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My practice/project studio


Prodigal Son
I am just starting on a very extensive acoustic project in one of my house's bedrooms. Its dimensions are 11ft Wide x 12ft Long x 9ft High. I just finished closing in and soundproofing the window and will be applying tons of mostly home made acoustic treatments to complete the room.

Materials I've purchased so far for the new room acoustics:

4ea - "Solar Board" 5/8" 4x8 sheet (aluminum faced). I got these because they were the cheapest sheeting I could find.
>20ea - 8ft 2x4 studs (the cheaper Yellow Pine variety)
4ea - 32ft rolls of R-11 pink fiberglass insulation
several boxes of screws and nails
2ea - 8ft 1x4 white wood boards
lots of 8ft Cedar boards (1x2, 1x4, 1x6, & 1x8)
2sets - cheap king size sheet sets (cheaper than raw fabric)
6 tubes - construction adhesive

I am also buying some commercial acoustic products, like "PlatFoam" and "T-Fusors" from Auralex and other such things.

The goal is to smooth out the RT60 in the room so all frequencies have a smooth decay. This will require lots of bass trapping and some midrange trapping. There won't be much need for treble absorption, but I'll need tons of diffusion. Photos below:
The room photos:



Soundproofing the window:


Two layers of 0.5" MDF, a layer of 0.75" pink sheet polystyrene, and a layer of 0.25" solar board

The acoustic treatments for the side wall(s):

The ideal acoustical environment for listening to reproduced audio over speakers is WAY different from the ideal environment needed for recording live acoustic instruments.

With drums, the most ideal rooms tend to be very large and extremely live with a moderate amount of slap echo reduction (usually in the form of arched reflectors or diffusors). However, my room is very small. I can address the treble slap echo with simple diffusors and angled and bowed reflectors, but the bass will be overbearing and "phat" if left untreated.

So, I am applying all sorts of bass absorption and mid-bass trapping in various forms in an attempt to get the bass performance of the room closer to what a large room would sound like.

Here's one of the large slot absorber panels:


I used cedar planks for the slats, and cheap blue king size bed sheets to cover the fiberglass.

The wall frame behind the panel is about 82" wide by 72" tall. The slats are about 87" wide and overhang the panel behind them. I varied the distance between the panels and tried to be random with the choice of cedar slat sizes.

I am going to work on the slot absorber for the opposite wall tonight, but I am not using Cedar for the slats. Instead I am using fine, straight grain Pine. I have found that when treating a room with similar home made acoustic products, mixing up the materials helps balance out the sound since all material perform differently. Cedar is a relatively soft wood and will sound slightly softer than the pine. I cannot afford to use hardwoods like maple or oak, though I would if I could afford it.

When recording, the mics need to pick up the ambience of the room to make the resulting music sound natural in most environments - especially with drums (most of the time).

When listening to reproduced audio, the ambience is already in the recording. As such, you don't want the room adding too much ambience to the recording - just enough to make the sound appear to be coming from all around you (hence the principle behind a LEDE room).

I chose blue sheets because there was a huge bin full of "microfiber" sheets on sale at my local grocery store. I got a full set of king-size sheets for less than $7. The choices in colors was pretty limited. I like this shade of blue - I also got orange and lime green.

I did some cursory calculations on the approximate effective range of the slot absorbers to make sure I was focused on the range I felt was most needed based on dimensional calculations. However, I am following the John Slayers theory of randomizing the slot opening width to widen the "Q" of the effective range.

I hope that makes sense.
I finished to second slot absorber which is opposite the first.


This one was made with high grade, knot-free pine boards instead of cedar, and the gaps are consistent to create an center frequency for absorption at about 100Hz, which is the primary resonance for the two side walls.

Today, during breaks and lunch, and finally, at the end of my work day, I completed the main corner bass traps. I used R-19 (7.5" thick) fiberglass batting and cheap wire closet shelves along with some nylon ties and basic wall mounts to put this thing together.


This is one column of 16 x 16 fiberglass batting which is 7.5 feet tall.

I built two columns and connected them together across the ceiling corner:


In total, that is over 60 cubic feet of 1.5psf fiberglass filling three corners of the room. I may do something to hide these things, but performance is more important than looks.
Q: Is there a noticable difference between the pine and cedar on your slot absorbers? I was wondering since you didn't choose to stay with cedar on the other side.

A: Yes, there is a noticable difference. The pine is harder, and thus more reflective at higher frequencies. Also, the cedar has a less smooth surface which adds a little diffusion and absorption. The difference is not "night and day" obvious, it is more subtle. But there is a difference.

Q: If that's the case, then why did you decide to go with pine or just use it from the start? I'm assuming your room is symmetrical, so I would think what ever you do to one side, you would also want to do to the other.

A: Symmetry is super important for stereo reproduction. It is not at all important for live recording. In fact, symmetry of acoustics is a bad thing in live recording. If you make a wall with very specific acoustical properties, which will reflect certain frequencies nearly perfectly absorb others, and diffuse others, then if you duplicate that design on a different wall, you multiply the good and bad of the first wall. Instead, you want the treatments to compliment each other. If one wall reflects all energy between 500Hz and 5,000Hz, then it makes sense to have a different wall partly absorb at those frequencies, or diffuse the sound at those frequencies. You want an overall balance.

I don't want every wall to be a duplicate of every other wall, especially opposite walls. That would make otherwise good properties to become overbearing properties.

I hope that makes sense.
Here's the frame for the large polycylindrical reflector I put over the window area:


I filled it with some leftover R-19 to deaden it a bit.

And here's the finished reflector:

I also put eight Auralex T-Fusors on the ceiling.

Here they are before I put them up:

I have always told members of the forum to stuff the backs of molded plastic diffusors with fiberglass to improve their performance.

I also made two angled reflectors for the main gaps in the diffusors which will be direcly over the drums. Here they are in various stages of construction:

These, too, I filled with fiberglass. I used a 25 degree angle for the main reflector. When installed they will reflect sound at a 45 degree angle (in relation to the walls) into the corners.

Here's a photo of the ceiling after I mounted all the treatments and installed a larger light fixture (also for acoustical reasons):

I am all done with the acousics.

Tomorrow I will buy two sheets of MDF for my suspended drum riser. I am using Auralex PlatFoam to raise and suspend the MDF. I should be able to start setting up the drums by the end of the day tomorrow.

I am actually very excited.
I did finally buy the MDF and attach the Auralex Platfoam to it. Here's a photo of the drum riser waiting for the adhesive to dry:

Once I can flip these over, I will have a 8ft x 8ft surface to put my drums on.
These are the drums I've owned and played since 1985. They've been in studios all over the world.


The room sounds amazing!!!

There is all the liveliness, ambience, and energy I was after while still having a non-boomy bass. The only small drums rooms I've been in like this were in professional studios. Of course, when I was a younger I knew so much less than I do now. If only I was as talented on the drums as I was 20 years ago.

Q: Would you build the same room if you were a guitar player? Or a bass player? Other than the floating platform of course.

A: The room is much less significant for bass or guitar since nearly all live amp recording puts the mic really close to the speaker, thus eliminating the room contribution. That said, for practicing at full volume, a room like this is nice because it will allow the amp/speaker/processing to be heard similarly to how it would sound in a club or on a stage.

Q: What would it cost to do a room like that -- my (lousy/amateurish) drumming days are long gone, but it's good to know just as a general knowledge thing

A: I didn't tally the monies spent, but I estimate I dropped about $1,200 for everything. Note that I didn't finish the raw wood in the room to save money and time. I may have to do that later on. I also plan on building a wood frame cover for the fiberglass corner bass traps to make them pretty. That will increase the cost.

Q: What snare are you using?

A: I have eight snares, all of which I love. My primary "go to" snare is an 8-ply maple 14x6.5 Pearl MX series beast, and I tune it high so it creates the most agressive snap ever. However, it is loud and impractical for recording & practice, most of the time. The snare in in the setup is a 14x5 Pearl Free Floating model with a maple shell. It simulates my big snare sound without being so loud, and it is more flexible in tuning than the beast. I also have a brass shell snare, copper shell snare, piccolo steel snare, and so on.

Q: How long before you think you get back in to form? And how close are you to where you used to be?

A: If I really devote lots of free time to playing again, I may get back to an acceptable ability (for me) in 6 months or so. I am nowhere close to where I want to be and I find it very frustrating to play. I need to get after it. I cannot use the logs I used 14 years ago for sticks, I simply don't have the muscles for them anymore. I am going to try some lighter sticks and find a new favorite.

Q: Two floor toms and one mounted?

A: This was my core kit when I first went pro, but after choosing to play fulltime, I purchased several other kits of various sizes and styles. The largest was a Birch kit with every shell diameter size and two different bass drum sizes which I used most of the time in the studio because I could pick the size and number of drums for the music being played. I sold all those other drums and kept my core kit when I retired from playing professionally. These drums are really friggin' loud and totally not appropriate for what I need, but I love the way they sound when I can really let into them. I am looking for a thinner shell kit with three mounted toms and two floors.

Q: Is this your old setup or did you have to go buy some new stuff?

A: This is my first professional grade kit, at least the shell pack. I've long since replaced all the mounting hardware, pedals, thrones, and so on. I was sponsered by Pearl when I was a pro, so all my stuff was Pearl back in the day. I still like their products so I am leaning towards their Masters Premium line for my new set. The 4-ply maple shells look really sexy. If I hit the lottery before I buy, I will custom design my drums from their Masterworks series with Mahogany shells and tuned bearing edges. My big set, which I sold, had custom bearing edges to best fit the size of the shell - the new Pearl Reference series is based on my (and my peers') custom design work back in the 1990s. I wish I got paid for that stuff - but I was just glad to get paid for playing their drums at the time.
For me, it falls down to musical philosophy. Back when I was developing my individual style as a musician, everyone and their brother was mimmicking Neal Peart and buying huge kits. I got so sick and tired of listening to every hack drummer hit every single frickin' drum, cymbal and percussive part of their kit on every single song no fewer than a dozens times that I swore I would never be one of those boring posers.

I feel the music should come first, not how fast I can get from my 6" tom to my 20" tom while being sure I hit every tom in between. Aside from Terry Bozio, all the big set morons were boring as hell.

So, I went simple and relatively small, which at that time was going against the grain. There were a few big stars going that route, but at the time they were not considered drummer geniuses because sexy drumming was big kits and playing lots of notes as quickly as possible. So, my first real professional class kit, the one I still own and is seen in the photos above, was simple, clean, and required me to actually do creative rhythmic things to be interesting.

When I went full pro, I bought a large studio kit with every drum size imaginable, but I didn't buy all the mounting hardware required to setup the whole sh'bang. Instead, I picked the right drums for the music I was being paid to play, and the rest remained in storage for that gig. I cannot think of a time where I needed more than 5 toms, even though I had 11 to choose from in my arsenal (not to mention effects drums like Roto-Toms and such).

For me, most big kit drummers are boring and predictable. Even geniuses like Simon Phillips and that cat from the Dave Matthews Band, who are absolutely amazing drummers, get carried away with the need to hit every batterable piece in their kit at every opportunity. It's like listening to a pianists insist on striking every key on the piano in every verse of every song, or a guitarist make sure every fret is played on every string at least 20 times in every song. I can do without that nonsense.

The exceptions to my views on big kits are Terry Bozio, Zak Starkey, Chad Wackerman, Phil Collins, Keith Moon, and a few others.
Why don't I share my music with any of you?

Here's the deal - After years of experience with playing professionally I learned that the people closest to you, your non-musical friends and family, tend to not like the music you make. They have a hard time separating their personal opinions and feeling about you long enough to actually hear the music. Very rarely did any of my friends or family enjoy what I was doing even though I had lots of fans and new friends I made through music who loved the work I did. It is a matter of perception, and even some of the "big famous" stars I was able to visit with about the issue shared the same experience. It's funny how that works out.

It's like the people you went to school with cannot believe it when you are more successful than them, they just remember you as that ultra-annoying jerk who always distracted the hot girls they were hitting on and ruining their chances.
QUESTION: Do you ever have any problem with the snare chains rattling? I bought a set of CB 700 drums when I was 16 and kept them until just a few years ago. For the life of me, I could never get the snare chain to stop rattling. It wouldnt do it while I was just playing drums but when my buddies brought their guitars and big Peavey amps over, my snare became a rattle machine.

It probably happened because it was a lower quality snare but I was just wondering if the may be an inherent problem with all snare drums?

ANSWER: Snares will rattle. They always rattle. It cannot be avoided. But, through careful tuning of the entire snare drum (top/batter head, bottom/resonant head, & snare tension), one can usually reduce the amount of rattle or the loudness of the rattling enough to not be a probkem. Also, dampening the batter head will often reduce the rattle.

The thick, mellow, "thud" snare sound of the 1970s was derived partially to eliminate the rattling of the snares. In fact, I got lessons from several big session players from the 1970s who had nearly completely covered the batter head of the snare with gaffer's tape and cotton swatches in order to eliminate all resonance. By eliminating the snare rattle, not only does it reduce the snare rattle when the bass or guitar is playing, it also reduces the rattle when you hit a tom tom or the bass drum.

Personally, I consider the snare rattling is just a part of the big picture. I try to adjust and tune things so the rattling is not obvious on a recording or to a listener in a live situation, but I don't attempt to completely eliminate it. In the rare occasion I need to get a super-clean sound for a recording session, I will either use a snare with less of a problem and dampen the crap out of it, or, on a few occasions, I actually recorded all the drum parts separately from recording the snare part. That was hard work, but the results were very impressive sounding for the particular recording we were making.
Well, not exactly patiently waiting at all.

My new drum kit is still on order, and while I wait, I ordered all the new hardware last week - that's the new rack, cymbal arms, tom mounts, and so on, which I intend to use with the new drums.

Also, Guitar Center had a 15% off coupon for purchases made today, on Black Friday, so I went down there to buy a new Zildjian K Custom Dark China cymbal. They sold the only one they had left about ten minutes before I arrived. I was sad about that until I saw a Pearl Free-Floating snare with a Copper shell sitting on the snare shelf... I have been drooling over that thing for months. So, I purchased it with the discount coupon.

And, as a good geeky drum nut, I got it home and immediately took a picture of it to share with the world:

Q:Are the cymbals new too?

A: The 21" Armand Ride and 17" K Custom Dark China were purchased in the past few months. The others I've had for years.

Q: The two crashes -- are they same? I wouldn't have thought so, but (at least in the pictures) they look the same.

A: The two crashed are not the same. Once is a 16" A Thin Crash, the other a 18" A Med-Thin Crash. I have never used to matched crashed on my kit.

Q:How does the snare compare to the other two you have there?

A:The snares all sound different, have different ranges, dynamics, resonances, and so on. The new copper snare has a softer, rounder sound which is very intriguing to me right now, and I like the way it sounds tuned high & tight (which is my favorite tuning option for snares). The 6.5" 8-Ply Maple Snare (black in the photo) it my favorite of the bunch. It is my GOD snare, but it can be over powering when tuned high & tight. Right now it is tuned loose and fat, and it does it well. The Maple Free-Floating Snare (natural finish), was my go to snare for high & tight, but it can do anything I throw at it. It tends to sound a little thin, but it has a ton of dynamic range.

Q: Is it complete at this point? Other than changing the heads, will you be adding anything further?

A: I think it is complete, as far as drums. I will be adding a few cymbals, like splashes and another crash, perhaps a light ride (I have a K Jazz Ride I like for that). However, I have usually played larger drums that this, so I am missing that lower floor tom sound in my playing style. As such, I may add a 18" floor tom, and perhaps a 13" rack tom to flesh out my rack (hehehe).

Q: Where is the cowbell?

A: More cowbell? I've never, ever, ever had a cowbell on my kit. I have about 6 cowbells in my trap kit for recording, but I've never played one while sitting at the kit. I am more likely to play a woodblock than a cowbell.
Back in college I took a physic class for musical instruments. We learned how to model the way mechanical energy moved through sounding devices like horns, strings, sound boards, and various percussion instruments then how it was turned into acoustic energy. It was very enlightening and I became a better musician after learning the how's and why's for getting different sounds from different instruments.

Here's a cool aminated drawing of the different resonant patterns which can be acheived witha drum head:

http://www.isvr.soton.ac.uk/spcg/Tutori ... mbrane.htm

That site also has visualizations for guitar strings and acoustic guitar panels.
I found the comments by a few of the sales guys at the mega-mart music store very odd. When I decided to purchase my new "Splash" cymbals (those two tiny ones in the center front of the kit), I spent nearly an hour playing each and every splash cymbal in the store and picked the two which provided the sound I wanted. The sales guys said they had 'never had a customer actually try out all the cymbals, and very few even try out the splash cymbals they were buying." They claimed most buyers decide which cymbal they want based on reviews and what their favorite drummer was using in a live video, or something.

I was reminded of laymen shopping for speakers - buying based on advice or perceived quality rather than actually auditioning everything in their price range.
When asked why I went from a simpler kit to a larger kit, I responded like this:

Back when I started to play professionally and developed my own style, I vastly limited the size of my kit specifically to avoid the urge to hit every single drum and cymbal regularly in every song I played. It worked wonderfully and I learned to do more and be more interesting with a small kit and just a couple of cymbals than most young drummers were with their Neal Peart wannabe kits.

Once I started getting regular studio session work I realized it was really effective to have all the extra bits and pieces around in the studio to create the exact sound and style for the music being played, so I assembled a massive kit which matched what we felt was needed for each session. I sold that kit off when I retired from the profession and kept my first pro kit which was small and simple.

Now that I am at it again, and I am not sure what sort of music I'll be playing, I thought it would be helpful to build the larger kit and only play what was needed. I think (and hope) I can control myself and just play what is needed for the music at hand.
I received a limited edition Mahogany snare drum from Pearl. I knew I wanted it the second they described it to me, as this is a classic snare design rarely offered these days.



It is quite sexy, as well.

This snare has a thin, 4-ply, all Mahogany shell, which provides a more delicate, darker, richer sound than most modern snares can provide. As such, it will be an excellent contrast to the other snares I own which are all loud and mostly bright sounding - the only exception being my classic 8-ply Maple snare I've played since 1985.