Friday, June 4, 2010

The Difference A Little Acoustic Treatment Makes To Your Drum Room...

Above is a before and after video of my studio...

It's happened to all of get to a gig, set your drums up, do a sound check...and they sound GREAT! You can't imagine your drums sounding any better...they're warm, inviting, everything you play sounds sonically pleasing...the gig goes off without a hitch and you go home feeling like "Sid the Wonder Kid, Drum Tuner to the Stars"!

Then, on your very next rush to get there because you can't wait to play your drums again (after all, you're the greatest drum tuner that has ever lived...remember?). You set them up, pick the sticks up with a small cocky grin, and start to CRAP!!! The worst sounding kit you've ever played...the toms have strange overtones, the bass drum is uncontrollable and boomy, the snare makes you wince every time you hit it...even your cymbals sound horrible! How could this be?! You had just played the night before and they sounded heavenly...and now even your cymbals are out of tune? Say it ain't so...and so you shove your earplugs deeper into your ears, hoping that by some act of God you'll be transported to the end of the gig so you can pack them back up and have a nice bonfire when you get home...

This happens to me ALL OF THE TIME...and it's really hard not to get down about not only your drums and your tuning ability, but your playing too. After all, why put all of that practice time in if your going to sound bad no matter how hard you work?

Allow me to explain a little about what is actually going on...You can be the best drummer in the world, you can have the top of the line drums made out of endangered wood that was harvested from the monkey trees of Argentina...all of this won't mean a thing if the venue or room that you're playing in is acoustically off. What do I mean?

There's alot going on that you can't see at a gig...there's countless invisible sound waves that are bouncing around you at all times. If a room is built for live bands to play in, and they don't take the time to sonically treat the room to address the issues of standing waves, flutter echos, modal ringing, and improving stereo imaging, it can lead to disastrous results. Let me go ahead and say, I am no expert on this subject...FAR from it...I also am not going to attempt to explain all of the intricate details of sound waves...and I'm sure you really don't care to know all of those details (that being said, if you really do want to know about the ins and outs of sound waves, go HERE for a much more in depth explanation.)

I'm going to explain what I did, my reasons for doing it, and the cost effective ways I found to achieve my desired results without breaking the bank.

I've recently remodeled my garage and made it into a drum studio. After all of the build out, I was left with the problem of my room sounding like an echo chamber. The room is a rectangle, a horrible shape for's roughly 300 sq ft in size with a 10 foot ceiling...or a large box in other words. So once I finished drywalling and painting I was left with the enormous task of learning about sound treatment and applying it to my room.

So I started to read on the subject...and I read alot...and for my particular room, here's the solutions I came up with...the photo below will let you see somewhat of what the room looks like, although it was taken right after I had finished so none of the recording gear, pictures, or even a full drum kit for that matter, are set up...


1.) For the wall behind my drumset, I decided to treat it with acoustic foam sound dispersing panels that would eliminate the standing waves. To keep this explanation easy...if you have two parallel walls, you need to treat one of them (and only one) with some type of material that will both absorb some sound and disperse it at the same time. So I took forty-eight 1x1 square panels and hung them on the wall behind my drums...I made four large diamonds in the middle of the wall and placed two rows of 8 panels each on the bottom of my wall. That took care of the standing waves from two of the walls. I would have been out of pocket a little bit of money, but thankfully I had some band members that had the sound panels sitting in their closets not being that treatment was free...BONUS!

2.) I needed to treat the corners of the room with bass traps to control the bass. Pre-fab bass traps can get quite expensive...and so my solution was to make my own. I made four 2'x4' bass traps (using 4"x1" strips of wood, I made a frame, stuffed it with Rockwool insulation, covered the front and the back of it with fabric, and hung it where it would straddle the middle of the corner) and hung one in each of the four corners of the room. I then made four 2'x2' bass traps and hung them at an angle in the four tri-corners of the room (where the ceiling meets both of the walls). Bass traps cost for screws, fabric, insulation, and wood was a little over $100.

3.) I wanted to hang a panel above my drums that would disperse the cymbal bleed and keep the sound from bouncing straight off of the ceiling and back into the microphones. So roughly three feet right above where my drumset is set up I hung a 4'x'6' piece of particle board covered in rigid styrofoam dispersement panels, in no particular pattern. There's roughly a 2-3 foot gap between the ceiling and the panel...I simply found two studs in the ceiling, hung two hooks that are used to hang swings on porches, and then attached some chain...I learned my lesson with my first attemp at hanging it...I didn't bother to find the studs, got the thing hung, got to the bottom of the ladder, and SMASH!!! The whole contraption came down on my head. Painful, but a learning experience...note to self...always find a stud to hang large, heavy items from the ceiling. I already knew this, but apparently I needed this experience to really instill it in my thinking. Again, one of my band mates had the dispersement panels, so all I paid for was the wood, screws, and chain...roughly $25-35.

4.) The other two parallel walls have been taken care of with pictures, a piano, a couch, and a bunch of bookshelves...all of these items eliminated the squareness of the walls and improved the sound.

5.) I have a rug underneath my drumkit, but other than that I have an open concrete floor to maintain the "live" sound and feel of the room...the rug was about $75.

And there you have it...for a couple of hundred dollars I treated a very large room and now have a pleasing area that my drums sound good in. So if you have a practice space that sounds horrible, don't just live with something about it! You'll play so much better just by hearing better tones. You can bring in furniture, curtains, etc...anything to make the room less square and a little "softer". And please, if you get to a gig and your drums sound like you're hitting glass, just ignore has no bearing on the quality of player you are...unless you can't tune...and then we have a whole other set of problems...


Mike Stuart said...

Ah, dude! Many thanks, I've been looking for something like this for a LONG time. Nice to finally have someone human answering the questions well! What brand of sound treatment would you recommend? Cheers,


Audiyo said...

I don't recommend one brand over the be honest, if it's a home studio, it's not so muc the brand as the placement. Go to this link I talk a bit about the acoustical treatment as well as give some links. Look in the comments section and you'll see several other good links to go to. Hope that helps! So glad you dig some of the info on here. Let me know if I can help in any other way.

-Stephen T.

Lawrence Halter said...

Cheers to your DIY room sound treating! I did watch the before-and-after room video and the difference is very evident. Less feedback, less unnecessary noises emanating from the room, and the cymbals and overall drum sounds are really smooth. Did you already try bringing the other instruments in and played a couple of songs? How was it?

Audiyo said...

You band rehearses in there almost weekly now...the room itself sounds pretty great. Live but not to live, if that makes sense.


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