Once we’ve started to set up our home recording studio, it becomes quickly apparent just how much background sound is generated. There can be multiple sources, whether it’s outside traffic, air conditioning, creaking floorboards or other people moving about the house.
Most home recording software, such as Fruity Loops, Pro-Tools or Logic, will come with highly advanced noise reduction plugins. But even though they are very good at canceling out unwanted frequencies, they can result in poor signal quality, making your instruments sound fuzzy or weak.
It’s a good idea, then, to find ways to soundproof your home studio. Many worry that soundproofing requires extensive and costly rebuilding or renovation. But working off of two key elements of soundproofing, you’ll be surprised at just how easy it is to cancel out unwanted noise in your studio.
Principle 1: Damping
The first and foremost method of soundproofing is damping. Through damping, the sound is dissipated into absorbent materials like foam or thick cardboard. Damping has the ability to slow down vibrations and resonances produced by both inside and outside noises.
If you’re lucky enough to have a room that you can strip, it’s worth going out to your local DIY and getting foam materials to add out your walls. In addition, you can buy acoustical glue to seal any gaps or cracks in your wall frames. This will significantly reduce sound.
If you are unable to strip down your room for whatever reason, you can replicate some of the soundproofing provided by foam by simply putting noise cancelling curtains up over your walls. Much in the same way that they are able to insulate a room, they can also insulate a room from outside sound.
Many rooms already have bookshelves, and it might surprise you to know that they are actually very effective in soundproofing. For one thing, the shelves themselves work in a similar way to methods found below regarding Decoupling, but the dense material of the books also work as individual dampeners – meaning the more books you have in a bookshelf, the better your soundproofing is!
Seal the Doors
Of course one of the first methods of damping a sound is by simply closing the door. But when creating a sound booth for recording, it is important to ensure that the gaps around the door are likewise closed. A thicker door will naturally be better at damping the sound, but you should also install a door sweep to close the gap between the door and the floor.
Overlaying the Floor
A carpeted floor will be detrimental to sound quality, the damping effects reducing the brightness and resonance of an instruments sound. But that is not to say that you should pull it up and discard it. Instead, you should consider investing in some hardwood or tiling to lay on top of the carpet, thereby utilizing the damping effect to soundproof the floor whilst retaining the tonal qualities of tiling or wood paneling.
Principle 2: Decoupling
The second method of soundproofing is decoupling. With this method, you are essentially attempting to reduce contact between the sound source and elements that amplify the sound further. This means that you can avoid any annoying reverberations feeding back to your microphone.
Building a Room within a Room
You may have seen in professional studies that there are often isolated sound booths for drums, vocals, and other instruments. These are a form of decoupling. Creating an extra layer of defense means you have greatly reduced any noise that is likely to resonate either from or to the walls and any unwanted echoes.
Another common thing that you see in both studios and on stage are false floors. The floor is potentially the biggest way of creating distortion when recording music. Though you want to utilize the floor as a means of amplification, it can be detrimental in reverberating unwanted buzzes and rattles that come with both the higher and lower frequencies. It’s a good idea to place sound booths on a raised platform with shock absorbing feet, minimizing the contact between the source sounds (i.e drum kits and singers) and the floor.
Mounting Amplifiers and Speakers
In a similar respect, amplifiers are made specifically to resonate to embellish the sound. But they too can rattle, especially if they are vintage. There are specifically designed stands which are utilized for mounting amplifiers, and they will ensure that the speaker itself is heard above the material of the amplifier. This will not only reduce floor and wall reverberation but improve the tonal quality of the sound produced.
These few handy tips are not always easy to pull off, and the truth is that even the most professional of soundproofing is never 100% effective. Sound always travels regardless of how much damping and decoupling you employ. But with a bit of creativity in how you soundproof a room – based on these principles – you can dramatically improve the sound quality of your recordings without expending tonality.