Sunday, October 07, 2007

Quiet Your Rehearsal Space on the Cheap

Build your own acoustic tiles for under $100

(This post is aimed at improving a band rehearsal space, but could also apply to a home studio or home theater)

Have you ever jammed in a room that just seemed disagree with every instrument? The vocals are difficult to make out, the drums seem too loud, and you're constantly battling the sound board to keep feedback at bay. If this sounds familiar, you've probably experienced jamming in an underdamped room.

Bare walls can cause excess reverb, and lead to a host of problems- feedback, bad equalization, and other poor conditions that make it difficult to get any work done. The easy way out is to hang a crappy old rug on the walls... And while you're at it, why not break out the cheap beer and a Playstation for the full dorm room effect. However, if you want to do it with a little more style, you'll want to use 2'x4' or 2'x2' panels. While the pros will charge you upwards of $500 for such acoustic panels, you can make them yourself for about $90.

Assuming you have a carpeted (if you don't have carpet on the floor, at least put down a large rug), unfurnished 200 sq ft. room being used for general rehearsal needs, you'll need 80-100 sq. feet of coverage for general rehearsal use. This is about (10-12) 2'x4' panels.


$65 100-120 sq ft. of commercial carpet (10x12) - cheaper if you can get used or damaged carpet
$20 (16-18) 2x3" studs
$5 (100 or so) Finishing nails or brads
$5 (500 or so) staples

Mitre Saw
Tape measure/pencil
Nail gun
Cushion back cutter
Carpet knife
Duck-billed napping shears (regular scissors will work)
Safety Glasses
Safety gloves

First you'll need to obtain the carpet. You can use second hand or damaged carpet if you don't care how it looks. The only stipulation is that you'll need the smallest pieces to be slightly larger than 2' x 4'. I suppose you could use other types of carpet as well. I purchased brand new commercial carpeting from Home Depot for about $65.

Making the 2'x4' frame

Using the mitre saw, cut (2) 2x3's and assemble them according to the diagram.

The crows foot pattern on the studs will give you the correct angle, as well as allowing you to make 2 cuts at a time, without having to reposition the wood. Be sure to mark these on the wood, and don't rush, so you don't reverse any angles by accident. You should be left with one extra 4' piece, which you will use for the next frame.

When you're finish, nail them together at the corners. I used an air powered finishing nailer. If you don't have one of these, you should get one. Otherwise, use glue, or buy some small L brackets ($2 a piece) and use screws. I don't recommend trying to hammer this together. The joints should look a bit like this when you are done:

Making a 2'x2' frame

You can make a 2'x2' panel the same basic way, just do all 2' sections, instead of two 2' and two 4'.

Putting the carpet on the frames

Ok, now it's time to carpet the frames. Here's the tools you'll need:

You can obtain these tools at most hardware stores. The carpet tools can sometimes be rented. If you are patient and have a helper, you could probably get away with a utility knife.

Lay the frame out on the carpet to be cut, leave about 1-1.5" of extra space around the frame near the edges of the carpet.

Cut the carpet around the frame, again 1-1.5" wider than the frame.

Next, lay the frame down, and place a couple of scrap wood pieces in the center, to keep the carpet from sagging in the center while you staple it.

Lay the carpet on top, and do your best to align it so that the extra overlaps evenly on all sides.

Put a staple on of each of the four corners. Try to pull the carpet tight as you do, to minimize sagging in the center. If you want, you can remove these staples later, for cosmetic reasons.

Now you can stand the unit up, which makes it easier to work on. Snip 45 degree angle cuts so you can fold the corners down...

And staple away. I found 2 or 3 inch spacing sufficient to keep the sides relatively flat. You will use a lot of staples.

When you get to the corners, fold them over and staple as shown.

Here is the finished product:

To hang them, I used sheetrock anchors with the screws screwed halfway in. You can then hang the tiles on the screws like a picture. This allows for adjustment and easy removal, should the need arise (cleaning, etc.)

Enjoy! Your ears, PA, and singers will thank you.
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