How to Soundproof a Room

Soundproofing Your Room

The world is a noisy place. That’s just a fact. And you, as a drummer, probably contribute a significant amount of noise to an already abundantly rowdy world. Your neighbors probably hate you. Or are deaf. Maybe because of you. Which is why you should seriously consider soundproofing your room(s). Another perk to soundproofing is you should be able to keep out the noises coming into your room, which in turn will make you more attentive to detail regarding the music you’re producing, now that it’s free from any external noises. Soundproofing a place may sound like a daunting task, and that’s why we’re here to help.

WHAT IS SOUNDPROOFING?

Before we get into how to make your room/rooms more soundproof, it’s important to distinguish what exactly it is and what we’re aiming to achieve. Ideally, soundproofing keeps outside noises (like traffic, footsteps, weather) to stay outside and not disturb your music sessions and keeps inside noises (i.e. your drums) inside, and not disturbing your neighbors.

Now unless a room is perfectly and completely soundproofed, you will not achieve the effect which you so crave, but below are a few simple ways you can apply towards making your spaces more soundproof, without having to break the bank or ring your local handyman. If you’re more serious about your soundproofing (and have some time, money and expertise), then we will also be discussing some more professional methods which we can use to soundproof rooms.

PART ONE: LIFE HACKS TO MAKE YOUR ROOM(S) MORE SOUNDPROOF

Seal the air leaks on your doors/windows:

If you were ever inside your room, and heard your neighbors talking out in the hallway or car doors slam from out on the street, a good option could be sealing air leaks on windows, doors or anything else that might let air in or out. This could be done easily by adding thick door sweeps or a draft blocker (which looks like a flat pillow), which have an additional bonus of keeping out bugs, dust and the cold. As for windows, you could look to add the rubber sealing which again keeps out noise, cold and any creepy crawlies.

Reduce noise-reflecting surfaces:

Sound waves are like bouncy balls, in that they ricochet off hard surfaces and can become even louder and more annoying. But that also means you could use strategically placed rugs and textiles in order to mute these ricocheting sound waves as much as possible. Carpets (shaggy carpets can very useful in this regard), textile rubber mats, curtains – all these items can be placed on the bare floors or bare walls and very much help absorb noises coming in or going out of rooms. (Pro Tip: Having a dense rug pad underneath your carpets ups its noise-quashing abilities.)

Invest in soundproof curtains:

In the same vein, you could look to invest in soundproof curtains. There is a large variety of these curtains, ranging from heavy blackout curtains to more lightweight options. Again, these can help eliminate any sound coming in or going out of your room.

Look into acoustic panels:

Acoustic panels are panels designed to completely minimize the levels of noise pollution. They are thick, dense rectangles lined with layers of noise-muffling materials. They are available as boards or even fabrics to be hung up on walls. They could be a worthy investment in your quest for a more soundproof room.

Put those books to good use:

You know that big pile of books you promised yourself you’d read as soon as you ‘got the time’? Well, now could be a time where they’re put to good use. A bookcase could be a solution to muffle any noises coming in or going out of the room, especially if the rooms’ walls are thin. They’re also stylish and make you look more refined, so it’s really a win-win situation.

If you’re creative, you can think of a million and one ways to achieve the same goal, which is keeping outside noises outside and inside noises inside. Match carpets, curtains, cushions, windows etc. to make your room/recording studio both stylish and effective.

If you’re creative, you can think of a million and one ways to achieve the same goal, which is keeping outside noises outside and inside noises inside. Match carpets, curtains, cushions, windows etc. to make your room/recording studio both stylish and effective.

PART TWO: HOW THE PROS DO IT:

Alright, so curtains and pillows are great for muffling sounds, but sometimes you just need something that’ll get the job done once and for all. There are 4 methods of soundproofing that can be combined to achieve the best results. These 4 methods are:

Addition of Mass/Density

It makes sense, doesn’t it? Having thicker walls and ceilings will keep inside noises in and outside noises out. This can be easily done when building up the walls from scratch, but can prove a bit more challenging if the walls are already in place. Luckily, there is a solution to that problem, and that solution goes by the name of Sheet Blok – or to give its official name, mass loaded vinyl. Mass loaded vinyl is widely used, both in professional and DIY projects. Different types of mass loaded vinyl have different noise-quashing abilities, and a metric used to measure those capabilities is STC, or sound transmission class. Generally speaking, the higher the STC, the better (so 20-30 is poor, 30-40 is standard, 40-50 is good). There is another metric used to measure the soundproofing potential of materials, which is STL (sound transmission loss), and people have different opinions on whether or not it is a better metric than STC.

Damping

Damping is similar to adding mass, where you’re adding a dense layer of materials to prevent sound waves from passing through to or from your neighbors. More specifically, damping filters kinetic energy from sound energy and turns it into heat energy. There is a specific type of adhesive, known as a damping compound, which gets the job done. Right now, Green Glue is widely accepted as the most effective of all damping compounds available in the market, but feel free to test them before using them. The adhesive is used to stick any two panels together (plywood, drywall etc.) and creates barriers that can be added anywhere in the room.

Decoupling

You’re about to have a major flashback to 6th grade science class. Remember when we talked about how molecules in solid objects vibrate in place, and that’s why they conduct sound (and heat) better than liquids and gasses? It is that scientific principle which decoupling works upon. Decoupling is the process of blocking that transfer of sound by isolating two contact points from each other, usually by adding some dense, pliable, non-conductive rubber between them.

Decoupling doesn’t necessarily have to be using the dense rubber. Examples of this method include:

  • Building a floating door: Use rubber isolators at the contact points to kill off any sound transfers.
  • Creating double walls: This leaves an air gap in the middle, which can be then filled with insulator. This is something we’ll discuss in the next technique.
  • Isolate layers: Similar to creating the double walls, you could isolate the ceilings or walls from each other by using instruments called resilient channels or resilient sound clips. These instruments can be used what we call ‘floating ceilings’ or ‘floating doors’, which we’ve already previously discussed.
  • Tape studs: You can use joint gasket tape to isolate the studs from the walls, ceilings or floors. Again, this will help dull the sound waves and stop reverberating all over the place.

Filling the Air Gaps

Usually the final step in any soundproofing job, you have to make sure that any gaps or holes which may let sound seep through are plugged and air-tight. Traditionally, there are three types of sealants used to achieve this feat:

  • Acoustical Caulk: This can be used to seal off any holes, cracks or openings that might allow sound to travel through. The best thing about it is that it remains soft and pliable, meaning it does not dry out and develop any cracks of its own.
  • Foam Gaskets: This sealant is more used for sealing off air gaps from doors, windows and electrical outlets.
  • Automatic Door Bottoms: Similar to door swipes, these block the area between the door and the floor, and eliminate the possibility of sound moving in either direction, nor inside or outside the room.

These 4 methods are the methods traditionally used in order to soundproof any room, but as you can probably see, these cost money, time and most important, lots of effort. Many require an experienced hand as well, so maybe it’s not the best idea to go about this alone if you’re still a novice when it comes to handiwork.

The last thing we want to talk about is reducing the severity of the inside noises that might disturb your recordings. Things like air conditioners, computer fans, stuff like that, can have a large and likely unwanted impact on your recordings, and it can be a challenge to get rid of their effect, but we’re here to give you some ideas. You’re welcome.

PART THREE: THE BONUS

Keeping air conditioning noise out:

This is a real problem that many professional studios struggle with. Obviously it’s not an issue in places with colder climate, but in warm weather, you either turn on the AC or be slow-cooked in a recording studio that is hot and stuffy as all hell. Here are a few steps that might help you cancel out those pesky streams of noise.

What many people don’t realize is that a large percentage of noise coming from an air conditioning unit actually comes from outside beyond the unit, especially in window ACs. So you should look into sealing off any openings that isn’t essential for the air conditioning unit’s functionality. The second thing you have to do is remove the vents. Some vents rattle because of the airflow, and/or reverberate with the sound waves, making it inconvenient and noisy. There’s also an added benefit of more efficient air flow and thus better cooling by removing the air vents. Finally, you could make a sound dampener and stick it onto the AC window. You can make one with some acoustic foam, some plywood and a bit of imagination and handiwork. If all else fails, just buy one of those silent air conditioners and hope for the best!

Silence your computer:

Your laptop can also get noisy and, because of the forced close proximity of your computer and recording equipment, interfere with sound recordings. There are a couple of ways you can minimize the sounds emanating from your computer or laptop. The first one, and I know it’s really stupid but I have to start with it, is to move the laptop away from your microphone. You could also look into using dynamic microphones, which are less susceptible to picking up computer sounds. Another good option is to use acoustic treatment or filters behind the mic, where it is most sensitive.

Another thing to do could be to prevent the laptop from overheating. You could do that by using a laptop stand or anything that will allow air to flow underneath the laptop and prevent it from overheating. Laptops that overheat cause the fans to blow loudly, which in turn can be disturbing. Another option could be using an ISO box, which uses silent cooling fans on the computer. That is if you have heaps of cash, considering it comes with a very hefty price tag. If you have the time, you might want to look into building your ISO box – the Internet is filled with resources that can help you with doing just that.

There you have it. A pretty comprehensive guide on why you should soundproof your room, how you can do it, along with a bunch of different tricks you can use that will help out. Some people argue that soundproofing might not be worth the hassle, and that noise is pretty much periodic, and you should just play your instruments and record when there isn’t much noise, but that’s really up to you to decide. Now you have the information, and by all means do more research, and get to work!