If you love your instrument and your loved ones as much as I do, you want to be able to practice and play with them and for them. Of course, if your instrument is a bit loud, our your talents aren’t yet up to the piece you are playing, it might be nice to be able to isolate your practice sessions from the rest of the house. That is where building your own practice studio can be a great idea, and it is surprisingly affordable to improvise.
Start With the Room
To start, we want a room. Bigger rooms tend to be a bit easier on the ears, but who wants to dedicate a huge room to just instruments? Okay, we might want to, but who really can afford to get away with this? Chances are, your practice room will be no bigger than the typical, afterthought home office or child’s bedroom. That is fine! Just having the space to start with is a great start.
Exterior walls, if you are far enough from your neighbors, are great since the insulation in them already will eat up some sound. Also, if you can get it, being on the top floor prevents you from disturbing people upstairs, which can be a big help if you have a traditional (sleeping quarters upstairs) arrangement.
Beginning the Sound Insulating
What we want to do is take away as much of the reflected sound as possible. If you don’t take out the reflected sound, the room could actually resonate more, making you seem louder at some frequencies. Fortunately, eating up sound is cheap and easy. Here are a few quick rules to sound proofing:
– softer is better
– rough textures and odd corners are better
– Hard, flat things are the enemy.
In essence, you want to cover as much of the room as humanly possible with soft, irregular shapes and rough textures. Professional soundproofing is obviously fantastic, but affording it can be tough. Sometimes studios will toss old, worn out panels, and if you can, grab it.
Some of the tips below are technically for preventing sound from leaking, and other prevent it from resonating inside. In a home studio, you want both, so try for a good mix of the two.
Start with the floor. A plush carpet will take out most of the resonance in the floor and will spare your downstairs areas from being hit with the worst of it. Cover as much of the floor as you possibly can. Ideally, cover all of it. The carpet doesn’t have to be fancy.
While we are on that subject, the ceiling can be a real issue. Ideally, installing a drop ceiling will eat a ton of the noise in the room. Otherwise, the out-of-style “popcorn” ceiling treatment will help disperse and absorb the sound. In the worst case scenario, I’ve seen people hang fabric loosely across the ceiling to absorb some of the vibrations.
On the walls, Consider hanging tapestries. Since they hang off the wall, they will resonate and absorb much of the sound without pushing it out of the room. Paintings, carpets, or anything else that you can hang to soften the walls will help prevent sound from leaking from the room.
In the worst case scenario, I use old mattresses in my basement. It is very visually unappealing, but when the walls are lined with mattresses, sound doesn’t get far.
Soundproofing Empty Space
Shoving sound absorbing materials into the space itself helps dramatically. A plush couch, pillows, or any other soft, irregular objects work wonders. This might be the perfect room to retire your bean bag chairs and velour storage ottomans into. Throw pillows are a favorite of mine.
Finally, don’t forget to soundproof the door. Again, hanging a $4 flannel sheet from a pole mounted to the back of it is typically enough to start. Windows also deserve heavy curtains, and the more layers, the better. Remember that all this will also work as insulation, so the room might become “stuffy” in the summer. A fan will help. Ideally, this method will make a room with minimal resonance for you and minimal volume for everyone else outside the room. Also, remember that all of this extra material presents a fire hazard, and that you should keep an extinguisher on hand for the worst case scenario.
To sum up, a practice studio is the best way to make your own team as a full orchestra will help you to learn new instruments from time to time as music lovers are quite passionate about this craft and it will be like the pc version of Grand Theft Auto.