Instructables

Build a music studio in an apartment building

Featured
Picture of Build a music studio in an apartment building
There are whole books written on this subject, and also a few other instructables -- but since each project is unique it's helpful, when you're planning your own studio, to see as many different solutions as possible.

You cannot build a sound studio without first understanding some theory: rik_akashian discussed this issue. The most important part to understand is that sound proofing (blocking the sound, so others don't hear you and you don't hear them) is very different from sound treatment (making your room sound good). Since this studio was built for mixing sound and music for film and TV in a residential coop apartment building in NYC, both sound proofing and treatment had to be near perfect. It also had to look good for clients... on a very tight budget.

In this instructable rather than a tutorial on the actual construction I will discuss the design, with links to the materials I used or other resources. This is not laziness, I swear! I just think it is more useful. I assume if you are building your studio you have basic construction skills.
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Planning for noise, heat and power

Not only do you need to worry about sound from outside your studio, but depending on your gear, you need to worry about the noise your equipment makes. Since our studio is a converted bedroom, we had a closet which we could easily isolate and convert into an equipment "room"-- but then heat management became an important issue. Run 3 computers in a small sealed closet and they will crash within a few hours.

Since we were doing a gut renovation we were able to put in central air, but it could not be regular AC. The air handler was placed as far away from the studio as possible, and the ducts were over-sized and had a few extra bends. The same amount of air circulates, but the since it flows more slowly we don't hear the rushing air. One vent leads to the studio, the other into the equipment closet. Another difference with regular AC is the return air. Since our room is completely sealed we had to included vents to let the air out, rather than relying on cracks around the door. Doing this with a thin aluminum flexible tube would have punched a great big hole in our soundproofing, so we used 50 feet of insulated tube instead, twisting it and turning it as much as possible: air escapes, but sound can't make it through.

There is another solution if you're not able to put in central air: a ductless system like this one is fairly quiet and relatively easy to slip in wherever you need it. You just need to have access to outdoor space for the compressor.

Don't forget to plan for power! Use dedicated lines if it's at all possible. Plan where your equipment will be and figure out how much power it will draw. Heat and power are not areas for cutting corners. While your walls are open, think of other wires too. A wireless computer network will not work well in your studio if you build it properly, so it's a good idea to put in some cat6 cables. We have a piano in the living room we knew we would be recording, so we ran a couple digital sound cables from the equipment closet to a closet next to the piano. It's great to be able to make recordings without snaking mic cables all over the place for everyone to trip over.

Another thing to think about is lighting: I don't trust fluoresents because some of them buzz, and I've been trying to eliminate all incandescent lighting (plus incandescent is hot, and there's enough heat generating equipment in a studio as it is....) The obvious answer is LED. This light can be surface mounted, which makes it preferable when it comes to soundproofing. You will want to avoid using a can which will put a big hole in the ceiling (and soundproofing).
1-40 of 49Next »
really what i was lookin' for . perfect .
henryvrgl3 years ago
great job....could you tell me more about those hinges for the doors?
belsey (author)  henryvrgl3 years ago
I'm not sure what you want to know... there's a close up picture of the hinge on step 4. The angle of the two parts means the door lifts up as it opens, and when it's closed the door rests on the floor and there's no gap underneath. The hinge came with the door, of course, and I very much doubt you would ever find something like this in an ordinary hardware store... Hope this answers your question.
belsey (author)  belsey2 years ago
Just found this webpage: you can order these specialized hinges without getting a whole used door like I did.
Belsey,

You are a genuinely good person.
It's been almost an entire year sine you last responded to my question.
They really don't make 'em like you anymore.

Thank you.
Hey, what is that desk? It looks like exactly what i need. Did you build it? If so, can you make another instructable? Great instructable btw...
belsey (author)  guitar-is-awesome2 years ago
I designed and built the desk, using extra lumber from behind the wall panels. I've had a few requests for plans, but I didn't take photos while I was building it. Putting together an instruct able like this requires a whole lot of time, and I don't have much of that to spare... But I'll do my best to get it out. You should subscribe to me, that way you'll be notified when I publish it.
bowmaster3 years ago
For the doors, could you use two solid doors with a layer of foam on both sides of each door? Also, how good would a layer of heavy shag carpet on the floor be for sound blocking, especially at the bottom of the door?
belsey (author)  bowmaster3 years ago
Putting shag carpet under the door would be helpful, but I wouldn't recommend using it to cover the whole floor: carpet will do a great job preventing downstairs neighbors from hearing your footsteps, but it won't block other sounds and if you have too much it can make your room sound dead and weird. By 2 solid doors, I'm not sure if you'r proposing 2 doors with an entry way in between (which is a great solution) or gluing 2 doors together (which could work, as long as they're not hollow). Use green glue if you can, and make sure your hinges are strong enough to handle the weight. Good luck!
When I say two doors, I mean one on either side of the doorjamb, so there would only be ~1.5" between them. One would open out, and the other would open in. The only problem I see is I would need to get special knobs.
belsey (author)  bowmaster2 years ago
As long as you don't use hollow doors, this will definitely be an improvement over a single door.
j03tv4 years ago
Also tell your husband, Cubase ROCKS!
What films has he worked on?
Does he have a website?
Thanks
belsey (author)  j03tv4 years ago
Here's his website. He's in the process of redesigning it, but even in its present condition you'll be able to see his filmography and listen to his film scores.
belsey (author)  belsey4 years ago
His website, johnmdavis.com, is finally updated now. It has a lot more music, and includes two very wacky silent films he scored. More descriptions, movie posters, the works...
j03tv belsey4 years ago
Okay, ill check it out! :)
JAZ974 years ago
would it work in a bedroom
belsey (author)  JAZ974 years ago
 Of course -- the studio used to be a bedroom.
JAZ97 belsey4 years ago
lol sorry i was tired havent sleeped in about 2 - 3 days
j03tv4 years ago
Your husband makes some nice music.
belsey (author)  j03tv4 years ago
 Thanks! I'm glad you liked it -- and good luck on your project!
j03tv4 years ago
Lol, the first step should be, "How to ask for permission to remodel the apartment".
$400 for that light fixture is insane, you could build the same one for the price you paid for it or cheaper, and customizable.
There are plenty of instructables for LED lighting, so be sure to check those out for your next project.

The sound proofing looks like it would allow enough peace and quiet for making music.
I want to make a room in my basement sort of like this but I wouldn't need so much sound proof, just enough to block the the low/bass freq's from traveling up stairs.
belsey (author)  j03tv4 years ago
 I "only" paid $250 for this one, it was on sale. Since this was for general lighting I don't think I could have made anything that powerful myself. Most LED fixtures here are purely decorative. Factoring in the time it would have taken me to learn enough to make it (I'm not an electrical engineer) and the expense (not just the LEDs, but the driver itself is quite expensive) -- I love making things myself, but at some point I need to draw the line.
j03tv belsey4 years ago
Although the LED's and components are dirt cheap as well as the power source, its actually really simple to put one together, unless that one has more functionality than an on/off switch. Its just time consuming with soldering and stuff, but I can relate to trying to put a limit on building things. I tend to always wanna build everything that I think would be cool or whatever aswell.
shreiber5 years ago
To Raysdad: You can pick up the Green Glue at Trademark Soundproofing with their main location in Rockland County NY. Additionally they have some good Soundproofing Articles on their website.
raysdad5 years ago
Any suggestions for a basement studio? We have a full basement, cinder block and concrete walls, open ceiling, and would be starting from scratch. My son wants to build a "room within a room," but it looks to me like the expense is way out of my reach. Where we we find the kind of used material you mentioned? We're over the bridge, in Bergen County. www.skipspainting.com
belsey (author)  raysdad5 years ago
I'm sure you can build a room within a room relatively inexpensively because you have means I was lacking: specifically, a truck. Also more construction experience. Check out the materials section of Craigslist every night and search for keywords like "soundproofing" or "studio." With a little patience you are bound to find everything you need. Another great source for materials is Build it Green in Queens.
raysdad belsey5 years ago
Good idea. Thanks.
Very, very well written. I've known about the materials and theory involved, but still haven't procured the funds to make it happen. I suppose I'll end up making a very simple one of mdf and non-hardening caulk, but oh well. Has anyone experimented with active noise reduction? I've been thinking that it might be of assistance in studio situations, but I've yet to see a program that creates an inverse wave to destroy the original sound, in real time.
mafordha5 years ago
I was curious to know what type of drawer hardware was used for the slide-out keyboard shelf. Thanks!
belsey (author)  mafordha5 years ago
It's a heavy duty ball bearing drawer slide I got from Kessler Hardware at 229 Grand St in NY 212-226-6722. From memory I think it extends out around 13" -- but you can get one which extends more or less depending on your needs. Kessler is a great hardware store but they don't have much patience for novices: you'd better know what you want and tell them fast or they will tell you off. They're the best.
Really nice Instructable and very inspiring. I really liked the way you balanced cost, functionality and environmental friendliness. Bravo!
what can a person say? just excellence in this instructable.
belsey (author)  michel moltrum5 years ago
Thank you! (and I'd love your vote when the time comes...)
endolith5 years ago
Do you have a plot of the frequency response?
belsey (author)  endolith5 years ago
No, not on hand. We did the test a while ago and didn't print or save it. I just remember it was nice and flat with just one dip at a single frequency (but I can't remember which). Sorry. If we ever do it again I'll let you know.
Excellent information. I am going to set up a studio like this.
That's great work. I only wish I lived in an apartment where it would be feasible (or allowed) to soundproof like that. One suggestion I might add is that you could build your own diffusers. DIY quadratic residue diffusers have quite a few benefits. First, they're relatively easy to build. Second, they're substantially cheaper than commercially available solutions (and use identical technology). Third, if you can grok the math (which really isn't too difficult) you can design them to target the frequency bands you need, which often makes them work better for your purposes than commercially available solutions. Finally, well... it's fun to build stuff.
belsey (author)  MahavishnuMan5 years ago
That's definitely true -- there are also kits available for those who want to build but don't quite feel up to making them from scratch -- but since I found these second hand for less than the cost of the material for building my own, I couldn't really justify the time and money it would have cost to build my own...
True, anything you get second-hand beats buying it retail or spending for materials. I probably wouldn't use that kit though. Sure, it's a QRD and the principle is the same, but there are two problems I see with it. First, you shouldn't place two identically designed diffusers that close together as it causes lobes in the diffusion pattern. Second, I would think a period of 13 wouldn't be enough to allow smooth diffusion across a three octave band. I'm debating how to create instructables for my own sound treatment as I made everything a few years before I even knew this site existed. I don't have the need to build any more, and the stuff isn't exactly easy to disassemble either.
What did you use for that picture? It looks like Google Sketchup.
1-40 of 49Next »