It seems like an impossible task, doesn’t it?
That’s especially true if you’re working in an apartment and/or semi-detached home! Today though, we’re going to learn how to soundproof a room for sound recording REGARDLESS of where your recording studio is located.
Of course, I’m not going to promise you a 100% soundproofed room.
It may not be possible for every situation, but the truth is you may not actually need a 100% soundproofed room. If you can increase it from 10% to 50%, that’s already a HUGE PLUS!!
I’ll be teaching you the fundamentals, but we’ll also be looking at a few different approaches you can consider depending on your specific situation.
There’s no “one size fits all” solution, so let’s find out what works for you!
- The Fundamentals of Soundproofing
- What Materials Do I Need for Soundproofing?
- Approach #1: Making Improvements
- Approach #2: Room Inside of a Room
- Summary: How To Soundproof a Room for Sound Recording
The Fundamentals of Soundproofing
Let’s start by getting one thing straight…
Soundproofing and acoustic treatment AREN’T THE SAME THING!!
If you want to improve the sound of your room, that’s much simpler to achieve. You can read THIS ARTICLE I wrote on the subject if you want to learn how.
To understand how to soundproof though, we first need to understand how sound travels…
Any guesses? It’s pretty simple actually, soundwaves travel through the air.
In other words, if we manage to create an airtight room, it should be mostly soundproofed. Of course, we also need to take RESONANCE into account.
Most building materials (like wood, drywall, etc…) RESONATE.
That’s why it’s easier to soundproof a room from the outside than it is from the inside.
However, the truth is most of us probably need to achieve both.
Sure, you may be able to get your room soundproof for sound recording purposes… But what about the folks living underneath you or next to you? Will they mind the noise?
Of course, that’s not an issue if you’re working in a detached home/building.
Regardless, I’ll be showing you how you can stop soundwaves from entering your room AND from escaping it.
Another important thing to keep in mind though…
If your room is going to be airtight, you’ll obviously need to think about air circulation. Right?
That’s why getting a 100% soundproofed room is significantly more difficult than 90%.
It’s not an issue though, I’ve got you covered either way! Let’s talk about materials now…
What Materials Do I Need for Soundproofing?
Of course, the materials you’ll be needing will depend on how far you want to go in regards to soundproofing your room.
I’ll start listing some items you may want to consider picking up but don’t worry, I’ll be bringing them back up as we progress.
I’ll also be telling you what NOT to get.
For example, we can start by forgetting all about acoustic foam/blankets/curtains! I read WAY too many articles claiming that these things help with soundproofing.
They’re used for ACOUSTIC TREATMENT (to control sound waves INSIDE the room).
If you’ve got an air leak, a curtain certainly won’t make a difference!
So, let’s start by listing a few must-haves…
- Mineral Wool
- Mass-Loaded Vinyl (MLV)
- Sound Isolation Clips
- Acoustic Sealant
- Green Glue
If you’ll be upgrading your current walls/floors/ceilings or creating new ones within your room (using the “room inside a room” approach), you’ll definitely want to consider these materials.
You should already have some type of mineral wool inside your walls (it’s also used for thermal insulation), but we want to make sure you’ve got the thickest and densest kind!
SONOpan/Mass-Loaded Vinyl are really the magic ingredients though (although a bit pricey).
The acoustic sealant is going to be important to seal any gaps where air might get in.
If you’re not going for a 100% soundproofed room though, feel free to omit it.
Sound isolation clips are used to DECOUPLE studs and dry wall (to eliminate RESONANCE).
But what about windows? Well, the best way to soundproof windows is not to have them at all… You can use the same materials to block them off (mineral wool + SONOpan).
Once again, using acoustic curtains won’t really make much of a difference!
Okay, so what about doors? That’s actually the easy part, here’s what you’ll need…
- Door sweep(s)
Essentially, you’ll be using this stuff to create a tight seal when your door is closed. It’ll also make it less drafty in the colder months!
So, there you have it. We’ve covered the essentials, but I might be recommending some other (and more specific) products throughout the rest of this article.
Make sure to keep reading because now we’re getting into the technical part…
Approach #1: Making Improvements
Regardless of whether you’ll be getting into approach #2 (which might be your only option), your room can definitely benefit from the improvements in approach #1.
The first improvement(s) you’ll want to make involves your door!
Assuming you don’t have any windows (if you do, we’ll get to that next), the door should be the only place where air can travel in/out of the room.
If we can get a nice seal on that door, it could significantly increase our room’s soundproofing.
Remember those weather strips we were talking about?
That’s what we’ll use to seal the gaps around the door. For the bottom, we’ll need to use a door sweep and you could even consider putting one on each side.
Lastly, you may want to consider replacing your current door with one that’s denser.
Medium-Density Fiverboard (MDF) is a good choice if you’re looking for something cheap, but you can also get a specialized soundproof door installed (much more costly).
Soundproof windows definitely exist, but are they really worth the cost and the hassle?
I personally say nay because even the thickest of windows will only block up to 75% of sound. For most, it may not even be possible to change the window (in an apartment, for example).
So, the best solution is to completely block off the window!
Now, there are lots of ways you can go about doing that… However, the method you choose to go with will be determined by your budget and situation.
I did say that you can use mineral wool + SONOpan (and maybe some sealant).
That could be a good option if ever you need to take everything down!
Unless you have the ability to dismantle your walls, you should most likely move on to the next section…
However, upgrading the soundproofing of your walls can do wonders for your recording studio
As we already discussed, the DENSITY of the materials inside your walls and the overall MASS are what’s going to get you to the next level.
The amount of SPACE in-between each extremity of the wall also has an impact.
To be more specific, we can even consider staggering the wooden studs so that not all of them are touching each piece of drywall. Remember, wooden studs RESONATE.
If that’s not possible, you can also consider sound isolation clips to DECOUPLE your pieces of drywall from the wooden studs (referred to as DECOUPLING).
That should already make a huge difference!
However, you’ll still have some of the vibrations making it through to the drywall. That’s why I’d also consider layering two pieces of drywall together using green glue to DAMPEN your wall.
If all of that still isn’t enough, then you can go ahead and add the SONOpan and/or mass-loaded vinyl between each drywall and the mineral wool.
If you’re in a building that doesn’t have concrete floors/ceilings, good luck!
That’s when I’d simply recommend going with approach #2 if all of the above still isn’t enough. The only thing you could do with the floor is to create another floor that’s suspended above the original (which falls into approach #2 territory).
Ceiling tiles could help with the ceiling, but they won’t be 100% soundproof.
So, that being said… Let’s start considering the alternative!
Approach #2: Room Inside of a Room
For most of us, creating a room inside of an existing room will be the most realistic option.
It doesn’t have to be an actual “room” though, it can also take the form of a “booth”.
That’ll most likely be the case if you’re working from an apartment or a location that doesn’t allow you to make modifications to the room itself.
In my case, I ended up creating somewhat of a hybrid of the two (a room/booth).
That’s only because I DO have the privilege of making modifications to my space.
If that’s not the case for you, then THIS VIDEO should give you an idea of what we’re going for.
In essence, we’re going to be building a modular soundproof booth that can be dismantled if ever you decide to change locations.
It’s one of the most interesting approaches I’ve seen in regards to soundproofing a room.
It also makes it completely customizable (you can make it as big/small as you like).
However, the only thing that ISN’T covered in that video is how to handle soundproofing on the floor. You’ll definitely need to take that into account if you’re not on the ground floor!
To be completely honest, you’ll most likely need to ELEVATE your soundproof booth.
That being said, the modules you’d be creating for the floor would be different from the others. Instead of using drywall, you’ll need to use another material (plywood, MDF, etc…).
To get your soundproof booth off the ground, I personally recommend cement blocks.
You’ll also want to line the bottom with some of that mass-loaded vinyl.
I definitely recommend checking out THAT VIDEO if you want specific instructions on creating the modules you’ll be using to create your soundproof booth.
Summary: How To Soundproof a Room for Sound Recording
I learned how to soundproof my studio with trial and error.
In fact, I’m still trying new things and learning with every step forward I take!
That being said, I definitely recommend taking the whole soundproofing thing one step at a time. It can get quite expensive to do everything at once and we’re not even sure it’ll satisfy you.
Maybe you don’t even need to go all out!
That’s why I laid everything we covered today in a logical order.
Start with your door and work your way up from there, but of course… Every situation is different which is why you’ll need to make your own decisions.
If you need personalized advice though, you can always leave me a comment!
I hope that this article made the idea of soundproofing your room more accessible even if you’re sound recording in an apartment building!