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#920002 - 02/21/04 08:16 AM For Musicians, Solid Walls Make Good Neighbors  
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 6,199
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Joined: May 2001
Posts: 6,199
Parsonsfield, ME (orig. Nahant...
© New York Times

Published: February 21, 2004

Jay Braun, a guitarist for a New York City rock band called the Negatones, is well versed in the science of soundproofing.

"Sheetrock, sound board and plywood, over and over," said Mr. Braun, a fast-talking 32-year-old who has put up soundproofing in two New York City living spaces. "We really did want to be good neighbors."

Although musicians began recording in their homes as early as the 1970's, the migration away from professional studios to homes expanded in the 1980's, as drum machines and multitrack tape recorders came into widespread use. Now that computers and recording software are household items new Apple computers come with a program called GarageBand recording at home, for musicians, has become routine.

"It's becoming harder and harder to find people who do not have their own home studio," said Alan Fierstein, a SoHo-based acoustic consultant, whose own professional studio, Sorcerer Sound, recently closed.

"Twenty years ago, a studio was the only place you could make music," said Russell Simins, drummer for the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, a New York City band.

"Ten years ago that was less true," he said. "Now studios are being avoided. People have computers. They sit at home."

But with home studios came the noise. And the efforts to contain it.

"It's the neighbors that create the soundproofing equation," said Gary Silver, a sound designer who has been soundproofing homes and professional studios since 1984. "New York being what it is, that really makes it a problem."

For Michael Mehler, who lives directly below a home studio in a building on the Lower East Side, the most frustrating thing about the musician upstairs is his choice of instrument.

"Jumping up and down with the electric guitar is different than playing Bach," Mr. Mehler said on a recent Saturday. "It's not like he's a violinist."

Mr. Mehler added that the musician "could do it with headphones."

That is precisely the advice offered by Richard Murdock, a property manager in Manhattan, who has had to handle complaints about a tenant with a studio in a Lower East Side building.

"That boom boom boom, and the rattling of the dishes," he said. "Most of these old tenement buildings are not steel and concrete. Playing live music in an apartment, it's impossible not to encroach upon your neighbors."

Muffling music is often harder than it seems. The first mistake, Mr. Silver said, is the assumption that sound can be trapped in a room by putting up some carpets.

"I constantly have people talking about foam, fabric and egg cartons," he said. "You need mass. Sheetrock, concrete, wood. Expensive, heavy things have to be built."

Mr. Braun, like most people, began on the low end of the learning curve.

His first attempt at soundproofing came in 1996, when the band rented part of an artist's loft in Williamsburg. The band members marched to a Home Depot and bought plywood, and slabs of Sheetrock and layers of soundboard.

"We thought we were so sophisticated," recalled Mr. Braun, dressed in a rumpled suit jacket and sneakers on a recent Thursday afternoon. "We were all high-fiving each other up to the time we brought in the bass and the drum set."

But the new walls had a puzzling effect. Instead of sounding softer, Mr. Braun said, the music "seemed to have gotten louder."

It was a defining moment. Mr. Braun realized that "there is, in fact, a reason for science."

The band left the building. For a while, they rented part of a woodworking studio, where they played among table saws. Meanwhile his peers were playing in rented Manhattan Mini Storage spaces.

Mr. Braun began wrestling with physics in a basement space on Stanton Street. He hired a carpenter to design an elaborate semi-suspended ceiling in the space, which was not supposed to be lived in, but often was several of the band members called it home from time to time. The ceiling was made of five layers of material: particleboard; two layers of sound board, which functions as a thick cushion; plywood; and Sheetrock.

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#920003 - 03/17/04 09:51 PM Re: For Musicians, Solid Walls Make Good Neighbors  
Joined: May 2003
Posts: 2,563
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Joined: May 2003
Posts: 2,563

I remember reading this in the Times.

A paradox of the digital age. At some level, recording at home is sort of ludicrous -- although the recording equipment and software has gotten cheaper, you'd still have to invest in all that sound abatement technology that the pro studio already has in place, not to mention a fine-quality piano, if you need that for your music, quality mics, etc. And of course, it's most ridiculous of all in Manhattan, where people live on all sides of your apartment. It possibly makes some sense if you're in a one-family, unattached home.

And then you still have to learn to be your own recording engineer.

The sound-penetration thing has always been an issue for NY musicians, long before home recording. What are in demand are apartments in pre-war buildings with lots of heavy concrete construction.

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