It’s a boon for you to get as much practice as you can, but it may be the bane of your roomy’s existence to hear it.
It might not be your lack of skill that’s irritating them, it just might be the lack of sleep from hearing you practice all night.
That brings you here.
You’re considerate enough to learn how to play the guitar quietly, but not considerate enough to quit playing.
You have to get your practice in somehow right?
We’ve got tips and tricks with our picks to help you practice on the down-low.
Those within your close vicinity will thank you, and you will thank us.
So, here’s to muffled playing without muffling your talent!
The Acoustic Guitar Conundrum
Electric guitars certainly have the upper hand when you’re playing unplugged. Nylon strings, no amplifier, it’s a low-key and quiet gig. They’re not silent, but they’re much quieter than acoustic guitars. Even other nylon string acoustic guitars are still soft in volume and nature.
But, an acoustic guitar presents “noise” issues for those within earshot. It’s too loud when they want quiet, and it’s not loud enough when you need to please the crowd. How do you get it right?
Nylon string instruments are quiet enough, pianos have a sustaining/damper pedal, and even brass instruments have mutes, but where does that leave the acoustic? We think it’s time to spill our secrets!
DIY Tips to Play Guitar Quietly
Of course the music industry has DIY tips for their trade too, it’s not just reserved for household chores or home and project building. We’ve got a couple tricks to share when you’re playing acoustic guitar in an apartment, in the dead of night, or if you’re trying to keep your composition a secret until you’re ready for the reveal!
Unconventional? Definitely, but it seems to get the job done in a jiffy if you don’t have any fancy gadgets on hand. Grab a paper towel and fold it several times to wedge in between the strings and the soundboard as close to the bridge as possible. It’s definitely not attractive, so don’t forget to take these “tools” out when you’re done keeping quiet.
Alternative tools: Soft felt, thick sock
Block the soundhole. Since it’s the air in the chamber of the soundhole that aids the soundboard in producing projection and resonance, simply shoving something inside of it should help to dampen volume. Just don’t forget to take it out, and stick with soft materials so you don’t ruin your guitar and bang it around to echo inside the soundhole.
Tools: Towel, sweater, socks, padding
Tie a soft material around the neck of the guitar loosely. If you do it tightly with the strings compressed against the fretboard, it acts like a capo. Tying it loosely around the neck produces what sounds like dead notes. Its main purpose is to prevent string noise particularly on an electric guitar. This reduces vibration energy to reduce sound.
Tools: Thick sock
If you have kids, you might have some sticky tack or plasticine laying around. You can use some of this to put across the bridge to dampen sound. Just be sure to get it all out when you’re done and not to leave any residue behind.
Tools: Sticky Tack, Plasticine
Quiet Guitar Techniques
Sometimes you don’t want to fiddle-fart around with household items or purchase expensive equipment just to have to play a little quieter. Sometimes all you need is a softer touch.
You might learn how to pick a few tunes first before you can practice this technique, but picking with your fingers and not your fingernails will produce a softer sound. Put the actual picks away and get your fingers doing all the work.
2. Plug In
Sounds like a contradiction? We don’t mean to plug in for amplification. Buy a set of headphones and plug it into the input jack. That way only you and you alone can hear your awesome talent! Of course, this option is only available on electric guitars or acoustic guitars with pickups like an acoustic electric.
3. Palm Mute
Kind of a misnomer, this technique actually uses the side of your hand to mute sound. As you play, you rake your hand along the side of your pinky finger across the bridge to dampen sound. It makes a big difference in volume without inhibiting being able to hear chord changes.
Image source and additional Palm Mute instructions from Dawsons.co.uk
Quiet Guitar Products
It might just be easier to buy something where you don’t have to mess too much with your guitar. Just put it on, take it off, leave it on, it won’t matter because it’s a guitar accessory! Check out our suggestions here:
1. Extra-Light Gauge Strings
Lighter strings don’t move air as much as heavier strings do, and because they have less mass, they don’t produce a ton of energy to resonate on the soundboard. This might be a great option if you want to be easier on your fingers if you’re a beginner, but you may become accustomed to using light gauge strings or you might find the sound too “thin” if you’re used to using heavier ones.
2. Quiet Picks
There is such a thing, believe it or not. Very thin nylon picks, like .38 mm, generate a lot less volume versus heavier picks made from other materials. With a thin pick like this one, you won’t want to perform with it, but for practice, they give you a green light.
3. Feedback Buster
This is a rubber soundhole cover that gets inserted into the soundhole. Its purpose is to reduce feedback, but one of its side effects is a slight volume reducer.
However, it’s not the silver bullet as produced sound is not solely dependent on the soundhole, it’s also created via the soundboard (top) of the guitar. But, since sound does come out of the soundhole on an acoustic, it may provide just enough dampening to get the job done.
‘Silent’ Acoustic Guitars
You could always opt for a guitar that’s just, well, quiet. In design, these guitars were made with practicing artists in mind. Check them out to see if you can benefit from one of these!
1. Yamaha Silent Acoustic Guitar
- Steel Strings, Translucent Black Finish
- The SLG is the perfect instrument for practice, travel or stage use – any time an acoustic guitar just won’t do.
This guitar might prove to be expensive, but it’s going to be a heck of a lot cheaper than overhauling a sound-proof room in your house. Besides, if you’re playing acoustic guitar in an apartment, you either don’t have the space or you’re itching to get kicked out with your intended demo.
Without putting your residency in jeopardy, the Silent Guitar is your answer to quiet playing without being evicted. Its lack of a guitar body is what makes it 80 percent quieter than a traditional acoustic guitar!
2. Traveler Guitar Pro Series
- One-piece maple neck and body with natural finish
- Includes listening Stethophone for battery-free private listening and traditional 1/4-inch output with tone and volume
Yeah, it’s different. So different that it would be an out-of-the-box alternative to a silent acoustic guitar. Its main advantages are obviously for portability while traveling, but there’s a few bonus benefits in the mix too.
You might be wondering if the Traveler Guitar is an electric guitar, but it’s an acoustic-electric with steel strings. You can tell from the body design that it’s going to be much quieter to play when unplugged. Plus, it comes with a battery-free stethophone headset that you can plug straight into the guitar for private playing and listening. This should have you curious enough to check it out!
The Last Option!
After exhausting all our options, the only one we didn’t discuss was decking out a space in your home that’s “guitar-friendly.” Acoustic tiles, insulation, space needed – it just doesn’t quite fit the budget or realistic options for a beginner or amateur. Perhaps some pro players might have their own in-home studio, pssh! But, they’re not the ones looking up this stuff on being a quiet player now are they?
Your last option is to become a master of the air guitar! You can get to practice some wild, stage-worthy performance moves, smash and shred your guitar to pieces in the heat of the moment, and you won’t wake a darn soul!
However, you might end up being a crappy player since you’ll get no real guitar practice. You might want to re-read this post if the air guitar sounds tempting!
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Trent is a music lover, musical instrument player and passionate audio afficionado.