Scottland Studio, San Diego

In July 2004, I began work in my backyard on a dream, my own personal music studio. After gathering the opinions of friends and musicians I played with over the last twenty years, as well as construction experts, it became apparent there was much about sound and soundproofing I didn’t know. There was a lot of good and bad information out there and my job was to sort it out. I had two goals. First, it had to be as soundproof as possible. I wanted to be able to play with my band anytime day or night. The second goal was sound treatment on the inside, a consistent quality inspirational experience separate from all the poorly designed garages, clubs, bars, weddings and parties that I played over the years. Being a bass player, made me sensitive to these low frequency problems.

The studio exterior was also important. My creative wife agreed to support me only if it blended in with our Sunset Magazine backyard. She has vision and great taste in landscape design, yet all projects are tempered with a modest, but not prohibitive budget. She does most things herself.

My plans allowed for a new, small to medium size stand alone structure, less than a two car garage. For me, standard framing was accompanied by some strange construction guidelines from ASC. The studio is not unlike a sound shock absorber. Boy was I surprised to find out that drywall, placed in the wrong place, could actually increase volume and reverberation, acting like a speaker, while ruining the sound quality inside.

My studio is a room within a room, with a one inch air gap. The outer room is constructed in this order: 2x4 stud framing, 16” on center, 5/8” sheer plywood, wall damp squares sandwiched between 5/8” green sheetrock on the exterior (How weird is that?) and everything is screwed, not nailed down. Next, wrapped moisture paper, wire, stucco and stone; my wife’s Old World design. The hip roof and diagonal door even helped sound quality inside. Her roof is two ½”plywood sheets thick, with again WallDamp squares. Roofing paper was followed by unique period style shingles that give us our medieval look. Inside the 2x6 roof rafter bays are standard insulation, the air space and the inner room.

The inner room has 2x4 stud framing, 12” on center, again screwed down for maximum strength. Next, insulation in the bays, then ASC IsoWall. More WallDamp squares and perimeter strips (both are only a little over a 1/16” thick), then the final interior drywall. The edges all merge with thicker perimeter gasket attached to the corner ceiling 4x6 rafters and corner wall 2x4 studs plus liberal amounts of acoustic caulking. The acoustic caulk is also used to seal electrical outlets, panels, light switches, cable/phone/computer jacks, soundproof windows, skylight and the air conditioning unit. We have all played in dark, hot sweat boxes for years. Although many great musicians have been nocturnal moles, I was determined to have light and air options. ASC referred me to a company that produced soundproof windows and helped coordinate the proper specifications.

Air conditioning is very important. Five guys jamming, their amps on, emitting heat in a totally closed off room… I’m beginning to perspire already! This was solved by the use of a heat pump/air conditioner style unit inside that required only one 2” diameter hole to the outside of the building. This heat pump a/c unit, used in hotels, computer rooms and businesses, helped me avoid all kinds of ducting , venting and multi-source sound issues; especially with only a 1” air gap between the two rooms. What a unique pleasure to occasionally hear the drummer say, It’s too cold in here!”

Having completed the soundproofing, we first had an acoustic jam. The sound was great and exciting. I thought perhaps we wouldn’t need any “treatment “ inside, many of the squares behind the drywall provide some bass trapping. Then we plugged in with guitars, bass and drums. Even at lower volume, the drums were too loud, vocals and guitars all splashed around the room unevenly. Interesting, for acoustic instruments, except drums, it sounded fantastic, but for my total electric goals, I needed absorption inside. ASC suggested we record a CD in the room with two microphones, suspended in the center, away from the drums to “capture” the room. Any simple CD recording mechanism would do (We used a Boss 1600 and added keyboards). After Art listened twice, (headphones and speakers) I received several detailed e-mails essentially suggesting I “tone down the room.”

This meant adding standard PanelTraps in locations based on our design plan. I installed the 5’x16” panels (The fabric has many color choices that resemble upholstery in fine furniture, quite pleasing to the eye) in the three corners. Listening to my P.A., I noticed an immediate warmer, tighter sound with three upright PanelTraps. It occurred to me maybe these could be used at some gigs to improve sound in rooms with windows, high ceilings and hard floors. Since the Traps are fairly lightweight.

Once again, Art had a solution or a supportive suggestion that allowed me to accomplish my goals and even try new things! I ordered one more package of 8 PanelTraps and placed them between the walls and ceilings in the studio. I place my 5 mobile panels behind the drummer and around the studio as I see fit. The studio now sounds fantastic, electric or acoustic! I’m sure I will be working with ASC in the future seeking new advice or additional products on my musical journey (maybe watch DVDs in the studio...).

Thanks to ASC for helping my dream come true,