Is a Piano Too Loud for My Apartment?

December 4, 2023

Piano Lessons NYC - Piano Maintenance


 Are you worried that a piano is too loud for your apartment? Many people in New York City play the piano and live in apartments! If you’re just starting to take piano lessons, you will need access to an instrument to practice on in order to be successful.  Don’t worry-  you can still practice at home if you buy or rent the right instrument.

If you’ve ever attended a classical concert of solo piano music, you’ve heard a single grand piano projecting enough sound for thousands of people to hear without any amplification. That’s because a concert size piano is 9 feet long. With an open lid, it can produce an incredibly loud sound.

If you live in a small space, such as an apartment in NYC, your needs are very different than those for a concert hall. You will not be placing a 9 foot concert grand in your tiny apartment; however, you can still practice on an acoustic piano! A piano is NOT too loud for your apartment if you have the correct instrument and spend some time to dampen the sound.

The Smaller the Piano, The Quieter The Sound.

First, know that you will need to purchase or rent a smaller instrument.  A salesperson at a piano store may try to convince you to purchase a bigger piano for “better sound.”  This is where you will run into a problem of having a piano that is much too powerful for the space. It is true that the longer the strings, the richer the piano sound gets; however, this comes with a progressive increase of the sound volume. The smaller the piano, the quieter the sound.

An upright or spinet piano is perfect for practicing in a smaller room. Upright pianos are about 48-50 inches tall and are the best size.
There are also grand pianos (“baby grands”) which have been made for small spaces. These  range from 4’11” to 5’7” in length.

Sound Dampening will be Necessary

When you have an acoustic instrument in your apartment, it will still be necessary to take some measures to dampen the sound. Sound dampening techniques make the piano a little quieter by “treating” the room it is in.  Before you purchase an instrument, remember that it is much harder to dampen the sound of a grand than an upright piano.

Anything that can help break up the sound waves as they bounce between walls helps with sound dampening.

 If you place the piano against an inside apartment wall, place some acoustic foam between the piano (and the wall as well) between the bottom of the piano and the wall, you will dampen the sound volume even further. You can also use heavy blankets or rugs for that. Things like carpets, shades, bookshelves, and acoustic panels are all great ways to help make your piano sound quieter. 

Some pianos come with special features to make them quieter!

Many pianos  come with a practice pedal. This is a middle pedal which can be pressed down and will muffle the sound of the instrument because it causes a piece of felt to drop down between the strings and hammers. This can be about a 50% sound reduction!

But what if my piano is annoying my neighbors?

If you are concerned about your neighbors not liking the sound of an acoustic piano, then you may consider purchasing an electric keyboard and practicing with headphones. Keep in mind that even the most high end electric piano keyboard cannot recreate the true quality and the touch of  an acoustic piano.
If you do decide to go this route, purchase an electric keyboard with 88 keys that is fully weighted (or touch sensitive). If you are a music lover, anything less than this will limit your repertoire by a lot in both classical and pop/Broadway music.
Do not buy a 76 or 66 key instrument. These instruments have applications for professional keyboard players in very specific settings and when traveling for gigs, but they are not for taking piano lessons on. It is a mistake to get a keyboard with less than 88 keys, becuase these instruments also lead to confusion when finding notes that belong in a specific register (high or low) on the piano.
If you ever dream of playing anything beyond “Mary Had a Little Lamb” with one finger, you will need a full size keyboard.
Last and very important tip for playing piano on electric keyboards: headphones or speakers – always keep the sound volume at maximum. This is how loud the acoustic piano would be. If you lower the volume you will start overusing your strength while still getting a quiet sound and it can lead to many problems with your technique and your ability to play at different dynamics.

Hybrid Options

Finally, there is another new magical solution – acoustic pianos with silent systems (or just silent pianos.) This means that with one quick push of a button you can disconnect the acoustic action and switch to digital sound on your headphones. This upgrade is not crazy expensive and can be a game changer for your situation.

Is a piano too loud for an apartment?

Many city dwellers believe that acoustic pianos are simply too loud for apartment buildings and there is some truth in this statement. While  certain pianos can be very loud, there are many choices for instruments to purchase for your apartment.

Good luck with choosing your instrument and come have some piano lessons with the awesome teachers at Riverside Music Studios!


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