The way to learn to play an instrument quietly is with a book; you should learn to read music aloud with headphones – preferably one with an “off” switch on it. Listen to a song to learn what the notes are, and the melody. Then, play that same melody with only a few notes on the strings, or just one note. Eventually you will be able to play in a low key without worrying about being heard loud enough to play the song at all.
Do I need an instrument?
I prefer to practice with the ukulele, because I’m good with it and it allows me to use the voice and the strings. But I can also practice any instrument if you want.
What should people think about playing loud?
If someone tells you “It’s better if you play louder!” you should probably agree with them. Loud guitars and basses are louder still. The best sound you can get with a quiet uke is a weak, humdrum guitar.
What do I do about noise in the band?
When I rehearse with a noisy band I usually go into the room only about 10 feet in front of the stage and turn the volume all the way down. (I also go down the sound system, but mostly for the sound effects.) Usually I have about 20 songs in total per set; it’s best to change to that if it gets loud. Sometimes I just can’t be in the room all the time, so I play the songs by ear.
What if the band is playing an instrumental?
I can’t practice loud soloing, because I would be distracted by the music. But if you play along in the middle of a song, and you are part of the mix, this is OK. I prefer that; it’s nice listening to the song at the same time.
How big should a studio be?
The size of a studio depends on your needs and the budget you have. If you live in Seattle or Chicago you can afford a small room. When you have lots of practice time, a good studio will allow you to practice for hours on end without having to wait outside for a concert, or a concert is in town while you practice. On a budget there is no point in spending two days in a rehearsal room; you could really save a lot by making your own studio and practicing there instead.
What about sound?
It’s no problem, so long as your
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