The Violin Channel member Benjamin Chung, from the United States was keen to know: ‘What are some essential tips for practicing at home without annoying your neighbours?’
We threw Benjamin’s question over to acclaimed Canadian violin soloist, James Ehnes:
Great question, and I’m afraid I don’t have any easy answers!
I assume you are asking about a situation in an apartment, as practicing in a detached house is rarely going to be a problem (unless you play trombone and like practicing with the windows open).
If one has options, choose your neighbors carefully. Are there other musicians in the building? Are there people in the building who are likely to be working from home? Will your neighbors mainly be young and working, or older and retired? Are there young children in the building?
Life is, of course, often about compromise. As musicians, sometimes our lives and schedules are a bit more flexible than people working in other industries. If your neighbor works nights but you like to practice in the morning, maybe you can think about adjusting your habits, since changing your practice routine is probably easier that your neighbor changing their job! Get to know your neighbors. If they like you, they’ll be more likely to be understanding of your situation. Invite them to a performance. Let them know when you have something particularly important coming up.
Be considerate. If you’re desperately cramming for a performance and you absolutely need to put in an hour of work at some crazy hour of the night, by all means use a practice mute! But also be aware of your rights. In some places, there are laws that protect the rights of musicians to practice in their homes between certain hours.
I guess ultimately the best advice I could give is to suggest you put yourself in your neighbors’ shoes, and try to empathize with what might be an occasionally difficult situation for them. If you treat your neighbors with understanding and respect, they are much more likely to reciprocate.
Oh – and be sure to play really, really, really well – that will make everyone happy.
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