Practicing without driving those around you nuts

Sea

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My four-year-old niece just pulled out her ukulele in order to demonstrate how loud she would allow me to practice mine… imagine stroking a ukulele with a feather and you‘re not far off the volume she’ll allow.

I’ve got to say I don’t particularly blame her, as whilst it‘s really fun to learn to play an instrument, it’s far less fun to listen to someone learning to play an instrument, especially absolute beginners who regularly miss notes, mess up the rhythm, or spend 30 minutes simply practicing switching from an f chord to an e minor or learning to chuck…

How do you all get on with practicing without driving those around you completely nuts?
 
It is possible to practice chord progressions without hammering on the strings. Just finger the chords with your left hand and possibly strum lightly once with your thumb to verify that you are holding each string correctly. If you need to practice strumming patterns, you can reduce the volume a lot by muting the strings with your left hand. Techniques like this are the difference between practicing and playing.
 
Been there, my friend.

My office (at work) has a thick wooden door. Within that office is a relatively large (deep) 5’ x 12’ supply closet which also has a thick wooden door. The combination of the two closed doors is not soundproof but nearly so. I gave up trying to practice at home because my family has zero love for Yowling Tom.

My car works just as well for practicing and its acoustics are interesting. The downside to may car is that I prefer to play standing up & it doesn’t have a moonroof. :ROFLMAO:

The major downside to the closet is that it’s un-heated/ cooled. On the coldest days (a relative term in the balmy southeastern US) I use a portable ceramic heater and keep the door open when not practicing, which is of course most of the day. Suffering for my art.
 
As long as I don't sing, the cat allows me to play at a reasonable volume.

I love the way your niece coaches you on the etiquette of practicing. She sounds like a lot of fun. I bet she has you rolling all the time.
 
My four-year-old niece just pulled out her ukulele in order to demonstrate how loud she would allow me to practice mine… imagine stroking a ukulele with a feather and you‘re not far off the volume she’ll allow.

I’ve got to say I don’t particularly blame her, as whilst it‘s really fun to learn to play an instrument, it’s far less fun to listen to someone learning to play an instrument, especially absolute beginners who regularly miss notes, mess up the rhythm, or spend 30 minutes simply practicing switching from an f chord to an e minor or learning to chuck…

How do you all get on with practicing without driving those around you completely nuts?
As a generality there’s no easy answers for this one (practise sound) and I’m not going to comment on bossy little girls, family dynamics and parenting styles (that’s one big minefield) 😂. The issue of our music being noise to others is common; if I play tunes in another room then my Mrs is happy enough but she’s not so good with me repeatedly going over exercises and difficult sections. I do practise when she’s home, but when she’s away I might also snatch some time here and there to work on tricky bits - pragmatism helps keep everyone happy. Playing anywhere in the house when a child or adult is asleep is a no no, and if you have neighbours then its best to consider them too.

Some folk resort to playing in: their cars; a shed; a cellar; and anywhere out of the way. Some folk buy a quiet Uke or find a way to muffle the strings, and some strings play quieter than others. I think that if I needed a quiet Uke then I’d buy an old (cheap and second hand) Mahalo, set it up well, put some light strings on it, and stuff some old rags in the sound hole - an electric Uke would very likely be better but I’m a tightwad so would try the lowest cost route first.

Good luck, and please let us know what solutions you find work for you.
 
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My office (at work) has a thick wooden door. Within that office is a relatively large (deep) 5’ x 12’ supply closet which also has a thick wooden door. The combination of the two closed doors is not soundproof but nearly so. I gave up trying to practice at home because my family has zero love for Yowling Tom.

My car works just as well for practicing and its acoustics are interesting. The downside to may car is that I prefer to play standing up & it doesn’t have a moonroof. :ROFLMAO:
Oh no, I wasn’t expecting anything quite as extreme as leaving the house to practice!

Good thing you don't play bagpipes!!!!
That could be the solution! I learn to play bagpipes for the next few weeks, then my ukulele playing in comparison will sound a delight to everyone.
 
I worried about this a lot when I first started playing. My wife tends to go to bed 3+ hours before I do, and I didn't want to disturb her. She assured me that I wouldn't, but I wasn't so sure. I tried a lot of tricks to quiet my playing.

Vaguely, I remember that covering the sound hole wasn't as effective as I thought it would be. Stuffing a foam block under the strings near the saddle is VERY effective, but effectively mutes the strings and gives you almost no sound. Stuffing the uke with old t-shirts or a bunch of old socks is fairly effective, as it damps all the vibrations of the body. Also makes the uke surprisingly heavy!

Ultimately, I found that using a light thumb strum was the best way to keep the volume down, and I've gotten used to playing that way.

But, in the end, I found that:

A) My wife was right. She really doesn't hear me playing in the living room when she's asleep.
B) She doesn't seem to mind me playing with her in the room right next to me, and I can gauge how well I'm playing by how much she audibly groans when I hit a clinker, or mis-finger a chord. I even catch her tapping her foot and grooving sometimes! But, she'll let me know if something doesn't sound right.

So... maybe that's the trick? Get the granddaughter on your side. And, of course, keep practicing and improving your playing to the point that people will suddenly realize... "I'm grooving to this ukulele song that I don't even know, and I don't even LIKE ukulele!"
 
Play fingerstyle! 😁

My main available practise time is early morning between about 5.30 - 6.30am, before everyone else gets up. When I first started playing the uke it quickly became obvious that my enthusiastic strumming was too loud (as a succession of irritated, bleary-eyed family members came stumbling down the stairs an hour earlier than usual) so I took to playing fingerstyle instead during my dawn practise. It’s much easier to play quietly, and I got my nice quiet hour to myself back.

Playing fingerstyle was my ultimate goal anyway, so it was no great hardship. But even if all you really want to do is strum, plucking the strings gives you more control on those occasions where your audience is less than appreciative while still giving you the opportunity to practise chord changes (as does LorenFL’s light thumb strum suggestion above).

I hope you find a satisfactory solution! If the worst comes to the worst, maybe you could get your niece some earplugs… 😈
 
Sounds like you should be getting her to practise with you, otherwise no Easter eggs...
I was wondering whether this was happening in your own house, or hers?


Risa stick!
 
I wait for the house to empty before going "full volume". ;)
 
Agree with BigJackBrass about the RiSa silent ukes, as I have a Uke'Ellie soprano and it's the most silent one I have, and being small it's also a good travel uke.

Also agree with LorenFL, and depending on the consistency of the foam used under the strings at the saddle, this option can sometimes result almost too silent. A soft paper roll also works.

My Big Island EU-SMP-N Electric Concert is a solid body one and somewhat less silent than the RiSa Uke'Ellie, but also very good for night and silent practice and for travel.
 
Get better and they won’t mind so much? :ROFLMAO:
 
what works for me and for keeping my wife asleep is an electric (i.e. no sound hole) cigar box guitar tuned GCEA or DGBE or EAC#F#. Don't plug it in and it is very quiet, even when strumming. As an added bonus, I can plug the cigar box into my amp, with headphones, and play the same quiet strings to the rest of the room but in my ears I, of course, have compression, fuzz, and a wah-wah pedal.
 
Sigh. It's sad to feel uncomfortable in your own woodshed.
This is the most impeding factor of my advancement with banjolele.
I am too considerate of others.

They need to go find a hobby. (...Did I really say that?)
 
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