If you often play your guitar at night in a busy household then it can be difficult to practice without annoying everyone you live with. Luckily there are actually loads of ways you can make your guitar quieter so you can practice without any issues. In this article, I’ll give you loads of tips for both acoustic and electric guitars.
The Quick Answer
The easiest way to practice an electric guitar quietly is to use headphones which plug either into your amplifier or directly into your guitar, or to use a mini-amplifier. Other ways of making an electric guitar quieter include using a laptop as an amp or using an amp attenuator.
The best methods to practice an acoustic guitar quietly are to cover the sound hole or place a soft item (e.g. a t-shirt or towel) inside the sound hole or under the bridge. Additionally, you can use your fingers instead of a pick and use lighter strings on the guitar.
In the rest of the article I’ll take you through even more tips and all the tools you might need to make your guitar quieter. Since the tips are different for each type of guitar, I’ve split the article into separate sections starting with electric guitars.
How to Play the Electric Guitar Quietly
- Place the amp on the floor
- Use headphones
- Use a mini-amp
- Try an amp attenuator
- Use a laptop
- Don’t use a pick
- Place the amp in front of the guitar
- Play without an amp
Place the Amp on the Floor
Placing your amplifier on the floor will reduce the the bass response and help make the guitar sound quieter. If you currently use a stand for your amp, or have it elevated by any other method then this will make the amp sound louder.
The only disadvantage here is that the amp will not usually sound as good when it is placed on the floor, since the bass frequencies help to give it a fuller tone. However, it’s the easiest method of reducing the volume which doesn’t involve any extra equipment and takes a few seconds to do.
Many amplifiers now come with a headphone jack which allows you to play your electric guitar very quietly. If you haven’t purchased your amp yet then make sure you make this a priority as it is the best method of ensuring you still get a good tone to practice with, but without anyone else being able to hear it!
I personally use this method with my Blackstar ID Core amp as it sounds great with headphones and has allowed me to practice for years later in the evening without annoying anyone I live with!
Alternatively, there are headphone amps that you can plug directly into your guitar and work by Bluetooth/ or a cable which means you simply pair your headphones with the amp to hear it. This has the same result of allowing you to play the electric guitar quietly, however it does have a couple of disadvantages compared to using an amp.
Firstly, the tone is generally not as good as when using an amp. Secondly, you get less options to adjust the tone as headphones come with far fewer controls compared to an amp. With that said, they can be really useful and allow you to move around more whilst playing without worrying about pulling the headphone lead out of the amp.
One of the best options for this is the Vox AC30 headphone amp which has very long battery life, 3 amp modes and built-in effects. Check out the Vox AC30 headphone amp out on Amazon. It’s surprisingly very affordable making it a great choice for players who want to practice their electric guitar quietly.
Image links to Amazon
Use a Mini Amp
Mini amplifiers typically have between 1-3W of power which makes them much quieter than full-size amps which are generally at least 10W. These allow you to play out loud without having to wear headphones so you get a truer tone, but prevent you reaching volumes which will make your neighbours hate you.
This is a good option if you’re only concerned about your neighbours though, rather than your housemates, since you’ll still be able to hear the guitar in the next room when using a mini amp.
Most brands make mini versions of their classic amps. Here are some of the most popular with links to Amazon so you can check the current prices:
- Orange Crush Mini (link to Amazon)
- Marshall MS2 (link to Amazon)
- Fender Mini ’57 Twin (link to Amazon)
- Blackstar FLY3 (link to Amazon)
All images link to Amazon
Use an Amp Attenuator
If you have a high wattage amplifier and can’t get a good tone out of it unless you crank it up (this is common with valve amps) then you can use an amplifier attenuator. This device is used to make the amps playable at lower volumes.
Again, this is only useful if you’re concerned with annoying your neighbours rather than your housemates since the amp will still be playing out loud. However, it’s the ideal way of ensuring you still get your amps true tone, just at a lower volume.
The price of these can vary considerably, so hear are a couple of great options with links to Amazon so you can check the current prices.
- Little Black Amp Box (link to Amazon) – this is a more affordable option
- Universal Audio OX Amp Top Box (link to Amazon) – this is a very high-end option
Images link to Amazon
Use a Laptop
If you want to bypass your amp completely, then you can use your laptop as an amplifier. This is a more complicated method to set up, but it gives you a huge amount of adjustability so you can alter your tone in pretty much any way you want. It’s also very useful for recording.
There are a few methods of connecting your guitar to your laptop, but the easiest is to use a 1/4″ jack to USB converter. You’ll then need to use an audio interface to allow you to adjust the tone and hear your guitar using headphones.
Don’t Use a Pick
Using a pick will make your electric guitar sound louder compared to using your fingers to pluck the strings. It may not be possible to forgo the plectrum, depending on the song your playing, however if you are just strumming then it’s a good option to ditch the pick and use your fingers instead.
This doesn’t make a ginormous amount of different in the overall volume but it’s a useful tip if you’re looking for every way possible to make your playing quieter.
Place the Amp in Front of the Guitar
Feedback issues can make your guitar sound much louder (and more annoying) for your housemates and neighbours so reducing this is really important. If you’re using clean tones then this is unlikely to be a problem, however if you are using distortion or lots of pedals then the background noise can easily get out of hand.
Placing your amp in front of your guitar as opposed to facing it, will help to reduce the amount of feedback you’re getting. If you need something more, then you can use a noise suppressor pedal to help control the amount of feedback produced in your signal.
Play Without an Amp
The last tip is pretty obvious, but it’s the best way to practice an electric guitar quietly. Playing your guitar unplugged does mean it doesn’t sound as cool, but unless you have paper thin walls then it’s unlikely that anyone in your house will be able to hear it. I generally do this when I’m practicing or learning a new song, since the amplification isn’t necessary in this instance.
How to Play the Acoustic Guitar Quietly
- Cover the sound hole
- Place a t-shirt or towel in the sound hole
- Place a soft item under the strings near the bridge
- Don’t use a pick
- Play in a room with soft surfaces
- Use lighter strings
- Purchase a silent guitar
Cover the Sound Hole
Since acoustic guitars do not need plugging in to an amp, they instead use the sound hole to naturally amplify the sound. If you cover the sound hole, then you prevent this from happening and the result is that the guitar sounds much quieter.
This is probably the easiest and most effective way of reducing the guitar’s volume, however it will also change it’s tone. It’s useful for practicing quietly but your guitar will sound entirely different, so that’s something to keep in mind.
Image links to Amazon
Put a T-Shirt or Towel in the Sound Hole
This tip uses the same idea as above. The less space there is in the sound hole, the quieter the acoustic guitar will be. Placing a towel or a soft piece of clothing such as a t-shirt will help to deaden the sound and decrease the volume.
The advantages of this method are that it’s free, and pretty effective. However, it can be annoying trying to fish the clothing/ towel back out and again, it’ll change the tone of your guitar, albeit not as much as using a sound hole cover.
Place a Soft Item Under the Strings Near the Bridge
Wedging a soft piece of clothing, sponge or or a dish cloth under the strings in front of the bridge but behind the sound hole will have a similar effect as palm muting the strings, which means that they’ll sound much quieter. This again will change the tone of the guitar, but it is very effective at reducing the volume.
If you don’t want to go DIY, then you can actually get a “guitar silencer” which has the same result. Check out this guitar mute silencer on Amazon.
Image links to Amazon
Don’t Use a Pick
Using your fingers to strum the guitar will make it sound quieter than if you were to use a pick. If you really need to use a plectrum, then make sure you opt for one which is flexible and thin as this will help to reduce the volume compared to using a stiffer and thicker pick.
Play in a Small Room with Soft Surfaces
If you have access to multiple rooms where you can potentially practice your guitar then make sure you choose the smallest one, with the most fabric e.g. carpet, rugs, curtains etc. Playing in a large room with hard surfaces will make the guitar sound louder due to the echo effect it creates. Granted, the difference it makes is fairly minimal but it’s worth considering if you have the option.
Use Lighter Strings
Lighter gauge strings sound quieter than heavier gauge strings.
Most acoustic guitars have 12-gauge strings and are often supplied with this set as standard from the manufacturer, however you can use as low as 9-gauge strings on an acoustic guitar and still get a good tone. Thinner strings not only sound quieter but also make it easier to play without hurting your fingertips.
Check out my complete guide to string gauges to learn about all the pros and cons of thick and thin strings.
Purchase a Silent Guitar
If you are still finding that your guitar is too loud to play then you’re only remaining option is to use a silent guitar instead. These aren’t completely silent, but they are much quieter than a standard acoustic guitar. They are also very lightweight and can be taken apart and stored in a smaller case making it perfect for traveling.
The issue with this method is that it’s expensive. Silent guitars aren’t cheap, you can check out the Yamaha SLG200S NT on Amazon if you want to see the current price.
Here is a demo on YouTube of the Yahama silent guitar range.
Check out this list of 100 songs to improve your guitar playing ability for some practice session inspiration.