I am a guitar player and have played in various bands steadily now for over twenty years. From garages, sheds, basements, studios, and even dedicated music rooms, I’ve rehearsed in all the usual places that bands tend to use for their practice spaces. I’ve always gravitated towards bands that play more of the harder varieties of rock n’ roll. Of course, that means big drums, big amps, and loud P.A. systems. It wasn’t until my early twenties when I got into running live sound and recording that I started learning about acoustics and how important they are to not only keep sound from escaping and entering, but to make the sound within better.

In this article, I’ll detail my experience with music rooms and detail the best ways to soundproof them to make your neighbors happy, while also exploring sound control to make the acoustics in the practice space as best as they can be.

Soundproofing vs. Sound Control

I always like to begin by differentiating between the two fundamental aspects of improving acoustics: soundproofing and sound control. It’s unfortunately too easy to confuse the two because they sound so similar, but here it is simply:

Soundproofing is used to stop sound from leaving a room or entering it through the walls, ceiling, floors, doors, and windows. I like its synonym “sound blocking” because it is more descriptive as we are literally working to block sound from leaving or entering.

Sound control, also known as sound absorption, is used to improve the sound within a space. This is incredibly important in situations like a music room where there are drums and amplifiers all competing with one another but actually trying to become one. Utilizing sound control products, like acoustic panels, greatly helps to attenuate the sound so that it works in concert rather than as competition.

For a detailed discussion of sound control vs soundproofing, see this article. Now let’s begin by laying our foundation: a properly soundproofed music room.

How to Soundproof a Music Room Effectively

Sound Check Studios - Acoustic foam in the rehearsal room

Sound Check Studios – Acoustic foam in the rehearsal room.

Unless your band practices in a location that is in the middle of nowhere, chances are there is someone nearby. If this space is in your home, you will also have your family to contend with. They might not be pleased with all your rock n’ roll exploits during practice time! If you are practicing in a facility with multiple practice spaces, it may be difficult to focus on your music if you are hearing other bands practicing. More often than not, studios and practice spaces are located in commercial areas. Traffic noise and sounds from other businesses may also be a concern.

Notice there are two sides of the situation: blocking the sounds of the music room from escaping and annoying family members, neighbors, and/or adjacent studios, and blocking sounds from outside of the music room from coming in and disturbing the practice space.

To put it as simply as possible, sound waves are mechanical energy that vibrate across a medium (air) until they run out of energy. Soundproofing utilizes materials and techniques to take away that energy as it passes through walls and the like so by the time it reaches the other side, there isn’t much left, and therefore cannot be heard. Note that if you soundproof one side of a wall, noise coming from the other side also has to pass through the material, so you have effectively solved blocking the noise you’re making from leaving and noise from outside from getting in.

Soundproofing Walls, Floors, and Ceilings

The best way to soundproof a music space is to treat walls and ceilings. Typical walls are made of studs and drywall, so what we want to do is bolster the mass and flexibility of the wall by adding soundproofing materials and an air gap. This combination of mass and adding an air gap significantly saps the energy in sound waves. My go-to solution here is to add AudioSeal® Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV) Soundproofing Barrier behind the drywall with an application of Green Glue Noiseproofing Compound and then affix the new assembly to the studs with Resilient Sound Isolation Clips (RSIC-1). Thanks to the added mass of the MLV and Green Glue Compound and the air gap created by the isolation clips, the energy of the sound waves will have dropped dramatically before it even reaches the studs, and the rest of the assembly through to the other side will take care of what remains.

Typically, floors consist of a concrete slab, and the mass is a great sound blocker. That said, it can benefit to add Iso-Step® Soundproofing Underlayment beneath the finished floor to block the heavier sounds produced in a music room. This would involve redoing the floor, which may not be ideal. In that case, there’s a reason you always see a plethora of rugs in a music room, as they work to both block sound similar to an underlayment with the added benefit of absorbing sound, too (more on that below). Vibration isolation pads are also a great addition to put beneath amplifiers and even the drum kit to reduce vibrational noise.

Ceilings made of drywall will benefit from the same process as the one outlined above for walls. If the ceiling is a drop ceiling with ceiling tiles, it’s even easier. I love the combination of PrivacyShield® Ceiling Tile Barriers and PrivacyShield® Light Hoods to rapidly create a well-soundproofed ceiling. 

Additional Components to Soundproof: Windows and Doors

Properly soundproofing your ceilings, floors, and walls could be significantly ruined by one leaky door in your music room. A lot of the time, doors are hollow-cored because they are cheaper, and the lack of mass makes it super easy for sound to pass through. Even with a solid door, any crack or open seal, even if you think it is tiny, can allow a LOT of noise through. For doors, I suggest applying a door seal kit to make sure it is sealed correctly. You could also replace the entire door to verify it is exceptionally soundproofed. 

It’s not always that music rooms have windows, but if yours does, it will act just like a door. You can either add a window seal kit for an extra leaky window, or even consider a soundproofing blanket to simply hang over the window.

With these techniques, you’ll have a properly soundproofed music room to enjoy your session without the worry of annoying others, or being disturbed by sounds from outside. Now it is time to make sure all those sounds you’re making inside actually sound good and not like an incoherent mess of loud drums and amps.

Sound Problem: Loud Room With Muddy, Unintelligible & Fatiguing Sound Quality

Sound Check Studios Tracking Room

Sound Check Studios Tracking Room

Here’s a typical band rehearsal space scenario – You’re the guitar player, and you’ve spent all week learning the latest batch of tunes the band had decided to work on the week before. You get to rehearsal and are ready to rock. You are rehearsing in your drummer’s garage. It’s made up of a combination of sheet-rock walls, a concrete floor with a couple of area rugs, and a sheet-rock ceiling; a typical garage setup with all hard surfaces. The first song starts with just you playing but once the rest of the band kicks in, you find yourself lost in the mix. That awesome solo you worked so hard on in the previous days gets drowned out underneath the mud and confusion about what your other bandmates are playing.

Since you can’t hear yourself, your natural reaction is to turn up your amp. This works great for a song or two, but then the bassist turns up his or her amp. The drummer starts hitting their drums a lot harder to compensate for the increase in volume that your amps are producing. The vocals get drowned out and soon you are back to where you were at the start.

A similar scenario used to happen to me. A lot. Not only that, but this type of situation can also cause hearing fatigue and hearing loss if you’re not careful (ALWAYS wear hearing protection no matter what). There were a couple of bands I played in where I hated going to rehearsals for this very reason. What’s the point in rehearsing if you can barely hear yourself or what the other band members are playing so that you can work on making the songs sound better in the first place? Your rehearsal room acoustics should allow you to hear the initial sound from your instruments and vocals, not a reflection of the original sound.

Sound Solution: Add Absorptive Materials To The Room

Absorptive Panels Help to Dampen Sound and Reduce Reflections

Absorptive Panels Help to Dampen Sound and Reduce Reflections

The most effective treatment for this situation is to add soft, absorptive materials to all of the hard, reflective surfaces in the room. The band that I am currently playing in recently moved from rehearsing in the other guitarist’s detached garage to a room in our drummer’s split-level house. This man cave has wood paneling and sheetrock on the walls, pile carpet on the floor, and a textured plaster ceiling. There is also a large brick fireplace that takes up a good portion of one of the walls. The first time we rehearsed in the new space, the sound quality was horrendous. Harsh highs, muddy lows, and vocals that were fighting to get over the top of the blaring guitar amps that were in turn trying to compete with the volume of the drums.

In a space like this, I knew we would need as much sound absorption as possible. For this type of application, the more sound-deadening material you can add to the room, the better. To fix the sound issues, we installed several 2″ thick AlphaSorb® Fabric Wrapped Acoustic Panels in Guilford of Maine Anchorage Fabric to cover the wood paneling on the lower portion of the walls. We then added acoustical foam to the upper portion of the walls and above the drum set, all in an effort to kill as much of the reflected sound as we could.

The difference from before we applied treatment was night and day. We were actually able to turn our amps down a little. The volume of the drums was not as overbearing as before. The vocals through our P.A. system could now cut through the instrument mix better and were actually intelligible. Instead of a wash of sound, the instruments were more articulate. You could pick out details that were lost otherwise without the treatment in the room. Our drummer’s wife even remarked that one of the cover songs she overheard us rehearsing sounded like it was being played off of a stereo. Quite an improvement indeed.

Every room is different. There are other materials you can use to help with dampening sound in a band rehearsal space, as well.  In addition to what I have previously outlined, acoustical blankets can be hung on walls and garage doors to both reduce reverberation and block sound. 

A combination of ClearSonic drum and amplifier enclosures can be used to reduce the volume output from instruments so that it will be easier for them to be managed in the mix. This also helps decrease the bleed from your bandmate’s instruments which is useful for rehearsal or when recording.

Sound Check Studios in Richmond, VA used many of these tips when updating their rehearsal room acoustics.

Trust in Acoustical Solutions for the Best Soundproof and Sound Control Products and Expertise

As mentioned, there’s nothing more exciting to me than playing music with friends. At the same time, there’s nothing more annoying than doing so and having the acoustic make the magic sound like garbage. 

A properly soundproofed music room with correctly applied sound control products can turn a disaster into a beautiful symphony, and I’ve made it my career in life to help others do just that. Give me a call today and let’s discuss your music room and how we can treat it acoustically to get the best performance and atmosphere for your band!

For more information on using these specific types of treatment, please read the following articles on Soundproofing a Wall and Soundproofing a Floor.

To learn more about how Acoustical Solutions can solve your noise control problems, use our contact form, call one of our Acoustical Sales Consultants at (800) 782-5742, or visit us on the web at acousticalsolutions.com.