I want to record my drums at home but am having particular issues with noise annoying a downstairs neighbour! I realise I need to talk with them, but what’s the best way to reduce the sound leakage to acceptable levels when I’m playing?
SOS Editor In Chief Paul White replies: Acoustic drum kits are relatively loud instruments which transmit sound both through the air and through whatever structure you place them on. Even with electronic kits, the action of your feet on the kick and hi-hat pedals and the clonk of the kick beater on its pad can be annoyingly audible in rooms below. But there are things you can do...
For an acoustic drum kit, you should obviously do your best to tackle any air-borne noise by installing properly sealed heavy doors and double-glazed windows. But you’ll then need to tackle the floor-borne vibrations. The money-no-object approach is to install a true floating floor in your studio room — but in almost all domestic settings that’s either prohibitively expensive or not physically possible. Thankfully, a relatively easy fix based on the same principles is to build a floating platform for the drum kit (you can also make a smaller version for guitar amps).
To do this, you need to place a resilient, vibration-absorbing material between the surface of the platform and the floor. On some of our Studio SOS visits, we’ve had great success using high-density mineral wool, which comes in 1200 x 600mm slabs and is usually available in 30 or 50mm thicknesses; opt for the thicker type if space allows, or use two layers of 30mm material — there’s a sort of ‘grain’ to the mineral wool, and you’d arrange the bottom layer running in one direction and the top one in the other. You can easily cut this material to the desired size using a saw or coarse knife (eg. a breadknife), but it’s easier still if you design your platform to use full sheets!
For the platform surface, you can use 18mm-thick plywood, chipboard or MDF, but if you need more than one piece to cover the area, then it’s best to use a double layer arranged such that the joints run in opposite directions. You could screw these top layers together but if instead you bond them using acoustic ‘green glue’, you’ll gain that little bit extra damping and isolation.
Mechanically, that’s the job finished! But you’ll probably want to pretty it up a bit — to that end, we fix a wooden skirt around the edge of the platform to conceal the mineral wool. Note, though, that it’s very important that this skirt stops short of the floor at all times. Otherwise, wherever it makes contact with the floor, it will ‘short circuit’ your isolation and allow vibrational energy to pass from the platform to the floor. The same goes for the walls — if the skirt or platform touches the walls, the vibration can travel through them to the floor. Finally, you can glue some thin carpet to the top of the platform, or drape a heavy rug over it, so as to keep your drum kit steady — and hopefully make the whole thing a little nicer looking!