New Studio Build for Non-Profit Music Education Program

Will Leamon

Member
Joined
Jul 25, 2019
Location
Athens GA
Hi All! Thanks for being here, thanks for having me and thanks for taking a look at this.

I'm working on starting a music education project here in Athens GA and I'm building out a studio for it.
(you can find more details at https://www.thrillahill.com/mws )

First off I need to say that isolation is not a problem here. Not that there aren't issues, but I can get around them and my neighbors are super cool. Plus the building itself is set way off the road on the end of a dead end street.

I've posted diagrams of the two rooms involved, but for now I'm focusing on the control room (Room B in the diagrams).

I've also posted the SPL results from REW for the room - it's an average of three tests. I'm new to REW and room acoustics, so I'm spending a lot of time in YouTube learning how to read the results. But if any more experienced folks want to give me some tips on how to make the room more neutral and appropriate for mixing/mastering/control that would be greatly appreciated!

You can also download the mdat file for the tests here: https:///www.thrillahill.com/sites/default/files/downloads/rew/tire_swing-rew.mdat (you might have to right-click and select "save as" to get that to work).

I'm sure I left a lot of stuff out of this but please feel free to unload with any questions you might have!

Thanks again,

Will.
 

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kmetal

Kyle P. Gushue
Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 21, 2009
Location
Boston, Massachusetts
Hey welcome to RO.

Im not an expert on reading charts, but ive built several pro studios. Generally there isnt much to read into when the room is untreated.

The most critical area in the CR especially is low frequency response. For this youll want to use a mode calculator to identify which low frequencies overlap with each other, or arent spaced well.

I would strongly consider using the larger room for the Control Room. You can reproduce lower bass frequencies in that room, which is critical for mixing and getting sounds. The tracking has the luxury of moving the mics and instruments around to get the desired response, as well as eq.

It is certainly worth comparing the two rooms on paper.

The biggest problem with your dimensions is the 8ft ceiling. In both rooms i would expect to add absorbers (a ceiling cloud) that covers most of the ceiling.

Your going to want as much bass trapping as possible in the CR, for sure. Ideally in the tracking room too.

Beyond the ceiling cloud and bass trapping, basic RFZ (reflection free zone) treatment is the most conmon approach these days. You sit at the listening basic position (38% deep into the room, centered left to right), witg the speakers set up in sn equilateral triangle off that point. have a buddy slide a mirror along the walls, and anywhere you can see the tweeters, mark as a location for absorption.

In general 25-30% of the room treated with absorbsion yeilds something thats not uncomfortably dry or wet sounding.

The tracking room has more options. Maybe one side live-er the other side deader. It depends much more on taste, and what your tracking in there, and if its live groups. Once the basic bass response and nasty slap echoes and rings are taken care of, much of it is then done by ear.

These are fairly general answers to the broad questions.

I highly reccomend "build it like the pros" by Rod Gervais, as the defacto guide for anyone building a studio.

I would also add that proper, quiet electricity and lighting are critical. I would also consider some sound isolation in case the neighbors change their mind or new ones move in.
 

paulears

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2014
Location
Lowestoft - UK
I got a bit confused with the aims of the project - the three core projects. I couldn't quite understand what the aim actually is? music production for the local community? So a social thing, or career thing for young people, or what exactly? I also kicked myself when I thought the design didn't look very Greek and wondered how well the Greek speaking community would fit into a community project, then I spotted a couple of spellings and realised Athens is in the US, in a State called GA - so my fault.

Good luck with the project.
 

Will Leamon

Member
Joined
Jul 25, 2019
Location
Athens GA
Hey welcome to RO.

Im not an expert on reading charts, but ive built several pro studios. Generally there isnt much to read into when the room is untreated.

The most critical area in the CR especially is low frequency response. For this youll want to use a mode calculator to identify which low frequencies overlap with each other, or arent spaced well.

I can do this in REW, I just need to brush up on how :) I'll poke around and get back to you.

I would strongly consider using the larger room for the Control Room. You can reproduce lower bass frequencies in that room, which is critical for mixing and getting sounds. The tracking has the luxury of moving the mics and instruments around to get the desired response, as well as eq.

I've flip-flopped over that for months now. The fact is I'll probably end up using both rooms for both purposes depending on what's going on. Perhaps some use-case scenarios would help:

The first project I hope to launch (and soon-ish) is a local singer/songwriter podcast where artists come in to the studio and play a few songs and we talk about the craft for a little while afterwards. For this I'd like to use the rooms as they are with the larger room to record. I'm an old theatre queen myself and I know how important "the space" can be to a performer. It's no contest between the two rooms in that regard.

But then I'm hoping to launch a music for video games program this winter. In that scenario we would set up the control room gear in room A just because we'd need all that room in order for six to eight people to collaborate.

I'm reading Built It Like The Pros now but I also read a couple of other books and given the total volume of the rooms my goals became to make the tracking room as best *possible* for recording acoustic guitar, voice and violin. I emphasize "as possible" because I know it's a bit of a pipe dream. After that I'd make the best use of Room B as I can, but mostly treat it for control.

For better or worse, I've made my peace with that strategy ;)


The biggest problem with your dimensions is the 8ft ceiling. In both rooms i would expect to add absorbers (a ceiling cloud) that covers most of the ceiling.

Your going to want as much bass trapping as possible in the CR, for sure. Ideally in the tracking room too.

Beyond the ceiling cloud and bass trapping, basic RFZ (reflection free zone) treatment is the most conmon approach these days. You sit at the listening basic position (38% deep into the room, centered left to right), witg the speakers set up in sn equilateral triangle off that point. have a buddy slide a mirror along the walls, and anywhere you can see the tweeters, mark as a location for absorption.

In general 25-30% of the room treated with absorbsion yeilds something thats not uncomfortably dry or wet sounding.

I was thinking all of this as well, but hoping to not have to treat the ceiling. I'm 6'3", I simply hate to lose the space. But I will do it as soon as the budget loosens up a little. I'm going to get started on absorption panels, I have a woodshop right next door so I can build to suit without too much hassle. The only thing is I'm having trouble sourcing 2x4 pieces of R- insulation. So my plan is to actually build 45" x 45" panels that I can use the 15" batts in. Any thoughts here would be greatly appreciated!

The tracking room has more options. Maybe one side live-er the other side deader. It depends much more on taste, and what your tracking in there, and if its live groups. Once the basic bass response and nasty slap echoes and rings are taken care of, much of it is then done by ear.

Hopefully I'll get some response to my singer / songwriter project and we can start recording some instruments / voices and really get into all of that. But I agree that taming the echoes and rings will come first. I'll fire up the saws and nail guns and let you know what happens.

These are fairly general answers to the broad questions.

And they are GREATLY appreciated, thank you so much!

I highly reccomend "build it like the pros" by Rod Gervais, as the defacto guide for anyone building a studio.

I would also add that proper, quiet electricity and lighting are critical. I would also consider some sound isolation in case the neighbors change their mind or new ones move in.

I'm on it, I've replaced the ballasts but I'm also trying to get some non-noisy track lighting installed for actual recording sessions. Yeesh, so much to cover...

Thanks again!
 

Will Leamon

Member
Joined
Jul 25, 2019
Location
Athens GA
I got a bit confused with the aims of the project - the three core projects. I couldn't quite understand what the aim actually is? music production for the local community? So a social thing, or career thing for young people, or what exactly?

I'm really still muddling through the answers to those questions TBH. But one thing I've settled on is that I hope no matter what program a person participates in they leave knowing exactly what they can accomplish in their bedrooms and exactly what a studio is required for. Then I hope they'll know enough, and have the confidence, that when they do spend money on studio time they can use that time as efficiently as possible.

But mostly I'm looking for a space that may not sound "good" by professional standards but has its own unique sound that's not really "bad" either. I don't know how to describe it, but I've heard it before and I like to take a shot at it.

I also kicked myself when I thought the design didn't look very Greek and wondered how well the Greek speaking community would fit into a community project, then I spotted a couple of spellings and realised Athens is in the US, in a State called GA - so my fault.

Good luck with the project.

Athens GA was once home to some bands called R.E.M. and the B-52s, so we still claim to be a "music town" near Atlanta. But mostly it's just a bunch of nostalgia bands rehashing two electric guitars, electric bass, and beat to death, out of tune, acoustic drums.

I'm seeking the refugees and outcasts of that world.
 

paulears

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2014
Location
Lowestoft - UK
Ha! I got excited a few weeks back when people were posting from a couple of miles up the road, then I discovered that they too were in the US!

My viewpoint on educational projects is biased by my years teaching it in college, but I'd go light on expensive audio solutions and spend money on some very odd things. I turned around the wall sheet material to have the plasterboard on the stud work side and finished off the inner face with MDF, with the sheets horizontal, and the gap finished by a 4" x ½" strip, with another parallel to it below, with power outlets and audio rocketry in the gap. The reason is that with office chairs and plenty of time, people constantly wore grooves into the plasterboard - young people just scoot the chairs around the room! The absolute quality of the audio is always good nowadays, so over treated rooms, making them deader than ideally we'd want in a pro facility can be nicer to work in with groups, and you can liven it up artificially. Spending money on top end kit can be better spent on more kit. So two cheaper mics wins over one expensive one - that kind of stuff.

Don't skimp on air handling. With projects you often end up with more people in the room than ideal, so more money on cool healthy air is well spent. Above all - space is the key. You could even be a bit radical. your total space is quite big. How many times will you have a drum kit being used? I've already decided that if I have a change of location, then my next studio space will be very different. One big space that is great to work in, with a very small vocal booth. If I record drums it's now very rare, and my half and half current design leaves me working with perhaps one or two others in half the space and the other room full of junk! For teaching and people projects, one big room can be so much more useful, and you get used to tracking with headphones when you have a band in.

Just a thought..........
 

kmetal

Kyle P. Gushue
Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 21, 2009
Location
Boston, Massachusetts
The only thing is I'm having trouble sourcing 2x4 pieces of R- insulation. So my plan is to actually build 45" x 45" panels that I can use the 15" batts in. Any thoughts here would be greatly appreciated!

You can use 2x4' rigid fiberglass panels. You can also use 24" wide R- value made for 24" stud spacing. You can make a basic stud frame and hang it from the ceiling. You can also use 2" acoustic foam if ceiling height is a concern.

I can do this in REW, I just need to brush up on how :) I'll poke around and get back to you.

You can also use a room mode calculator.

Spending money on top end kit can be better spent on more kit. So two cheaper mics wins over one expensive one - that kind of stuff.

I highly disagree. A couple of choice peices are all you need in many cases. There are affordable choice peices that arent a compromise based on price. The focusrite isa pres and Neumann tlm 102 are prime examples. Or a shure sm 57.

Mediocore + medicore = mediocore.

one big room can be so much more useful, and you get used to tracking with headphones when you have a band in.

This a agree with. Id err towards a single larger room in the OP's case.
 

paulears

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2014
Location
Lowestoft - UK
I'm absolutely rigid in my view that for education for people at the entry end, the very last thing to spend money on is exotic preamps and Neumanns. I've seen my fill of destroyed nice microphones, because the XLR cable was 3 ft short, crossed the room at ankle height and the stand crashes to the floor. Student ears are also not trained sufficiently to detect these differences. As sound quality increases more slowly as prices go up, we're talking to people who have not noticed the enormous hum, or that they're singing into the back of the microphone - so when you have a limited budget, individual expensive items are not needed at all. Of course, many of the teachers want access to these pieces of kit, and that is why they are specified in the budgets. I'd rather have ten sm57s than one Neumann. In fact, the initial mic box for education needs to encompass cheap stuff that's just about effective as the foundation, then better kit for those who have proven their competence. I cannot conceive that any microphone costing more than say £400/$500 dollars would be useful. In these kinds of studios, the acoustics and occupants make top end work unlikely. For the owner, lovely to have, but in all my years of educational music from 14 to retirees, the best music recordings from all over the UK did not feature top end gear at all, it featured people with good aural ability. The places with studios full of wonderful kit usually produced one good piece of work, but the others, using the same kit, produced rubbish - often because they put the good kit in the wrong places, with the wrong eq, with the wrong balance. Nothing will shift my opinion. Thousands of pieces of exam work came through my hands, and I monitored very carefully the relationship between kit and quality, and I'm not convinced there is one.
 

kmetal

Kyle P. Gushue
Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 21, 2009
Location
Boston, Massachusetts
I'm absolutely rigid in my view that for education for people at the entry end, the very last thing to spend money on is exotic preamps and Neumanns. I've seen my fill of destroyed nice microphones, because the XLR cable was 3 ft short, crossed the room at ankle height and the stand crashes to the floor. Student ears are also not trained sufficiently to detect these differences. As sound quality increases more slowly as prices go up, we're talking to people who have not noticed the enormous hum, or that they're singing into the back of the microphone - so when you have a limited budget, individual expensive items are not needed at all. Of course, many of the teachers want access to these pieces of kit, and that is why they are specified in the budgets. I'd rather have ten sm57s than one Neumann. In fact, the initial mic box for education needs to encompass cheap stuff that's just about effective as the foundation, then better kit for those who have proven their competence. I cannot conceive that any microphone costing more than say £400/$500 dollars would be useful. In these kinds of studios, the acoustics and occupants make top end work unlikely. For the owner, lovely to have, but in all my years of educational music from 14 to retirees, the best music recordings from all over the UK did not feature top end gear at all, it featured people with good aural ability. The places with studios full of wonderful kit usually produced one good piece of work, but the others, using the same kit, produced rubbish - often because they put the good kit in the wrong places, with the wrong eq, with the wrong balance. Nothing will shift my opinion. Thousands of pieces of exam work came through my hands, and I monitored very carefully the relationship between kit and quality, and I'm not convinced there is one.

Ive seen my fair share of bruised mics and interns dropping stuff.

My point is generally, as soon as people mix in a room with good gear and acoustics, they perform better instantly on lesser gear. Theres 100s of thousands of commercial level audio recordings, done by 10s of thousands of engineers, are they all golden eared? Or did they just not screw it up with a neve and a good room.

For daily use 57s are fine. But to have not at least one akg, or nuemann, or one neve, of which a commercial studio considers 'standard' is inadequate. First you cant assume all students are at the same level, and you have to get them to be able to hear the differences between a top end piece and otherwise. Nuance is the name of the audio game.

Otherwise where does it stop? We set students up on a 60$ berringer interface, 15$ Amazon condenser, a pair of samson speakers, and track directly to mp3? Then what tell them to mix out the upper mid gross-ness and bass they cant hear on the speakers?

What about when your new expensive condenser reveals how terrible your room sounds?

I learned exponentially faster in 5 years at a commercial studio, than the previous 15 years on my own at home. I dont think im alone in that.

Dings and repairs are a cost of doing buisness. Shilling out 'pro audio' lessons on sub par gear is a dis service. A 57 and eureka channel is great entry level gear. Compared to a 441 and a manley, they are different levels, and students must be taught to hear the differences. Even if they're skill set does not allow them to manipulate that difference, they must know that there is one.

It works both ways. Everyone thinks they want a neumann condenser, until they discover its about proper pairing with the source, not the mic alone. You can cure some GAS of which beginners are more inclined to get from marketing hype.
 

pcrecord

Quality recording seeker !
Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 21, 2013
Location
Quebec, Canada
I'd go for at least 1 or 2 multipattern condensers to show different pickup paterns. This is good knowledge to learn.
If budget is low, a mixer with at least 2 good preamp.

Yes, most students won't hear the difference specially if you can't make them ear it. Like K, I learned a lot more since I got nicer pres, mics and monitors.
But of course, the OP needs to stay realistic, if nobody invest cash in his project, it'll be very hard to buy what the place need to work.
Getting some sponsors and/or community founding would be a good thing to start off.

You can either teach how gear works or how sound works (which is more profitable on the long run)
In this case I suspect it's going to be a bunch of people doing collabs on various project more than a recording school.

The business model of many studios is changing from being payed by labels to record to community service, education and gear publicists.
Look at what Weathervane Music does : https://www.youtube.com/user/WVmusicOrg/about
 

paulears

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2014
Location
Lowestoft - UK
My experience is the reverse. They don’t perform better on good gear until they have considerable experience and short courses are more pleasure and leisure experiences
 

pcrecord

Quality recording seeker !
Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 21, 2013
Location
Quebec, Canada
My experience is the reverse. They don’t perform better on good gear until they have considerable experience and short courses are more pleasure and leisure experiences
I get you Paul, it depends on the seriousness and how long the courses last. I agree with you that on a 1 day deal, those who will hear the difference will be very few.
I think the OPs mind is not yet set on what his place will offer.. I hope he stick around so we can follow the development and end results...
 

paulears

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2014
Location
Lowestoft - UK
I rather like the idea of this. We do community music projects here in the UK and I’ve designed quite a few For various organisations but the actual standard is alway geared to beginners. The first one I designed ran aground badly when half the people booked on it turned out to be computer illiterate and the others were ok with computers but had few musical skills. Course two was good because it was refocused to these people’s needs.
 

Will Leamon

Member
Joined
Jul 25, 2019
Location
Athens GA
On the question of gear I feel, as someone who's done community art for almost 30 years now, that it's always great to give people an opportunity to work with fantastic gear. On the other hand less / inexpensive gear can drive a certain kind of innovation which is also valuable. I've always tried to just be grateful for what I've got and share that gratitude with others. A bit airy-fairy I know but it's served me well. For the record though we have a Tascam 16x08 interface / pre-amp, sm57s and 58s. I agree a good condenser vocal mic is vastly important but mostly to assuage vocalists' insecurities more than anything else. I will take care of that as soon as the rooms have been treated.

The programs offered will be for absolute newbies and up. It's not a classroom environment but project based. More like community theater than an art school. We live and die by the audience's support of our projects and I have never charged program fees to participants. No one's shilling anything here.

I'm not interested in recording bands in the space, my town has numerous professional recording studios run by some great people, all of who are struggling very seriously with staying afloat. I have no intention of competing with them or stealing their business.

Now then back to acoustics!

I'm starting work on the WB absorbers I think we all agree should be the first thing to go up. I've elected to use this for the insulator. I hate working with the fluffy pink stuff and I can get this at the local big box. I've gotten over my issues with height and will bolt a some to the ceiling. I was going to start with panels on the wall immediately behind the monitors, then the mirror-test, 1st reflection spots on the flanking walls and then at least two or three more on the ceiling. I'm hoping that will tame early reflection issues and maybe tame an overall "brightness" I'm hearing in the room. I'll get it to 30% coverage as soon as I can.

So I've spent more time with REW training and ran a much better batch of tests. Here's the full frequency response of the room (these are an average of 15 tests over 5 different spots, test SPL was around 80db).

ts_base_full.png


Given the Alesis monitors I have aren't that great, I'm ok with what I'm seeing even though the high end is dropping off pretty badly. I'm assuming a lot of that is just the speaker design (though I am very new to this) but clearly something crazy is going on in the low end.

So here's the 20 - 500 Frequency Response chart:

ts_base_low.png


I'm guessing that hump around 100 to 140 might be the ceiling and the wall fighting each other? Any thoughts on how to tame that would be great. Also I'm wondering about that dip around 340 and should I worry about it.
 

paulears

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2014
Location
Lowestoft - UK
I'm a little surprised by those graphs - especially the full spectrum one. I've never known a room that flat? Are you certain your plots are correct? What I mean is that with parallel surfaces and a low ceiling I'd expect all sorts of peaks and troughs, yet yours is a very gentle curve dropping only by around 15dB, very controlled and gradual. The dip at 340 is probably hardly audible - and with a curve response like this, eq'ing it flat would seem to be a very simple task. In fact, if I applied your curve to my own hearing top limit (being old), it's hardly worth calling it falloff, but just nearly flat!

You mention it is the result of averaging? how peaky/troughy were the individual traces? I'm assuming this was pink noise derived or a swept tone? I just can't believe there are no resonances at all? With a swept tone, I have a nasty collection of small ones and one big one just above 220Hz, which I have to notch out.
 

kmetal

Kyle P. Gushue
Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 21, 2009
Location
Boston, Massachusetts
I'm guessing that hump around 100 to 140 might be the ceiling and the wall fighting each other? Any thoughts on how to tame that would be great. Also I'm wondering about that dip around 340 and should I worry about it.

I would not bother testing until the RFZ treatment is up. At least i wouldnt read much into it.

Once the mirror spots are covered, and the bass traping installed, then id measure. My reasoning is, i know im covering the mirror spots, and adding as much bass trapping as i can, regardless of what any graph says.

No room is going to be mix ready without treatment, and no room of these sizes would be record ready without treatment.

The bass booms and nulls are related directly to the room dimensions. Use a mode calculator and it will show you your trouble frequencies. Some resonators tuned to 90hz would work well, in addition to broadband trapping.
 

paulears

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2014
Location
Lowestoft - UK
Phew! That makes much more sense. The good results should make the room sound pretty useful once you finish the treatment with no nasty surprises.
 
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