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By Nicholas Rubright
You never really notice how noisy the world actually is until you put together your own home recording studio. Suddenly, when listening back to your recordings through a great microphone, all of the background noise that goes unnoticed throughout the day becomes very clearly audible, very quickly….
Because of this, soundproofing is an important aspect of any home recording setup. In this article, I’ll run through some inexpensive soundproofing hacks that my bandmate uses in his home studio that you can try for yours. But first, let’s go over a few things.
Soundproofing vs. Acoustic Treatment
It’s important to understand the difference between soundproofing and acoustic treatment.
- Soundproofing is the process of making your room quieter by blocking out external noise.
- Acoustic treatment involves absorbing excessive ambience to make your room sound better on recordings.
When a room is perfectly soundproofed, outside noises such as footsteps, highway traffic, and air conditioners stay outside of the soundproofed area, and inside noises, like those coming from your instrument or voice, remain inside.
With great soundproofing, even a beginner acoustic guitar can sound good on your recordings. I want to talk specifically about a few things you can do to improve soundproofing in your home studio, but if you’d like a bit more information on acoustic treatment, check out this Flypaper article on acoustic diffusers.
Why is soundproofing important?
Soundproofing is important because in order to get a polished recording, you need to get clean takes of your instrument and vocal performances, and remove any chance of unwanted noise making its way into the recording of these performances.
Contrary to the beliefs of most musicians who are inexperienced in recording, extra noise isn’t always easily fixed during the mixing process. Besides, wouldn’t you want your mixing engineer to be more focused on improving your song rather than trying to fix it?
With this in mind, here are three DIY soundproofing hacks for your home recording studio.
Hack #1: Soundproof your walls, floors, and ceilings with mass-loaded vinyl.
Making use of mass-loaded vinyl (MLV) is an easy way to reduce the amount of noise coming through floors, ceilings, and walls in your home studio. This material is made specifically for noise reduction, and cuts up to 30 dB of sound with only a single layer when applied properly. It comes in four-foot rolls that you can easily put on your walls or in your floors to help reduce the transfer of sound through these surfaces.
So, if you’re trying to stop noise from creeping into your home studio from the other rooms in your house, install MLV inside your wall and floors for best results. If you’re looking for a less invasive approach, hang it on all of your walls and lay it across your floor.
Hack #2: Maximize acoustic separation.
A great soundproofing technique my bandmate leverages is to use two separate rooms for recording. One room contains the microphones and the source of the music, and the other room contains the recording gear (and thus any noise the computer or tape machines may themselves create).
So, if we’re capturing vocals, our vocalist would be in there. If we’re capturing an electric guitar, the guitar player would sit in that room with the guitar, his amp, and any microphones or lines out to capture the sound. Everything else, including noisy bandmates like myself, would be in the “control room.”
The goal here is to create maximum acoustic separation from the isolated sound source and any other sound-making objects, in order to get clean tracks that you can mix to your liking later. Examine the layout of your room, and do what you can to achieve this.
Hack #3: Build an isolation box.
Some bands (like Avenged Sevenfold, for example) use isolation boxes containing their guitar cabinet during their live performances to maintain consistency in their tone across every show on their tour, no matter the room — since the acoustics of each venue are always going to be different. Using isolation boxes live also allows guitar players to block out any venue noise that could be captured through the mic.
For the same reasons, isolation boxes are great options for home recording as well. With a well-constructed isolation box, you don’t need to manage the acoustics of your room (or closet, or bathroom, or stairwell — wherever you’re capturing the signal from your amp) to guarantee an excellent recording of your electric guitar performance.
You could buy a pre-made isolation box, but this is expensive. I’d recommend building your own. Here’s a great video showing just how to do that.
Since soundproofing is such a complicated aspect of home recording, many people simply give up on it. But it’s important to realize that you don’t need to do everything all at once. Part of setting up a high-functioning home studio is trial and error, building things to your own specifications, and creating a multi-use space for any type of recording you’d like to do there. So take your time.
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Nicholas Rubright is the founder and editor at Dozmia and the lead guitarist for the band Days Gone By. He has a passion for playing the guitar, writing new songs, and creating awesome blog posts like this one.