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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.”
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.
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….).