In Singapore, we have many HDB flats built close to each other, each densely populated with families of typically between two to four persons. If you are a heartlander, hearing baby cries, couple's quarrels, and loud renovation works, are really not quite uncommon. Even the barking of the dogs or karaoke singings would remind you how close we are living just next to each other. Thus, it is understandable that being a good neighbour includes keeping noise level down. So, what time after must you stop playing the piano at night?
HDB points out that we should "avoid carrying out DIY works involving drilling and hammering from 10.30pm to 7am". This also indirectly suggests that any sound whose loudness is comparable to that of drilling and hammering must adhere to the same guideline.
How loud is drilling and hammering then? Is the loudness of piano sounds comparable? Well, hand drill and pneumatic drill produce sounds at about 100 dB. So, if piano playing can produce sounds that is near 100 dB, then we can hardly deviate from the HDB's guideline. According to many sources, like this one at Hear-It, normal piano playing is measured at about 60-70 dB (decibels), and loud piano playing (fortissimo) 92-95 dB. To give a better benchmark just how loud are piano sounds: a motorcycle is 100 dB, a loud rock concert is 115 dB, referee whistle is between 113 to 127 dB, and pain starts at 125 dB.
Actually, even without these scientific values, it is already evident enough from the simple fact that you can hear someone playing the piano even a few storeys up or down away from you. So yes, piano sounds are loud!
And no, playing well-practiced soft genre songs after 10.30pm won't help justify the loudness. What's "soft" to you might be someone's "noise". Pretty much subjective, in short. Well, you know, you can still try to indulge in broadcasting your favourite pieces. Just don't get surprised if you get a visit from one of our friendly Neighbourhood Policemen to "chit-chat" about your masterpieces.
Hmm. Landed property owners are probably in a grey zone. The HDB guideline applies to HDB flats (obviously), and does not explicitly covers those staying in private properties.
Condominiums are private properties, but they are mostly still densely arranged like HDB flats. There are probably guidelines set by your Condo Management. Do check with them the rules for noise level in your condo.
In any case, it is safe to assume that the 10.30pm guideline is applicable everywhere in Singapore.
If you really have to play the piano late at night due to your working hours or the necessity to practice doubly hard for that audition / performance / piano exam the next day; there are a couple of solutions! Read our next article on How to play piano late in the night without disturbing your neighbours.