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I am trying to write a letter to my downstairs neighbor. They don't like the saxophone playing even though our other neighbor plays flute which they don't seem to mind. None of the other neighbors seem to be bothered by the sax. They are trying to tell me to play only when they are not home, which is only for a few hours per day on a few days of the week. They have also suggested I get a "sax mute." Last time I played (on a Saturday morning around 10am) my neighbor showed up at my door so upset he was shaking. I really don't want to cause a problem with anyone, so what is the the right thing to do? I have already offered to play during certain hours but that doesn't seem to be the solution for them. How can I work this out?
 

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If you aren't playing during quiet hours, then they really can't complain too much. It's part of apartment living. Have you tried methods to dampen the sound, like playing in a closet into clothing?

In case it escalates to the landlord, be sure you are polite in all interactions and be able to explain anything you've done to mitigate the sound. Save any communications you can.

You might consider setting up a practice schedule and giving it to them. Make sure it abides by any noise curfews. They can make preparations if it bothers them that much, like ear plugs and white noise machines.

I am trying to write a letter to my downstairs neighbor. They don't like the saxophone playing even though our other neighbor plays flute which they don't seem to mind. None of the other neighbors seem to be bothered by the sax. They are trying to tell me to play only when they are not home, which is only for a few hours per day on a few days of the week. They have also suggested I get a "sax mute." Last time I played (on a Saturday morning around 10am) my neighbor showed up at my door so upset he was shaking. I really don't want to cause a problem with anyone, so what is the the right thing to do? I have already offered to play during certain hours but that doesn't seem to be the solution for them. How can I work this out?
 

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I feel for you. I've been there. A letter defending yourself won't help. Just apologize (in person) for disturbing the neighbor and leave it at that. Put as little in writing as possible.

If you have a walk-in closet that adjoins a sympathetic neighbor's apartment. Line any bare walls with as many rugs and drapes as you can and throw as many rugs on the floor as you can and aim a fan into the closet while you're playing so you'll stay cool.

But writing a letter to your neighbor won't do anything, especially if your neighbor files a formal complaint with management. If you live in a commercial complex, you'd do better by preempting anything that your neighbor will do by talking to the manager and explaining the situation and showing him the great lengths that you've gone to to eliminate any disturbance.

And then there are the practice room kits that you can build inside your apartment. I don't know how much they'll do to reduce sound transmission downstairs.
 

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Bottom line: It is not defensible.

If they are willing to let you know when they are not at home, do the best you can to support that. Giving them YOUR practice schedule, and telling them to wear earplugs is just not going to cut it. Even as a fellow musician, I would not tolerate that in an apartment building (and yes, I have lived in apartments in the past).

Playing a saxophone in an apartment building is not a right, it is a privilege.

Alternative for you include: taking up the flute (seriously - it is a good double), or finding other places to practice.
 

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It is most certainly defensible.

If you are not playing during quiet hours, the bottom line is you aren't doing anything wrong. Part of living in an apartment is dealing with noise from multiple neighbors.

- Saxaholic
 

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You really have to work it out in person. It's bad for you to play when you know someone is seething over the noise, the practicing you do during those times is likely unproductive. And it's bad for the neighbor too. Do you know WHY they object? Is it just the volume, or is there some other issue? Like a baby, for example. Try to accommodate them, but at the same time ask them to accommodate you. Discussing your schedule with them and maybe explaining why you need to practice may lead to friendship.

Also, there might be an unusual sonic conduit to their apartment - like a ventilation duct or something - that could be addressed. Try to get them involved in figuring out the issue - maybe you could practice in another location in YOUR apartment while they are home.

Look at this as a problem to be solved, and try to solve it, it will work out in the long run. While I agree that you are not doing anything wrong, that's not the same as doing something right.
 

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I can cut my volume down by greater then 60% using a 3/4-inch thick foam strip bent into a circle just inside the bell, coupled with a “sheeps wool” buffing pad over the bell. If your sax is properly adjusted, the airflow restriction should have little to no effect on your ability to sound low B/Bb.

The buffer pad actually restricts very little air, and it alone reduces volume by over 30% for me. Cost was about three bucks and i’ve used one for over 8 years now.

Or, put on a few CDs at reasonable volume with long sax solos. Answer the door with a quizzical look.
 

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I think the best thing to do is to talk to them, be nice, be polite, and let them know you're not an inconsiderate jerk, but you're a musician and you *must* practice. Find out if there are times when they're not home, and promise that you'll try to work your practice schedule around those times. Explain that you will sometimes need to practice when they are home, and tell them you will do what you can to try to dampen the sound. Promise to look into whether there are other practice spaces (the parking garage? a nearby park? a school?) you can use for at least some of your practice hours. In other words, act like you want to be a good neighbor, you're a reasonable person, you're willing to make some compromises, but make it clear you have to practice and you expect them to be fair and reasonable, too.

If you do all those things, and they still complain ... screw them. You did what you could.
 

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Not everyone lives in areas where houses are affordable, and life goes on..... I've played the saxophone in apartment complexes, and I've lived above and around amateur and professional musicians in apartments. No one played after hours, and it was never a problem.


Bottom line: It is not defensible.

Playing a saxophone in an apartment building is not a right, it is a privilege.
 

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Maybe think about your setup? If your playing a peel the paint off the walls type mouthpiece, maybe go to something a bit more mellow and quieter? Unless your using one of those pieces, I can't think of anything that could elicit the kind of reaction you are describing at 10AM... unless the neighbor is just one of those people.
 

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Weekend 10AM ???

....maybe its legal but its not really polite and obviously isnt working out real well.

Like others say, talk to your neighbor. Even difficult folk can become half reasonable if you approach them. Unfortunately, you are already on his bad side.

An ounce of prevention beats a pounded in chin.
 

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Buy one of the sax mutes or find somewhere else to practice. I've heard a local guy practicing tenor sax in the public park around here. You may also be able to work something out with a local school (trade lessons for room time?) or a local music store. Be creative.
 

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In the public space be sure to march as you play, because it’s true what they say about hitting moving targets.

Seriously, muting is what your neighbor suggested, and it’s the only practical way to go. Whatever mute setup you choose (my suggestion works and it cost only a few bucks), show it to him so he’ll know you’re being accommodating.
 

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If you aren't playing during quiet hours, then they really can't complain too much. It's part of apartment living.
Maybe. But it's advisable to check the lease for any provisions that might relate to noise, disturbances, other tenants' right of "quiet enjoyment," etc. You don't want to be surprised by anything here.

I think the best thing to do is to talk to them, be nice, be polite, and let them know you're not an inconsiderate jerk, but you're a musician and you *must* practice.
OP, are you a professional, or a hobbyist? This could affect the credibility of an "I have no choice" argument. As a serious amateur myself, but not someone who depends on the saxophone for my daily bread, I'm not sure how I would make the case to an apartment neighbor that my playing was an unavoidable part of the local environment. I think your best bet is to figure out a way to add some pretty good soundproofing to your practice setup.

Here's sax.co.uk's review of sax mutes:

 

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I can cut my volume down by greater then 60% using a 3/4-inch thick foam strip bent into a circle just inside the bell, coupled with a “sheeps wool” buffing pad over the bell
That sounds very interesting. I'm always looking for ways to mute my horns a little. Any chance you can post some photos of what you've described here?
 

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I hear you! As Steve suggested, I also believe it isn't a productive practice if you have to think about the neighbor and I think it isn't really helping to use mutes, a different setup etc. I managed this by just practicing outside in the woods. I drive about 20 min but I believe it's worth spending that time to find a place where you don't have to focus on neighbors. If you can find a place like that, it's great also for the sound. Another option is a basement or so...
 

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Also there are people who can't tolerate noise due to a specific medical condition, like adrenal issues etc. So it might be that muting the sound isn't going to help that much in such a case. Horns are loud, period. Regardless of the setup. I'm not thinking about legal issues here, because I find it rough even if I have the right to blow the house down between certain hours. It hurts to know someone is suffering when you play. In my opinion a place to practice - indoor or outdoor is the way to go. Good luck!
 

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I don't appreciate neighbors making noise, especially if I can hear it inside my house with the windows shut, no matter what time of day it is. ("Noise" is anything I'm forced to listen to against my will).

Check local laws for a "disturbing the peace" statute. They might be doing you a favor by contacting you personally instead of calling the police.
 

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Any colleges around. I used to go to their practice rooms at night.
I got to know the janitor and security guard.
 
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