One of my students related the story to me the other day of a recent business trip he took. He brought along his banjo and was playing it in the hotel, complete with picks.
As you might suspect, he got a phone call from the front desk: with all due respect as a paying guest, could he kindly stop?
He then enquired as to whether the offended party had objected to his volume, or to the quality of his playing; but alas, the joke was lost on the front desk employee!
That reminds me of when I was learning to play. After that first summer (at home – poor family!) I went back to the dorm at college. I played constantly, with picks, in the dorm. Such gall I had back then!
But I know; if you are driven to do something, you ARE going to find a way, and a little complaining from those around you isn’t so high a price to pay if you are achieving your goals.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, just remember two things:
1 – playing without picks for a day or two isn’t going to ruin your playing. Much longer than that, and it will feel a little odd and clumsy to your fingers when you go back to picks, but it is nothing a day or two of effort can’t remedy.
2 – Use a mute. These are small, massive things you can clamp on to the bridge to dampen the vibrations and mute the volume of the banjo. Similar to a violin mute, I believe some commercially made mutes are available. Failing that, just get two old-fashioned clothes pins and clamp them on to either side of the bridge. That’s what I have always done. Well, except for when I was in college!