This is a guest post from Mike Sorensen of Acoustic Fields. If you have a music related guide that you feel will be useful to our readers, please submit them here.
If it gets to the stage where you’re making money from your music career, you may want to consider creating a rehearsal space to practice and record your music. There are two main things I’ve seen that can hinder bands:
- Money issues. As in not having enough of it.
- Finding a place to practice where everyone around doesn’t complain about the noise.
Rehearsal and recording studios can prove expensive to hire in the long run, and can be a real drain on band finances. As a result, a lot of bands look to set up their own space in a garage, an empty warehouse, or at the local railway arches.
Whichever route you choose, you’re still going to need to make sure you don’t disturb the neighbours too much. Because of this, you may want to consider building your own dedicated drum room into the space. Drums are often the instrument that cause the most noise, and the cause behind all those neighbour complaints and knocks at your door.
Building A Drum Room
When building a drum room, we must keep a few objectives in mind. Firstly, we’ll need to isolate the drums so that all of their energy is somewhat contained from the outside world.
We may want a big drum sound or a tight, clean sound, depending on what we are recording. Because of this, we’ll need to be able to adjust the pressure levels the room gives off whenever we want. Doing this will give our drums a different energy, and therefore a different sound at the microphone position.
Ok, so now we know some of the features you’ll want in your drum room, let’s look at how big you’ll need to build this area.
What Drum Room Size Should You Build
Without going in to all the calculations, lets choose a room size for our new room that is 8′ wide and 10′ long. Lets make the ceiling height at 11′. This is a decent amount of space for your average drum kit and all of the features we’ll require.
Our drum room will need a door and window placed somewhere which best fits the studio’s use. All doors and windows should have high sound transmission loss values.
Since drums produce lots of sound and vibrational energy, we need to isolate the floor of our drum room from our existing studio structure. We do this through a process called “floating”. We raise the floor up, and place it on vibration isolating feet that reduce the drum room floor to existing structure floor contact. This is actually an air space between the two floors.
Floor thickness should be at least 8 inches, and filled with sand to minimize vibrations to the existing building the drum room is to be placed in. Our floor insides are tongue and groove hardwood. This should be at the 2 inch thickness level for the tongue and grooved flooring.
Drum Room Walls and Ceiling Requirements
Our walls and ceiling have the hardest task of all. They must be designed in a way that absorbs lots of low frequency energy at fast rates and levels, so the drummer can have adequate personal return of his drum sound while within the room. There are times when the drummer needs to be able to hear how the drum sounds separately from the room, yet be able to hear both the room sound and drum sound together. The walls can help with this.
We will need to make our walls and ceiling 12 inches deep for our drum room. Inside those walls, we could place insulation type material or activated carbon. Insulation materials will give the wall its lowest absorbing frequency capabilities, but will not do much for the walls rate and level of absorption. It is the rate and absorption levels that is more critical for recording within the room…
If the low frequency absorption rate and level is predictable and consistent, it will be much easier to achieve the different drum sounds the room is capable of producing. Activated carbon placed in the correct amounts inside our drum rooms 12 inch thick walls will provide those predictable rates and levels of absorption. We can still keep the insulation material in the walls.
The interior walls of our drum room are really an open palette for acoustical treatments. We can use absorption here, with acoustical open celled or closed celled foams. We could use a combination of absorption in some areas, and the regular wall finish in others to provide a different sonic mix of reflections at the microphone position.
The main element we must deal with are the low frequencies produced by the drums themselves, especially the bass drum. This drum creates huge pressure waves and the room must be able to handle it in a consistent, ‘every time’ manner. To use this pressure to our benefit, we use little trap doors installed in the drum room walls at the 8′ height level to release some of this sound pressure in a controlled manner.
Using Pressure Release Valves For Different Sounds
At the 8′ level of our 11′ ceiling height, we install three horizontal “windows” or rectangular openings on three of our four drum room walls. This “window” or opening will measure 6 inches high, 36 inches long. It will be this opening in the top section of three walls that will be sealed when closed, but when opened will release sound pressure and create a different pressure level at the microphone position. This is turn gives off a different drum sound at the microphone position.
Open one door get one drum sound. Open two doors and get a different drum sound. One can even experiment with opening opposite windows or adjacent ones and listen to the sonic differences.
A drum room must be built and designed to isolate and contain sound energy from the drums. Once isolated and contained within the room, the sound needs to be adjusted and managed so we can create different drum sounds at the microphone position.
Whilst this might all seem daunting to begin with, it can prove a pivotal decision in a bands development. The upfront costs will soon be offset by recording and rehearsal fees, whilst also giving the band a focus and space to call their own. Many a famous band have developed from such humble beginnings before getting gigs, will yours be next?
About The Author
Mike Sorensen has worked in the music business for some 30+ years as a studio engineer and audio technician. He is the author of the www.AcousticFields.com audio blog, which provides tips for bands on soundproofing a room and studio.