Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Building a home studio- an introduction

A few years back, I realised I was spending a small fortune renting rehearsal studios. The old shed/garage in back of my triplex offered a potential space for conversion into a practice and recording studio. The arrival of my son also meant that we needed our musical gear out of our flat to make room for the nursery. I spent about 18 months researching the project.
Budget, available space and requirements effected the process. An additional 2 feet in each direction would have been nice, as well as the budget to add acoustic rubber to all the surfaces beneath the drywall/sheet rock and vapour barrier. Oh well, next studio

(above, left)The studio had to be physically unconnected to the shed exterior to
prevent sound being transmitted in or out through the walls.

The structure was built out of 2 x 6 lumber, screwed in place(no nails), and acoustically insulated with 6" rock wool. The interior sheetrock was attached to the walls with z-channel strips. Power was supplied from an existing 25 Amp circuit and most of the outlets were quad(4 socket) boxes. It's foundation was comprised of six 8" cement pilings.

Note the vapour barrier between the z-channels
and the sheet rock(above, right). Vapour barrier
seams were taped with contruction tape.

It was very important the that the interior vapour barrier has NO HOLES. Any holes will drastically increase noise transmission, both in and out. Equally important, holes in a vapour barrier will let all the humidity from sweaty musicians accumulate in the walls, causing mold and all sorts of related problems both to health and to the structure itself, which will start to rot. The only holes should be the door systems(which is tricky) and a ventilation system, so the humidity inside is vented and fresh air gets in. Getting these two things balanced with the no holes rule is tricky, and the hardest part of the process. The screw holes made in attaching the sheet rock apparently self-seal.

The final result was a secure room 7 feet wide and 15 feet long. It cut sound well enough that I could record a folksinger without getting exterior noise, and the neighbours couldn't hear the speed metal drummer from 40 feet away(at ten feet, vibration was more noticeable than the snare hits).

You could use a similar process to build a good studio in a spare room or basement. In that case, you'd probably rest the structure on a series of thick rubber pads(hockey pucks?) to absorb sound vibrations.

Please remember, these articles are for information only. Use them at your own risk and peril. Consult your local officials as to building code restrictions, especially regarding electrical installation. Your mileage may vary, but it worked for me.

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"If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country."
-E.M. Forster