Musicians Can Now Quietly Make A Noise At Home

Musicians will be a rarity or novelty within any local community. For many musicians, it’s a lonely, perhaps even anti-social existence.

Not many people play an instrument or even like music at all. For those living in suburban or semi-rural areas, music is as equally annoying as leaf blowers, dogs barking or jackhammers. Before music radio and records, playing an instrument in the home was probably more common than it is today.

Neighbours will be highly curious when new people move in next door. Potential noise will be a concern, particularly when they spot you carrying guitar cases. I’ve probably caused many unpleasant evenings for next door neighbours, particularly when I started out, often rehearsing with a full band in my bedsit (including drums). I’ve faced people in tears, bashing on walls. We had no concept of the anxiety we were causing.

Serenading Neighbours With Scale Practice

These days I live in a much quieter, coastal town. I often sense that, living in a more idyllic location, my current neighbours are expecting a gentle, impromptu performance whenever I need to practice. They think it will be similar to a classical guitarist serenading them at a restaurant. What they don’t expect is that playing the same scales over and over for a couple of hours is not a great listening experience for anyone.

It’s like a carpenter having to use electric power tools to make a beautiful piece of furniture. The creative, performance aspect might be designing the furniture. But much of the time a musician (or a carpenter) is not in performance mode. Like any creative pursuit, ideas for music happens through thinking. But ultimately writing music requires playing things that sound really wrong, until you find the right notes.

Playing Quietly Or Even Silently At Home

Digital technology now makes it much easier to practice electrified instruments (such as the guitar or keyboard) quietly, or even silently. It’s liberating that I can feel far less self conscious about sounding terrible trying to learn something new. Drummers are also catered for with full electronic kits that connect to digital software instruments. I have also developed chronic tinnitus, so everything has to be turned down anyway.

A local rehearsal space can provide a low-cost option for recording. This is much easier now with a laptop than it was in the days of cheap cassette recorders. With a band I always preferred rehearsal studios because the soundproofing confined the sound, so we could be totally immersed in the music. Gigs were often not pleasant experiences sound wise. Stage monitors rarely worked. You relied on your eyes more than your ears.

Amp Modelling For Gig and Home Use

I eventually downgraded a Marshall 50 watt stack for a much smaller Orange combo. Today, guitar amp modelling is incredibly advanced. The main benefits of digital software amps is portability. For live gigs a solid state Line 6 Helix effects unit (which also has amp modelling built-in) will plugin straight into a speaker cabinet or a venues PA system. Then, for recording, the same gear can be plugged into a guitar audio interface. VOX also produce very compact guitar amps, that can output 50 watts.

So noise problems with neighbours in a home setting are now, at least, easily solved with digital technology. But new housing developments tend to be done on the cheap, so walls are like cardboard. If you are a serious musician and own your own home, then investing in soundproofing is the ideal option.

Not only does soundproofing prevent sound getting out, it also keeps genuinely, horrific noises getting in. There’s nothing worse than trying to mix a song when there are leaf blowers and power saws going off outside.