Whether you’re living with a musician or raising one who is aspiring to be one, then you are well aware of the impact that the sound of a musical instrument makes on neighbors and family members. If people who are residing across the street from your residence are bothered by the sound, then can you imagine how people living inside your residence must feel?
Having said that, if you are keen on learning how to strike a balance between peace and quiet and the sound of music, you have come to the right place. Home studio soundproofing can be a fairly easy DIY project that would save not only your eardrums but also that of your neighbors. You want to be paid a visit by a big shot record producer, not the cops.
If you are not quite sure where you should start, then this how-to guide will give you easy steps on how to soundproof a studio. In addition, we’ll also be handing you some solid knowledge on how to turn that small space of yours into a recording studio.
Table of Contents
- What Soundproofing Does and Does Not Do
- What You Should Consider When Building Your Own Home Studio
- Soundproof a Home Studio With These Easy Steps
- How to Create Simple Studio in a Small Area
What Soundproofing Does and Does Not Do
When a room is perfectly soundproofed, here are the effects that you can expect to experience:
- Outside noises are kept outside and don’t disturb your recording sessions.
- Inside noises stay inside and don’t disturb your fellow residents or even neighbors.
But until you’ve recorded in a room that is not given acoustic treatment, you probably don’t realize how much noise actually exists. For example:
- Outside noise include people, traffic, weather, and plumbing.
- Usual equipment noises include computer fans, hardware racks, and air conditioners.
- Common impact noises include footsteps and anything else that is making contact with the floor.
Take note that all of these have the potential to mess up your recordings.
On the other end of the spectrum, inexperienced musicians mistakenly ask about soundproofing, when what they really mean is acoustic treatment. So to clear the air up between the two:
- Soundproofing makes your room quieter, by blocking-out external noise.
- Acoustic treatment makes your room sound better on a recording, by absorbing the excessive ambiance.
And preferably, any recording studio should use a combination of the two.
What You Should Consider When Building Your Own Home Studio
The ceaseless advancements in digital technology have given everyone the ability to record music from the comfortable confines of home. These days, nearly anyone can own a studio. But while many settle for an eggbox-clad bedroom setup, there is a better way to creating your own professional-quality recording studio. Make no mistake about it: it will require a sizeable investment of both time and money but the results could be priceless.
Here are 11 important things to consider when making your very own home studio:
1) Your Studio’s Location
The first thing that you should think of when planning to build a studio is where to build it. At this point, it’s important to think of just how loud you’re going to be and how feasible soundproofing is for your current situation.
For example, transforming a garage in your garden will probably leave a decent amount of space inside after soundproofing, with minimal noise leaking out. However, a room in a house or flat may be virtually impossible to soundproof completely and leave you excessively cramped afterward.
2) The Accessibility of Light
Daylight is such a crucial ingredient when it comes to making a suitable place to work in, and a lack of it can make your work devoid of any creative inspiration. If you are not keen on feeling like recording music inside a space that feels like a prison cell, then you better make sure a reasonable amount of light gets into your recording studio.
It’s easy to assume that blocking up windows is the only choice when soundproofing a room, yet a mixture of a single double glazed unit with no opening windows and a sheet of acoustic glass will work exceptionally well if set up and sealed the right way.
3) Close (and Seal) the Doors
Your studio will have at least one doorway and, like the window, this is another area where sound can easily leak out. Using a heavy door can help, although adding weight by building a regular door up or applying a layer of mass loaded vinyl can have the same effect. Make sure each door seals entirely when shut – regular sealing strips are available from your favorite DIY stores, but there are sets commercially available that are made specifically for this purpose.
4) The Air Supply Inside the Room
With all of the windows and doors sealed and walls caulked and airtight, it must have crossed your mind how you’re going to breathe. Shockingly easily overlooked, the supply of air into the studio is of utmost importance, not only to avoid lapsing into unconsciousness mid-paradiddle but also for the maintenance of your precious recording equipment, on which moisture can easily gather.
You’ll need both an inlet and an outlet (one with a fan), spaced evenly apart if possible.
5) Build an Acoustic Box
In making these air vents, you’ll now have a hole in your soundproofing that will need an acoustic box created over it, one of which will house the fan. Create a duct in the shape of an “S” within an MDF box, line with acoustic foam and place over the vent holes along with some mesh to keep out pests such as insects or mice. One final thing to remember is to avoid putting the inlet vent where it can be hit by sunlight as it will bring in unwanted hot air during the summer (lest you want to record music in a sauna-like atmosphere).
Step 6: Make a Room Within a Room
A lot of effective soundproofing is done successfully with the “room within a room” concept in mind, which basically means you should make a separate room within the initial building with minimal contact. If space permits it, run a new wall of high-density concrete blocks internally, mounted on thin neoprene (a type of synthetic rubber compound) so that the blocks are not directly on the floor.
Connect them to the outer walls with the use acoustic wall ties and, once you have soundproofed the initial roof with the use of mineral wool placed between the beams and a couple of layers of plasterboard mounted on the resilient channel, then do the same thing again on a second roof mounted to the new internal wall.
These internal walls can then have 2×2 timber attached vertically, again mounted on neoprene, and after pushing in 2″ thick mineral wool in between the studs, our two layers of plasterboard can be fitted onto resilient channel. And lastly, all surfaces should be sealed with decorators caulk – a small hole on the surface, which can come to be as a result of cracks around the surface of a wall, can compromise its efficiency by as much as 50 percent.
7) Don’t Hide the Power
Most people believe that power and lighting cables should be run behind the new plasterboard walls. However, cutting out plug sockets will ruin your cautiously built soundproofing. Instead, it’s suggested that all power is surface mounted with the use of conduit or trunking, or you could build another area specifically for light, plugs, and power utilizing timber and plasterboard.
8) Utilize Floating Floors
Basically, this is the same as you have done to the walls, which is decoupling two surfaces to prevent vibration being carried across. To float a floor, wooden beams can be set up on rubber U-Boat supports at regular intervals and, with neoprene strips in between them, a chipboard floor can be screwed on top of it.
An easier and less costly much simpler and cheaper solution is to use PlatFoam to raise different pieces of kit off the ground. PlatFoam can be purchased in long 3″x2″ strips of high-density foam which can be laid a few inches apart with a sheet of plywood on top to make a floating riser.
9) Make Sure to Tune the Room
You may find that the reflective properties of the plasterboard produces a rather unpleasant and horrible-sounding room, which is not really ideal if you’re going to be recording music in there, and definitely not what you want if you’re going to be monitoring and mixing in there either.
Just having the room carpeted and placing a sofa at one end will help, but to address the wall reflection, you can use a combination of two solutions: absorption and diffusion.
Diffusion includes sending the reflections off in various directions, breaking up the sound, while absorption pervades specific unwanted frequencies. This is where the old eggbox myth can be debunked – while their shape should make them good sound diffusers, their material just is not reflective enough, and its absorptive properties are minimal at best. They don’t look all too appealing either!
So, try getting some 2’x4′ sheets of hardboard and make some absorption panels using 1″ slabs of mineral wool placed over the top and a dustsheet laid over and tightly stapled from behind. They’ll look a whole lot better and, more importantly, will work when hung on opposite walls.
If you’d prefer to invest in something ready-made for the job, try some Aurelex, ProFoam or similar. These firms produce a range of products for studios and even make room packs with all the various elements you’ll need for different sized rooms. As you might expect, this does not come cheap, but definitely delivers professional results both sonically and visually.
10) One Studio or Two?
If the space you have chosen is going to be used as a recording studio and as a practice area, you should then decide whether you are going to go for a one-room studio or a separate control room. It may seem obvious that a recording studio needs two rooms — one to record in and one to listen back in — but for some artists, it can sometimes be easier to work in the same room as the equipment.
One concession in this situation is running a second computer monitor straight into the live room and using a wireless keyboard and mouse to control things. This way, each room can be tuned to its potential.
11) Extend Your Patience
Bear in mind that building a studio is a process that can really take time. There is no doubt that you will encounter bumps in the road that can be frustrating. As a result, it can be exasperating as the time ticks by and expenses add up, but try not to lose sight of the fact that once it’s done, space is yours to create your own studio environment in. You’ll be free to play whenever you want without worrying about disturbing anyone and you can let your creative juices flow for however long you want. Trust us when we say that it will be well worth the effort.
Soundproof a Home Studio With These Easy Steps
Step 1: Consider the Gaps
Carefully evaluate the room and keep a keen eye out for any gaps in door and window frames. A lot of sounds can seep through even a small gap.
- Diminish door gaps: Adding a door sweep on both the inside and the outside of the door can go a long way in reducing sound transmission.
- Cover the windows up: You can try hanging up acoustic curtains over windows, or seal leaks with a foam weather stripping or professional-grade acoustical sealant.
- Line heating/cooling ducts: Don’t forget to line your heating and cooling ducts with soundproofing duct liner to reduce noise even further.
Step 2: Lessen the Reflection
Did you know that sound actually reflects? Sound can bounce off of different surfaces, which can send the notes and beats of an instrument far enough. If the room you’ve picked as your practice area has hard surfaces, such as granite countertops, hardwood floors or even plain old walls, the sound will definitely reverberate until it runs out of energy, which means it can bounce off of multiple surfaces over and over again. So, how can you soundproof against reflection?
- You just bring in some textiles: Cover the floor with carpeting or thick rugs, and even think of hanging some material from the walls.
- Set up soundproof materials: There are many different kinds of soundproofing materials out there, some more efficient — and at times, more expensive— than others. You can install a soundproof curtain around the perimeter of the room, place vinyl, or install acoustic insulation.
- Don’t use cheap alternatives: Thinking of using a cheaper option like adding mattresses or egg crates to the walls? You can just skip them. Not only are they ugly, but more importantly, they are ineffective, as well.
Step 3: Change Your Space
If you live in a 1,000-square foot loft and want to ensure that your practice sessions don’t annoy your neighbors, then you must strongly consider making some due adjustments to your space. These can be any of the following:
- Avoid shared walls: Play your musical instruments in an area that doesn’t share any walls with your neighbors or place yourself closer to the outside walls.
- Add a false ceiling: You can consider adding a false ceiling to give some relief to the upstairs neighbors and replace your hollow doors with solid, heavy core ones. If you hit a major chord and notice some shaking picture frames, vases or other objects, take them away from that area or make sure they are secure
- Consider a shed or garage: If you live in a 2,000-square foot house and want to keep your guitar from disturbing the baby, consider moving your equipment to the other side of the house, going out into the garage or modifying a tool shed out in the backyard.
How to Create Simple Studio in a Small Area
As discussed, having your own home studio will not only let you get as creative as you want with your music but will also save you a boatload of money on studio-renting costs. If you’re into composing, playing and recording, you might be best suited to transforming that unused guest room into a simple recording studio.
Along with useful soundproofing tips, which will keep noise from seeping out, you’ll also want to focus on acoustic treatment decisions so the music that stays in sounds right. Single set-up studios can be simple and more cost-effective, but you’ll want to take these tips and tricks into consideration for keeping your sound optimal:
- Cancel feedback from electrical equipment by placing items such as amps as far away from microphones as possible.
- Don’t totally eradicate all sound reflection: Leave a few spots open and treat them with diffusers so the natural frequency of your music isn’t lost.
- Also consider high and low-end sound absorption: Most of your reflection treatments will deal with the high-frequency reflections, but you’ll want to set up a few bass traps in order to stifle the sound for lower frequencies.
- Plot for power: Make sure to have plenty of outlets, and make sure all of them are the ideal wattage for your equipment.
- Think of the seasons: When the high temperatures of the summer season arrive, will the sound of the air conditioning clicking on and blowing into your studio turn into annoying background noise?
- Arrange it properly: Even if you’re playing solo, always make sure to arrange your studio to adapt to the number of musicians who could play at one time in the space. If you host other artists later on, this will make it easier to plan out and conduct your recording stations in an optimal manner to maximize the best sound for the number of people who will simultaneously be there.
- Maximize your equipment: When dealing with small spaces, you also should consider how to maximize your equipment so that you have more room and lesser things for sound to bounce off of. It’s time to accept the digital age! You can use digital instruments to keep the clutter as minimal as possible and, when appropriate and affordable, try making use of compact equipment.
Music is a remarkable hobby for some, and for others, it is their way of life. Not only will soundproofing your space help keep the peace in your family and that of your neighbors, but it will also teach you some of the more systematic elements of sound and music that you may not experience by just playing an instrument. Whether to keep your landlord off of your behind or to just pacify your family, soundproofing can help you get more in touch with the instruments you love to play and the music you love to share with the rest of the world.