Soundproofing – Got the Jimmy Legs


When the Quiet Storm comes on I fall asleep

Ever-attuned to all things related to soundproofing, I read with interest the NYTimes article about people dealing with noise issues in their homes. I'm mostly glad they actually devoted a (small) section of the article to the DIYer, though the brunt of the article was clearly aimed at people who will pay through the nose for quiet. It still astounds me not only that people are willing to pay so much ($3-4K PER ROOM!) for stuff like this, but that plenty of folks in this town are willing to do this for property they don't even own.

Like that episode of Seinfeld when Jerry has Conrad/Con/Conny redo his kitchen cabinets, it always sticks in my craw that he was just renting. But apparently it's not the unheard-of for renters to upgrade their apartments. I guess they assume they'll be there long enough to make the lost expense when they move worth their while. Maybe I'm more old-fashioned that I thought (don't worry kids, I'm still wicked cool), less existential than I thought I was (don't worry kids, I'm still wicked goth). Maybe it doesn't matter in the long run if you own something, as long as you have landlords who will let you install $10,000 soundproof windows and $250 per panel Quietrock drywall.

Meanwhile, the cops have been outfitted with Segways. If there is a god in heaven, please let them start patrolling my neighborhood. Oh sweet jesus I would love to see what the neighborhood would have to say about that. I hope they're teaching the cops to juggle spaldeens as well. That's money well spent!

And congratulations to Jenblossom, whose stray cat just moved a little of kittens into her yard. Ah, what fun awaits them! At least those kittens look a little better than the ones I got (pictured). But they're hanging in there, as is their mom.

I'm not waiting on a lady

Thursday I did a Froogle search for moving blankets. I found a site that sold a variety of types of them, from basic to super-fancy (for moving blankets, anyway) "Producer's Blankets," which are meant for film use. Some blankets were even marketed towards musicians needing acoustic treatment, going so far as to offer the addition of grommets to aid in hanging them. Who knew there was such a rich culture around the existence of moving blankets? I wouldn't have even thought of using them but for the fact our movers left one behind.

So I picked the "deluxe" model and ordered enough to cover the whole room. At 9:30 AM the next day, I got a call from FedEx, saying they were at my door and was anyone home. Now, I expected delivery to be problematic since nobody's home during the day, but I surely didn't expect it to ship so fast. The FedEx guy and I made tentative plans to meet between 5 and 6 that afternoon. I slipped out of work a little early and was on the J train, a couple stops from home when the phone rang again.

The FedEx guy had beaten me home, but he said he'd wait til I got there. And indeed, as I rounded the corner several minutes later, he was still there. I don't often get deliveries form FedEx, is this normal behavior? Usually the regular package delivery guy barely rings the bell before running down the block, forcing us to venture to the scary East New York post office to pick it up later (for some reason the ENY zip code 11207 snakes up above the cemetery and engulfs several blocks on this end of the neighborhood).

So I began the weekend with very favorable notions about both FedEx and, the latter of which is based in Brooklyn (which partially explains the incredibly fast shipping) over on Bond Street in Gowanus. I put in my own grommets (at $1 per grommet, that seemed a bit steep) and hung four of the blankets. It really makes a big difference, Buzz and I both noted the overall audio improvement from the old basement. The old basement had a higher ceiling, though. However, it also had several large ducts which stuck way out, so my head-hitting average is still down from then.

I'm gonna try my very best to find other things to write about from now on, I know this stuff must be of limited interest to anybody else. With the completion of the studio I can turn my attention to other things, like removing the big dead tree in the backyard. Tree removal: that sounds fascinating!

Hey Romeo, there's something down there

Look at that lovely floor!

Despite still having some loose ends (more wall work to do, no latch on the door), we hooked up the rig and went to town, musically, last night. The verdict: not bad! Sound isolation is better than I anticipated. Well, actually, when we began this project I envisioned a completely soundproof space, wherein a man could cut sheet metal with a rusty circular saw at 2 in the morning and have no fear of annoying a soul. But as the work progressed I realized that the reality of things would be a bit less dramatic. But I started thinking all this work wasn't gonna amount to anything except a rather cramped and stuffy practice space, with bass frequencies reverberating through the house and into angry neighbors' domiciles.

Here's my sonic breakdown of the varying levels:

  • In the living room you can hear things, but all but the loudest bass notes are fairly well-muffled. In fact, most sound leakage seems to be coming from the stairwell, which is exactly the same issue we experienced at the old place. If we put a door at the bottom of the stairs, that should really help contain things.
  • On the second floor you can't hear much at all, just a couple of taps here and there. I assume the top floors are blissfully ignorant of that band room altogether.
  • I went outside and couldn't hear anything at all. It's weird to realize how much 'ambient noise' there is here, but you notice it when you concentrate on it. There's like a constant, low-level woosh all around, the confluence of passing cars, people talking, trains running, a million roach wings flapping in unison.

Later that same night I wondered aloud why I was so concerned about our noise. From the time practice ended, we heard countless elevated trains rumbling by, several vocal arguments on the streets, and a bunch of gunshots. However, I feel if my neighbors complain about the music and bring up the potential of gun violence, this may be misconstrued.

I gotta get more of those moving blankets! They're heavy and have several layers to them, this might really solve my cheapskate acoustic issues! I still need bass traps to suck of the boominess, but we're off to a good start? Who can remember our setlist? Because we sure can't.

Oh, and confidential to Al: You will notice the light fixtures and bx cable are now safely (more or less) tucked away amongst the radiator pipes. Thank you for your angry concern.

I'm the man in the box

Next Steps, originally uploaded by Jimmy Legs.

So the band room has gone through several permutations since we moved in: Paneling with drywall ceiling, which was torn out to fill up with insulation and be covered with decoupled dywall layers separated by QuietGlue on the ceiling, and plywood and drywall walls. As with each step of this project, it didn't occur to me until last week that we would need paint the finished product. After a minute of discussing the color possibilities, I caved and just used the leftover white paint we had lying around (plus some supercheap white paint from the nearby hardware store). We're probably covering up most of the visible wall space with rugs or other flame-encouraging material, so room color won't really matter.

Now I gotta clean up this grody floor and yes, re-mount the lighting fixtures! After several attempts at dealing with this element of the renovation process, I finally figured out how to correctly wire the lights so they work off the switch (most of this was fixing stuff I had screwed up previously). I was hoping to move the cables a bit so they would mount in the least-obtrusive way, but this has proved to be impossible. Maybe down the road I'll really do something about it, but for the time being we'll have to be careful we don't bash our heads into the light bulbs (which I've already done several times, thank you).

Within the week I expect to be rocking out in my windowless, ventless box, if I can still remember how to play the guitar.

Guilty of being white

Skim Coat, originally uploaded by Jimmy Legs.

The walls are skim coated, and although they may not be perfect, I am getting sick of this stuff, so I'm throwing in the towel on trying to make the walls smooth and even. Screw it! I'm getting back to what I know best: covering up my mistakes in layers and layers of primer and paint.

But should I just paint this room white, as I am wont to do? Jeannie says I'm gonna scuff up the walls with the instruments, since space will be so tight. But I can't decide if it's even worth the thought involved to choose a non-white color. We do have some brown paint leftover from the 3rd floor project, but somehow a dark brown room in a cellar just sounds creepy.

Part of me doesn't even wanna bother painting, since by all accounts I will need to cover the walls with sound-absorbing materials. This is no longer about soundproofing, but sound "treatment," trying to sweeten up the sound inside the room so we don't blow our ears out when we practice. So I gotta get some rugs. You got any rugs?