Are you looking for a way to soundproof a room for drums? You've come to the right place!
In this expert guide you will learn:
- What Does Soundproof Actually Mean And What Can I Expect?
- How Do I Make My Drum Room Soundproof?
- What Other Solutions Are There For Quiet Drumming?
And Much More!
As anyone that has experienced the joys of an acoustic drum kit will know, they are loud beasts.
With a volume range of between 90-130 decibels, which is the equivalent of a jet plane or subway car, drum kits are not the most neighbor-friendly instruments (to say the least!).
So with that in mind, how do drummers soundproof their space to allow them to practice without driving everyone around them up the wall?
In this article I’m going to take you through everything you need to know about treating a room to help reduce the overall volume for people around you, leaving you to drum in peace.
After months of painstaking research, I built my own soundproof drum booth in my studio...on a pretty tight budget.
So rest assured that you’re in safe hands when it comes to what works, what doesn’t, and what effective DIY solutions can be achieved with minimal funds. I’ll also include some great soundproofing tips as we go!
Let’s dive in!
What Does Soundproof Actually Mean And What Can I Expect?
Before we get stuck into the methods and logistics of actually soundproofing a room for drums, we have to clear up one misconception when it comes to what the word ‘soundproof’ actually means.
Unfortunately, to make a room completely soundproof (i.e no sound escaping whatsoever), it requires a HUGE budget, lots of building work, and some incredibly specific knowledge and experience in how sound is transmitted.
Professional recording studios fully soundproof their live rooms by building a completely new ‘room within a room’, which is isolated from the external walls by air gaps and mountains of sound insulation.
These rooms are also airtight and therefore require their own air supply and air conditioning.
As you can imagine, this level of soundproofing doesn’t come cheap!
As drummers looking for a solution for practice, or even for recording at home what we are actually dealing with is sound REDUCTION rather than soundproofing.
With a relatively small budget in mind, we are going to look at some of the ways you can reduce the amount of external noise escaping from your practice space, helping to minimize the disruption to your neighbors and housemates.
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How Do I Make My Drum Room Soundproof?
Before we get into the specifics of your drum room, there are two essential concepts that you need to understand to effectively soundproof a room:
The more mass there is between the sound source (in this case a drum kit) and a person’s ears, the quieter that sound will be.
For example, if you had one drum kit in a concrete bunker and one in a garden shed, obviously the bunker kit will be much quieter.
This is due to the concrete walls having much more mass than the thin wooden walls of the shed, hugely reducing the amount of transferred sound.
Air is also excellent at transferring sound as sound waves are essentially vibrating air particles.
Therefore if your room has big thick walls (mass) but lots of air gaps around the windows and doors, the sound will still escape.
Essentially, where air can escape, so can sound.
With these concepts in mind, let’s have a look at some of the ways we can apply this knowledge to make your drum space way more efficient at reducing transmitted sound.
Doors And Windows
The first place to start when soundproofing your practice space is the doors and windows.
Fundamentally they are the weakest link for sound transference as they are the areas of least mass, as well as having the most potential for air to escape (e.g the gaps between the door and frame).
Sealing The Gaps And Adding Mass
A great way of minimizing the amount of airflow in and out of a room is to use draft excluders and seals that are designed to help insulate your home.
Get yourself an under door draft excluder strip (also called a door sweep) to stick to the bottom of your door. These are great inexpensive ways to reduce airflow through the largest gap at the bottom of the door (and therefore the amount of sound).
Now the bottom of the door is sealed, you’ll need a solution to stop air escaping around the rest of the door frame. Weatherstrips/draft excluding tape is perfect for this.
It comes in long lengths that you cut to size and stick to the inside of the door jamb.
Using both these tools will create an almost completely airtight seal around your door when it’s shut, reducing the amount of pesky drum noise that’s allowed to escape!
A very similar process will be applied to the windows. If you have very modern double glazed windows with compression latches then you won’t need to worry too much about adding extra air sealing solutions.
These windows are already excellent at reducing airflow and noise.
However, if your windows are older and have ‘old-style’ frames then getting hold of some draft excluding tape (pretty much the same as the door tape), will make a massive difference in the amount of airflow in and out of your practice space.
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Windows and doors are much thinner than structural elements such as brick walls (windows are usually only a couple of panes of glass and doors tend to be hollow!). To make them better at absorbing sound, you’ll need to add extra mass to both of them. There are a number of ways to do this.
For the door, adding some dense acoustic tiles/panels would help increase the amount of mass. You’re looking for the densest material you can find. You can also make your own acoustic wall panels using fiberglass insulation or mineral wool.
In my studio, I screwed two extra layers of acoustical drywall to the inside of the door and then attached a large acoustic panel that I had leftover from a Clearsonic drum booth.
This, along with the door seals, worked incredibly well at reducing sound leakage!
The same process will apply to the windows. If you’re still looking to use the windows as normal then investing in some sound dampening insulating curtains will help add a little bit off mass to the windows whilst reducing unwanted sound reflections inside the room.
However, if you want to make a considerable difference I would suggest attaching some acoustic panels that will cover the whole window frame.
(NOTE! One thing to be aware of when you’re soundproofing in this manner is that adding insulation (which is the same as heat insulation) and reducing airflow is going to make the room pretty hot and stuffy.)
Consider installing a portable air conditioning unit or make sure that you take regular breaks with the door/windows open to allow fresh air to circulate!
Treating the walls
Following the same principles as before, adding extra mass to the walls is going to improve sound absorption, as well as reducing nasty unwanted sound reflections within your practice space.
Companies such as Audimute make Sound Absorption Sheets that are easy to hand on the walls from hooks or from curtain rails (can be used over windows and door too!).
Acoustic foam panels/sound absorbers can also help to some extent. However, bear in mind that as much as companies tout this foam as ‘soundproofing’, these tiles are actually designed to acoustically treat a room to make it sound better for recording...NOT for soundproofing.
If you’re on a very tight budget, then getting hold of some thick carpet or rugs (even duvets!) and mounting them along the walls will help to add critical mass and improve the rooms’ sound-absorbing qualities. (although fully carpeting the walls might not be the most stylish look for some!)
There is a hilarious myth that tends to do the round on the internet frequently and that is the use of egg cartons as soundproofing.
Somewhere along the line it was decided that sticking empty egg packing crates to your walls would magically soundproof your room, for literally the cost of the eggs (bonus!).
Unfortunately, this is just simply not true, egg cartons have almost zero mass so therefore will do nothing for noise reduction... they’ll just serve to make your walls look very ugly!
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The floor is often a major culprit in transmitting sound to the outside world. This is because the vibrations of your bass drum are transmitted straight into it, those vibrations are then sent along the floor and under walls to the adjacent rooms.
The best solution for this is to try and isolate your drum kit as much as possible from the floor itself.
One easy DIY solution for this is simply to pile as much carpet or soft rugs underneath your kit as possible.
A drum kit on concrete or hardwood floors is going to transmit a lot of sound, and the floor itself will also help amplify the sound as it’s a hard surface. Adding soft surfaces will improve this.
Placing your kit on a few layers of mass loaded vinyl is another possible solution to add an extra barrier between your heavy kick grooves and the floor. You can also use mass loaded vinyl to add mass to doors and walls.
Another way to completely isolate your kit from the floor is to build a drum riser.
A drum riser is simply an insulated platform that the drum kit will sit on. It acts as an absorbing barrier between the kit and the floor, to help reduce the impact noise from the bass drum.
Again the more mass you add, the more effective it will be!
Here’s a great video showing how you can make an inexpensive drum riser for your kit. It’s designed primarily for an electric drum kit but will also work for an acoustic set:
What Other Solutions Are There For Quiet Drumming?
Build A Drum Booth
A very effective solution for being able to blast a loud acoustic kit without bothering your neighbors is building your own drum isolation booth. This soundproof room solution will be more expensive than simply treating an existing space (as you’ll need a lot more soundproofing materials), but the results will be much more significant for sound isolation (if done properly).
There is some great info about building your own studio at the Home Recording website, definitely worth checking out for advice and to see other people’s successful solutions!
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Use An Electric Drum Kit
Often a much simpler and less time-consuming solution to being able to drum whenever you want is replacing your loud acoustic kit with an electric one.
Electric drum kits make considerably less noise than acoustic ones, meaning you can just chuck some headphones on and drum to your heart’s content, without worrying about annoying your neighbors of housemates.
Be aware that there will still be some tapping of the trigger pads audible, and the bass drum pedal will transmit some reverberation through the floor (see drum riser build above to help with this), but it’ll still be MASSIVELY quieter than an acoustic kit.
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Low Volume Cymbals And Mesh Drum Heads
Many companies nowadays have come out with products aimed at modifying your loud acoustic drum set to significantly reduce its overall volume for practice.
Low volume cymbals such as Zildjians L80’s and Sabians QT series cymbals are aimed at giving you a realistic cymbal feel and sound at a hugely reduced volume.
Combine these with some quiet mesh drum heads (such as the Remo Silentstroke heads) and your kit will be less than half the volume, whilst retaining the majority of playability and feel.
Final Thoughts On Soundproofing For Drums
Drum kits are beautiful expressive instruments, but there’s no hiding from the fact that they are at their core...loud.
However, by incorporating some of the tips and tricks in this article, you’ll hopefully be able to smash out your favorite tunes whenever you like, without spending a fortune to get there!