As a saxophone player, you have more than likely realized the loudness of your instrument. Due to its high volume, you may struggle to find places to practice it without bothering the people around you. Especially if you live in an apartment, how do you play the saxophone quietly to ensure that you do not disturb your neighbors?
This is what we’re going to show you in this article. Read on to see how easy practicing your saxophone quietly in your apartment, or other places you need to be quiet, can be.
But first, if it's your aim to do music professionally, you'll want to check out our free ebook while it's still available:
Free eBook: Discover how real independent musicians like you are making $4,077 - $22,573+ monthly via Youtube, let me know where to send the details:
Use A Saxophone Mute
A solid way to lower your volume during practice is by investing in a saxophone mute. These are probably your best option when it comes to playing your saxophone without disturbing others.
With a mute, you can work on your tone and technique while being able to hear it all perfectly yourself. Mutes are relatively small and easy to use, meaning they don't take up so much space in your small apartment.
What Is A Saxophone Mute?
A saxophone mute is usually a case-like structure that allows you to place your saxophone inside but still be able to play it. The mute usually has a hole for your fingers and a hole for the mouthpiece, allowing you to easily play without making barely any sound at all.
However, some mutes are considered silencers that just go in the bell of your horn. They tend to be less effective than the case-like ones, but still easier and more manageable than investing in an isolation booth. Not to mention cheaper than an entire case solution.
How Do You Hear Your Music?
With a mute, the music you are playing is being muted down to a whisper and you cannot see your hands within the case. So, how do you know you are doing a good job playing your music?
Easy. Saxophone mutes come with headphone jacks that allow you to listen to the music you are playing as you play it.They also come with an audio-in jack that allows you to play along with a recording, as well as an audio-out jack so that you can record your session.
Do Mutes Work for All Saxophone Types?
You can find a mute for any saxophone type that you have. Some mutes can work on all types, while some are specific to just altos or tenors. Make sure you double-check that the mute you buy will work for your saxophone.
Downfalls to Using A Mute
The only main downfall to using a mute is that it will make your saxophone much heavier. Also, if you use a case version, you will not be able to see your saxophone keys. This is fine for people who have been playing a while, but beginners tend to like to see what their fingers are doing.
If you find your mute makes your saxophone too heavy, you can always just rest the instrument on a table or a stand to take some of the weight off you.
We highly recommend not hooking the saxophone strap around your shoulders like you usually would if you find the saxophone and mute to be too heavy for you. If you do, you will be putting too much weight on your back. This could possibly lead to bad posture or other more serious health problems.
Recommended Mutes to Buy
There are many choices when it comes to mutes that have a wide variation of price. If you have an alto, we recommend trying the light-weight in bell mute, Ammoon Mute Silencer Light-weight ABS for not much at all. If you have a tenor, we recommend the e-Sax Tenor Saxophone Practice Mute System.
As you can see, prices can severely range depending on the quality of your mute. Full case mutes tend to be much more expensive than bell mutes but tend to be more effective at canceling out the noise. Make sure you read all the reviews of the mute you intend to buy before making your purchase to ensure it will meet your noise cancellation needs.
Creating Your Own Mute
Since a full case mute is essentially like playing in a small box, you could potentially make one out of acoustic foam panels:
- Get yourself a box big enough to fit your saxophone in and line it with the foam panels.
- Cut holes for your hands and for the mouthpiece to stick out.
The only problem with this option is that it may be difficult to hear what you are doing, since there is no built-in audio recorder.
However, you could always place a tiny microphone inside, or a recorder, to listen to what you played after you have finished.
Don't Use Your Mouth
A simple way to keep it quiet is to not blow into the saxophone. By doing so, you will not be able to focus as much on tone, but you will be able to practice your technique. This is because you can use the pitch of the keys as they come down. Listening to only the keys has proven to be effective in helping you improve your playing accuracy.
With this method, you can practice different playing aspects that do not involve tone, such as:
To do so, all you will need is your music and a metronome. Pick the section of music you want to practice and set your metronome to a slow speed. Then work towards locking in the clicking of your keys with the clicking of the metronome.
How Does This Method Help You?
Hearing the music and tone is beneficial, but technique is also imperative to your musical success. By practicing solely on training your fingers, you get to improve your timing and ability to play difficult passages.
You don't get to experience the beautiful sound or work on your breaths, but it will help make the sound that much more perfect when you get to play full volume.
Put Clothing into The Horn
Are you looking to blow into your instrument while playing it but need it to be quieter? Consider shoving a sock or other article of clothing into the horn to muffle the sounds. As a result, you will not be able to achieve your low Bb and it will not quiet all the noise, but it will make a difference.
You can consider using other soft things from around your house as well, such as:
- Small blankets
- Stuffed animals
However, you should always make sure whatever you place inside your instrument is dry and clean. You do not want any debris or too much moisture getting down into your saxophone.
Play in Your Closet
Don't want to try shoving clothing down the bell of your horn? Why not try playing in your closet.
Closets are made semi-soundproof by all the clothes within them that absorb the sound. To make the room even more soundproof, consider laying clothes at the edge of the closet door after you close the door behind you. They will help to stop the sound from escaping through the door.
Of course, this solution is only probable if you have a closet that you can fit into easily. Seeming how many apartments do not, you can try just burying the end of your horn into a pile of clothes and see if it helps. If it doesn't, you may need to consider another option.
Invest in An Isolation Booth
What is better at soundproofing than a walk-in closet? A small isolation booth.
Using an isolation booth will ensure your neighbors do not hear you. They are essentially small closet-like boxes with ventilation systems that allow you to sit inside and play your instrument without other people hearing you play.
Buying an Isolation Booth
Purchasing an isolation booth is going to cost you anywhere from $800 to $35,000. It all depends on the brand and model you want. However, even at $800, this can be a pretty costly investment.
If you are okay with investing hundreds of dollars into soundproofing, you should consider brands like Whisper Room and Vocal Booth. They make high-quality sound booths that are great for not only muffling the noise you create but also canceling out noise from outside the booth. As a result, you will be able to better record your saxophone sessions.
Building Your Own Isolation Booth
If you don't have the money to buy one, you may be able to build an isolation booth yourself out of acoustic blankets. Basically, for this option, all you need are four acoustic blankets and some PVC pipe.
Build yourself a basic frame with the PVC pipe, and then hang the blankets via shower curtain rings. Make sure everything is completely covered up so that once inside your epic blanket fort, little to no sound escapes.
This option is going to be a little dark and stuffy. Therefore, you will need to put in lights as well as take breaks for air. If your apartment is usually relatively warm, you may find this option to be too warm for you.
Using A Tent to Create an Isolation Booth
Not very good at constructing things with PVC? Not a problem. Buy yourself a tent and put the sleeve of the tent to the side so that you can hang the acoustic blankets on the frame of the tent. Once you do, you have an isolation room ready for you.
The great thing about using a tent frame is that you can easily take it down and store it when not in use. That way, your small apartment does not have to have an isolation room in it, always taking up space. Usually, tents come with a bag to pop them back into as well, so you don't have PVC pipe falling around everywhere like you would with the above option.
The only downfall for this option is that classic camping tents do not usually come big enough to stand up in. However, you could always invest in a canopy tent, and then you will not have to worry about being too tall to stand up in it.
Creating A Large Isolation Booth
Remember when we said closets are great at canceling out noise due to all the clothes? Well, why not use some acoustic blankets or acoustic foam panels to line the walls of your closet and make it even more soundproof.
By doing this, you are not taking up any extra space in your apartment or having to invest in PVC pipes. You could always soundproof any other smaller room in your apartment if the closet is too small for you to fit within comfortably.
Learn How to Play Softer
If you don't want to spend the money on a mute or an isolation booth, you could always just learn how to play your saxophone more softly. Playing your saxophone softly is a skill that takes time and dedication but pays off in the end.
Of course, with this option, you are still going to be making noise; it will just be softer. Your neighbors will be less inclined to get upset if you are softly playing rather than loudly playing.
How to Play Your Saxophone Softly
Learning how to play your saxophone softly at any age, is all about your airflow and your embouchure position. How you control the reed will determine how loud and quiet you will be able to go. The easiest way to master this is to simply watch videos of people playing softly and see how they play.
By letting yourself hear the tone you want to achieve, you will be more likely to grasp it.
You could contact a saxophone coach and have them guide you through the art of playing the saxophone softly.
Use an Electronic Saxophone-Like Instrument
Another option to consider is investing in an electronic saxophone-like instrument that can be easily played with headphones. An excellent option to consider would be the Roland AE-10G Aerophone Digital Wind Instrument.
There can be a bit of a learning curve for these electronic instruments, but usually, you can get a pretty good grasp of how to use them in no time. Most come with onboard monitor speakers and headphones output so that you can play anywhere you want, including your apartment, without disturbing the peace.
You can also hook up your smartphone to them so that you can play along to already recorded music. This will make this option fun and comparable to using a saxophone mute.
Play Any Saxophone Type You Want
A significant advantage to an electronic saxophone is that you don't have to play just one type. You can choose between different types such as:
Depending on the type of electronic you get, you may also be able to play other types of instruments on it as well. An electronic instrument capable of playing the different types of saxophones will cost you around $850, but will be like buying four saxophones in one.
Ask Permission to Play
If you do not want to spend any money and still play at full volume, you could always ask your neighbors if it is alright with them. Of course, this is not a way to make it quieter, but it still is a solution to the underlying problem of bothering your neighbors.
Scheduling out your practice sessions with your neighbor's permission can allow you to enjoy your instrument's full volume at no cost to you.
We often get nervous to ask people if it is okay to make a bunch of loud noise for a little while in the day. More often than not, many people will support you in your endeavor to master the saxophone and gladly agree to a time that works best for them.
Know Your State Ordinances
If by chance anyone gives you a problem, familiarize yourself with your state's noise ordinances, as well as your apartment rules. You may find you do not need anyone's permission to play as long as you practice within a specific time frame.
However, we strongly recommend attempting to get permission first and work out a good schedule. Upsetting your neighbors is not always worth the joy of playing your saxophone. If they do not want to hear it, consider any of the methods we mentioned above instead.
How To Play the Saxophone Quietly, Final Thoughts
Having an apartment means having a relatively small space with lots of close neighbors. To keep peaceful relations between you and them, you will have to figure out a way to practice your saxophone without it being too loud, or when they are not home.
The solutions listed above are great for when you feel the need to practice in your apartment or have no other options. However, you should always schedule your time in a place where you can play at full volume without fear of disturbing others.