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Thread: Loud, or Not So Loud?

  1. #1
    Registered User John Van Zandt's Avatar
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    Default Loud, or Not So Loud?

    Softer strumming or picking will work if it's late at night, or you don't want to wake everybody?

    A beginner here, please comment!
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Loud, or Not So Loud?

    From my experience. I would play at night softly my first couple of years, as this was some of the best time to get in undisturbed practice. However, it messed me up because I was practicing playing softly by changing the way I attack the strings. it was more of a timid swipe at the strings, or not fully engaging both strings of a pair. I realized this playing softly wasn't helping me, and in fact was hurting me, as I wasn't practicing how I would play if it wasn't late at night.

    And to this day, I still have problems where sometimes I lose volume when playing a tricky section, of playing faster than my comfort zone.

    Mike Marshall has often showed where he can vary the volume quite a bit by how he holds the pick, the right hand is pretty much doing the same thing regardless of the volume coming out of the instrument. But still, the lower volume he demonstrated would still be too loud in my condo living conditions. At some point I stopped playing softly at night, and moved my practices to other times in the day. Plus as I gained more repertoire and confidence, my playing during the day didn't bother my family!

    But any practice helps, and it will help you learn the fretboard, the keys, the chords even playing softly. If you were to pay softly at night, I'd advise to make sure you even it out by practicing specifically to counter the night practice, by playing how you want to play mandolin, not constrained by the nighttime restrictions. If that makes any sense.
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    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loud, or Not So Loud?

    If it's night and you need to practice, try only working the left hand through chord positions and scales...no picking. That way you won't be practicing a useless pick technique.
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    Default Re: Loud, or Not So Loud?

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    Default Re: Loud, or Not So Loud?

    I consider the ability to play softly an essential skill.
    If you're still keeping folks up, you can stuff a rag under the strings.

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  10. #6
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loud, or Not So Loud?

    an electric instrument with a headphone amp is the way to go at the dead of night.
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

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    Default Re: Loud, or Not So Loud?

    I always enjoy when my wife leaves to visit her mom/dad and then I can play as loud as I want without thinking about it ! At five or six in the morning I play/practice softly or my wife will be requesting me to leave to visit anybody ! Sometimes I place a microfiber cloth or even a sock under the strings in front of the bridge and this mutes the sound ! It works ! Cheap mute device !
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

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  14. #8

    Default Re: Loud, or Not So Loud?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bertram Henze View Post
    an electric instrument with a headphone amp is the way to go at the dead of night.
    Yep. Solid-body instrument, especially, IMO absolutely the best thing ever for preserving household (and neighbors') peace and tranquility. Also you can hear yourself play a lot better, which IMO helps a lot with a bunch of stuff including: (a) practicing subtle things like hammers and pulls and slides, and (b) noticing and correcting any possible sloppy technique that might exist. Plus, I think it just sounds better, you can give it a little bit of real-time reverb for (ironically) a more 'natural' sound, which makes playing and practicing a whole lot more enjoyable.

    IMO, headphones do not have to be expensive or big/bulky either, just about anything will work, for practice anyway. Well, except I'd avoid those "bass boost" headphones, don't need that. At one point I was using some big uncomfortable expensive Sony Studio Monitor headphones that I had left over from the 1990s, went from that to cheapie $14 office-supply-store super-lightweight headphones with the silly-looking flip-up mic (the mic never worked but I didn't need that mic anyway so it was ok), and finally now to small comfortable lightweight $10 earbuds - all adequate enough for casual practicing.

    And, even with the earphones on and playing my instrument along with a backing track (which can also be heard via the earphones - my amp has a line-in jack for an mp3 player or other audio source such as computer, for backing tracks etc, so the backing track and my instrument sounds can come through the same earphones), so even with all that going on, I can still hear what's happening in the room. So if someone occasionally wants to carry on a conversation with me while I'm playing, that's ok, I can hear them and my instrument (good practice for me, actually, trying to play and converse at the same time although mostly I just listen during playing).

    The only risk I've discovered about going electric, is that I enjoy the sound so much that now I prefer electric. It's just so much more enjoyable to play, and the extra light gauge strings are much nicer for my aged arthritic fingers. My current fave instrument is still my fifths-tuned GDAEB cheap Squier electric guitar which I play the same way I used to play acoustic GDAE tenor guitars. This electric I capo at the 5th fret to get GDAEB, an octave lower than mandolin but has a bonus high B string.

    On this same electric solid-body instrument, for approximate 'mandolin' scale-length practice I can scoot the capo on up to the 10 fret (!) for CGDAE tuning (without even having to retune anything aside from fine-tuning due to capo movement). While that's admittedly not a mandolin sound, and is a bit awkward at first (playing so high up on the wider guitar neck), it still helps me learn tunes anyway because the fingering is the same as mandolin. This multi-track video I did several years ago shows both the GDAEB electric guitar (serving the role of GDAE tenor guitar, see lower left side of video, starts at 5 seconds in), *and* the exact same instrument with the capo scooted up higher in GDAE faux 'mandolin' mode (lower right side of video).

    Q: "Why not just buy an actual electric mandolin or proper electric tenor guitar instead of screwing around with a capo on a cheap Squier guitar?"
    A: Three reasons:
    1. Cost. My way is cheaper. I already had the cheap guitar and reasonably-priced amp, didn't have to buy anything extra. Right now I'd have to save up just to buy another Rogue (seriously! family medical bills) so I make do with what I have.
    2. I've had this instrument for a few years now and it's set up the way I like it, and it plays almost effortlessly.
    3. More sound possibilities due to the 3 pickups and 5-way selector switch on the cheap guitar - for a sweeter sound, the pickups nearer to the neck are more suitable; for a raunchy sound, the bridge pickup. For some reason though, of the 5 switch positions, only 2 of them don't have hum - the one which combines the neck and middle single-coil pickups (that's my fav switch position anyway so that works out well), and unsurprisingly the bridge humbucker pickup also never has any problems with hum although I don't use the bridge pickup very often.


    Just for anyone who maybe wonders, electric doesn't have to mean distorted. You can do that if you want, but distortion is not a requirement. Most of the practicing I do is through a small Roland Cube amp, headphones plugged in which automatically disconnects the built-in speaker, using the Roland "Acoustic" emulator setting which tries to make the sound as sweet as possible... so it doesn't have to be an 'electric' sound at all. Although that same Roland amp also has several other settings as well (just turn the knob - easy!), to get other types of sounds including some kinda cool distortion sounds if that's what you want. Oh and that little Roland Cube amp also will run on AA batteries if you wish, so you don't even really have to plug it into the wall (it comes with an A/C adapter though so you can use it whichever way you wish). NFI, not trying to sell the things, I just like the product.

    The thing about solid-body electric instruments with magnetic pickups, as near as I can tell, a huge part of the sound quality comes from the amp, but not so much the instrument itself. The instrument seems to me like mostly just a fretboard to generate notes to send to the amplifier, and then the amp settings determine what kind of sounds those picked notes will become. It's *not* 'cheating' IMO, an electric player still has to play the right things and use nice expression and have good timing and accuracy, as on any other instrument.

    Edited to add - almost forgot to say:
    Anyway, with the headphones and a solidbody electric, you can essentially play whatever you want, basically whenever you want, and not have to worry about the sound being heard from very far away. The little 'ting' sound of the unamplified solidbody strings, usually it doesn't even carry to an adjacent room if the doors are closed. I once lived several years in an apartment building with a next-door neighbor who practiced his rock guitar literally *all* night long, every night except when he had a gig, month after month, but I never heard *any* of it (and I still have excellent hearing even at my age), because he played a solidbody electric guitar through headphones. You could stand right outside his door with your ear on his door (I didn't do that but some of the snoopy neighbor ladies did) and you still couldn't hear that guitar unless you were really really trying. Perfect neighbor! (Although his singing left something to be desired, fortunately he didn't sing very often.)
    For my own practicing, I love the idea of being able to play the same tune for an hour solid if I want to, or the same riff for 20 minutes straight until I get it right, or whatever, without anyone thinking anything of it.
    Last edited by JL277z; Jul-13-2019 at 5:05am.

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  16. #9

    Default Re: Loud, or Not So Loud?

    9pm for me. I have my neighbor’s schedule worked out, and I play rather than practice when others are around. No repetitive exercises for example.
    But I think it’s important to express the full volume of the instrument, I personally have often held back.

    I’d like to play outside but it’s too hot during the day, and too few semi private public spaces around here. With this heat wave weather we are having and the windows open all night, I have to play really softy and each tune is like a performance.
    -maybe it should always be like a performance?

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    Registered User liestman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loud, or Not So Loud?

    I have a portable, air-conditioned and heated practice facility that really works well for me, whether at work or home. Its called the back seat of my car. Seriously.
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  20. #11

    Default Re: Loud, or Not So Loud?

    You can weave yarn or a scrap of wool loosely thru the strings near the bridge to reduce volume.

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  22. #12
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loud, or Not So Loud?

    Quote Originally Posted by liestman View Post
    I have a portable, air-conditioned and heated practice facility that really works well for me, whether at work or home. Its called the back seat of my car. Seriously.
    there was a time when I did that, too. But I preferred the passenger seat, because of the free acoustic monitor facility aka the windshield.
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

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    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loud, or Not So Loud?

    JL277z: Very well-thought-out system! I'd try this myself but I just took my son's electric guitar back to him (he left it at my house till he got through college and was able to buy a house). He lives 7 hrs away in Wisconsin now so I won't be touching that guitar anytime soon lol.
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    Registered User Yeet's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loud, or Not So Loud?

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg P. Stone View Post
    Oooh! I gotta get some of those. Thanks for sharing!

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