Neighbours Complaining about Piano Playing

Long story short:

Friend of mine is a musician and rents in an apartment building. A month ago upstairs neighbour knocks on his door asking him to stop playing piano in the middle of the day as it disturbs them. He apologises and explains that it's his work, offering to make a set time in the day to arrange play music (e.g. 1:00-2:00pm), the neighbour says not to worry about it and walks off. He receives email from agent about the complaint, and responds that he is willing to be flexible and arrange a set time to do his music. Doesn't receive response from agent.
A few days ago he's recording music at home at around 2:00pm, the same neighbour comes banging on the door complaining.
He then receives a formal complaint from agent saying he's heard that he's breached social distancing restrictions by having visitors (neighbours called police 2 times in the past couple of months, both times police confirmed that he was keeping to the restrictions) and that he's being too loud with his piano playing, and he will terminate the lease if this doesn't stop.
Spoke to fair trading who suggested they work it out between themselves before escalating it.

TLDR: Neighbour complaining about piano playing during daytime (work) hours.

My questions are:
Is the agent within his right to threaten termination of the lease for playing piano during normal working hours?
Is my friend wrong for playing piano in an apartment during the day?
What can he do about the false accusation of breaching social distancing laws?
Should he look to move somewhere else, or just stuff it and continue playing piano, hoping they are not within their rights to kick him out?

Poll Options

  • 109
    Tenant is wrong for playing piano
  • 711
    Agent and neighbour are being unreasonable
  • 24
    Just move out because it's not worth the hassle


  • +5

    Call the police for harassment.

  • +2

    Let agent try to evict. Fun ensues

  • +5

    There are body corporate rules for this.
    Tell your friend to get a copy of these, as long as he doesn't violate the neighbour can pound sand and the agent has no reason to terminate the lease. The agent is just trying to make it so people stop calling them by tell the tenant to knock it off and can't terminate the lease unless the tenant has breached it.

  • +2

    Look living in a apartment will have issues with your neighbors, hell I have issue with my friggin neighbors too especially when they put shit manures on their garden and have a dance routine every single morning before 8am. What can you do? I'm not going to move out because I been living here for 15yrs.

  • +3

    Don't be a (profanity).
    Reduce noise.

  • +8

    Is your mate playing classical or ragtime? I would be quite upset if forced to listen to two hours of rag time daily.

    If your mate chose to live in an apartment he should be practicing with a keyboard and headphones. Or hire a practice space/a studio if it is work. It is not decent to force other apartment dwellers to listen to your choice of music, TV or movies. Don't be a jerk and keep the volume down.

    • +1

      maybe parlour songs, the block would be like a saloon

  • +9

    What sort of tool has a piano in an apartment, the guitars are bad enough

    • I have a ukulele.

      • +2

        eBay that problem onto some other sucker

        • But it's a great midlife crisis tool, and easier to keep than a goldfish!

  • +2

    Good thing I haven't ever lived in an apartment. Pretty sure neighbours would knock on my door complaining about my loud farts

    • I often wonder the same. Especially the ones that I rip the moment I get home that I've been holding in all day.

  • +7

    Apartments are for people to live in, not work. People have babies, quiet reading, etc. Tell him to get a piano with headphones.

    • +7

      Not sure if you are aware, but we live in an age of work from home now due to the covid situation

      • +1

        Yes, and it's hard to work with someone banging out piano, when they have the option of using headphones.

  • +1

    What does the by-law say?
    Have the agent made clear of the by-law before the apartment had been rented out?

    • I'm not sure what it says. I doubt the agent would've pointed that out, otherwise, he wouldn't have rented there or brought a piano in there. That's just my guess.

  • +1

    Playing the piano is his work?

    I don't get it.

    Is he giving lessons (most likely in breach of Covid restrictions in sitting side by side)?

    Is he composing?

    Electronic keyboard and headphones seems reasonable for work.

    • +1

      Music lessons can now be provided one one one. Kids are going to school after all, much harder to social distance there

    • He writes and records (the recording is not done from home) music.

      • In that case a keyboard is more than sufficient.

  • There are restrictions on how many piano playing hours per day & at what times in WA I would imagine that would also be the case in other states.

    Also running a business from home surely requires council approval?

    • no it doesn't require approval for a music tuition business, or if he's just composing.

  • +2

    IMHO I think the OP "friend" is ok to do what he is doing if for an hour or so a day. However maybe they could invest in a cheapish keyboard so they can practice/work on stuff on headphones?

  • -1

    In the NT loud noise can be classed as undue anytime of the day. Maybe google it in your state or call the police on 131444 and ask them about time noise restrictions. During the day who cares. I mean I’d be upset if you were playing at 1am.
    I work in Comms and we get calls from people complaining about a neighbour playing video games and it’s too loud during the day. Well you don’t like it close your doors and windows. Stop complaining and wasting everyone’s time lol

  • +1

    Just keep doing it.

  • +1

    If the piano is in a bedroom, maybe sound proofing may help? 🤷🏻‍♂️

  • +14

    It’s amazing how a dog can bark all hours through the night as well as comings and going’s upsetting people in the area and nothing is done, Yet a piano can play a few hours a day and upset a neighbor and the lease could be terminated… Sure is a crazy world.

    • Your local council deals with barking dogs

      • Unfortunately in this area they don’t do it very well

    • +1

      It is common for by -laws to not allow dogs within the unit/apartments largely for this reason.

    • +1

      bit like saying it's crazy how a baby can cry whole day long at home, in the shopts, on the bus, on a plane and then you just need to keep slient eh. it truly is a crazy world

  • +8

    This is the best site to find a good deal on headphones and possibly the keyboard.

  • +3

    simple solution

    get a keyboard and headphones and play as much as you like 24/7

    thread closed :)

  • +1

    Your friend should try one of the following:

    • Buy an electric keyboard and use headphones
    • Buy all his neighbours a pair of noise cancelling headphones/earphones
    • Try to play his piano quieter
    • Soundproof his room so no sound travels out of it

    It should be on the onus of your friend to minimise the sound that he is producing if he is annoying others. That is what people who live in apartments should do out of respect for others. It's a shared building, you shouldn't go around making as much noise as you want because that's just obnoxious. Maybe his neighbour is just sensitive to noise and a cranky old fart, but either way it's rude to move into an apartment building if you're going to play loud music frequently.

    • Friend must play shit music, I'd love to have an hour of free decent piano music a day.

  • I lol at the poll, use the fuc,king headphone, any noise or smell in apartment is unacceptable.

    • It's not a digital piano. No headphones.

  • +8

    I'm gobsmacked that people think a professional pianist can just practice on a high end keyboard with headphones.

    A bit like telling a professional Chef to practice by taking a job at Maccas.

    • +2


      • +5

        No really I'm gobsmacked. I see this all over the Internet. Everyone's an expert and a genius that can solve any problem, without any actual knowledge on the topic whatsoever! (Who needs pesky details!). And you better not correct them or they'll get offended and start abusing you and accusing you of bullying them. As if the opinion they gave still counts for anything after you've shown it to be complete and utter fantasy. Or that somehow that is a personal attack. It drives me absolutely insane.

        The suggestion to move out, though somewhat harsh, is at least maybe something practical OP's "friend" might be able to work towards. Practicing on "a cheap keyboard" not so much.

        Another analogy: Practice surgery by playing Milton Bradley's game "Operation".

        • +1

          play guitar hero to learn / practice guitar :P

          • +1

            @Apple96: Guitar hero?!? Luxury!!!!

            Back in my day with Wylde Stallyns we learnt on air guitar, and we played so well we brought harmony in the universe as we know it! Excellent!!!
            — Ted "Theodore" Logan.

        • Works for splinters.

    • +3

      You've got to be kidding, a professional pianist can absolutely practice on a keyboard.
      My keyboard has weighted keys and sounds great, was relatively cheap and I never have to get it tuned.
      A lot of musicians don't have the space for a "real" piano or can't afford it.
      Respect your neighbors, just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

      • Are you a professional pianist?
        If not, did you at least watch the video I posted?

        A piano is not the same thing as a keyboard, even though they share attributes. And if a professional is going to practice on a keyboard it's going to have to be an expensive one. Why would I say that? Because if a professional pianist could play just as well on a cheap keyboard there would be no market for expensive pianos or keyboards. How much can be done on a several thousand dollar digital piano/keyboard might depend on the style of music that pianist is playing and their own ability to transfer between the two.

        Look this guy's solution might be to move out of the city for all I know, but stating that a professional pianist can just exclusively practice on a keyboard is not realistic. It's a "let them eat cake" solution, at best. It isn't just about respect. I could equally tell you to respect this guy's profession.

        • +8

          I am not a professional but I've played for 20 years, same with guitar and drums. Being a professional is beside the point, many pianists practice on keyboards and that is a fact. The best pianist I know practices on a keyboard and records at a studio.

          Could you equally respect the guys profession if he was a professional chainsaw carver?
          Music snobs, I swear to God…

          **Should clarify that when I say keyboard I mean an electric piano, don't want to split hairs but it is worth mentioning

          • -8

            @DisabledUser228397: I've tooled around on bass guitar, guitar, drums, keyboards and the odd wind instrument for years too. BUT I can't work with your refusal to acknowledge the difference between a hobbyist and a professional. If you ruin your playing style, who cares. If he does he may go hungry. It's not a question of snobbery at all. Respecting someone who makes a living at something and has dedicated more than just free time to getting good doesn't require any snobbery at all.

            Could I respect his profession if he was a chainsaw carver? Hell yeah… I sure as hell wouldn't tell him to use paper and scissors instead of a chainsaw to keep the noise down!

            The bottom line is perhaps this guy shouldn't live in an apartment. Hell maybe he needs to change career. But telling him to do the impossible because it's possible for you doing it as a hobby is beyond ridiculous.

            Electric piano isn't keyboard! That's NOT splitting hairs. You can only afford to call it splitting hairs because your livelihood doesn't depend on the difference. How ridiculous would it be for someone to walk into Carnegie hall with a keyboard from Costco. Do you think that'd fly man?

            • +10

              @syousef: And I can't work with your refusal to realize that there are electric pianos that won't ruin your play style and are ALMOST as good as the real deal.

              You may want to stop using extreme analogies. Operation compared to real surgery? McDonald's worker compared to a professional chef? Chainsaw carving compared to scissors? How many times do you want to use this logical fallacy? None of these are valid arguments. Reductio ad absurdum my friend. I also did not say that they are the same two instruments as you indicated in your earlier straw man argument.

              I'm also not "telling him to do the impossible".

              I play acoustic guitar and I could argue I'm a professional due to the fact that I do get paid for it. I recently had a housemate move in, I normally play acoustic but have now switched over to my electric with headphones to practice just so I don't make much noise. Sure, it doesn't SOUND as good but it certainly has not damaged my style or whatever you want to say it damages. Adapt, overcome, don't be a jerk.

              • +1

                @DisabledUser228397: There are top concert pianists that will absolutely not use an electric piano. End of story.

                Your buddy isn't one of them. Great. 1 guy who plays one style and you want to generalize to everyone. It's also quite amusing you're accusing me of using extreme analogies after you said "Could you equally respect the guys profession if he was a professional chainsaw carver?". Really!?!?

                And as for the votes, if the entire Ozbargain community wants to believe that a keyboard is a replacement for a piano in all cases, that's just fine with me. It is not my job to provide anyone here with an education in music or logic.

                • +2

                  @syousef: Top concert pianists can afford it and don't need to live in apartments.
                  You're the one making generalizations.
                  A chainsaw carver is a legitimate profession that is also loud plus I was being obviously facetious.
                  No one is saying it's a replacement in all cases, that's just you building a straw man and then falling for your own argument.
                  The "entire Ozbargain community" is not negging you.

                  • @DisabledUser228397: Wow. You do realize that most of the famous musicians in Europe lived in apartments right?
                    And you accuse ME of being a snob?

                    And I see. You were "just being facetious" but I was "using extreme analogies". Do you know what intellectual honesty is? Try addressing one of my arguments instead of the childish personal attacks for a change. it'll put hairs on your chest.

                    And straw man indeed. It is much less of a generalization to say that a keyboard is not an adequate substitute for a professional pianist to use full time than to say that in most cases it is. Oh I forgot I'm being a musical "snob" for daring to point out that a keyboard isn't a freakin' piano.

                    Honestly, are you even capable of a response that doesn't contradict itself and reality? You know the definitions of reductio, straw man and other formal logic but you can't see when you're constantly contradicting yourself. Do you know what ad hominem is? Or is bullying a natural subconscious response when you disagree with someone? I mean the way you swing and miss is seriously impressive.

                    • +1

                      @syousef: It's almost as if you're arguing with a stranger on the internet about an asinine topic.

              • +1

                @DisabledUser228397: Tip: snag an "old" Zoom G2 / 2.1u. Beautiful pre-set patches for clean acoustic from an electric.
                Almost limitless in breadth.

                • +1

                  @Speckled Jim: I'll give it a look. I'm using a 15 year old multi effects pedal but I have been looking for something newer and better. Thanks! Having intonation issues with my Strat FR atm so my wallet needs to hold out a bit longer before I splash the cash.

                  • @DisabledUser228397: Oh, not an upgrade to newer then. These were from the mid-noughties. My 2.1u from 2006 but they released updated versions.
                    Can be cheap second-hand. Metal chassis with two microswitches and pedal pot.
                    Pretty rugged but try to find "never gigged".

              • @DisabledUser228397: I am a professional classical musician. I would like to say that unfortunately, for many at the level I work with, the chainsaw vs scissors analogy is quite apt. There are simply too many nuances (mostly in response) in an acoustic instrument that technology has been as yet unable to replicate in any digital instrument. This is not to say that you couldn't achieve a good % of the work on an electronic instrument, but not the totality. For other (mostly contemporary) music forms they seem to be universally accepted. Different tools for different applications. Perhaps just try to be aware that for industries you are not a specialist in, there is the possibility of these differences.

        • +1

          Sorry, have to agree with Gauntlet on this one.

          I've been playing piano for over 30 years (not professionally), and play regularly on a Yamaha upright and a Roland digital keyboard. The Roland certainly feels different to the Yamaha, but I am perfectly fine playing on both, even for very difficult classical pieces. More modern digital keyboards have even better action that mimics the hammer action to a high degree. Certainly more than enough for a professional musician, including highly trained classical musicians.

          I watched the video that you linked. The pianist in the video used a Nord to practice the Rach 3 on. So he obviously thought that a digital keyboard was more than adequate for playing an extremely difficult classical piece. In fact, while displaying his Nord, he went to some lengths to casually show the Rach 3 score opened on one of the more difficult passages.

          So, going back to this pianist with nasty neighbours. A good digital piano would be more than adequate for his work. Plus, he can claim it back on tax. Bonus!

    • +8

      Then I'm surprised a professional pianist thinks they can move into an apartment building to practice their piano playing as if no one would be disturbed by it.

      Don't people who play instruments realise their playing can be annoying to others especially if it's loud?

      • +2

        Yeah, the world would be a much better place without all those horrible selfish professional musicians.

        Just look at these fools' appartments!

        We all know that the vast majority of musicians are rich and famous and can afford their own mansions!

        • You mention "straw man" in your earlier comment (as I saw it scrolling past), for one thing I never said musicians shouldn't exist. The ones that move into buildings occupied by others who go about their usual routine without attempting to mitigate the sound they make are being disrespectful to other people in the building, it's quite simple.

          Never said a musician had to buy their own mansion to practice in either. Go to a studio, add soundproofing to your room, play an instrument that you can use headphones with, practice at specific times of the day like 5pm which could be when people might not be sleeping, put your piano against a wall that isn't adjoined to another apartment.

          And FYI this is coming from someone who lives in an apartment building and has a neighbour who plays piano constantly (I mean like it's her full time job or something). I personally don't mind because it's not right next to my room (but my poor housemates' instead) and because she's a good player. If it was next to my wall I'd be going insane, but there are a couple of piano players in the building and they don't bother me because it's not LOUD. Maybe all the musicians should move into one apartment building, then we'll see how they feel when other people play music loudly.

          • @Ghost47: Musicians are used to this. That's how conservatories operate. Think of it as the equivalent of a cubicled office - they're just all there to get work done.

    • +1

      I totally agree with you, it's not the same thing and all the people suggesting it is are over simplifying the matter. I live in an apartment and don't play the piano anymore cos I don't want to play an electric piano.

    • +2

      Did you even watch that video all the way through? He talks about the pros of electric pianos, shows 2 of his own that he practices on, and at the end tells a story about preferring the sound of his Nord electric piano at a gig over an acoustic.

    • +1

      Absolutely this. I'm a drummer and I tell you what, playing on an electronic instrument freaking SUCKS. I also did a music degree in composition, and having access to a proper, resonant piano was really important to my creative process.

      It's a crappy position for the OPs friend to be in, but going electronic isn't the right solution for the most part.

    • Not at all, I'm a composer and former concert pianist. I use use a Roland RD-2000, it has a better feel than a lot of acoustic pianos and is more than good enough for practice or composing.

  • +2

    Play elevator music and say that the music actually comes from the elevator so if they want to sue someone, they should sue the management.

  • +4

    What an empty threat - terminating the lease. Rental properties are dropping 20% in Sydney, and agents and landlords are fighting to keep their tenants because they would otherwise need to fight a lot of competition for a new tenant. I'd just move & seek cheaper rental elsewhere.

    Source: am landlord.

  • +5

    I grew up playing the piano every day - it is a percussion instrument - hammers hit strings - and can easily disturb others

    in NSW our strata bylaw number 1 is 'must not make any noise at any time likely to disturb another'

    compliance with strata bylaws is part of a standard NSW residential lease

    it's not objective as in certain db at certain times of day - it's subjective - if one neighbour feels disturbed, it's a breach

    we had a tenant asserting NSW Noise Laws like 10pm thinking he was allowed to play his amplified guitar until 10pm every night - we advised him that may work in his own house, but in a strata complex our bylaw applied

    after much whingeing I believe he got a silent guitar which he can listen to with headphones

    and everybody is happy again.

    so - if he wants to play piano - get a silent electronic type - Roland had nice action, Yamaha made some fine ones, and they tend to be way more portable and take up a lot less space in small units than iron-frame pianos !

  • -1

    Buy a keyboard and get some headphones

  • Just dont open the door, ignore them

  • +2

    Imagine living in the apartment next to Beethoven.

  • -1

    Have friend bang on neighbours door at random times and ask them to keep it down. Then have friend report noise to landlord/agent. Repeat.

  • +5

    I think your friend is unreasonable. Imagine a nurse shift worker who wakes up in the middle of the sleep at 1pm constantly because of some noise (WHICH can be prevented by using a keyboard and headphones) or 2 let him in your house to play? :)

    • +1

      The pianist has suggested to the agent/neighbour a timeframe to limit practice, that's a pretty reasonable offer.

      If the neighbour doesn't agree, they can just counter-propose a better time?

  • +1

    Since the Agents are getting notice, the complaints have gone through the strata manager/committee. I suggest your friend contact the strata manager/committee to help remediate as we have no idea what the other side of the story is like.

  • +1

    just check that they are unhappy with the piano and then ask them about that drum kit you were eying off. Now which would they prefer?

  • -3

    Neighbour is being an (profanity) 100%. I would check his tenancy agreement but very much doubt this would fall under being a nuisance of any kind in law. It's daytime - people make noise - he tried to do the right thing by making an agreement and I'd encourage him to try once more before it escalates but even so… not the pianists problem.

    Call a community legal hotline for brief advice. You shouldn't have to buy a shitty electric keyboard (even the better ones just aren't the same) because someone else is being a (profanity). If that person has a genuine reason for needing special treatment (ie: they're seriously ill and sleep during the day) then there may be scope for negotiating. But it sounds like they don't have a genuine reason and they aren't wililng to be reasonable at all. Tell them to buy the noise cancelling headphones. What pricks.

    • +1

      Tell them to buy the noise cancelling headphones

      No, tell them to buy a drum kit and play that when the other guy is playing piano, or a nice set of speakers with a large subwoofer and play a movie or music to a volume that cancels out the piano. If the pianist has any issue with that, then

      Tell them to buy the noise cancelling headphones

    • +1

      It's daytime - people make noise

      There's a big difference between making incidental noise (e.g. pots clanging when cooking) and intentionally playing loud music. Considering more people have been WFH in recent months it's even more inconsiderate.

  • "and he will terminate the lease if this doesn't stop."

    Excuse me??!?! wtf

    Under what laws?

  • -1

    Midi keyboard with headphones.

  • at least it not drums. i swear there someone in our street is practing drums all day

  • +1

    Seems unreasonable to me… but as an option, is it possible to use an electronic keyboard + headphones?

  • +10

    during daytime (work) hours.

    To me this is implying that you think it's fine to make whatever amount of noise you wish because it's during standard working hours.

    What about shift workers? 1PM is the middle of the night for them.

    What about people working from home at the moment who are trying to concentrate? What about stay at home parents? Not everyone has a 9-5 like you seem to think.

    Honestly if you're living in an apartment it comes with sacrifice. Playing a freaking PIANO in an apartment would be a nightmare for anyone, at any time of the day. How would your friend feel if I banged on the wall every day at 6PM because that's what I want to do, but oh it's only for an hour so don't worry. :)

  • Good luck on the agent trying to find new tenant..

  • +4

    FFS just get a decent hammer-action keyboard and a good set of headphones. Problems solved. Save the real piano for if/when they live on their own property.

    • Interestingly, these can be actually quite loud, but you tend not to notice because of the music - but play one in the wrong kind of apartment (thin walls or whatever) and it'll be just as irritating.

      • They are nowhere near as loud as an accoustic piano though. It could still be slightly annoying in the next room, but would be much harder to argue, and unlikely to be above legal sound levels. If he is thumping the keyboard that hard, then the piano he is playing now would be extremely loud.

  • +1

    Is your floor hard? If so buy some thick carpets and put it under the piano, and around the room. Also put some soft furniture like sofa.

    Finally, buy some noise insulation sponge, it looks like stalactites. And put it near the wall around the piano.

    There is also a commercial grade noise insulation sponge for the piano feet to stop noise travelling through solid matter.

  • +4

    I would expect a professional musician to know he should sound proof his work area.

    Alternatively, why doesn't he rent a studio that's made for this particular purpose.

    …. or learn a new workflow.

  • +1

    Get an Electric keyboard or a pair of headphones you can play as loud as you want.

  • Is the guy actually a descent musician?

    I mean, if it's a really nice apartment, there would be soundproofing or a little more distance …

    So this pianist is basically a teenager with an electric guitar who mostly lives on centrelink, but gets the occasional paid gig …

    Should probably find a share house with musician friends, then they can all annoy each other equally :) but annoying his 80 year old neighbor who just wants to watch "days of our lives" isn't cool

  • +1

    A real piano is not a keyboard ffs.

    A real piano is a real piano.

    Keyboard is a keyboard - any pianist above Grade 5 will tell you this. Ozbargain keyboard warriors level 99 do not count.

    Get sound proofing for the apartment or move. There is no point talking sense to some people.

    Another perspective is that an experienced musician should know about this problem before moving into an apartment, like what the?

    If he is only playing for 1-2 hours a day, I doubt he is a professional musician or a professional pianist, so I would actually just get an electric keyboard with headphones.

    • +1

      A "keyboard" isn't a substitute for a piano, but a digital piano can be a viable alternative to an acoustic one. Around $5000 can get a very high quality one suitable for serious musicians. There are also silent acoustic pianos - not cheap but they would also do the job.

  • +8

    Get a keyboard and headphones and stop pissing your neighbors off.

  • +1

    Not everyone wants to hear music of any sort.. given most of us still have to work from home, best to find a way a way to contain the noise to ur own residence. Can a piano be hooked up to noise free headsets?

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