It’s a bass trap… (and you been caught)

Live room air inlet
Live room air inlet

The air ducts are nearly completed. The system will work like this;

  • Refrigeration unit will cool the entire lobby area
  • Fans will blow the cooled air down the silver ‘sandworm’ pipes
  • Cool air will come out at the front of each room (through the ceiling baffles)
  • Warm air will escape into the lobby via ventilation holes at the back of each work room…
  • …and be cooled by the refrigeration unit
  • There will be a fan switch and speed control in each workspace, so the occupant can just switch it on whenever cooling is needed

The air path is broken up into zigzags to prevent bass frequencies from travelling; the ducts are lined with rockwool & fabric. My 8-year-old has pointed out that in the event of anyone,  er, ‘trumping’, this air will be circulated round and round the building at slightly different temperatures. So we will need to open the lobby door occasionally.

Ceiling duct, drawing air into the live room air supply pipe
Ceiling duct, drawing air into the live room air supply pipe

The cunning part is concealing all the ducts necessary to achieve all this. As mentioned before, the cool air enters via the ceiling baffles, having made its way through the soft pipes that run alongside the ceiling. In the lobby area there are two more ducts. This is the one for the live room, in its pre-covered state – you can just see the silver pipe emerging from the back and carrying the cooled air off to the right.

The second foyer duct – the one supplying the control room – is practically invisible now because it’s built into the door frame, so here are a few photos of it under construction.

Door frame air duct - under construction
Door frame air duct - under construction
Door frame air duct with chipboard covering
Door frame air duct with chipboard covering - the upright rectagular hole in the centre will extra warm air from the control room

The basic construction of the control room bass traps is now complete. The principle of a bass trap is that it stops particular bass frequencies from being accentuated by the construction of the room – here’s an article about the physics of listening spaces. This is to ensure that the monitor speakers are giving an accurate sonic ‘picture’ of the instruments/sounds in the mix.

Control room bass trap, viewed from the doorway. Rockwool panels will hang in front of the plywood, and hessian will be stretched over the whole thing.
Control room bass trap, viewed from the doorway. Rockwool panels will hang in front of the plywood, and hessian will be stretched over the whole thing.

Because low frequencies have a longer wavelength, they can only be broken up by large objects. Howard’s design of bass trap, from what I can tell, combines a ‘membrane’ and ‘broadband’ method of construction – plywood panels, with air gap, rockwool and fabric covering. All this means that we need some very large bass traps in the control room. So I may end up with a slightly smaller sofa than I originally thought!

On other news, Artis has been getting me and Jeff into Latvian folk-metal. Here’s Skyforger – chanting a 500-year-old folk song on the beach, then straight into some driving speed-metal riffery. Check out the bagpipe solo!

Fakin’ it

Small door painted - allThe exterior door was constructed yesterday and Jeff is now working on its facade. He’s aiming to make it look like an ordinary set of garage doors from the outside. I’m not too worried about security (the door will be three inches thick and the studio will be alarmed & heavily mortice-locked) but there’s no purpose to advertising the fact that it’s a studio. And it’s turned into a kind of ‘art project’ for Jeff – to make the exterior look as garage-like as possible. The exterior wall itself is our now-standard timber/plasterboard/rockwool heavy stud wall, with an outer layer of OSB board, finished with weather-treated exterior plywood. Jeff spent most of today creating cosmetic plywood ‘frames’ to give the appearance of garage panels. The plywood is to be painted with white Sadolin – this is much better than paint because it soaks into the wood grain, providing improved weather protection. See below for a walkthrough of today’s work.

Exterior wall with bare plywood covering
Exterior wall with bare plywood covering
Jeff has started to add strips of plywood to create cosmetic 'frames'.
Jeff has started to add strips of plywood to create cosmetic 'frames'.
The full wall length, with the six fake 'garage' panels. The third panel - painted white here - is actually the door. You can see the hinges on the right.
The full wall length, with the six fake 'garage' panels. The third panel - painted white here - is actually the door. You can see the hinges on the right.

And here's the finished panels with the first coat of white Sadolin applied.
And here are the finished panels with the first coat of white Sadolin applied. Looks like a garage, don't you think?!

Blinded by the light

The 30cm high strip above the doors runs the width of the building, letting natural light into both rooms.
The 30cm high strip above the doors runs the width of the building, letting natural light into both rooms.

The phrase ‘studio tan’ will be familiar to many musicians. It refers to the pasty, underfed, hollow look that engineers, producers and players have after a long studio session. And it’s based on the idea that, being sound-sealed boxes containing lots of nickable kit, many studios don’t have exterior windows. The need for daylight for us humans (and most animals) is pretty basic, evolved over millions of years out of the basic logic that there’s a survival advantage for our metabolisms to know the time of day. The pineal gland apparently secretes the sleep hormone melatonin (more about this here) when it’s dark, making us feel drowsy. Put simply, dark studios don’t make you feel good!

This balance between soundproofing and musicians’ sanity has long been acknowledged by studio designers. Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in Box has a huge glass-walled control/live room called the Big Room, which all those who’ve worked in it (including my colleague and occasional collaborator Chris) have described as inspirational. So it’s always desirable to get natural light in there if you can get round the technical hurdles of soundproofing, security and air handling.

The control room window frame - the black areas shows where natural light will come in.
Control room window frame - the black area shows where natural light will enter.

And I’m pleased to say that the garage studio will have natural light in both rooms. Jeff, Howard and I have been chewing over this problem since the project began. We’ve discussed sunpipes, skylights and daylight light bulbs. But once Jeff saw the angles created by raising the roof, the solution was clear – a strip window running the length of the east side of the building, letting in daylight above the old garage doors’ location. It’ll be behind and above the mixing/Mac area, creating lots of light without screen reflection (Apple are doing some very nice LCD monitors at the moment but many of them include highly reflective glass screens). There are two walls at the back of the control room (interior and exterior) creating a natural air gap of around 5cm, and meaning that the two window panes will be around 25cm apart, giving ample opportunity for angled triple-glazed panes (the angles serve to avoid sympathetic low-frequency resonance between panes from traffic noise).

Do these holes look innocuous? They are the result of 2 hours of heavy-duty Latvian drilling!
Do these holes look innocuous? They are the result of 2 hours of heavy-duty Latvian drilling!

Artis has now drilled a cable hole through from the control room to the live room. This is easier typed than done; it involved making a 4cm wide hole through several layers of plasterboard, rockwool, OSB chipboard, an air gap (this bit was quite easy actually), a 10cm thick concrete wall, another air gap, and then the rest of the plasterboard/rockwool/OSB layers on the other side. Why didn’t they make these holes when they were building the walls (I hear you ask)? The answer is that the two floating rooms need to settle on their bed of rockwool/membrane/screed etc – and the concrete wall itself will settle very slightly because of its weight. So the only way for the cable holes to line up is to drill them after the structure is complete. This, as with all parts of the construction, preserves the all-important principle that there is no physical contact between the two floating rooms – even the plastic pipes (see picture) that line the holes don’t go all the way through – they are three separate sections which are split across each air gap. We’re still working out what do do with cabling – we could have a standard XLR wall plate in each room, or just chuck loose cables through the hole to the live room as needed, and then fill the hole with a rag to seal it sonically. This might seem like a bit of a bodged working method considering all the detail that’s gone in to the planning and build, but actually it might be the most practical solution because it will allow really simple re-amping, and will reduce the length and number of required cables. Still pondering this.

A real door (the wooden one on the left) partly concealed by a fake door (the garage door is going to be scrapped).
A real door (the wooden one on the left) partly concealed by a fake door (the garage door is going to be scrapped).

And.. we have a door! It’ll have interior plasterboard and chipboard lining, plus sound-sealed hinges, which has the added bonus of making it more secure. It was fitted this morning, and will eventually be disguised as one-third of the mock garage door that Jeff intends to create out of MDF, white paint and deviousness.

True colours

Don't mess with the Sandworms - they can bite your arm off.
Don't mess with the Sandworms - they can bite your arm off.

Firstly, a quick thank you to everyone who’s made suggestions about bringing the studio and phone box projects together (see ‘categories’ on the right hand side). The best suggested studio-related uses for the phone box include shower for sweaty musicians, vocal booth for agrophobic session singers, and banjo booth (need not contain an XLR socket).

The aircon tubes have gone in (the silver snakes that look to a man of my vintage like David Lynch’s sandworms from Dune). These will carry cooled air in from the refrigerated lobby area along the side walls, inside the baffles, and into the live and control rooms respectively. Today also (day 2 of phase 2) Jeff and Artis have constructed the front wall that will eventually have the fake garage doors stuck to them. The original plan was for this exterior wall to be made of concrete, but we learned that the asphalt driveway outside the original garage doors has no foundations under it – so eventually a concrete wall would, er, sink!

Jeff told me a story about a client to whom this had happened a few years back – the guy had assured him that the foundations were sound, so Jeff dutifully constructed a heavy exterior wall. After a few weeks, it sank ever so slightly during one of the client’s studio sessions, preventing the heavy acoustic door from opening and locking the client and his musicians inside. Jeff was called from another site to come and let them out – he had to cut through the door to get in; they were stuck in there for around 7 hours, and apparently got really bored (lightweights – I can spend that long editing a vocal!).

So, if I’m to be potentially imprisoned, what colour should my cell walls be? Now that we’re well on the way to choosing a sofa, here’s another chance for you, dear reader, to influence the design of the studio. Essentially, we have two colour decisions to make (walls and ceiling) and four colours of hessian to choose from (these are rough photos of the fabric rolls, and the colours don’t come up great, but you get the idea – for info the green is slightly deeper than this). The walls and ceiling have to be different colours – a single block of colour will look ‘orrible. Scroll down, and vote now!

Light grey
Light grey
Red
Red
p_1600_1200_50C4F522-8CEE-45AF-A543-F76B2D29F13B.jpeg
Light blue
Light green
Light green

Aircon pipe feed on the left-hand wall of the live room, seen here from the lobby.
Aircon pipe feed on the left-hand wall of the live room, seen here from the lobby.

The boys are back in town…

l-1600-1200-a73f9a39-36cf-456f-ab1c-a05808a6db3d.jpegThe studio build has started again after a 2-week break. Jeff and Artis are back, and despite a 3am arrival last night they were up and working by 10am.

Now that the main structure is built on three sides, they’re starting work on some of the baffles and air ducts. The ducts run behind the baffles, combining air handling and acoustic room design in the same construction. Rockwool is an excellent acoustic isolator, but it is also nastily full of inhalable particles, so all the ducts have to be lined. To achieve this they use a one-way permeable fabric more often used by gardeners – the same stuff that goes under gravel driveways.

Here’s a photo walkthrough of Artis lining the interior of the duct/baffle in the live room.

The lining is stapled onto the frame
The lining is stapled onto the frame
Lining of the baffle/air duct is nearly finished
The lining covers all three sides of the right-angled triangle that forms the duct interior, protecting the live room musicians from from nasty airborne rockwool particles.
Another layer of thin rockwool is added, providing more acoustic isolation from any sound that may have penetrated the air ducting.
Another layer of thin rockwool is added, providing more acoustic isolation from any sound that may have penetrated the air ducting.
Now, a layer of plasterboard in front of the rockwool. There's be some more SterlingOSB added onto this, so we can screw in the timbers for the final rockwool/hessian layer.
Now, a layer of plasterboard in front of the rockwool. There's going to be more SterlingOSB added onto this, so we can screw in the timbers for the final rockwool/hessian layer.

Now, the big question. What colour should the interior of the studio be? I have a choice of 4 colours (from the stuff Jeff has in stock – we’re doing this on a budget so I’m not ordering custom colours from suppliers), and from this selection we need to choose walls (one colour) and ceiling (a different colour). A poll will follow, so you’ll get to choose what colour faces me throughout the studio day for years to come.

Oh, we’re halfway there

Front view with raised roof

The project is now half complete, and the guys are taking a well-deserved break for a couple of weeks. The entire structure is now in place, as is the isolation on five sides; when they resume (probably towards the end of May) they’ll add the rockwool/cloth interior damping, fit electrics and aircon, build the exterior wall (behind the garage doors in the photo) and start building the studio furniture. You can see now how much the roof’s been raised; this temporary polythene seal will be eventually replaced by one-way translucent glass, letting natural light into both rooms.

Very pleased with it all so far – Jeff and Artis have done an amazing job, working 14 days without a break, and I’ve been really delighted with their professionalism, skill and hard work. Plus, of course (and this is the most important thing in this or any industry) they’re such all-round nice blokes.

Hopefully I’ll have some more posts about the project before the month is out. There’s just time to sign off with the Star Wars joke I can only ever do once a year – “May the 4th be with you!”.

Control room ceiling and window frame
Lobby and live room
Shelf for aircon unit
14 days' solid work - finally a tea break!

Float upstream…

Live room wall, doorway and window frame

Lobby area and doorways
Control room ceiling and window frame

View into live room

The live room wall is now up – this is the wall (with window and door) that faces you when you walk into the building, with the control room entrance on the right hand side of the lobby area. The lobby will also contain the aircon colling unit (and may even double as an occasional makeshift booth for guitar amp micing or re-amping).

The live room is now a complete 6-sided box, which ‘floats’ inside the building. This means that it rests on its base of rockwool (which sits on the floor of damp-proof, chipboard, screed etc) isolating it completely from the floor and walls – the whole room is unconnected to the main building structure. There are not even any screws fixing the room to the structural timbers, as these risk transmitting vibrations in from the outside and between live/control room. Jeff and Artis demonstrated how unconnected the live room is from the building’s exterior, by pushing on one wall while I leaned against the opposite wall; the room moves slightly from side to side. We haven’t recorded anything yet, and the studio already, er, rocks…

————-

Update – it’s now Sunday, and Jeff and Artis leave on Tuesday morning. The project will then be on hold for a couple of weeks – Jeff has other jobs, and Artis has to return to Latvia. So we’re a couple of posts away from taking a break (and I’ll get back to blogging other things, finishing the current guitar book, and preparing for SWF).

If you haven’t done so already, please vote for the sofa.

Back on the Chain Gang

I don’t know about you, dear (RSS) reader, but I reckon an 8-hour working day seems about right for us humans. For me that’s a comfortable 3-way split – 8 hours working, 8 hours sleeping, and the remaining 8 chastising children, fiddling with iPhone apps and practising the banjo. Jeff and Artis have a different kind of work plan. They’ve decided to do all their banjo practice (or equivalent) when they get home (Norfolk and Latvia respectively). This makes for long days on the project, but does mean that they get to see their families sooner (and I start recording sooner! :-)). They wake up before everyone else (they’re staying in our spare room), hit Travis Perkins and greasy-spoon breakfast cafés before 8am, then start clinking/sawing/hammering straight away. They clock off around 7pm, shower and then go foraging into Bath. Bed by 9pm. Repeat 7 days a week. Rumours of builders’ legendary tea breaks have been greatly exaggerated.

See it from my angle

We found a bit more dry rot on the old garage facia, so that’s been fixed this morning (see stepladder picture above), and the guys are back onto the interior. The picture below shows the lengthwise struts that will form the back of the control room (the bit over the leopardskin or zebra-stripe sofa). This ceiling is in three sections – the baffle at the back (20-odd degree angle), the middle section (level) and the back lengthwise-timbered section (part-constructed, at the top of the picture – a 2 degree angle). Mad angles are the answer – not a standing wave or resonant cavity in sight.

Are you with me sofa?

If you’ve loyally followed this blog since the start of the garage project, here’s your chance to get involved. It is one of Howard‘s unwritten rules that all studios must have a ‘classy’ sofa. So I’m going to get one. And you’re going to decide which one. Take the poll – and I promise I’ll go with whatever decision the readers of this blog actually make. Vote now!

The heat is on – a rant about eggboxes

control-1The baffle (which will be above the planned twin Mac screens) is under construction – plasterboard and timber form the frame, and the final layer will be the same as the ceiling – rockwool and fabric. Behind this (at the bottom left of the vertical plan below) is the air circulation routing. This, again, is something of a trade secret, so I’ll confine myself to a description of the underlying physics and a plug for Jeff’s ingenuity (and Artis’ estimable craftsmanship). Basically, high frequencies are absorbed by ‘soft stuff’ and low frequencies are absorbed by ‘dense stuff’. But isolation and damping are two entirely different things. You may have heard of the urban myth about studios putting eggboxes on the wall. This does actually work to some extent in that it provides high-frequency damping and stops reverb (sound bounces less easily off rough non-uniform cardboard surfaces than it does off flat surfaces like tiling or plasterboard) but in my experience, this just has the same effect as a thick curtain or other soft furnishings. What eggboxes (or any similar lightweight materials) don’t provide is isolation – i.e. soundproofing – this can only be achieved through very dense/heavy materials that don’t resonate with uniform wavelengths; hence all the earlier variations in thicknesses and materials (rockwool, air, SterlingOSB, plasterboard etc).

picture-12This, of course, becomes a problem when you come to design air conditioning systems. Any air con system requires a duct – or hole – through which air of different temperatures can pass. And sound travels rather easily through holes! So the challenge is to create a construction that extracts air while preventing sound leakage into the rooms. The ducting needs to have some soft interior lining (to stop high frequencies) and a wavelength-averse construction (to stop low frequencies). And it goes without saying that the fans themselves need to be completely silent. Oh, and this studio is done on a very tight budget, so we can’t afford a top-of-the range air cooling system.

All of this secret construction cleverness is hidden behind the baffle in this picture – and you’re not allowed to see it, I’m afraid, but I’ve seen Jeff and Artis building the ducts, and it’s very impressive so far.

Will the guys solve all these problems and deliver silent aircon without breaking the bank? Tune in next time!

Standing in the way of control

The inner shells are in – this is the actual shape of the studio interior. You can now see the ‘V’ shape that forms the centre point between the midfield monitors. Above is the wooden frame for the panel that will contain some of the lights.
In the other picture you can see the lateral ceiling struts. These will have soft Rockwool between them then finishes with acoustic fabric (hessian). We’re on a tight budget so I will have to choose whatever fabric colour Jeff has left over from other jobs. Unlikely to be pink 😦

Talking of recycling, we had a catflap fitted this week in the kitchen. It needed a custom glass panel for the door, so the glazing guy took out the old double glazed door panel, which is about 60cm x 80cm. I was going to get rid of this, but thought I’d offer it to Jeff. Sure enough, he said “that’s perfect for your live room window, that is…”. I asked him “how big was the window going to be?”. He looked at the window panel and said “errr… that big”. Great music is all about improvisation, I guess.

You’ve been framed

All the isolation (on three sides, and floor/ceiling) is now complete, with the final layer of SterlingOSB providing (another) different density in the ceiling, which now consists of so much plasterboard, OSB, rockwool and timber that the ceiling is now almost as low as it was before the roof was raised.

This is where, according to Jeff, the ‘studio building begins’. Artis and Jeff have made the frames that will form the interior shell of the live room. Their construction methods and measurements are a trade secret, and I’m under strict instructions not to blog them – you can contact Howard if you want to discuss commissioning a design. I can tell you it’s a particular combination of rockwool, timber and plasterboard of various specified grades, thicknesses and measurements, with particular bracings. What you end up with is a dense/heavy stud wall, onto which, eventually, will go another timber frame, which will be filled with rockwool of a different grade then covered with fabric. There will be bass traps in the control room, but the dimensions of the live room may make this unnecessary – Howard plans to run spectrum analysis on it before we make this decision.

I’ve said too much. If you print this out, you must eat the paper. Don’t let it fall into enemy hands. In fact, I suspect they will be coming to get me right n

It takes two

The ceiling now has two layers of plasterboard – one widthways and another lengthways. Right now there’s noticeable isolation in the room, even with thin garage doors forming one of the walls.

Jeff pointed out that the raised floor in the lobby gives us a bit of a dilemma. If we raise the floor level, we won’t have an interior step up. This means the cosmetic/fake garage doors on the outside would have to be some two or three inches off the floor – creating a ‘lip’ at ground level that wouldn’t suggest to an observer that this was a garage for anyone but the owner of the most rugged of 4x4s – who liked a bumpy offeoad experience when putting the car away at night.
So in order to make the studio look suitably garage-like from the outside (to avoid advertising the nickable guitars therein) we may need to rethink the interior step.

In order to create the ceiling height specified in Howard’s drawings, Jeff has decided to raise the roof one more time. Not by a whole block’s worth, but just by a couple of inches. In the picture above you can see where the roof has been screwed to the wooden batons, and the batons fixed to the concrete with metal strips.
According to Jeff, the guys haven’t really started work yet; “All this is just basic construction – we haven’t made the boxes for the actual rooms yet. We’ll have this finished in a day or two – THAT’S when we’ll start building you a studio!”.

Isolation (plastic? Oh, no – banned!)

FlooringThe sand/cement (screed) floor is now dry enough to create the floor proper. We’ve deviated slightly from the drawings in terms of construction materials – Jeff describes Howard’s flooring drawing (right) as ‘just a guide’ (I’ll let them fight this out!). So we’ve used the following materials for the floor (from the ground upwards);

  • screed (with PVA to help it stick to original concrete floor)
  • damp-proof plastic membrane (stops damp soaking into the rockwool)
  • compressed rockwool (1 inch)
  • lengthwise chipboard
  • widthwise chipboard (these last two are for strength as well as isolation)
  • rubber-backed carpet

I’ve just, er, bounced on the floor, and it has that curiously springy solidity that you get in studios – feels like the bass drum/bass cab wouldn’t resonate at all, but there’s a feeling of ‘give’ underfoot.

Here’s a close-up of the membrane/compressed rockwool and first layer of chipboard..

picture-5

picture-6

floor-ceiling-isolation52Two and a half metres higher, the roof timbers have been wood-treated (with whatever the modern equivalent of creosote is – I shall call it creosote in tribute to the many Derbyshire chicken sheds I painted with the evil stuff in the 1970s). Artis has now added nearly all the lower-density rockwool – the stuff that actually looks like wool. floor-ceiling-isolation42Rockwool is, apparently, the best material for sound  isolation, because it contains a combination of rock and air (as, indeed, will the studio itself ;-). He cuts the stuff with amazing expertise – it’s a millimetre-accurate job because if the slabs are too thin, they fall out of the gap between the timbers; if they’re too thick, they buckle. The control room ceiling is now filled; here’s a picture of it, and of the half-completed live room timbers.

Spirit (level) in the sky

floor-levelling1We discovered that the garage was slightly sloping, front to back. No surprise there – it’s a flat roof and the water has got to run off somehow. More mysteriously, the floor was sloping in exactly the same proportion. As I didn’t fancy taking office-chair rides from the control room mixing desk to the sofa (not while anyone was looking, anyway), Jeff suggested that the floor should be completely level. So he’s started at the back of the building where the level is highest, and gradually poured in sand and cement to make a new floor.

floor-levelling2On a related note – here’s a link to my favourite application of the moment – the ‘A Level’ is a spirit level for the iPhone. Oh, the lengths to which human beings will go to make a better world…

Walls and bridges

wall-and-ceiling2The roof-raising is now finished – concrete blocks all the way around. The modern blocks we’re using are a lot slimmer than the original (1970s?) ones, and this works in our favour. You can see in the photo how the thin line of blocks at the top is set back from the interior wall, giving us a ‘shelf’ at the top of the lower blocks. This is where Jeff’s going to run the pipes for the (silent) air circulation system.

wall-and-ceiling1Meanwhile, the old dividing wall has gone, and the new one is complete. We’re keeping this little ‘stub’ of the old wall as extra support (the rear wall is soil-retaining on the other side) – the stub is going to be hidden by a bass trap in the control room. So the ‘stub’ in the photo is roughly where the left-side monitor speaker will be, in front of the corner bass trap. The music keyboard will go under the window, on the left of the picture, giving line-of-sight communication between keyboard player and vocalist (or drummer). I find this kind of sight/talkback/keyboard communication is really handy when doing a lot of backing vocals (50% of the job is teaching the singer the part IME).

Jeff and Artis are leveling the concrete floors today, but he won’t let me show you a photo until these are complete. Artists, eh?!!

Raising the roof!

In order to accommodate the air handling (and possibly the Sunpipe) we’re raising the ceiling height very slightly. It’s just as well that this was part of the project, because the lifting of the roof timbers showed some unexpected – and unwelcome – dry rot. So we’ll need to replace more roof timbers than originally thought.

Artis has been raising the height of the ceiling using four-inch blocks of wood as spacers – we’ll add a line of concrete blocks at the top soon. Here’s hoping that it doesn’t rain for the next couple of days!

Dividing wall and sound isolation

img_0806The first thing to go up is the dividing wall – the one-block high line that Jeff’s building at the moment. This is at a slight angle for acoustic reasons, and also to make the control room slightly wider than the live room. The cement mixer here is roughly where the drum kit will be. The main wall in the middle will eventually come down and be replaced by the new one.

Wall and window

In the picture above you can see where the glass wall is going to be. Both rooms will be sealed boxes, and this wall of concrete blocks will provide mass for (mostly low-frequency) absorption between rooms. The physics is all based around the principle that sound travels least well when it has to get through varying densities. So the dividing wall will have a sealed box, then an air gap, then a large mass (these concrete blocks) then another air gap, then another sealed box.

FlooringTo show the principle further, here (on the right) is one of Howard’s close-up discussion diagrams for the floor, using concrete (floor) ‘jablite‘ (insulation), 2 x ply (flooring) and rubber-backed carpet (click on the image for a larger version).

Vertical plan

Plans

And here’s the plan – live room shown here on the right of the picture; this shows the angled wall and window position more clearly.

Garage to studio in 3 months

img_0802I moved house this year, and the new place has a double garage. Not being a car lover, and having no garage-mechanic skills whatsoever, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to build a ‘proper’ home studio to replace the family-unfriendly spare rooms and attic hideouts I’ve used so far. So here, for posterity, and for fellow studio nerds who take an interest, I’m going to blog the building of the studio as it progresses.

The design

I’m using the StudioWizard organisation, who designed the MusicLab at Bath Spa, which has proved to be the most tutor-friendly teaching studio I’ve ever used. The design is taken care of by Howard Turner. These are the initial CAD pictures – live room and studio.

Working methods and tech

I tend to work purely at the Mac with the minimum of outboard apart from mic pre-amps. The studio is based around a Digi002 and an Intel Mac running Pro Tools and Logic Pro. The most important consideration was not tech (I already have most of the kit) but ergonomics – how would I move around the working environment. Typically I’ll be working on my own for most of the time, with one other person (session player, collaborator or co-writer). After much discussion, Howard and I decided we would try to squeeze in a tiny live room – just enough for a minimal drum kit. Live drums is the one thing I’ve always had to farm out, and although I don’t actually play kit, it’s going to be great to have the option of real drums for projects; once you factor in the time it takes to program (and produce) sampled drums properly, it can often work out cheaper simply to hire a kit player – and most of the time it sounds a whole lot better. BFD is great, but it’s like any other virtual instrument – it sounds amazing right up the moment when you compare it to the real thing! All of my projects (guitar teaching books and songwriting stuff) are based on creating a ‘live band’ sound in some form, and I don’t expect to get inspired by Techno any time soon, so having a live room (albeit an acoustically dry one) is going to be a real plus for future recordings.