Building a soundproof drum booth – Part One

Welcome to this blog on our progress in building a “box within a box” concept soundproof drum booth.

I recently moved from Johannesburg to Cape Town and needed a place to practice and also record my acoustic drum kit. The main reason for doing this is because I’ll soon be recording an album with keyboard wiz Duncan Mackay who is also helping me build this drum booth. In fact it’s Duncan and his very clever wife Suzanne who’ve done all the measurements for the booth.

The idea is to have a room that will be totally free standing and totally portable in the sense that it can be dismantled and moved to another location. When I say portable I don’t mean that I’ll just fold it up and take it around in a car at will. No it’s way too bulky for that to happen and will take some time to dismantle and re-assemble.

In moving to Cape Town I chose to rent for a year before committing to buy another house. This of course means that I’ll be moving again in the not too distant future and I want to be able to take my booth with me. I want to have this facility wherever I go without having to soundproof a whole room again. I’ve been there and done that and it’s also very expensive to soundproof entire rooms. The previous house I was in had five fully soundproofed rooms/studios. But then I owned the place and could of course do what I wanted. Check out the drum sound I got on my debut album ‘Bach to Me‘ where I recorded all the drums in my previously soundproofed studio.

bach-album-coverSTORE

I haven’t rented in 25 years so being in a rented place is a whole new head space in that it limits me greatly in what I can do. So the idea of a free standing drum booth was the logical way to go as it’s not fixed to anything – no nails or screws in walls or ceilings. Happy Landlord!

Okay, so onto what I had to buy. Quite a bit actually. Let’s start with the boards. The construction of this booth is of wood and we’re using two different thicknesses of waterproof plywood – 12mm for the outer walls and 6mm for the inner walls (see the boards against the wall in pic 1).

boards on wall

Why 6mm for the inner walls? Because the idea is that this absorbs the sound quicker to then get broken up efficiently by the soundproofing material inside – like giant bass traps. The inner soundproofing material is a product called Thermocoustex (see the three rolls in pic 1d).

3 rolls

It’s 50mm thick and can be best described as a very dense woolen type material. The idea is for it to absorb the sound and break it up due to it’s multi-layered texture. The most efficient way to break up sound waves is by uneven surfaces. Thermocoustex works in this way. Also of great importance is to have a sound gap between every layer of whatever material you use. The basic concept what we’re doing here is to have five layers of sound absorbing ‘something’. If we start with the inner layer of plywood which is the first material the sound hits, this then enters a pocket of air which is the second layer which distorts the sound wave. Next in line is the Thermocoustex which in being multi-layered weakens the sound effectively because of its uneven composition. The fourth layer is the next pocket of air again distorting the now weakened sound wave. The final material to break up the sound wave is the outer plywood board/wall. Then after all that, there is the air gap between the booth and wall of the room before it goes out into the world. If the drum booth is only 60% to 70% successful in reducing the original volume then this should be enough to keep the neighbours happy. I’ll let you know when it’s fully built as to how effective this really is.

Aside from the big boards for the walls there are the wooden planks which determine the thickness of the actual wall. (Check out the planks waiting to be used in pic 1b)

planks

We went for 22mmx96mm pine planks. This allows enough space for the air gaps in the walls. In total there are seven large wall sections that you can see in pics le and lf. That’s Duncan in le in the background when we finished fixing the 12mm board to the first frame.

first panel

In 1f that’s me about to stack this first panel before moving onto the next one.

me with panel

What you don’t see in these photos is all the measuring, marking, drilling, gluing and fixing of screws which is very time intensive. In pic 1g you can see the second panel leaning against the first one.

panel 2

On the first day we did four panels which was a great result. This was of course completing the frames and fixing the 12mm board. We don’t rush as we like to make sure everything is spot on!

On day two we finished the next three frames and also did the cutout for the window which you can see in pic 2.

day 2 window panel

Why a window? I like natural light and because this booth will be pretty compact (2.4mX2m) I want to see natural light as I don’t want it to feel claustrophobic in there because when I practise I’ll be there for quite long periods. The window will have two layers of thick glass (double ply) for better soundproofing. There will also be a power socket and light in the booth.

Keep a lookout for day three when we start to insert the soundproofing material and construct two smaller panels which form part of the roof section.

See ya then!

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