Author Topic: Townhouse with a Piano?  (Read 5778 times)

fiddlefaddle

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Townhouse with a Piano?
« on: January 06, 2016, 12:03:04 PM »
I'm going through a divorce and shopping for a home to downsize from my current McMansion. I'm going to see a townhouse this afternoon. I grew up on a farm way out in the country, so the idea of a multi-family property is a little out of my comfort zone. This is an end unit, about 7 years old and looks very nice from the pictures.

Main question: Would living in a townhouse with a 9 year old and a piano be a terrible idea? I don't want to be the obnoxious noisy neighbor.

Other questions:
--How can I tell how well the unit is soundproofed?

--Are townhouses generally an ok choice as far as an investment? (Not looking to make tons of money, but want to live somewhere that will appreciate. I live in a very popular retirement city, so I think that might help)

--Any other things I should look out for or ask about when I go look?

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

lizzzi

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Re: Townhouse with a Piano?
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2016, 12:10:28 PM »
Bumping to follow. When I consider downsizing even more than I already have, my concert grand is what makes me stop to think. Anybody have a big piano (that gets played daily), and how does it affect your choice of where to live?

GuitarStv

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Re: Townhouse with a Piano?
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2016, 12:22:35 PM »
If you want to know the level of soundproofing in the townhouse there's a simple test.  Knock on the neighbour's door.  Tell him/her that you're going to move in and have a drum kit, and measure how much of the whites of the eyes become visible.

Note - If this person is a drummer he will be deaf and the test will fail.  You can determine if the person is a drummer by clapping your hands.  A true drummer will attempt to clap along, but be unable to match the beat you are holding.

sugarsnap

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Re: Townhouse with a Piano?
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2016, 03:26:47 PM »
Our townhouse is only connected by garages and our very old neighbor is pretty much deaf so our kids and noise don't bother anyone. You may want to go to an HOA meeting and see what everyone is complaining about or if they seem to not worry much about that kind of stuff.

fiddlefaddle

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Re: Townhouse with a Piano?
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2016, 08:14:28 AM »
GuitarStv, that's a great test. I found out that the neighbor is 85 years old, so I'm not sure the test would be very accurate for her. I don't think she could hear me say drum kit.

Sugarsnap, thanks for the feedback. I've surveyed friends and coworkers who have lived in townhouses and most of them think that it's probably well-built enough to pass the piano test.

My daughter and I liked the place a lot, so I may go see it again and find out if I can go into the neighbor's unit and see if I can hear any sound through the shared wall. My daughter has a recorder and I figure she can take it along and screech a few times. If I can't hear that, I won't worry about the sound. Sort of crazy, but I don't think I could live there without knowing that we weren't driving the neighbors crazy.

Speaking of recorders, I think elementary school music teachers may be part of some conspiracy designed to drive parents insane.




GuitarStv

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Re: Townhouse with a Piano?
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2016, 08:33:10 AM »
Recorders are high pitched, so while they're annoying they will typically not carry through walls.  Your real concern with sound travel is in the bass frequencies.  Getting your daughter to jump up and down on a hard floor or to knock on a wall will produce low frequency thuds that should test the soundproofing much better.

fiddlefaddle

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Re: Townhouse with a Piano?
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2016, 01:16:13 PM »
Good point about the recorder. I was thinking that right after I posted.

Lizzzi, I've been doing some research on how to make pianos a little quieter. Not sure if everything would work on a concert grand (!) and I don't know if the sound would be distorted, but with some digging around, there are some ideas online of what works if you ever need them.

Meowmalade

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Re: Townhouse with a Piano?
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2016, 02:08:10 PM »
Our family had a piano in a townhome for several years, and then I had an upright in a condo.  The neighbors could hear me, but I always told them to let me know if there were certain times that were not good for practicing, and it was never a problem.  I actually had problems with the fireman upstairs blasting music in the middle of the night-- took me over a year to realize that there were probably city noise ordinances (there were), which is when he finally stopped.  My current neighbors love to hear me play  :)

It's good that you wouldn't have someone directly under you, because the vibrations go right into the floor!  A few tricks to dampen the sound are to stick towels into the back panels of an upright, or to put a rug under the piano.  I also would do my best to avoid putting the piano against an adjoining wall.  But also make sure that you don't put the piano against an outside wall, since the temperature fluctuations aren't good for the instrument.

If your piano is too loud for the space and the towel trick doesn't work, a good technician can also voice down the hammers for you (definitely find a trusted technician to do this, since it requires skill and is difficult to undo).

Jacana

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Re: Townhouse with a Piano?
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2016, 05:09:01 PM »
Does the townhouse have a finished dry basement? Would the piano be ok down there climate-wise?

We used to live in an interior townhouse that was pretty well soundproofed but we found the walkout basements were the quietest. I think because of the cinderblock foundations and dampening effect of the one dirt-backed wall? Our neighbor had barking dogs that we couldn't hear at all through the basement wall but could faintly hear through upper level walls. And my husband could blast his surround sound on his Xbox games and neither neighbor could hear a peep.

lizzzi

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Re: Townhouse with a Piano?
« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2016, 05:13:43 PM »
Right now I'm in a little house with plenty of space around it. If I move back to NY from the Heartland, I'm thinking about an apartment for all the reasons people rent rather than own. I think it would have to be a ground floor end unit--don't know how hard that would be to find. Or else sell the piano...but I don't think I'm going to do that. I've had an upright and a console model over the years...have only had the biggie for three years--wanted it and saved for it for a long time...it would be worth it to me to just stay where I am rather than sell the piano. (I'd be afraid to put it in a basement situation.)

Meowmalade

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Re: Townhouse with a Piano?
« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2016, 05:49:39 PM »
We used to live in an interior townhouse that was pretty well soundproofed but we found the walkout basements were the quietest. I think because of the cinderblock foundations and dampening effect of the one dirt-backed wall? Our neighbor had barking dogs that we couldn't hear at all through the basement wall but could faintly hear through upper level walls. And my husband could blast his surround sound on his Xbox games and neither neighbor could hear a peep.

That's a good point, the townhome that we lived in at one point had a piano against a brick wall (in the basement), and I don't think anyone could hear anything there!  If the OP could find that kind of apartment, it would be perfect.

Right now I'm in a little house with plenty of space around it. If I move back to NY from the Heartland, I'm thinking about an apartment for all the reasons people rent rather than own. I think it would have to be a ground floor end unit--don't know how hard that would be to find. Or else sell the piano...but I don't think I'm going to do that. I've had an upright and a console model over the years...have only had the biggie for three years--wanted it and saved for it for a long time...it would be worth it to me to just stay where I am rather than sell the piano. (I'd be afraid to put it in a basement situation.)

If we ever had to move to an apartment (hopefully not for a long time!), I'd sell my current dream piano and get a high-end European upright.  But currently I'd only consider moving if we were forced to by circumstances, so in that situation, I think that having an upright would simplify my life a ton!

lizzzi

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Re: Townhouse with a Piano?
« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2016, 07:34:33 PM »
Good points, Meowmalade.

fiddlefaddle

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Re: Townhouse with a Piano?
« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2016, 07:37:35 PM »
Thanks for all the tips and anecdotes! I'm feeling like I can make the piano work if I decide this is the right property for me.

In this townhouse, I would place it on an interior wall a room away from the room that adjoins the next unit. Hopefully that location combined with the towels/rug/other modifications similar to what Meowmalade suggested would make it quiet enough to be fine.

Jacana, there is a finished basement. I worry about moisture, but there are some walls down there that could work as a backup plan if it's too much of a disturbance upstairs.

I'm starting to wish my parents had started me on the piccolo instead of the piano! It's always such a beast to move (but worth it).