The Shelter In-Place Drum Studio Remodel

dcrigger

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I could’ve posted this in the “Where Are You Spending Your Time” thread - but I thought, if folks are interested, that I might elaborate a bit on this… and share the saga as it progresses…

Back Story…

I record at home. I’ve recorded at home for decades. And for 20+ years, I basically operated a commercial recording studio in my home.

Then as the world of music changed, it became clear that renting time in a small studio with an included engineer was far less valuable than providing musical services. Things like playing & recording drums, percussion, programming, editing, etc - things that required access to a small studio to accomplish, but sold as the service, not as “renting time in a studio” was the way to go.

So almost 20 years ago now, I technically “closed” the studio - and dedicated it to being a space for me to work in - pretty much exclusively.

And of course, the work that demands the most from such a studio is recording acoustic drums. It requires space, acoustic isolation, decent acoustics, more than a few channels of quality signal path, many microphones… etc.

So I upgraded my mic pre amps and reworked my mic closet focusing on recording drums as best I could - and found I was able to capture decent pro-quality tracks. Not “great drum room” type tracks - I’ve recorded in rooms of that class - and we’re talking about 10x the real estate and way more than 10x the gear budget to match that.

But all projects can’t afford that - thank goodness!!!

A few years later I left LA and moved to northern California - which had remarkably little effect on my recording work. So much work was being done in this satellite fashion, never really face to face, that I had some LA clients that hadn’t even realized I had moved until years later. Anyway up north, I was able to enlist a pretty small bedroom (maybe 10x11) to record in. Squeezed a bunch of bass traps and diffusion in there and really lucked out - in that, I was able to deliver tracks out of there that seemed to work for folks. I did the Classic Batman animated movie in that room, about 12 Disney On Ice shows, some other production shows, some tracks for some small artist albums, a few commercials…

That room looked like this - that’s just a “remote” keyboard, mouse and monitor - the actual “control room” was in another room.

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dcrigger

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Back Story 2…

Anyway - then almost two years ago, we moved down to San Marcos (near San Diego) and I’ve been in a new room. I kind of hit the ground running here - in that we moved in and about a week or so later I had Disney On Ice tracks that had to be recorded.

So I took the bulk of the sound treatments that had been in the last room (they were all portable/movable panels and traps) and through them up… and it really sounded like crap. Luckily Anne is a quilter and just happened to have a bunch of keeper and donation quilts on hand - so I stacked dozens upon dozens of quilts - some in boxes, many just in stacks, through out tons of the rooms available space. Which got me through that round.

Later I added a carton of Roxul “board” around the upper wall-to-ceiling corners - which helped a bunch - but not enough - so most of last years work was done with mic boom stands and/or cymbals acting like scarecrows with packing blankets draped over them - 2 or 3 deep - positioned all around the room.

Again a make do solution - but still not great. Plus I think I had an allergic reaction to the packing blankets over time - so really not great.

So after finally getting separate ducted mini-split installed in Dec. - I’ve been on mission to get into doing the studio acoustic treatments. But with all the work involved in putting together the Odd Clinic by this month and concurrently taking on writing 8 or 9 arrangements for high school string orchestra my daughter-in-law conducts (they did a late Feb concert with a local Americana-ish pro rock band - comprised of about an hour of the band’s original music - performed with all new orchestral accompaniment - way fun, very satisfying - but a huge undertaking)… anyway, the studio kept getting put off till this past couple of weeks.

So as of a couple of weeks ago, this is where we started from….


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dcrigger

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The Acoustic Design…

So we’re starting with an 11’ x 15.5’ room with 9’ ceilings. All of those blue things are broadband absorbers - wood frames filled with Owens Corning 702 semi rigid fiberglass. The big square white things are Auralex T-Fusor diffussors. The little squares are Auralex Mini-Fusors. And the green stuff is just raw Roxul mineral wool.

So what are we doing?

Well, what we aren’t doing is soundproofing.

Not one thing I’ll be describing will have any effect on the sound that comes and goes in and out of this room. The way the house is positioned on this 1/2 acre and the nature of my not playing all-day and all-night current lifestyle - and the lack of complaints from neighbors - nor my complaints about neighbors… I’m not throwing any money at sound-proofing. I’ll probably swap out the doors at some point to help the sound in the house - but not a priority right now.

This all about trying to get the acoustics in the room better - primarily for recording drums, but also for making the monitoring better as well.

Instead of flying solo on designing this (as I’ve done in the past) - I couldn’t resist availing myself of GIK Acoustic’s free design advice service. They are completely open to me re-using what I already have - doing whatever I want myself (which will be a lot) - while recommending some products of theirs where they would be most effective. Which I’m being glad to go along with - because the advice has been more than worth the price of the products I’m buying… even without the products. And those specific products would be a huge task to make without a full blown CNC machine.

So the designer and I did a round of emails last fall - then things got put on hold. So when I got back into this about a month ago, I took his initial suggestions and applied them to a more concrete design and then sent him these sketches….

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Quick description -

The blue panels are coming from GIK - they are basically broadband absorption panels fronted with a wood front sporting 100’s of mathematically designed holes CNC’d into it. They will provided a smoother diffusion with some absorption up close to the drums - much better than the Mini and T fusors - which will be repositioned onto the ceiling above the drums.



The red and pink panels are all ones I’m building - filled like before with Owens Corning 703

The beige panels - are all being built right onto the wall. They will all be what’s called “super-chunk” construction. So instead of a sheet of 703 fiberglass being placed across the face of the corners - instead the 703 will be cut into triangles and placed/stacked to fully fill each corner space - wall to wall, wall to ceiling and wall to wall to ceiling (tri-corners).

Just in case you’re wondering… No this is not the intended color scheme… :)
 

SteveB

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Boy, that's a nice set up David.....a far cry from my own studio in the 70's in a 300 year old farmhouse. We used my bass player's mother's old drapes to deaden the drum room...and you know, for the time it worked. Our manager at the time wanted a better sounding tape, which was an 8 track and a lot of bouncing. So we went into a major studio in Boston and redid a few tunes on 2". It sounded horrible! We were still able to get the originals out to all the majors and nobody was talking about the mix because the musical ideas came shining through on our version. One thing we did have were good quality instruments, some 421s, 57s of course and a 414 AKG.

Its amazing what can be accomplished today in a room just like yours. Bravo!!
 

tris66

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Awesome!
Are you covering those "super chunk" traps with something? I mean fabric to lessen the chance of any of that fiberglass floating down and getting in your lungs?
A couple home made rigid fiberglass/ rock wool panels can do amazing things for a room. Usually a far better 'investment' than buying more expensive mics.
Such a cool thread because you can point it out to people. Yes, you CAN do this in your own house with professional results.
 

kallen49

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Thanks! So interesting and helpful to me. I have shared with my fellow musicians with home studios. I have a very small space so pics are inspirational and details very useful. Any other details you want to share (the recording hardware/software you are using) would be interesting, thanks again.
 

EvEnStEvEn

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That looks very good, DC. I'll be following your progress reports in this topic.
 

Lazmo

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David, fantastic.

DaaS --- Drums as a Service --- or is it--- David as a Service
 

owr

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Very cool, thanks for sharing. I have a similar (never ending) project in the works. I built an 8x10 heavily sound proofed room in an old building in my suburban back yard. It works well enough for me to play moderately loud at 11:30 pm without waking my daughter sleeping 10' away or disturbing the neighbors. But the acoustics inside are terrible as you'ld expect. One snare hit on an acro would take your head off.

Ive been working with the GIK guys as well and can't recommend them enough, or their products. The Ecose insulation they use is way healthier than the OC 703 for small spaces from what I understand and is high quality.

Below is a panoramic shot of my progress so far as of a week ago. I started with 4 tri-traps from GIK + had a box of Auralex foam corner traps from the original build. These helped, but it was still pretty bad in there. A few months ago I ordered 4 poly-diffusers from GIK (the rounded panels) and enough raw materials to build the rest myself. So far I've built for 4" deep rectangular panels seen below. Next will be extending the corner traps to the ceiling (and ditching the foam), I'll do these myself since each corner needs a different height. Then I'll add one more 4" bass trap on the door and 2 overhead 2" panels. Since adding the bass traps behind the kit and the side wall panels acoustics have improved 100%, it actually sounds decent in there now.

The last thing Id recommend is building a french cleat system for all your wall panels, makes them easy to move around and try different positioning. I'm not a carpenter or anything, but figured out how to rip 8' plywood strips at 45 degree angles with a cheap skill saw, its pretty fun.

Good luck and thanks for sharing!
studio.JPG
 

Titletown Tim

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David,

Excellent post!
Thank you for taking the time to share this.

One question if you don’t mind- Will your ceiling treatments totally cover the air vents all the time, or will you still be able to adjust them?
 

dcrigger

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Awesome!
Are you covering those "super chunk" traps with something? I mean fabric to lessen the chance of any of that fiberglass floating down and getting in your lungs?
A couple home made rigid fiberglass/ rock wool panels can do amazing things for a room. Usually a far better 'investment' than buying more expensive mics.
Such a cool thread because you can point it out to people. Yes, you CAN do this in your own house with professional results.
Yes absolutely - a layer of batting, then a layer of "beauty" fabric. Actually popping for the "real studio" Guilford of Maine fabric this time around.
 

dcrigger

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David,

Excellent post!
Thank you for taking the time to share this.

One question if you don’t mind- Will your ceiling treatments totally cover the air vents all the time, or will you still be able to adjust them?
As of Christmas time, that room has it's own AC. A mini-split unit - but not one that goes through the wall. But rather one with a small attic blower (that we put in the "attic" of the adjacent garage and a compressor outdoors. So that's air in and an air return. And no neither of those will be covered in any way.

If soundproofing was an issue - of course, those AC incursions into the room would be a whole project in itself to keep isolation happening. Luckily, I'm not needing to deal with that at this location - at this time.
 

dcrigger

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Getting Started….

Pulled all of the gear and drums out of the room and got started on framing the built-in bass traps.

Low end build-up is particularly troublesome in small rooms - so the standard advice is… you can’t have too much bass trapping. And as bass really builds up in corners, they’re the primary targets for bass trapping.

We tend to think of rooms having four corners - but acoustically they have 12. Four wall to wall corners. Four wall to ceiling corners. And four wall to floor corners.

I’m basically putting bass traps in every corner that I can. Which leaves out the “wall to floor” corners - as that would chew up to much floor space. And one wall-to-wall corner is a door way - so it’s pretty much out as well.

But the rest are all getting solid chunks of Owens Corning 703 across each corner. The wall to wall corners will be filled with right triangles with two 24” sides stacked up in each corner. And the wall to ceilings will be treated similarly with triangles with 16” x 20” sides - “stacked” horizontally.

So next was figuring out a bunch of angles and cutting up and screwing together a bunch of 2x2’s. And getting them fastened to the wall/ceiling.

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Cutting triangles - OC 703 comes in various shapes and thicknesses - I bought a bunch of 2 ft x 4 ft pieces 2” thick. These came 12 to a case - and I bought 7 cases (Rented an extra large van to go pick them up - having them shipped is pretty pricey).

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So there was seven cases - that’s the last two in the pic.

The other five were all turned into triangles by my wonderful significant other. Some four triangles per sheet - the rest were 6 triangles per sheet. Creating tons of these -

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So the framing continued with 1/2” plywood strips running horizontally to keep the wall to ceiling triangle in place - and vertical stacking started…

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Then more of the same - plus using some go the old roux to fill the upper corners -

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Oh and along the way, the carpet got pulled up. Carpet on the floor in a studio is a bad thing for a number of reasons... not sure what I'm doing with it yet. Concrete actually sounds great - so I'll likely just epoxy paint it. As everything else - will be more money and not sound better - or necessarily look that much better (without spending $$$)

more to come...
 

dcrigger

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Hey David,

Are the drums pictured, your old Blaemire kit?

Greg
No - it's a set of old, mainly stop-sign Gretschs - that I've been using for most all of my recording for quite a few years now. The Blaemires are fantastic and I have no qualms about using them in any setting (and did for years and years). But this Gretsch kit fell into my lap. A guy was desperately needing to move out of town (that day!!) - needed cash and couldn't take them with him. A friend sent him my way and it turned out a win-win. He got far more money than he would've at the drum store (as Stan at Pro Drum told him he would) and I got a killer deal. Even more so after I got them set up with new heads and recorded them - literally A-Bing them with my Blaemires (same room, same mics, etc, same player - and they were just.... better. At least, to my ears, they just jumped out of the speakers.

So I started using them - again, pretty much all of the time.
 

dcrigger

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Sorry for going MIA on this - got swamped with unrelated stuff - but also figuring out what to do with the concrete floor…

Basically decided that with the prep involved to do paint, being unsure about the results and having zero experience doing it, we’re going to go with a wood laminate. Worked fine in my last studio - and is something I’ve actually successfully done three times before.

So shopping, shopping, shopping on that front…

Also had to get into the specifics of how I’m going to do the ceiling over the drum part of the room. I know we’re re-installing those various Auralex diffusers - I just hadn’t sorted out how exactly… so I think I’ve come up with a plan for that (after much measuring and drawing in photoshop). Anyway, more on that later…

In the meantime - lots of work got done fabricating pieces for the acoustic panels that will be hung on the walls (and ceiling) (the red and pink items in the sketch). This amounts to seven 2’x4’x6” frames that will hold 4” of 703 fiberglass board. An improvement on the old panels will be the way these will be vented (all of the big holes in the pictures). There are also two 2’x2’ shallow panels being made as well.

So here’s pics of all of those pieces (a few hours at the drill press doing all of those holes) :)

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On a different track… I’m eliminating the standard bedroom ceiling light and installing 3 drop down track light fixtures (each containing for lights), This entailed holes in the ceiling, expanding the wall switch to multiple switches… which then required opening the wall in order to et the wires through the top plate into the attic space.

Then pulling the new wires with fish tapes… The pics show all the wires in place - just waiting for me to install the boxes.

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more coming…

dc
 


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