I am currently in the market for a new apartment/house. I am aiming for a house, since I want to be able to jam with others, but was wondering if this was ever possible for others in apartments. There are a few options with concrete/brick walls - I was thinking this might help a lot with noise. Anyone ever had luck with this?
Sites like this always get lots of questions about how to soundproof thin walls, and the answer is always that you can't do much. Soundproofing is achieved by having a lot of mass in the walls (and those foam panels you see in studios are about diffusing reflections, not soundproofing). So this means that you need to look for a house/apartment that's been built with sound insulation in mind. This is something that you can explicitly ask about, because a lot of newer construction prides itself on luxuries like this. At the very least, the current residents or neighbors will be able to tell you if they can hear their neighbors.
I don't play drums, but I've practiced brass instruments in apartments for years without ever getting a complaint. Aside for looking for solid construction, you can:
- Keep practice time to daytime hours
- Talk to the neighbors, give them your phone number, and tell them to call/text if you're annoying them. Seems obvious, but it makes a huge difference. It's easy to hate "that guy next door with the drums", but if you've taken the time to meet them and let them know you're aware of the potential problem, it takes all of the animosity out of the situation.
- Practice in the middle of your apartment. The extra wall and room will make a huge difference.
One of the best policies is to set a cut-off time for your practice. Each situation is different. When I was starting up one of my country dance bands, we practiced (in a garage no less) for several days a week for a couple of months to learn our book (about 600 songs to start with). We usually started about 7:00pm and would always quit at 10:00pm.
Only one neighbor even complained; I told her that we would always stop at 10 and even earlier if necessary. She said that 10pm was fine if we kept to it. She later was one of the first people to hire us for one of her parties (she said that we kept our word and sounded much better after some rehearsal.)
I think the guarantee of a stop time means a lot to neighbors.
"Soundproofing is achieved by having a lot of mass in the walls." Well, that's not quite true. Soundproofing is achieved by having a lot of mass between your drums and the outside. I play drums and I read a lot. I have a lot of hardback and paperback books, numbering in the tens of thousands. I made one big bedroom into a library and lined every wall. Each bookcase held double rows of books in bookshelves filled to overflowing with my extensive library. I had, in essence, at least a ten-to-twelve inch thick sound barrier made out of books and shelving. I put heavy curtains over the windows (with some lighter curtains on the inside). My library was soundproof, so I had a place to practice and, as a secondary benefit, I had a home for many of my books. Whatever you use in place of books on the outside walls needs to be thick and solid. You can also cover the windows. I wanted some air circulation, so I didn't.
I'd recommend looking into electronic drums, and/or low-volume heads and cymbals. I don't want to endorse any specific brands, but if you try out some products at your local music store you'll realize that some electronic drums have excellent sound quality and responsiveness, and the low-volume heads/cymbals are also very impressive and expressive. I'd also recommend you get an apartment on the ground floor so you can put your kit on the concrete slab, because the pedal noise travels through the floor otherwise. As said elsewhere here, effective soundproofing is usually prohibitively expensive, but the low noise options these days make this mostly a non-issue, and they'll help you go deaf slower, which is another bonus.
You'll get trouble with neighbours 3-4 wall away. i had a drum kit in the basement and could play to the whole neighborhood when the small window was open. Best solution is one of those late e-drum sets, like Roland TD50, they have an almost perfect simulation of an analogous drum. Plus the benefit of different sound possible and no noise to third-parties.
When I was in college, our music building was under renovation and we were temporarily relocated to an office building. Many creative (read: cheap) solutions had to be applied to sound-proof practice rooms without materially changing the building itself.
Keep in mind that there will be two major methods of sound transmission to your neighbors - through the air and through the structure. Thick walls, thick curtains, double windows and doors, etc. will help stop sound transmission through the air, but they won't do a lot to stop sound transmission through the structure.
One thing that will help is to build a riser for your drum kit to decouple it from the floor. Even if you go electronic, you will still transmit sound through physical coupling to the floor.
A simple riser made of plywood and some foam pads will help dampen that physical sound transmission. I've seen risers that use isolation pads for HVAC equipment, wheel chocks, and even a layer of tennis balls glued to a sheet of plywood.