Studio construction update!

It’s been a while since I last posted about my studio build, so it’s past time for an update.

As you may or may not recall, I’m building a small recording studio in the basement of my St. Louis area house. As we live on a quiet street and I won’t have to record much when my children are up, “sound-proofing” – or isolation – isn’t a primary concern. But I really want a good-sounding room, which is a challenge given that it’s a smallish space at about 12 feet by 10.5 feet, with ceilings not quite eight feet tall.

Because the space was in a completely unfinished part of our basement, I hired someone to frame walls and run electrical wiring. (I know my limitations!). Here’s a look at the studio space after framing and wiring.

studio 004studio 005

I said that sound isolation wasn’t my primary concern. However, I’d like to dampen as much sound as I can, within reason. Insulating the space within the walls is an excellent way to cut down on sound transmission. So I put the pink stuff between the joists on the ceiling above and between the studs of the walls.

insulationThen it was time for drywalling, something I’ve never attempted. I chose standard 1/2-inch drywall. Note that I had to drywall around a support beam, too.

A couple things I learned during my many hours of measuring, cutting and hanging drywall:

1. Measure twice, then measure again. Especially if you haven’t done this sort of thing before.

2. The strength of this stuff isn’t the gypsum, it’s really the paper on the outside. So if you drive your screw all the way through the paper, you need another screw.

3. It’s really not smart to hang drywall on a ceiling yourself. I tried, and pretty much failed. Luckily my strapping 14-year-old son, Jackson, was able to help. Thanks Jack!

Here’s a couple drywall pics:

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You can see I’m no pro! But I’m going to hire some to do the mudding and taping, activites that actually require skill.

Now remember I mentioned how I want the room to sound good first and foremost? A key to preparing a room for recording and mixing is cutting down on the nasty echoes that soundwaves make. This results in muddy sound, with some notes being too loud and, oddly, some notes disappearing almost completely!

There are a raft of products claiming they will make your room sound like Abbey Road. (I mentioned some of them here). Some of them are quite good. But for the biggest bang for your buck, I think it’s best to make your own sound treatments. The key here, I’ve learned, is using either rigid fiberglass or rock wool, both of which absorb a wide range of sound.

I chose a combination of Owens-Corning rigid fiberglass — OC 703 and 705, to be precise – and some fairly dense rock wool. Note that the fluffy fiberglass — so good for insulating your home — really doesn’t do the job here, unless you can pack in three or four feet of the stuff in each corner of your room. So you need the “rigid” kind of fiberglass, which isn’t carried by your local Home Depot or Lowes. Here in the St. Louis area an excellent source for this do-it-yourself material is Bryan Pape of Sensible Sound Solutions. You can also mail order the stuff from several sources, including AST Acoustics, which I’ve used in the past.

So how do you get this stuff in your recording space? The easiest way is to simply wrap a couple panels in fabric. They generally come in four-foot-by-two-foot sections of two or four inches in thickness. But many people prefer to frame them in wood, which is the approach I’m taking for some of my treatment, as you can see:

P1010040P1010039

I chose to use one-inch-thick-by-four-inches-wide pieces of wood –making a rectangle of four feet by six feet — to make four-inch-thick panels of OC 703 fiberglass. I will use them to dampen my “first reflections” from my monitors — a concept we will explore in a future post on treating your recording and listening room.

A warning: This stuff, much like the fluffy fiberglass, is rather nasty to handle. Rubber gloves, long-sleeved shirts and perhaps even a dust mask are good precautions.

Here’s the final panel, which I will cover with fabric before installation:

backup july 2009

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