PDA

View Full Version : Practicing Singing & Stumming: the Issue of Noise.



formerairline
01-31-2010, 01:23 PM
I'm feeling rather self conscious. I want to practice my uke and sing along more often. The problem is the noise. I live in an apartment and the place certainly is not as soundproof as I'd like. Just the other day I heard my fiancee come up the steps and I dropped my pen and scrambled to pretend I was playing dead (I died of hunger, she was coming home with some food). Anyway when she stepped in she said she heard me drop my pen and prepare for the whole charade.

Ever since I've been nervous about my neighbours hearing me play. To make things worse my fiancee is studying for some mid-terms which makes me wanna be even more silent.

I can strum the uke pretty silently when needed but it's not as fulfilling. Singing is hard because I've only just recently looked into how you can actually sing by looking at youtube tutorials - lat Monday I actually used some of these techniques and I see potential in this area but things got real loud.

Is anyone else in similar predicament? What can I do?

Skitzic
01-31-2010, 02:08 PM
I'm no longer in that situation, but I just made sure I was singing quietly. I've never had problems keeping my voice low.

I'm sure there are times that are better for being loud, maybe just practice your singing then and keep strumming on the off times.

itsme
01-31-2010, 05:00 PM
Well, your neighbors should be grateful you don't play something like saxophone or drums or electric guitar. :) As long as you keep it down to reasonable hours, they have nothing to complain about.

Although I can relate to being self-conscious if you think they can hear you. Aside from playing/singing quietly at home, you could always venture out to a park or some place away from home where you could wail away to your heart's content.

Doug W
01-31-2010, 05:10 PM
I would take a look at the apartment rules and sing and play the uke at the appropriate times. Sometimes, when I am in a motel with my mandolin or uke, I will thread a rubber band in and out of the strings to mute them so I can play a bit harder without stirring up trouble.

Monkeyswithladders
01-31-2010, 05:22 PM
I know how you feel. For the last few years I was living in a condo association and had really jerky neighbors below me (they actually called the police on me when I was recording the song I wrote for Tucker Torpedo) and I always limited my playing to reasonable hours and at reasonable volumes :/ My suggestion is find an escape place to go play until you can move into a house. Kinda like Fred Penner's Place (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4frIsSEp03E&NR=1)...

clayton56
01-31-2010, 05:49 PM
try playing in the bathroom - this usually works for two reasons:

1) the bathroom is usually a separate room within the walls of the apartment, so on several sides you have double walls (and maybe you have one exterior wall) and the tile adds a layer of soundproofing

2) the smaller, more reflective room makes you sound so much louder to yourself, you don't have to play as loudly to be satisfied

Oh, I bet your fiance heard you through your front door, often they are not soundproof at all, so avoid playing near the door.

Another idea is to contact your neighbors and work something out - find out when they are home, and set up another time to play. Then if they hear you playing during an agreed-upon time, they're not likely to get snippy. And do some testing - play in the bathroom, the bedroom, the kitchen, and see which ones they find disturbing.

Good luck! I lived in one apartment building that was so cheaply made, I could hear the upstairs neighbor doing everything - I could hear her on the phone, and I could even hear the person she was talking to on the phone at times. I told her this and she moved out right away!

ukeCANjam
01-31-2010, 06:19 PM
If you have the money, look into finding Risa ukuleles. They aren't that loud, and quiet enough for you to practice singing and playing with :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=woyW9XIZoHM

Or, you can find Eleukes. They are very quiet and have mp3 jacks so you can listen to yourself play. Once in a while they appear in the marketplace or you can find them on eBay or other places.

Other than that, I suggest you find a napkin or cloth to damp the soundhole with. The strings would not be so loud and it can muffle the sound a bit.

Uncle-Taco
01-31-2010, 06:37 PM
I'm in the same boat.
I decided that my singing is so horrible that, for the common good, I wouldn't do it anymore. I can play ukulele in the apartment and not be heard, or at least if I am I know I'm no louder than the TV.
So, I just work on my uke skills and when I go play with others, I let them worry about the singing.

If I could sing and needed to work on that, I'd go down to the laundry room and do it next to the dryers or, in warmer weather, out to my car.

Harold O.
01-31-2010, 07:24 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SF2LoAQYKbc

Problem solved. Happy to help out.

uke5417
01-31-2010, 09:15 PM
I close the windows and don't play loudly before 10 a.m. or after 10 p.m., save weekends. I haven't had any complaints, so I figure I'm good. Well, actually I suck, but that's another thread.

Plainsong
01-31-2010, 10:02 PM
There's something called singing on an "ng" sound that's good for quieter practices. The idea is that internally you're doing all the right things, but what comes out is the volume of a hum. You sing the ng and it tends to keep your throat in the open position.

It's tough to describe, and if you tighten up your throat and don't sing all the way down from your legs, you could hurt your voice if trying to screatch out high notes, but it'a good quiet singing practice if you already have the basics of voice figured. I'd feel more comfortable with a teacher in the same room showing you that though.

These simple ideas are so hard to describe with text. Maybe someone has a youtube video of it. Take any vocal advice from someone not in the same room as you with a grain of salt though, including mine. :D

Edit - In Finland (or maybe it's just Helsinki, not sure), the official noise laws are lax when it comes to musicians. You can play for four hours nonstop before taking a brief brake, and then you can go on another four hours, and so on. Of course it's a monumental jerk that does this, that's why a trumpet playing friend of my father in-law's bought the apartment next to his, just to not make people angry. This was before the days of Silent Trumpet, which I don't know how well that works at all.

The guy next door to us is one hell of a blues guitar and bass player, but you can only hear him in the hallway. I'm waiting for him to come over here and correct me one day. In our old building, the guy above us, who we called Clumpy because of how he walked, would often drink until 4am, when he started what I call his Master P impression (a rapper whose sig is "Uhhhhhhhhh" in every song). Poetic justice was had in the mornings, by about 10:30, the guy above him was giving brass lessons to kids with the help of his piano.

That sound is so normal to me that I didn't even register it in my brain until I was installing a big huge new bed by myself, and ended collapsing on it. I stared up at the ceiling and realized I was listening to out of tune arpeggios. I smiled as I heard Clumpy groan. Payback's a bitch. Clumpy ended in almost burning down the building, but that's another story.

Clumpy was child's play compared to our next neighbor upstairs in the new place, Drunky. Drunky had a high level management job and a wife and kid and dog. Things were normal... until they had some bad fights and she moves out. Then started his 4 year long Lost Weekend. Any other house would have kicked his insane alcoholic butt out, but he skated by. He did loose a fair few jobs and threw tantrums before having to see his kid. Now he's working in America, drinking Texas dry. Good luck finding a liver. He's got tenants living here that are absolutely normal people, but we live in fear of his eventual return. 911 is a joke in yo town was written about Helsinki. ;)

The best way to revenge Drunky was with the recorder. That high treble really cut through his hangovers. But he should have thought of that before starting his own personal rave at 5:30am, and then jumping up and down on the floor and telling us to go frak ourselves (not provoked, he's just mean).

It's nice to have normal people above us again.

So basically my little novel here is that people are cool to a fault when it comes to noise around here, but I try to not be a jerk about it. I suck anyway, so I try not to have too many people have to listen to that.

scottie
02-01-2010, 12:38 AM
As far as loud ukulele/guitar is concerned, make a mute. Cut a piece of old t-shirt and roll it up until it's about the diameter of a cigarette/cigar and place it under the strings just in front of the bridge. Snug it up right next to the bridge. The idea is just to mute the strings and you may have to experiment with how much material to use to accomplish the aim. This is going to pretty much kill any sustain the instrument has AND going to affect the way they respond to being strummed. . . but you won't be loud.

I'm lucky, I've always lived in apartments and my neighbors never complain. My normal practice time is 4:30 am until I leave for work.

Moondoggie
02-01-2010, 03:59 AM
First off, I wish I had neighbors like you when I was doing the apartment/condo living. It would have been SO nice to have a neighbors who thing about the folks around 'em rather than playing their stereo at 3 in the frickin' mornin' on a weeknight.

I haven't had to try to make my uke quiet, but I do have a suggestion for the singing part - how often do you travel in your car? I usually have a whole lot of songs I want to play, so I'll pick enough to fit on a CD and work on the singing part whenever I have to drive somewhere. In your case, it would give you a chance to really wail on the singing bit so you'll have an idea of what your voice is capable of. Plus, it has the added benefit of cutting your song practice time in half (or so). Just make sure you're not trying to learn any songs like "I'm Going to Shoot the Idiot in Front of Me" or "Why Don't You Try Using Your Blinker for Once, Moron?" - some people can read lips and might not understand that you're singing...

Swampy Steve
02-01-2010, 04:08 AM
I know what you mean. Even playing on my porch, I sometimes wonder if I am bugging people. One day I had finished playing & singing a song, and somebody next door,that was in the backyard , said ,,, "play another one" felt a bit better then.

formerairline
02-01-2010, 06:02 AM
Thanks for all the tips so far! I'll look into doing the ng thing.

Skitzic
02-01-2010, 07:13 AM
I know what you mean. Even playing on my porch, I sometimes wonder if I am bugging people. One day I had finished playing & singing a song, and somebody next door,that was in the backyard , said ,,, "play another one" felt a bit better then.

I love it when stuff like that happens. I was once being listened to by a whole table full of people through my open window. I had no idea until they knocked on my door when I stopped to ask if I'd come outside and play some more for them.

Back on topic though, the bathroom idea is good. As is the singing in the car. I never thought of that as practice...but I suppose it is in a way.

Hazy
02-01-2010, 08:07 AM
I have exactly the same problem, and it has actually stopped me practicing the past few days (I'm prone to panic attacks). First of all, I am new on the ukulele, and while I am a good singer (I think, I used to get picked for solos in the choir I was in) but it has been a few years since I have sang loudly (I kind of whisper/sing - hard to describe) so I am not sure how my singing will go. I can't decide whether it is a blessing or a curse that the people in the flat upstairs are musicians. I have heard them sing and been so impressed, and one is a beautiful guitar player, but we can also hear everything else they do. We've had to have words with them before for all night jamming sessions (and all night raves, ugh) so maybe its time I made a little noise. The other problem that there are five of them living up there and there is *always* someone in. I never thought I would consider moving and consider in my choice of place whether I could play loudly or not.

I'll try the bathroom idea, either that or I'll find a song that I just can't hold back on when I play!

Skitzic
02-01-2010, 08:12 AM
I have exactly the same problem, and it has actually stopped me practicing the past few days (I'm prone to panic attacks). First of all, I am new on the ukulele, and while I am a good singer (I think, I used to get picked for solos in the choir I was in) but it has been a few years since I have sang loudly (I kind of whisper/sing - hard to describe) so I am not sure how my singing will go. I can't decide whether it is a blessing or a curse that the people in the flat upstairs are musicians. I have heard them sing and been so impressed, and one is a beautiful guitar player, but we can also hear everything else they do. We've had to have words with them before for all night jamming sessions (and all night raves, ugh) so maybe its time I made a little noise. The other problem that there are five of them living up there and there is *always* someone in. I never thought I would consider moving and consider in my choice of place whether I could play loudly or not.

I'll try the bathroom idea, either that or I'll find a song that I just can't hold back on when I play!

As someone who also has a difficult time singing when I know people can hear me (and I'm supposed to be a lead singer? How does THAT work??), you just have to do it. It gets easier, especially if you have prior singing experience. If it's at a reasonable hour you should be golden. Until you are duking it out in the hallways with the people upstairs, assume they don't have a problem with it.

Plainsong
02-01-2010, 07:09 PM
My normal practice time is 4:30 am until I leave for work.

Dude.... :wtf:

Our building has rules that basically say STFU between the hours of 10pm-7am.

Mim
02-02-2010, 03:23 AM
If you ever have the budget for a electric uke, my eleuke is SILENT, but I put on ear phones and can hear everything. It is great for work when I want to play, but not disturb people. I guess that does not help the singing part though... just throwing that out there.

scottie
02-02-2010, 04:32 AM
Dude.... :wtf:

Our building has rules that basically say STFU between the hours of 10pm-7am.

If any neighbor were to express any issue concerning my practice hours I would immediately use a mute. In fact, I've ASKED them. I've had neighbors compliment me on it while passing in stairwells or other places. I've always asked them that if there's an issue be sure to let me know. None have done so to date, in any of the buildings in which I've lived. Perhaps that says something about my neighbors, perhaps it says something about my playing?

There's no smilie to denote that place between the scylla of false modesty and the chrybdis of outright conceit.

RevWill
02-02-2010, 04:36 AM
http://www.wouldyoubelieve.com/graphics/cone_title.gif
Here's one solution.

eleukeusa
02-04-2010, 01:09 PM
Once in a while they appear in the marketplace
We're trying to make it a little easier to find them. List of places you can buy EleUkes right now (http://www.eleukeusa.com/contact-us.html)

An EleUke and nice set of headphones (the set that used to come with the EleUkes were horrible) and you're all set.

Plainsong
02-04-2010, 02:53 PM
Speaking of small headphones that don't suck, as a member of the headphone forum head-fi, I've got plenty of opinions there. I'm guessing the headphone output on the eleuke doesn't have tons of power for the kind of headphones that would need it, but there are plenty of low ohm cans out there that don't suck. The easiest to find would be Koss Porta-pros. If you like the idea of something like a Grado sr60 only better, try the Alessandro ms-1. At 100 bucks shipped it's the best deal in open headphones evar. They do leak sound though, being very very open.

My personal favs, for low power headphone outputs, that have tons of "fun" and also don't sacrifice detail while also being small (I like em better than the Grado/Alessandros even) - are the unfortunately named Jays of Sweden VJays. Those are the best little headphones around. Bar none.

Plug something like the those into the headphone out and I'm fairly positive your ears would love you for it.