You moved into your spanking new apartment, set up your drum kit and start jamming away.
Then there’s banging at your door.
The neighbors are here.
And they want you to
shut up keep it down.
This article explores how you can soundproof a room for drums, so that you can keep drumming without aggravating the neighbors.
What is soundproofing?
Soundproofing is the process of (trying) to stop sound from entering or escaping an area.
Soundproofing a room is almost impossible, because sound will travel through most structures that are available to regular folks like us.
Remember: You can build a soundproof room for drumming to remove most of the sound, but most of the time we won’t be able to completely keep all the sound in.
With that disclaimer done, let’s jump right into it:
3 Methods to Soundproof a Room for Drums
Muffling is not exactly soundproofing, but there are effective solutions that allow you to cut down close to 80% of your original drum sounds.
If you don’t have the budget, or if you rent an apartment / condo, you should start with drum muffling instead.
You can read our guide to muffling your drums for practice.
We provide 10 drum muffling methods which are suitable for various budgets, for you to choose from.
To ‘decouple’ is to separate something
Often, when people talk about decoupling, they are referring to the walls, ceiling and flooring.
They will take these apart and reconstruct them for soundproofing.
In this section, we will go slightly beyond the original definition of decoupling a room because I want to be able to cover all the aspects of a room to give you a complete picture.
Another disclaimer: this is not a complete guide to decoupling, you should research more into ‘building a home studio‘ if you want all the details.
If you are living in a rented apartment, you should seek permission before you do this.
For safety reasons, you should also get a professional to check the structure of your apartment. Some walls should never be decoupled as doing so will weaken the building structure.
‘Decoupling’ your Door
There are various options when it comes to soundproofing your door:
a) Door Seals
If you have a small budget, you can choose to ‘do-it-yourself’ and soundproof your existing door.
You will need these essential items:
The purpose of the door seal is to cover all the gaps between your door and its frame.
These are usually made of rubber or foam. I would recommend the rubber seal for better soundproofing.
These door seals/gaskets should be used to seal the top and sides between your door and door frame.
This is how you can apply the door seal or door gasket to your existing door frame:
When installing door seals, make sure the corners of your door are covered adequately and that there are no gaps.
Remember that your soundproofing is only as effective as your biggest gap.
For the bottom of your door, you can choose to either use the same rubber gasket or get this:
b) Replace your door
Have a little more budget to work with?
Then consider replacing your existing door with one of the following sound reduction doors.
These doors are specifically built to isolate and block out sound. They are usually used with rubber door seals as well.
Sound Reduction Doors
These usually feature a double glass door with an air space.
Some are even injected with a heavy inert gas for further sound reduction.
Sound Reduction Doors are given ratings in the form of ‘Reduction Difference‘.
The higher the ‘Reduction Difference’ of a door, the more sound it will block out or keep in.
Pick one that is within your budget.
Acoustic Steel Soundproof Doors
On top of providing soundproofing, Acoustic Steel Soundproof Doors also help to improve the internal acoustics of your room.
These are relatively more costly and are frequently used by professional recording studios.
If you are going all out, or are thinking of building a recording studio in your apartment, you may want to consider this.
‘Decoupling’ your Windows
If the room that you are soundproofing has windows, you’ll want to look for soundproofing options as well.
*Most rooms would have windows for safety purposes, unless you build a room within a room (see next section).
DIY soundproof window options
a) Window Seals
The same rubber or foam seals can be used for windows as well.
You’ll need to install the seals along your window frame.
Make sure you don’t miss a corner!
Other than installing window seals, you can also install sound isolating curtains along your windows.
These curtains are usually made of thicker, denser material that help absorb sound (and light).
Be sure to check that your curtains are long enough to cover your windows, and that there are no gaps.
c) Replace your windows
Soundproof window options are similar to that of the doors.
Most contractors or suppliers who provide soundproofing doors would also be able to install soundproof windows for you.
Acoustical Surfaces Inc provides soundproofing windows of up to STC 56. (read the section below to learn more about STC rating)
Decoupling Your Walls
The main part of soundproofing a room for drumming is no doubt the walls.
You can decouple the wall and reinforce it with noise isolating or soundproofing materials.
This involves modifying your existing wall. In simple terms, these 3 steps:
- remove the current drywall
- add soundproofing materials
- putting everything back.
You might need to get permission from your landlord, or from the apartment management team before you can do ahead.
There are several methods to decouple a wall.
If you are not familiar with construction and wall make ups, do get professional help.
Here’s our quick guide to soundproofing walls. Ceilings can also be soundproofed using the same method.
How to soundproof your walls
- 1) Remove existing drywall
Always check the building blueprint to ensure that you are working with a wall that can be hacked and reinforced. You wouldn’t want to risk bringing down the entire apartment :S
You should also check for the following:
- Power points. If there are powerpoints, make sure you switch off all mains.
- Water pipes. Check your building blueprint to find out, and switch off your water supply just in case you burst a pipe.
- Any other visible obstructions. Try to minimise these.
Once you have gone through the list of precautions, this is how you remove a dry wall:
- Use a sharp penknife to cut through the sealant between the drywall and the ceiling. This will prevent your ceiling from being accidentally ripped off later.
- Use a drywall saw / jab saw (get one here) to cut through the drywall.
- Start from waist level and cut parallel to the floor for easier removal. (Use a rotary tool and save yourself some effort)
- To minimize the chance of damaging any wires or water pipes, you might want to make sure to cut slowly and feel for any obstacles along the way.
- Be mindful of the studs as well!
- Once you get a long cut done, you should be able to rip off the bottom piece quite easily.
- Cut the top piece into manageable sizes before ripping them off.
Or, watch this video for a quick walkthrough:
- 2) Fill up air spaces in wall or ceiling with sound absorption material
Most walls (that you can decouple) consist of framing beams also known as ‘studs’.
Between the studs are air spaces which we will be filling up with mineral wool.
Get some from your nearest home depot, or get some shipped over to you from Amazon:
Filling up your wall with sound absorption material:
- Cut the mineral wood down to size with a saw or a penknife
- Fit them into the spaces between the wall studs.
- Make sure they fit snugly with no gaps.
SAFETY NOTE: Don’t handle mineral wool with bare hands, there’s fiberglass, molten glass and other stuff in there.
Here’s a video tutorial:
- 3) Install Resilient Channels
Sound tends to travel through the studs and be transmitted out to the neighboring units.
Hence, you will need to do something to stop that.
Resilient channels allow you to stop some of that vibration that travels through the studs or your wall frame.
How to install resilient channels:
There are 2 ways to install resilient channel.
- You can either drill directly onto wall studs, or install a Resilient Sound Isolation Clip on the studs that will be used to hold the resilient channel in place.
- Install your resilient channel
- You’ll be drilling your drywall onto the resilient channel later, make sure the channels are installed firmly.
Using the Resilient Sound Isolation Clip provides additional sound isolation.
- 4) Install dry walls to cover everything up
You’ll need to cover the walls once you are done with the first 3 steps.
You can purchase drywall from your nearest home depot, browse for drywalls here.
Before installing your drywall, now is the time to check if there are electrical cables that should be hidden behind the drywall.
You might want to ensure that they are tidy, and don’t get in the way of your drywall installation.
When installing the dry wall, you’ll want to make sure that you drill the dry wall onto the resilient channels instead of the wooden frame or stud.
Do take note of this: installing the dry wall on the stud will render your whole soundproofing effort useless!
- 5) Seal all gaps with an acoustical sealant!
Remember that your soundproofing is only as effective as the weakest gap in your room.
Make sure you cover all gaps with a sealant. Go for an acoustical sealant that will help to dampen or dissipate any sound.
Refer to the resource section below for more resources on wall decoupling.
‘Decoupling’ Your Ceiling
You’ve done most of the work by now…until you look up.
Hey, don’t forget the ceiling!
You might think that it doesn’t matter because most of your drumming isn’t going to be directed upwards, right?
Remember, your soundproofing is only as effective as your weakest gap.
Sound can escape from your soundproof room through the frame of your ceiling.
You can soundproof your ceiling using the same method as the wall.
‘Decoupling’ Your Flooring
One more thing!
Don’t forget these surfaces before your complete your soundproofing project!
Have you heard of ‘Impact noise’?
You should have a flooring that helps reduce or soundproof against impact sounds.
If you have the budget and want to revamp your flooring, you can seek professional help from people like:
- Acoustical Surfaces Inc’s Floor over Wood Assemblies
- Sound Isolation Company’s Floated Wood or Concrete Floor
Alternatively, you can also choose to DIY your soundproof flooring using the following methods:
i) Build a drum isolation platform across your entire soundproof drum room (~$194 – $310)
This is a shortcut to soundproofing your floor. The drum isolation platform allows you to have a soundproof platform on top of your existing flooring.
This means you do not need to decouple your flooring directly.
Just determine the size of your platform, get the materials and start building:
How to build a Drum Isolation Platform / Drum Tennis Ball Riser
Material you will need:
- 2 sets of MDF boards (Get on Amazon) : Measure the required floor space of your drum kit and multiply it by 2 to determine how much you need
- Tennis balls (Get on Amazon) : You’ll need 1 tennis ball for about every 20cm x 20cm area on your MDF
- 4 x Wood Clamps (Get on Amazon)
- Hole drill (2″ diameter) (Get on Amazon)
- 14″ Cable Ties (Get on Amazon)
- Carpet that fits over the MDF (Get on Amazon)
- 2 x Foam boards (same size as 1 set of MDF) (Get on Amazon)
- Decide on how big your platform should be – depends on how much space you have and how big your drum kit is
- Decide where the tennis balls should go – use more tennis balls for increase stability and sound vibration absorption.
- Mark out the location of your tennis balls on 1 MDF board. [Place 1 in the center of every 20cm x 20cm area]
- Clamp both boards together.
- Drill holes for all your tennis balls through both boards with a hole drill. Due to thickness and density of MDF, you might see or smell smoke while drilling. Take breaks or use a lubricant.
- Remove clamps, set tennis balls in place.
- Drill holes near edge of MDF boards and use the cable ties to secure the entire set up. This allows you to move the platform around without having to dismantle the setup too.
- Place a set of foam board on your floor. Place the platform over the foam board.
- Place another set of foam board over the top of the MDF.
- The carpet goes over the top layer of foam board.
- Your drum kit seats on top of the set up.
Want to watch the actual process? Here are 2 video tutorials:
How to Build A Drum Isolation Platform Without Tools (except for a drill):
3) Room within a Room
Nope, we are not going off tangent with some mystery room or escape room idea.
A room within a room is the ultimate soundproofing solution.
Again, if you are living in a rented apartment, you should seek permission before you do this.
You can listen to one such example.
Do note that this room was built for guitar playing instead, hence the lower frequencies were not completely muted:
Basically, you will build a room within the existing room, separated by an air gap that helps to dampen noise.
Here’s a video series that will bring you through the entire process:
Do note that the actual amount of material you’ll need is dependent on the size of your room.
And also note that the final room will be slightly smaller.
You should assume that the final room will be about 5-8 inches shorter on all ends.
Be sure to measure and decide if the resultant space is sufficient as your drum practice room.
People who don’t live in apartments would choose to do this in their garage or in their basement.
Before you go, there are a couple more things you’ll want to note.
It’s better to know these now, rather than midway though your soundproofing project:
How sound travels
When soundproofing a room, you’ll first need to understand how sound travels.
It is similar to water.
Sound will find the easiest way out of your room.
This means that no matter how much effort you put in or how much money you throw in to soundproof a room, if there’s a gap (for example at the edge of your door), the sound will escape.
Hence, when you soundproof a room, always remember that your room is only as soundproof as its weakest gap.
Don’t focus solely on the walls and forget about your doors, windows and flooring!
Like water, sound doesn’t only travel in 1 direction.
It can travel through your house or room structures as well.
This means that if you do not soundproof your room completely, sound can escape through the structure of your house and transmit into your neighbor’s house via the walls too!
Common Challenges of Soundproofing a Room for Drummers
1) Low Frequencies
Drummers will face a major challenge with trying to keep sound of lower frequencies in.
And these are produced quite frequently with your bass drum.
Most structures or even walls that you build will be efficient at blocking off frequencies between 125 to 4000 Hz because of the standards in the soundproofing field.
However, bass drums are know to produce sounds in the range of 20 Hz to 100 Hz.
You will need to take extra precaution to block off these sounds.
2) Dealing with Impact Sound
If you live in an apartment, you’d want to remember that neighbor who lives directly beneath you.
Impact sound refers to the sound that travels through your floor and your neighbor’s ceiling.
This is main noise that your drum pedals will create and you should aim to reduce it as well.
You can choose to make a drum isolation platform or riser.
Impact Sound Transmission (IST)
Impact Sound Transmission is the measurement of the ability of your floor or your neighbor’s ceiling to reduce noise transmission.
Essential Terms on Soundproofing You Must Know
Sound Transmission Class (STC)
The STC gives you an idea of the reduction in noise that a material provides.
Sound is measured in decibal as it passes through a partition or material.
And the STC rating is allocated to it using the ASTM E90 standard test method. You can geek out and read all about it here.
The higher the STC rating, the better it is at blocking out sound.
To give you something to work with, here are some guidelines taken from the book “Noise Control in Buildings: A Practical Guide for Architects and Engineers“:
A STC rating of 50 suggests that “Loud sounds created directly from musical instruments or a stereo can be faintly heard.” At this level, most people will not be annoyed.
A STC rating of more than 60 suggests that “most sounds are inaudible“.
When soundproofing a room for drums, you will want to ensure that your walls (and doors / windows) are at a STC rating of more than 60.
Sound Transmission Loss (TL)
This is very similar to STC. Transmission loss reflects the accumulated decrease in a waveform’s intensity as it moves through a structure.
It can be determined using an intimidating formula:
An easier way to understand Transmission Loss is to see it as the difference in volume between the source and the resultant sound.
Additional note on TL
Green Glue argues that TL is a more accurate to measure the amount of sound that is stopped by a structure.
They warn that STC only ranks structures between the frequency range of 125 to 4000Hz. Relying solely on STC will result in the inability to soundproof against sound of low frequencies (i.e. that of your bass drum).
You can read more about different sound transmission here.
Considerations you must take before soundproofing
Soundproofing a room for drums may seem like the only option you have if you want to practice drumming at home.
But, I’m here to tell you that it is not.
There are other drum muffling solutions that do not require large scale projects or breaking down walls.
You should answer these 3 questions before deciding on which soundproofing option is most suitable for you:
1) What is my budget?
Building a soundproof room requires deeper pockets. Does your budget allow you to splurge on it?
Depending on the size of your room and whether you will be hiring a professional to help you with it, you should be prepared to spend about $5000 to $10,000.
If you are decoupling a room, you should be prepared to spend between $3000 to $8000.
If these are beyond your budget, consider drum muffling solutions. Or replace your drum kit with quieter components like the Remo Silentstroke series drumheads and the Zildjian L80 cymbal series.
Together, these cost between $300 – $350.
2) Am I allowed to modify walls or my apartment structure?
You should check with a couple of sources:
- your landlord or the apartment manager if you are living in an apartment or condo
- building blueprint
3) Do I want to commit time to building a soundproof room for drums?
It takes about a week to build a room in a room, if you are doing it yourself, full time. If you get professional help, it should take about 3-4 days.
If you are merely renting a space, you should really consider if you’d want to commit to building a soundproof room in your apartment.