posted by sic at 10:58 AM on October 3, 2007

This would drive me nuts. And no, it's not par for the course. You are now living in the same building as other people. Suck it up. Only after you have had anti-social neighbours (and this is what you would be) can you realise how much it affects those around you.

I love listening to music really loudly (and I mean really loudly) but I stay in an apartment block where it would directly impinge upon my neighbours right to peace and quiet in their home so I turn it down. I don't mind carpenters doing the occasional bit of work in their home but I would get really pissed if they turned their apartment into a workshop.

I realise that I may sound like an asshole but this is the reality of how people will see this. Get a rehearsal space pronto.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 3:22 PM on October 3, 2007

It also depends a lot on the size and age of the building, the part of town you're in, and a lot of other factors. Don't take the opinions of anyone here as gospel.

* Some older buildings, while acoustically bizarre (sound travels interestingly through 100 yr old plumbing), at least have something besides paper holding them together (unlike a lot of new construction.) But some newer buildings, especially "luxury condo and apartments" are actually insulated specifically to provide some soundproofing.

* Smaller buildings, fewer people to annoy and fewer people to be home at any given time. But larger buildings require you to ignore more stuff about people's lives, you get good at picking your battles and being zen with the rest.

* Similarly, noisy parts of town with a lot of traffic and passing-by noise will drown you out. But in quieter, more residential areas, people are often more neighborly because neighbors stay put and get to know each other.

* You can't make everyone happy all the time. And people suck at recognizing their own annoying behaviors.

And so forth.
posted by desuetude at 4:25 PM on October 3, 2007

Your neighbors would hate you. Not will. Because you are not going to do this. You need to find a rehearsal space other than your apt.

You're being disingenuous and self-centered. You're asking "How much grief am I going to catch" rather than "is this going to bother people" because you know full well it's going to bother people but you're in denial.
posted by sparrows at 12:14 AM on October 4, 2007

I have actually lived in an apartment building where one of the tenants was um...training to be a singer. We were a few blocks away from Times Square in midtown Manhattan and there are many actors and singers in the area, so in a way, it was part of the vibe in that neighborhood. But here's the thing: this individual was a terrible singer. She was completely off pitch...essentially, she sounded like Dory speaking whale in "Finding Nemo." In retrospect, if she had been a good singer it may have been tolerable. But that was not the case. So unless A) you are really and truly talented (not your opinion but what others have told you) and B) you live in a fairly artistic/creative area where it could be appreciated...I agree with sparrows. Find another rehearsal space.
posted by elgalan207 at 7:25 AM on October 12, 2007

Well, let's be clear -- it doesn't matter if you're an excellent singer. I was assuming you were serious/skilled when I wrote my comment. Your skill won't make you less of an asshole for "belting it out" in your apt and pretending it's okay. Please don't be a self-centered singer. JUST DON'T DO IT.
posted by sparrows at 3:35 PM on November 12, 2007

I am a singer (mezzo-soprano, classical/opera). I practice in my apartment, and the neighbours are fine with it.

I went to the residents' committee meeting, introduced myself and asked what I could do to make things most convenient for people. I said "If I'm ever practicing at an inconvenient time for you, feel free to let me know." I do try to practice during "business hours," where possible, and never after 10. When singing, I stand facing the window, not the wall with neighbours on the other side. I use an electic keyboard, and I keep the volume lowish.

I've had no complaints. I'm lucky with my neighbours (small apartments=no children) and the structure of the building itself.

Everyone calling you "self-centered" is clearly not familiar with the requirements of the singing life. (These people never do any work at home?) The sound of your voice will not "ruin" someone's dinner. Whatever passes through the walls is considerably softer than the sound of their own TV/stereo. I sometimes hear my neighbours turn the TV up while I'm practicing. Works for them, works for me.

You sound like a kind, considerate person. This attitude is the most important thing when dealing with neighbours. You will probably create far less of a disturbance than you think.

Good luck and happy singing!
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:30 PM on December 1, 2007

« Older Cooking without actually cooking...   |   stars in their eyes... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.