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Thread: Old (antique) garage to convert to studio

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    Old (antique) garage to convert to studio

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    I’m just starting this thread to coincide with my project to turn an unfinished antique detached car garage into a proper studio. I have had home studios before, albeit without as much room (the space is 500sq ft). I am renting so building permanent structures and treatments is out of the question. I will have to stick to treatments and augmentations that can be removed once I move out.

    I will post pictures of the space as soon as I am able (currently moving). So far, the sound in the space isn’t bad at all. Very reverberant, and need to cut out some outside sound, but the reverb in the space is pleasing, free of flutter echos (open ceiling with exposed beams. The room totally empty is enough to make me want to record an IR) , and has a character that I don’t dislike even untreated (though, outside sound is an issue. 100 year old structure with original windows. I can hear a bit of outside sound).

    My first thoughts are to place the control station (computer workstation) in a middle of the room position to allow for the speakers to perform at their best. (Good first start?)

    I’m used to bedroom studios, or at the best a single
    Car garage. This is a new frontier for me. I hope there are some kind souls who might help me figure out how to turn this into a home studio that I can be proud of.
    Happy Fathers Day!

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    This diagram gives a good insight in how to layout the work station in a studio layout:

    https://realtraps.com/art_room-setup1.gif

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    You have a decision to make. Keep the acoustics because you like them and live with the noise from outside, and of course your sound leaking the other way, or you build a new freestanding proper studio structure inside that can be removed simply when you move. If you live in the wilds, away from noise sources, then live with the occasional noise and keep your money. My studio is being re-roofed, I figured that today I could work without the external roof as the builders are off. Ten minutes annoyed me so much I can't. Totally OT, but the weather today is fine at the moment and they're not here because they figured the rain would continue - grrrr.

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    A couple things to add to the comments so far:

    Outside noise seems like an issue you are worried about. What kind of music do you play/record? If you record something like electronic music or are miking guitar cabinets, you can work around some ambient sound. Obviously, anything direct won't be an issue. Acoustic instruments and vocals are a different matter. Even here there are other solutions than spending large sums of money to build some type of removable and soundproof structure. Close miking comes to mind as does the use of good dynamic microphones which are less sensitive to room noise. You could also think about some type of vocal booth if you need to record vocals using a large diaphragm condenser. A vocal booth or other small structure would be easier to build and eventually move than building out the entire space.

    Can you describe the character of the outside noise? Is it intermittent? What is the frequency, roughly speaking? I live in the burbs and my main enemies are the garbage men (who operate at 60-80hz ) and landscapers who play the weed eater. These are not constant issues and they only last briefly. If you live in the city and you're dealing with constant traffic, sirens, and other issues--that's a completely different mater. I would download a free SPL meter app for your phone. Then go sit in the space and take some meter readings. If it's in the 20-35db range, that shouldn't be much of an issue. 35-45 db, especially if it's intermittent, is also workable. When you start getting above that, things become a little more worrisome and you will have to turn to close miking, a vocal booth, or some other solution.

    I'd also think about altering your expectations about ambient noise. You will always have some noise floor. Without it, your head would explode. And you can almost never eliminate outsides sounds unless you are willing to completely seal the room and invest large sums to create mass and distance between you and the noise.

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    Another question: Your profile says "Warshington." Can I assume that's Maryland slang for the District? Or do you live in Washington state? I ask because DC is a hell hole in the Summer. I lived on the Hill for 6 years and Summers were the worst. If you record in a garage, AC is your first goal. I live in Florida and my studio space is also a garage. AC introduces noise issues but it's impossible to live without.

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    That would be the left Washington. It’s the opposite for us. Beautiful summer, and drizzling/raining most of the remaining year. I’m thinking a/c will still be needed, but not to the level of DC.

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    I do a variety of music, though most of the music part is electronic or direct (I do close mic a cabinet from time to time). Most of the music has vocals, so that would be my concern.

    The house is near a rural state hiway, and so there is the din from cars and trucks going by, and there is a car dealership across the street that has an intercom once in a while (not all the time). Keep in mind, I don’t have any furniture, racks of vinyl records and bookcases (was a big part of my sound absorption/dispersal strategy in the studio space I just moved out of.) yet, so I am aware that it may improve once I start moving my stuff into it. My last studio was also a garage studio (1 car garage), and I remember being fairly worried about it before filling it with my stuff, but it worked out quite well, and recorded a ton of vocals at that location that turned out well.

    I really don’t mind the reverb of the space though. It has this ‘old big wood structure’ sound if that makes any sense. I was considering enclosing the walls with something like rockwool and stapling a thick fabric to the studs to make a nice looking surface, but keeping the ceiling wide open.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MrUserNameIV View Post
    That would be the left Washington. It’s the opposite for us. Beautiful summer, and drizzling/raining most of the remaining year. I’m thinking a/c will still be needed, but not to the level of DC.
    You might need humidity control if you are keeping instruments or electronics out there. And you might test the noise level in the next heavy rainfall. Depending on your roofing situation, heavy rain can be more irritating than landscapers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MrUserNameIV View Post
    I do a variety of music, though most of the music part is electronic or direct (I do close mic a cabinet from time to time). Most of the music has vocals, so that would be my concern.

    The house is near a rural state hiway, and so there is the din from cars and trucks going by, and there is a car dealership across the street that has an intercom once in a while (not all the time). Keep in mind, I don’t have any furniture, racks of vinyl records and bookcases (was a big part of my sound absorption/dispersal strategy in the studio space I just moved out of.) yet, so I am aware that it may improve once I start moving my stuff into it. My last studio was also a garage studio (1 car garage), and I remember being fairly worried about it before filling it with my stuff, but it worked out quite well, and recorded a ton of vocals at that location that turned out well.

    I really don’t mind the reverb of the space though. It has this ‘old big wood structure’ sound if that makes any sense. I was considering enclosing the walls with something like rockwool and stapling a thick fabric to the studs to make a nice looking surface, but keeping the ceiling wide open.
    My guess is that no matter how you fill the space with equipment and furniture, none of that will help with external noise. The age old principle is mass and distance. Furnishings will have an impact on how live or dead your room sounds, and how sound reflects around the room. But things like bookshelves are difficult to predict. I'd stick with the basic approach in the RealTraps diagram posted above. This includes absorption at the first reflection points, bass traps in the corners, and some kind of ceiling cloud. Since you need these traps to be removable, I would spend some time thinking about how that could be accomplished. Stands are one possibility. And the corner bass traps don't need to be fixed to the wall. The ceiling cloud will probably be a bit more complex. You should probably also set a budget and decide if the room treatments can be done DIY.

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