December 14, 2012 - submitted by Alice, Denmark

Okay, I know this may not seem as that big a problem, but it is to me! I live in a house with my parents and my older brother. My brother plays guitar. And when he plays I always get in a really bad mood. There is just something about it that makes me wanna trap him by the throat. It's not that it is heavy rock or anything, but lets face it - guitar alone without a band just does not sound that good. The biggest problem is that every time he plays I listen to loud music to drown it out. I can, however, not concentrate with music like that, and this means I can never do my homework when he plays, which is often. I have tried to talk to him about it, but he won't turn down the volume or anything. I took me several years just to make him stop playing while I was sleeping (which he still does quite often because he "forgets"). I myself play the piano, but at least I have the courtesy to play quietly. I don't know what to do, but I know I have to do something, when it is affecting my education and my good mood. Isn't there something I can do?

The Oracle replies:

Oh dear, Alice. I can’t help wondering what your relationship with your brother is like without the guitar!
The thing is, though I can understand that you find it very annoying, I happen to like the sound of a guitar with or without a band. I assume your brother is playing plugged in rather than acoustically. Maybe that’s something you could talk to him about. He can still play an electric with headphones so only he hears it – as could you if your piano is electric.
I’m unsure why you don’t think your piano playing can be equally irritating to someone who may not care much for it.
I don’t know how accomplished a player your brother is, but he’s not going to get better if he doesn’t practice. I also don’t know if he’s playing his own music or covers but if he’s also writing songs, it’s imperative he plays as often as he can if he wants to get anywhere.
Given you’re a musician yourself I would have thought you may be able to feel some affinity. I also love the piano but whether you play quietly or not, you are still playing your chosen instrument and saying you don’t like it when your brother does the same.
Each to their own but what I am trying to say is that you can both compromise.
I would encourage you to have your parents intervene to help you - a family meeting to help you both come to an agreement. It must be very hard to study with either the guitar or your chosen loud music – maybe try classical in the meantime as it’s less distracting.
If you work out something that fits around both of you there is no reason you can’t live in harmony. Oh, pardon the pun!
Over to you.

Wow that's really annoying. I'm also assuming he plays the electric guitar due to the fact he needs an amp. If it were an acoustic I'd recommend you tell your parents to scold him about not using the amp on certain days. The only other thing I can recommend is just going over to a friend's house when he starts whaling on it. Over time you're parents might get concerned and may take his guitar away. Coming from a fellow musician that's really harsh, but then again, he's being very rude. I'm sure you can work something out Alice. Billy N.

Having a brother or a sister is a real grace from God, all what you two need is to show how you love him and so he does. Show him how you are interested about what he makes, about his skill.
Try to make a duo with him using your piano skill. Then, I am sure - God Willing - that he automatically will understand that in a part of the day you need calm and silence to do your homework.
Understanding each other is all what you need, and don't forget, God put a smile upon your faces. Hasna.

Well 1st off your wrong on "guitar alone without a band just does not sound that good" It just depends on who's playing.  If he is a bad guitarist then I can relate because my brother plays too and hes not the greatest.  But if hes good then whats the big deal?  2nd yes it is retarded if he plays when you sleep.  3rd I also play piano and my solution is to get a pair of headphones like I did.  It really works trust me.  I hope I helped! Mollie U.S.A.

Is there somewhere else you can do your homework? My suggestion is that you do your homework at school or at the library. That way you will also have the wonderful feeling of being free to do whatever you want when you get home because you got it over with (in peace). This will also be a very useful study tip for if you'll go to a higher education with few classes and lots of reading.
Furthermore, you can suggest to your brother that he books a practice room (perhaps the music room at his school?) or joins a band. Or if he's annoyed with something you do maybe you can make a trade/compromise.
Lastly, has a parent said anything to him? Express your frustration to your parent(s) and they might help talk to him. You should all be able to live under the same roof somewhat peacefully.
Good luck! Julie from Denmark.

Have you tried talking to your parents? They may be of great help if they listen to you. In fact, I'm pretty sure they must feel annoyed by your brother's playing the guitar as well. So talk to them, and ask them if there is something they can do, such as talking to your brother and even considering take the guitar away from him if he does not turn down the volume and respect the peace of your home. If that does not work, though, you can do it yourself: go to your brother's room, take his guitar and hide it somewhere. He will, of course, be very mad at you, but you tell him that you will not give his guitar back if he continues to play it that loud. Also, do not forget to ask him if he does not like your playing the piano, because, even if its music is very beautiful, he may feel annoyed too. I hope that this will help you. Sam.

Oh I see, your brother has to set up a band, become famous and move out. All jokes aside: I can really understand the way it gets on your nerves! For a while I had to write on something next to a drummers’ exercise room and for a change next to a road construction zone. Today I know many disturbing things in your surrounding can be faded out with concentrating on the subject only if you want to fade them out. (I visualized then something like “the noise is walking out and away”) Practicable things are: a timetable, earplugs and talk with your parents (I wonder about their opinion at all) about acoustic insulation or a change of rooms. To find a good solution for everybody can’t be so difficult. By the way - the less you show your bothering the more your brother might be bored to tease his little sister. Best wishes. L.Q.

Maybe it has something to do with jealousy?
It could be that your brother is jealous of your terrific piano skills that he just wants to become the same or even better than you. Have you ever showed someone or some people your piano playing, and has your brother watched? He could feel like he wants to become like that, so he keeps trying to practice to become better. Why don't you try and compliment your brother on his musical talents. Try telling him you wish you could play the guitar that good. That may boost his confidence, and make him respect your wishes a little more. Evan.

Ahhh sweet Alice… how old is your older brother ie when will he leave home? Just kidding! Alice, here are a few of my suggestions:- perhaps make your local library your new study & homework home for a while (I love the quiet of libraries when I need to research & study); look after yourself mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally - ie  make sure that you nourish your heart/mind/body/soul; some good earplugs(!); and perhaps first and foremost, by asking your parents to please support you by making sure that your brother respects you & your studies & quiet time! Alice it sounds as though you have already been extremely patient with your brother and his music, & I really hope that he will show some respect for you and your studies. (But even if he got rehearsal/studio space he would probably still practice a bit at home. I think family life is always a bit of the good, the bad, & the ugly(ie the annoying!) & as frustrating as it is at times, it’s what makes families ‘families’!) I’m sorry that it is so hard for you at the moment, & I’m looking forward to seeing how the Oracle and others respond & help you with your problem (because you matter!) I really hope that things will improve for you, & I wish you all the best! Cali.

Alice,I can sympathise. I have recently spoken to my house mate about a similar sound issue (he is a vinyl record collector, funk in particular & was playing his music quite loudly at all times of the night & day.) I found it was affecting my time at home to the extent that it was making me moody & resentful towards him. In the end I explained this to him, along with a brief explanation about how I quite like funk music, but I wasn't hearing more than the bass & some of the treble of the music, due to the main section of the music being muffled by walls/doors etc. Once I had explained this he was very apologetic & has since tried to use headphones to listen to music as much as possible. Now, when it comes to siblings, your brother may not be so receptive to how his guitar playing is affecting you. Maybe you could organise a time to play music with him, you can bond over your mutual love of music, maybe even write a song together, then over time he may become more considerate about the noise he is making. Besides this, perhaps look into ways he can sound-proof the room where he plays his guitar, or if he’s playing an electric guitar, if he is using an amp, see if it has a headphone jack so it lessens the noise created when playing, yet he can listen to what he is playing. Good luck!
Mel. Melbourne, Australia. 

Well, it sounds like you're in a pretty tough situation, Alice. When I was growing up, being a guitarist my sister and I had the same disagreement (although she did eventually come to absolutely love my playing).  Part of being a sibling is embracing the things each other loves so much. So, like my sister eventually embraced my playing, I embraced her love for dance. Try to work it out with your brother, maybe compromise, but always love him because even though they can be crazy, family can never be replaced. Wishing you the best! Garrett

I think you and your brother need to find a balance. He, seemingly, loves to play the guitar and even though it may bother you, I don’t think you should keep him from that. However, you have to feel comfortable and relaxed at home too, so what I would recommend doing is sitting down with your brother and making up some sort of schedule that works for you both – maybe he could refrain from playing when you have schoolwork or at least turn the volume down, if you let him play “loudly” for an hour or two a day. These are just suggestions, ultimately you’re the ones who decide what to do and how to do it. Both you and your brother may have to make some sacrifices, but it’s surely worth it, if it means avoiding arguments and frustration. Right? Good luck! Best wishes, Medina.

First off, you said that guitar alone without a band doesn't sound good. That is not true! Look at Bon Iver's Skinny Love, Noah and the Whale's "My Door", and the first half of Coldplay's "Green Eyes". All of those are phenomenal songs that rely on the pure simplicity only a guitar can provide. Now for your brother, he seems very passionate about playing the guitar, and you need to respect that... But just as much as he needs to respect that you need some quiet time to do your homework. I advise you speak to your parents about how it's affecting your concentration while you're doing your studies, and get them to back you up. However, don't try to get your brother into trouble! He's doing something he loves, and you've got to respect that! *when you aren't studying or sleeping* If it truly bothers you so much outside of these times, then I advise going to your local store and buying some headphones. It's not hard to find an inexpensive pair that drowns the noise of the outside world very well.
And please don't strangle your brother. Best wishes! Bradley H.

Thanks to all those who replied to this week’s question.
This week’s Team Oracle question is a reflective one. As always it is open to anyone so if you fancy sharing your musical highlight of 2012, click here and send us your answer.