I need to be able to play at loud volumes any time day or night.

Is it necessary to have a house, or can I accomplish this in a condo or townhouse?

If I need a stand alone house, how far must it be from the neighbors, assuming it's soundproofed properly?

What would the cost be of the soundproofing?

  • 1
    As alephzero writes, much better to spend your "soundproofing" money on renting space that is appropriate. Storage facilities in my area have stopped renting to bands (leading to a local crisis in band practices, actually), but those might be good places to look at, besides the obvious of practice spaces designed specifically for this purpose. Apr 10 '16 at 14:49
  • Practice spaces I've tried are not ideal for practicing or writing because I can hear all the other bands playing. Hence building a home studio. Apr 12 '16 at 19:51

While sound proofing can be very effective, sound can be very easily transmitted through air and solid like walls or floors.

So in a condo you may be able to sound proof your walls to limit the sound to neighbours, but as anyone who has ever lived above a neighbour knows, your floor will transmit a lot of sound.

A detached house will be much better, as you have no-one below or above you and you can sound proof the walls.

But even better would be a basement - where will sound go? The earth around the basement will absorb pretty much everything.

Your question about how far you'd need to be and how much it would cost is not really answerable without more data on the volume you plan on producing, the tolerance of your neighbours l, etc. Sound proofing companies give quotes on decibel reduction for each of their acoustic products so you'd need to look at what volume sound you would be producing, and at what frequencies, and then decide what solution would suit you.

  • While this is mostly good advice, it is possible to put numbers to a project like this. One would look at the SPL of the intended sound, the tolerable SPL of sound on the other side of the barrier(s) in question, and then design for a specific STC (sound transmission class) to achieve the desired reduction. Since every situation is different, the numbers in the design rarely perfectly match the real world, but with a little over engineering, design goals can be achieved. Apr 10 '16 at 14:16

If you are serious about this, you need to spend a LOT of money. You really need to build a "room within a room", with the floor mounted on a very soft foundation such as flexible airbags, so there is no vibration transmitted through the structure of the house. Then you can think about soundproofing the walls, floor, and ceiling of the inner room to stop sound transmission through the air.

You can't have any windows in the inner room, because they transmit lots of sound. You also need to stop sound escaping through the ventilation and air conditioning.

Even in a basement room, the sound will be transmitted very efficiently through the structure of the building to the above-ground rooms and the outside world, unless you use a similar soundproofing technique.

Unless you have a budget of say $10,000, you are unlikely to achieve your objective of playing "at loud volumes any time day or night".

Whether you can do this sort of building work in a property that you don't own is a legal question not a technical one - but and I expect the answer would usually be "no".

You may be better off doing a long-term deal with a local recording studio, or rent some space in building intended for small workshops, etc where there is unlikely to be anyone complaining about noise at night.

For example, I play (mostly classical) acoustic piano in a conventional UK brick-built detached house, with (nominally "soundproof") double glazed windows, and the playing is perfectly audible outside the house - in fact sometimes people have stopped to listen. It would be also be audible inside neighbouring houses if their windows (or mine) were open.

  • And if I built this room within a room, how far away would I have to be from my next door neighbor so that they wouldn't hear any noise if I'm playing at 2:00am when they're trying to sleep? Apr 10 '16 at 3:07
  • Somehow I didn't see this answer before I wrote mine, but I'll leave mine up despite the overlap in case it is helpful. @Brian we really can't answer specific questions because the details matter and the variables are manifold. You'd have to go through a specific assessment process of taking measurements and doing a lot of research to come up with the answers. Regarding doing this work, I've never seen a rental agreement (and I've signed many) that would allow even basic modifications, so i'm pretty sure ownership is a must. Apr 10 '16 at 14:45
  • @Brain 2 AM (and similar times) are extremely tricky, because everything gets very silent. So even with great sound-proofing that works fine during the day, night is another matter entirely.
    – Luaan
    Apr 10 '16 at 23:02

Let's just say you want to play as loud as you would in a concert. A little googling turns up 110 to 120db being a pretty standard range for concert volumes.

The city of Binghamton, NY, USA conveniently posts their noise ordinance as a helpful chart. I'm not sure how representative these are, but they limit levels of sound in multi-unit buildings to 45db at night.

45db is the same volume as a bird call, or about conversation volume.

So you would need to get your rehearsal space sound reduction about 65db.

At Lowe's you can pick up QuietRock drywall, which is 47-52 db noise reduction for $52.50/sheet. It's not recommended for ceilings, or presumably floors, and you'd probably need two layers. Depending on your room size, that would add up, and a soundproof door/windows will be more expensive.

Bear in mind also that depending on how the ordinance is written in your community or the rules your landlord/HOA imposes, soundproofing may not matter - you may not be allowed to actually make that much noise.

A house in the country, far away from the neighbors, is your best bet.

Caveat Emptor: I've never built a soundproof room. I've used a lot of poorly soundproofed ones though.

  • So if I want to live in a house in the suburbs or city, there's no amount of soundproofing that can achieve this? I'd need to move to the country? Apr 10 '16 at 3:19
  • @Brian - it's certainly possible, but the amount of renovation you'd have to do, the likely legal issues, and comfort of the finished space are all factors to consider. In a rural environment, changes to the space for soundproofing would be minimal, so the cash could be spent on equipment or a more comfortable space, rather than special acoustically absorbent materials.
    – Josiah
    Apr 10 '16 at 19:57

It really depends on what you mean by "loud volumes", what would be acceptable to your neighbors, and what the pre-existing situation of the dwelling you intend to inhabit is. Your question isn't really answerable with specifics.

In my experience as a musician in apartments, townhomes, and single family homes, you can either buy the right dwelling and play at the right time(s), or you can spend huge amounts of money to mitigate sound transmission.

If you have a full rock band going with a live drummer and amplifiers and all, you can definitely play in a full basement (not on a slope with an outside entrance in the back or something) of a detached house that is 10 - 20 feet from the nearest neighbor during the daytime. You definitely cannot play in a townhouse or condo at full band levels, at least not without a lot of expensive work that might not be successful.

In the case of the condo, I'd say there's almost no chance. You'd have to have high ceilings (12 feet would be good) and approval from the condo association for some serious construction work, and you'd be left with greatly reduced living area and you'd basically destroy the value of the condo and/or you'd have to pay to tear it all out again and rebuild the original interior before you could sell it (unless you found another musician to buy).

A town house is the edge case where it might be doable and make sense. My parents own a town house that they could have bough with an unfinished basement and the basement was designed with 12 foot ceilings. What could be made to work would be a room within a room:

  • Finish the walls and ceiling with some combination of resilient channel, green goo, and layers of gypsum board. Bring out all electrical and HVAC so they can be extended to the inner room, while also working to mitigate sound transmission through those channels.
  • Build an interior room on risers (hence the need for high ceilings). Minimum transmission would be achieved with offset studs, an air gap inside the interior walls, and some combination of resilient channel/green goo/gypsum board layers/etc. as above.
  • Power and ventilation would be extended from the outer room to the inner room in the right way, meaning it would comply with code for safety reasons while also being designed to minimize transmission. More or less, the inner room should be airtight, and power and ventilation require holes to be made in the interior room, so they have to be handled carefully.
  • The interior room would have a special door, and if the basement can be finished with another such door outside the interior room (opening in opposite directions) that would be ideal.

For there to be reasonable assurance of success before spending a lot of money on a project like this, you'd have to hire an experienced acoustic architect, collect a lot of data, attempt to determine the STC of the existing construction, and design carefully to ensure the goals are met. Overall, this would cost a lot of money, and might be difficult to finance, since it doesn't really add value to the house - it takes away. Modifications that no one but you wants are always detractors from home value.

Now, in a single-family home (detached) with a full basement, you get a lot more built-in sound proofing. If you can find one with an unfinished basement and high ceilings, then you can do a partial project like the one above and get some good success. Finish the ceiling and walls of the basement as above, and then instead of building a full room within a room, build a second, dropped ceiling. For underground basements, the major avenue of sound transmission is through the ceiling and then through the walls of the upper floors, so mitigating ceiling transmission is huge.

Because of the costs and difficulties involved in modifying a structure, it's much, much better to choose a different structure instead. So rather than working on design goals and saving up money, your best course of action is probably to spend that time and money on finding a job farther out in the suburbs, buying a single family home as far out as possible, and paying for and dealing with a longer commute. Of course, the longer the commute, the less time you have to play music.


To add to the other answers let me share some practical ideas I have learned over the years from the days when I used to build homes and build out office space. These ideas will help you reduce considerably reduce the volume of any sound transmitted outside of your practice space, regardless of where you set it up.

Sound travels through the air. It dissipates with distance. Obviously the farther you are from a neighbor, the less problem you have with them hearing your 2 AM practice sessions. A home that is a long way from the nearest neighbor is ideal. Of course you might not want to live in the boondocks.

With attached housing (such as in a condo or townhome) where you have common walls, or in a neighborhood of detached homes where the homes are close together - you obviously have less distance. But let's examine how sound travels through walls in order to understand how to mitigate it.

The sound vibrations actually hit a wall and set up vibrations in the wall at the same frequency. These vibrations transmit the sound to the other side of the wall. The ability of any particular wall to transmit sound to the other side of it are dependent upon the material the wall is constructed of (as well as other factors).

Not all the sound will go through the wall. Some will reflect back and some could be absorbed by the material in the wall. One way to reduce the amount of sound transmitted through a wall is to create a gap between two sides of the wall. In other words - a typical wall in a home will consist of wood or metal studs with drywall (sheetrock is a common brand) attached to both sides of the studs. If you instead attach the drywall to different studs, less sound is transmitted by the studs from the drywall in one room to the drywall in the other room. In other words you need an air space where there are no common studs between the two layers of drywall so the studs themselves no longer serve as a conduit to help pass the sound from one side of a wall to the other.

Two things that can reduce the sound transmitted through a wall are reflection and absorption. The stiffer the wall - the less it will vibrate and therefore the less it will tend to transmit sound to the other side. Concrete or hard tile for example will tend to reflect more sound than it allows to pass through it. That's why in a garage with a concrete floor or a room with a tile floor and no rug, the sound echos back so readily.

If you had a home with a basement, the concrete walls would reflect far more sound than they allowed to pass through and any underground portion of the basement would not allow any transmission through the wall itself because if any did pass through the concrete wall it would be absorbed by the earth on the other side.

Absorption can also reduce the amount of sound that passes through a wall or reflects back off of it. The reason it is quieter in a room with stuffed furniture, heavy curtains and rugs or carpeting - is that all of those soft surfaces tend to absorb some of the sound waves.

You can add insulation inside a wall (or between a floor and ceiling) to help absorb some of the sound. Also you can line the walls with something that will help absorb some of the sound - such as acoustical foam sold for use in recording studios. It not only reduces reflection, it will also reduces transmission through any wall to which it is affixed.

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Acoustic Foam Panel.

To reduce transmission from a common wall or outside wall to your neighbor next door, you can build a second wall (ideally with no windows but beware of fire codes) just inside the existing outside wall. Use fiberglass insulation batts behind thick drywall and attach acoustical foam to the inside (band side). Be sure your new wall does not contact the existing wall.

Building codes and common sense mandate a window or door through which an adult could easily exit the room in the case of fire. If you must have a window in your second parallel wall, keep it at the minimum required size for fire egress and cover it with foam and heavy fabric in a manner that permits removal in an emergency.

To reduce transmission from the ceiling to the floor above, you could install a suspended ceiling with acoustic tile. You could also attach acoustic foam to the ceiling. If you are finishing an unfinished basement, first put insulation under the floor above the basement (ceiling of basement) and then put in a suspended ceiling.

If all of this sounds overwhelming and none of your bandmates are willing to buy a home out in the country with no close neighbors, you might want to look at other alternatives for silent band practice such as the ones covered in this question on Music Stack Exchange - Should I use JamHub or Mixer and Headphone Amp for silent band practice?

  • Ok, so if I followed these directions in a condo, how much noise would make it through to the neighbors trying to sleep next door? What about in a stand alone house in the burbs, 25 feet from a neighbor? Apr 12 '16 at 19:47
  • Standalone house wins by a longshot with far less sound attenuation needed. The degree of sound attenuation you can achieve in an attached dwelling would depend on the money you could spend and if you could get permission from a landlord if renting. Since the modifications would take place inside and not be visible to neighbors, no approval from the HOA should be required. With enough material and proper construction, you can get close to sound proof. But sound proof is almost impossible so some sound will escape. If the only factor to consider was sound mitigation - detached wins. Apr 12 '16 at 20:24

This is going to be EXPENSIVE! And, even in a detached house, several hundred feet away from the nearest neighbour, "loud volumes at any time day or night" are going to be classed as a nuisance.

Stay where you are, play more quietly and use headphones. You need to practice your music, not continually test your PA system.

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