Tuning the room
So we just had a four day weekend due to the craziness of hurricane Sandy. Rather than sit around watching the rain the whole time, we finally got a necessary project finished for the studio. The room might look great, but it doesn't sound exactly the way we wanted it to. There were too many echoes and reverberations caused by a comination of the square shape, the hard floors, and the lack of anything on the walls to diffuse or dampen sounds. So we approached this in three ways. First, curtains to cover up the very large windows. It's amazing how much hard surface area the windows created, and how simply adding really thick curtains changed that. Second, we built sound traps out of leftover construction wood and insulation, covered them in some nice cloth, and hung them at intervals throughout the room. Lastly, we converted an old room divider into three moveable panels that can go in corners of the room or can be used to "tune" in different ways when necessary. After we put everything up, it is amazing how different everything sounds. Before, there was a slight echo at low volumes, and at high volumes the room was very loud. Now, there is no echo at all, and at high volumes the sound is much more controlled and contained. Another way of saying it would be that before it sounded like a small school gym and now it sounds like a cozy living room.
Studio construction complete!
After many months of hard work, we have finally finished building the studio. It wasn't easy, and it took longer than expected, but we are proud to say that we were a part of every single piece of construction that was done. The fact that we did this all ourselves is hopefully representative of our philosophy of hard work and good community making anything possible. It might not be the biggest or fanciest place, but it completely fits our needs; it is big enough for lessons, rehearsals and recordings, it has a very comfortable waiting room, it's soundproof, and it has a very bright, welcoming feel. Anything less and it wouldn't be enough for our students. Anything more and it would just be another music school "factory".
Thanks to everyone who helped out along the way, we really appreciate your efforts.
Studio construction has begun!
So the initial phases of construction have begun. Currently the studio is one medium sized room. This has worked for the time being, but the plan has always been to take over the garage next to that room and build a larger studio. The original room will now be a waiting area for parents and other students. The new room, once finished, will be over 22x17, providing more than enough space for the grand piano, the hammond organ, the drum set and the recording equipment. I'll be following the construction in a series of pictures below, take a look and come back often to see where we are currently at in the work.
First we had to gut the original garage. It was originally full of all kinds of trash from the previous owner. Once we had removed that, we then had to tear out the wooden shelves and plywood(!) walls that they had put in. Fortunately my family from NH came down for a visit, and of course they can't stand sitting around, so they spent the whole weekend helping me do demolition. It sure helps having big (and some little) guys in your family!
Finished taking it all apart, now comes the reconstruction.
The first thing we needed to do was get rid of the old garage door and replace it with something a little more "practical". Once again I recieved help from some family, this time my father in law. We took a Saturday and ripped off the old door, replacing it with some nice new french doors.
After getting the doors on, it was time to start framing out the room. To make sure that we are able to sound proof the whole thing, we decided to put up double walls. This meant building an entire new set of walls inside of the existing ones in the room. On top of that, we had to reinforce the ceiling joists to support the added new weight of putting in a sound proof ceiling. This meant a lot of heavy lumber, and a lot of hard work. I called up my father in law again (he's great at this stuff and has been a huge help) and even managed to rope my friends Jon and Jordan into it too. It was a long day, but we got the majority of the framing done in one shot, as well as put in another door and got the closets started.
Knocked out some of the old windows and put in a few new ones. Not a bad days work after playing a gig the night before and only sleeping a few hours. It's also a good thing I built those raised bed gardens last summer so that we had a good pile of mud to work in all day.
Not much time to work on things these days with teaching and gigs, but fortunately my dad and my brother were in town last weekend and we were able to get all of the electrical done. Pictures of electrical work are pretty boring, so there is nothing to show here, but that was a big job to get done in one day. I'm happy to say that not one person got zapped during the entire process.
We're getting close! I framed in the windows during the week, and that only left one thing: replacing the very tiny old door between the two rooms witha bigger brand new door. This required my father-in-law and I removing the old frame and doing a little work in the existing studio, but now that that is done, we are ready to start putting up the walls.
The framing, windows, doors, insulation and electrical are all up, so we've finally started the drywall. This time I got help from my good friend Tom. We managed to get the first layer of drywall up in one day, but unfortunately there is more to come...
To complete our goal of making the room completely soundproof, one layer of drywall was not enough. A second layer is needed to create the necessary weight that will stop sounding from getting out of the room. To do this, a layer of vibration retardent adhesive has to be sandwiched between the two layers. At this point I've gotten so desperate for helpers that I somehow managed to rope my wife into helping me. We also got some advice from our "supervisor", Winston. We managed to get the majority of the room done in one day, all that is left is the large walk in closet.
We are done with the drywall! Although there is still a lot of work left to do, the room actually looks like a room now, so it was a very exciting moment putting that last piece up over the doorway. Having to put up two layers of drywall was a very difficult job, but it was well worth it. Because of the double walls and double drywall, the room is amazingly solid. It sounds great, and we can now imagine how it's going to look like when it's finished.
Although it's been a while since I've added anything on here, we have been working steadily on the studio for the last couple months. The radiators were installed and the ceiling insulation was finished, then we started to mud the walls. We had a minor setback when a pipe broke in the ceiling and flooded the entire room, so time had to be unexpectedly spent working on some minor plumbing (which of course I've never done before and took way longer than it should have). On a positive note, I was able to run the fixed pipes across the ceiling and through the exterior wall and now have a new hose for my garden.We were then able to continue mudding the walls, but I won't bore anyone with pictures of that. I will just say that spackling is the most boring, time consuming, frustrating, messy thing that I've had to do for this room. I'm glad I did it myself, but in the future I'll always hire someone for that part.
Once that was done we started finishing the windows and putting up molding. Once all of that was up, we decided to put some paint on the walls. Although it feels weird painting a room before it's finished, this should save us the hassle of having to cut in around the baseboard and ceiling. It's amazing how different a room feels once it gets painted; it actually feels like a real room now! The finishing touch this week was the second set of double doors that I hung yesterday. Next step: the ceiling.
We put in the suspended ceiling over Memorial Day weekend. There are still some issues with the roof, so we didn't want to use a drywall ceiling in case it ever leaks again. We were a little worried at first about putting in a drop ceiling that had that "doctors" office kind of feel to it, but then we found these really nice coffered ceiling tiles. They look beautiful and since they are made of plastic they are much easier to work with than standard ceiling tiles. They are almost four inches deep so they also serve a dual purpose as sound diffusers.
The original idea for flooring was to put in carpet tiles. They would help dampen sound and still be easy to replace whenever they started to get worn out. This was the plan for the last six months. So needless to say we of course did not do that. Instead, we ended up with a vynll plank flooring. It looks like a hardwood floor, but it's water resistant and much easier to install. It's almost like tongue and groove, but instead the overlapping areas have glue strips that lock the two pieces together. It's pretty easy to work with; you can even cut it with a utility knife when you get to edges and corners. Although it was a little rough working on the floor on our hands and knees for two days, it was definitely worth the effort and we now have a beautiful floor to match the ceiling. Our only gripe with it is that it makes it seems like the wall color has changed, so we might need to repaint, but we'll get to that at the end.
The baseboard has been installed, and we've also painted the trim in the room. At this point it's a functioning room, so even though there are still some loose ends to tie up, we started moving furniture into the room yesterday. Although we still have to put the lights in, and it needs some decoration, the room is basically done and I was able to teach my first lessons in it today. What a pleasure it was to teach in a nice big room with plenty of sunlight and great accoustics. Since I have two rooms now, it was also great to be able to offer a waiting room to my students' parents to relax in during the lessons.
The finished studio! After many months of hard work, we have finally completed the studio. Thanks to all of those who helped along the way, we couldn't have done this without you. We are now open for business and are enjoying the new space. Come check us out!