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For some context I have been playing musical instruments since I was around 7 years old in some capacity, ranging from the piano and singing, to the clarinet and saxophone.

We moved house around two years ago, and at the time we had horrible neighbours. At the time, I was having a hiatus from music due to studying. Ever since we got new neighbours roughly 6 months ago, my father implemented a "no practising" rule in the house. His reasoning was that we shouldn't annoy our nice new neighbours, so I was told to "figure something out" for my practise. He is very stubborn and set in his ways, so I didn't raise the issue.

This was all fine, as I could practise at my boyfriend's house occasionally and I was just having lessons for fun. However, my saxophone teacher has told me that we are going to start studying for grade 8 and he wants me to perform two of my pieces for the exam in a concert at Christmas. This was also fine, until he told me today that he wants me to know the pieces by heart.

I have a lot of difficulty learning things from memory, so I now know I need to do at least twice the amount of practice I was planning on doing. The problem is now that I can't do that level of practice at my boyfriend's because I'm not there enough and obviously I don't want to spend all my time working and ignoring him. Also, my school doesn't have a music department as it is exclusively a STEM school specialising in computer science, maths and traditional science.

TL;DR I need a way to talk to my father about revoking the rule against practising in the house, or I'm going to humiliate myself in the concert and let down my teacher. Please bear in mind that he is not the best listener and can be unreasonable when it comes to taking suggestions.

Update I went around my father and spoke to the neighbours who said I can practice anytime I like. I then presented this information to my father and it went fine. Thanks for all the advice you gave in handling this situation diplomatically.

  • Is your house a free standing unit or do you share walls? In any free standing house I've ever been in, you can't hear what's going on inside while standing outside, presumably less once inside another building. Unless the windows are open or you practice louder than a typical death metal concert, you should be fine. Have your dad stand outside the house while you play inside, See if he can hear you. – Becuzz Jun 30 '17 at 12:13
  • We share a single wall that runs the whole width of the house. Also, the walls and floor are thin. – Gladiator Kittens Jun 30 '17 at 13:27
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There is no reason not to speak to the neighbors, find out about their routine & figure something out that is reasonable & respects everyone involved. I have a neighbor whose teen is in a band & they like to do band practice in the garage that is set apart from their house, but very near to my home. I take no issue with them holding practice. We discussed what hours I would love for them to avoid (like my 3yr old's nap time or at bedtime) and we worked it out. Because I am reasonable I also told them that as long as it was not a raging loud party, I take no issue with when they practice on weekends. I keep that in mind & deal with it accordingly.

It is great to get along with neighbors. All people should be trying to. It is unreasonable to anticipate that you don't have to "put up with" some things you do not care for. I have small kids. They love to stand in my yard yelling to the teens next door "Hi...hiiiiii hellooooooo". I try to keep it in check & not have them badgering, but such is life. They are little. So I am sure that not all people find that adorable 8 times a day. Part of being a good neighbor is not only being considerate to the neighbors about your sound level, keeping your things tidy, etc, it's also about being willing to work with the neighbors about things like instruments & practice. You shouldn't have to give up playing music for your neighbors to be nice. If you do, chances are they are the sort of people that will be difficult & find something to be irritated about eventually no matter what you do.

Is there another adult in the house to advocate for you or are you living with only your dad? Could you politely speak to the neighbors & see if there is a time that would be best for them if you wanted to practice more? Are you home at a time perhaps when they would be at work?

  • 4
    +1 for "Talk to the neighbours personally". – deworde Jun 30 '17 at 10:31
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    I don't know about your neighbours, but mine are pretty wary about everything! So +1 to @threetimes 's last paragraph - phrase it as "I'd like to practice at home, so what time would be least inconvenient for you?" rather than "Will it be alright with you if I practice my music at home? It could get a little loud". The later gives them the very easy way of saying "No, it won't be alright with us". – learner101 Jun 30 '17 at 10:31
  • I live with my mum and dad, but I'd prefer to sort the issue myself rather than get her involved as their relationship can be rocky at times. I will try speaking to the neighbours, they are nice people but I'd like to get past my dad first. – Gladiator Kittens Jun 30 '17 at 10:57
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    If you are polite, deal with the neighbors & get their agreement, you can present that to your father. As a parent, I can tell you that it always impresses me when my children maturely handle their own situations. It is very mature to walk over there & explain to them that you need to practice for lessons & that you want to find out what best suits their routine to make it the least disruptive. You will also likely impress the neighbors & as parents we LOVE that. You make us look great when you do that. The only way I can see a father not liking that is if he is using them as an excuse. – threetimes Jun 30 '17 at 11:02
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It might not be worth an answer but I don't have enough reputation yet to post a comment.

This article lists some tricks to reduce the noise or to practise elsewhere : http://www.bestsaxophonewebsiteever.com/9-tips-for-practicing-saxophone-without-getting-shot-by-your-neighbors/

This includes:

  • Stuffing clothes in the bell of the horn
  • Getting an electronic saxophone
  • Using a saxophone mute
  • Practising without blowing the horn
  • Practising in your closet
  • Playing in your car if you can drive somewhere where nobody will be bothered
  • Renting a room
  • Does your school have an auditorium where you can play after school? These are usually better sound proofed
  • The problem with several of these suggestions is they affect to quality of practice, and I don't know if you saw in the question that my school doesn't have anywhere I can practice without the whole school hearing – Gladiator Kittens Jun 30 '17 at 10:55
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Not really a parenting answer but you can get a saxophone mute for like $10. Practice in a closet full of clothes will mute the sound. Line the walls with (free) cardboard.

You can dry practice (not blow hard enough to make a sound) to memorize.

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I have no idea about the practicality or the financial feasibility of implementing my suggestions in your settings, but I'm just going to to throw in my 2 cents:

  1. Since your dad's main problem seems to be about the sound annoying your neighbours, can you steer the conversation towards sound proofing a part of your house? Like your room or basement or garage.
  2. Alternatively, can you directly talk to your neighbors to see if they are indeed annoyed by you playing the instruments? If they say they're not, there's your argument to present to your dad. Otherwise, see #1.
  • Sadly, he's also stubborn on spending any money, and our garage is only accessible through the massive door, we don't have direct access. Also, we don't have a basement. – Gladiator Kittens Jun 30 '17 at 8:13

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