Many pianists have hit this bump that he really has to play the piano late at night due to either his working hours or the necessity to practice doubly hard for that audition, performance, or piano exam the next day. But in our tiny land-scarce Singapore, residential flats are built so close to each other, and it is not uncommon that a dog's barking or a couple's quarreling in the neighbourhood is audible enough in the slience of the night. It is, thus, important to find a compromise so that you can still play the piano without disturbing your neighbours.
In our previous Read article What time after must you stop playing the piano at night in Singapore?, we find out that piano playing should be stopped 10.30pm onwards. But all hopes are not lost yet! Here are a few solutions that let you go on after 10.30pm.
Use the middle practice pedal.
Almost every piano has 3 pedals, and depending on the kind of piano you are playing, the middle pedal can be either the practice or the sostenuto pedal. In Singapore, upright pianos usually have the former (practice pedal). High end upright pianos, on the other hand, usually come with the sostenuto pedal instead. When depressed, the practice pedal actually puts a piece of felt between the hammers and the strings, so that there is no direct contact between them. Volume can drop by as much as half. Luckily, you do not have to keep your foot on constantly to stay in practice mode. Just depress it, slide your foot to the left and lock it into place! You can also learn more about How does a Piano work. As a side note, not many pianists appreciate the sostenuto pedal though, because they hardly use it, and would prefer the practice pedal instead - which is more practical.
Retrofit your existing piano with a silence system.
This involves buying a silence system, and installing it with a herculean amount of patience and precision. Watch this 35-min YouTube video to be impressed (or shocked). How does this work? Basically, you disassemble your existing upright piano and place sensors underneath the keyboard and pedals, so that when you switch the piano to silent mode, the hammers will be blocked by the rail of felt, and the movement of the keys are detected by the sensors which convert it into a MIDI signal. This signal is then relayed to a digital system which is housed in a box that looks like a DVD-player with a LED screen, audio jacks, volume knob, record, stop, and play buttons. Attach your headphone to the audio jack, and you can hear yourself playing. Because it is a digital system, you can set the output instrument to a Church Organ, and what you play on the piano now produces organ sounds to your headphones! Ta-dah! One such system is the GENIO silent system which retails at SGD1,199 and can be purchased from Cristofori outlets. Most of us will pay for the installation, period.
Sound proof your room.
While it sounds really cool to be able to have a sound-proof-ed room, it can be a costly solution. Because sound travels through objects and the air, you have to invest in a combination of commercial sound-proofing products for the best overall result. For the air component, your room has to be as air tight as possible. This means a simple stuffing of towel under your door helps. Commerical products go further by sealing up the seams or cracks found at the door and the windows. Now, to prevent the sound from travelling through objects like your walls, ceilings, and floors; commercial products are generally made up of (i) sound absorption materials that reduce echoes and reverberations, and (ii) thick wood installed on the room walls to deal with the sounds of lower frequencies. Double windows help too. Be prepared to fork out at least SGD5,000 for a basic touch-up.
Invest in a silent piano.
Well, it is a lot easier if your piano is a silent piano to begin with. The difference in price between that of a SGD14,700 acoustic Yamaha YUS5 and a SGD20,900 silent Yamaha YUS5 SH is SGD6,200. No need to sound-proof your room. No need to retrofit your existing piano with a silence system. But this is usually not a clear option at the start, especially for parents who are buying piano for the first time, and are unwilling to invest in a pricier piano for their child - who might lose interest in learning piano after a short while.
Happy playing in the night!