Is Bass Guitar Too Loud For Your Apartment? There are many factors that could make playing bass in your apartment tolerable to your roommates and neighbors or can make them make a noise complaint against you.
Factors like where you live, how your gear is set, what gear you use, and what time you play can be the difference between your being a friendly neighbor and getting evicted in extreme cases.
The main, obvious problem with playing bass in your apartment is the sound getting through to your neighbors. The good news is most of the problems related to bass guitar loudness can be rectified. In this article, we’re going to cover the most common factors that cause loudness when playing bass in your apartment while suggesting simple, feasible solutions to eliminate those factors.
Part One: Problems
- Your Gear
The first step into getting the best sound out of your bass is having a decent amp. The common belief goes bigger amps have better sounds. Whether or not you agree with that belief, there’s a constant fact in that equation: big amps come with big sounds.
Big amps are perfect for live performances, especially if you own a stack amp, but your neighbors will call the cops on you for them. Stack amps can be a problem wherever you place them in your apartment due to their unavoidably loud sound.
On the other hand, some bassists prefer to play with computer plugins and desktop monitors. While those have much more control over their volume, they may still face noise complaints from their neighbors. The thing is bass’s low frequencies easily pierce through walls even when set at a low volume.
- Your Apartment
The size and place of your apartment play a major role in loudness getting through to your neighbors. If you live in a big apartment, you will have a few places where you can play your bass without annoying your neighbors. If, on the other hand, you live in a studio apartment, your options are pretty limited.
Moreover, where your apartment is in relation to the others on the same floor plays a major role in your sound getting through. If your apartment is on either extremity of a building, you can set up your gear in a room that doesn’t have direct contact with a neighboring room – something you can’t do if your apartment sits in the middle of the building with other apartments left and right.
- Where You Place Your Gear
When you set up your gear, the first thing that comes to mind is where to set it up to hear it best, depending on the size and shape of the room where you decide to put your gear. However, there’s an important issue to which you must pay attention: you do not want our neighbors listening too.
You can face this problem with your next-door neighbor if your amp is set against the wall. Sound travels faster through solids than air. So your neighbor will feel like they are sitting with you as you play – imagine if that’s their bedroom.
The problem doesn’t end here. You can still face noise problems with your downstairs neighbors if you have your amp standing on bare ground. The sound can easily travel through the ground and pierce right through your downstairs neighbor’s ears.
- Amp Settings
The thing is some amps, especially stack amps, have a really big sound even when set at the lowest possible volume. Those amps have a specific sound threshold, under which the amp will produce a low, inaudible sound and above which the amp cranks up the sound pretty quickly.
Bassists who play with stack amps are not the only ones who could face this problem. The truth is anyone can face this problem if they record with mics. Mics must receive a certain volume in order to cleanly absorb the sound, or else your recording will sound weak and filled with air. To make matters worse, you can’t just bring up the mic gain and lower your amp volume as it will magnify the problem I just mentioned.
We all want to play our instruments whenever we feel like it, be it early in the morning, mid-day, or after midnight. This is particularly evident if you’re a composer: you never know when you could get the creative juices. Being a musician and a composer myself, I sometimes get great ideas in my sleep. Unfortunately, you can’t always do that.
Most neighbors like peace and calm, especially at night when they are about to go to sleep and early in the morning before they wake up.
Bass is your instrument of choice, your neighbors and roommates will always hear you playing. Except, some times are more tolerable than others, which we will cover in the solution part.
Part Two: Solutions
In this part, I am going to mention all possible solutions whether they were expensive and require a lot of work or cheap and practical. It is up to you to decide which fix fits you best depending on the gear you have and your budget. The solutions will go in the order of most expensive to most practical.
- Insulate your room
In my opinion, insulation is the ultimate fix to all mentioned and unmentioned problems. It is quite practical and less costly if you play your bass in a small room. It’s also important to note that this fix best fits you if you have a large amp and record with mics. So, in a way, you will have your own mini-studio in your own apartment.
It is also important to note that this solution doesn’t work alone. There are other factors you should consider before deciding that insulation is your best choice. Those factors are solutions on their own, and you should have them in mind whether or not you ultimately decide to insulate your room.
Last but not least, put in mind that if you insulate a room, you must add air conditioning to it, or else you will fry inside along with your equipment. So that’s another cost you should add to your budget if you decide on insulation.
- Get an attenuator
Attenuators are great for big amps and, more specifically, tube amps. If you’re not familiar with attenuators, they basically take your loud signal and quiet it down. The reason they are especially great for tube amps is that tube amps sound better on loud settings. But Attenuators work just fine with solid-state amps as well.
The way attenuators work is by plugging the amp output through the attenuator and into the cabinet. Some combo amps have a power-amp output as well, so attenuators will work with those too. Attenuators also come with different features, so you can use one that just fits your need.
Those devices widely vary in price, their high-end products reaching up to $600+. But, in any case, they are a lot more affordable than room insulation, and they just do the trick. Moreover, they will help you with recording too. Most attenuators have a line-out socket that you can plug into your audio interface and record without mics at all and still the powerful stack amp sound with the cabinet simulators some attenuators feature.
If you are on a budget, however, you can still use your attenuator for recording by plugging it into your audio interface and using cabinet simulator plugins. Those tend to be cheap, so that’s another way attenuators can help you go around loudness issues.
- Get an audio interface
There’s no argument that your bass sounds best with an amp, especially in a live situation. But just for the sake of playing at home, you might want to consider getting something that would help you in this prospect. An audio interface is a great choice for that. Not only will it solve the loudness problem, but you will also have several applications for it.
Just by plugging your bass straight into a good audio interface, you will get a sound quite satisfying to your ears at a reasonable volume level. From here, you can connect your audio interface to speakers or monitors, which have a significantly lower volume than that of amps, or you can use your ear monitors or headset, and no one will ever hear you play.
I know what you’re thinking right now: who wants to just play with a dry signal, right? Well here is the good part of using an audio interface: you can always download all the effect plugins you need, which are quite cheap, and get a sound you very much enjoy. This method will also solve the recording problem.
If you’re feeling kind of generous with your expenses, you can always buy a bass multi-effect pedal or rack. This option is more costly but it guarantees a great sound whose volume you can easily control so you can play your bass whenever you like and for as long as you wish.
- Insulate your amp
This solution fixes the problem of your sound traveling through the wall if you’re placing your amp right against it. So it will also deal with your sound reaching your downstairs neighbors by extension. The kind of insulation we’re talking about here is quite practical and cheap, unlike whole room insulation.
You can deal with this problem in several practical ways such as placing a big, thick piece of sponge between your amp and the wall. It could also work with an old piece of a mattress or even some cushions. If you’re feeling rich, you can buy a piece of fiberglass just big enough to fit the entire back of the amp.
As per downstairs neighbors, all you have to do is place your amp on a higher level from the floor. By doing this, you will eliminate the issue as there will be an empty space between your amp and the floor. Just make sure you have a four-legged pedestal and not one big chunk of wood or even a wooden box, or else you will have spent your money in vain. A similar method that could help is placing your amp on an old mattress or a pile of cheap carpets.
- Choose your room well
Many of your loudness problems can disappear by just choosing the correct room to play in. Most buildings can be divided into 3 sections: right, left, and center. Right or left is when your apartment at either extremity and center is everything in between.
The basic principle here is to find a room that has at least one wall not shared with a neighboring apartment. If you live in an apartment in the center of the building, try to find a room with a window facing the street. This way, all of the noise will escape outside and will have a far lesser effect on your neighbors and even roommates. If for some reason this is not an option, you can try placing your equipment in a room facing the corridor or hall.
If, on the other hand, your apartment is at the left or right of the building, your job is supposedly much easier as you may have more than one room facing the street or at least outside the apartment.
- Change your amp’s position
This is quite an easy and simple fix yet it can make a huge difference. It actually complements the previous fix, and they both go hand in hand. Most of us like to sit facing our amps for easier access and a better experience, and nothing’s wrong with that. But you should also consider what else your amp is facing both forward and backward.
Your intuition might tell you to place your amp the furthest away from a shared wall, making it face that direction, but the truth is it might be a good idea to position your amp away from the wall altogether and make it face the window or at least an outer wall that is not shared by any neighbors or roommates.
I hold a Bachelor’s degree in English Language Arts, and I have been working as a High School English Teacher for 8 years now. I’ve also been working as a Linguistics professor at Notting Hill College for Teacher Training for 6 years. I also have a wide experience in the music field thanks to being a guitarist, which I have been playing since I was 9. Over the time, I have developed enough skills to start my own band, SAQAR – a Technical Death Metal band from Egypt – in which I am the lead guitarist. Throughout the years of playing guitar, I learned a lot about how to shape your guitar tone and sound. This lead to the necessity to learn recording and mixing. All that helped me record and mix my band’s first EP -The Reckoning. This, in turn, gave me the chance to work as an audio mixer and editor, which I have been doing on a freelance basis for 6 years.