I Need a Crash Course on Sound-Proofing!
December 1, 2016 7:55 AM   Subscribe

Finally getting a grand piano, but it's going to be along the wall to the kids' room. I only play late at night. And I play aggressive, modern classical music. How can I keep the kids asleep? Sound-proofing websites are either overly-complicated or just trying to promote their sponsors. Hope me!

I am either looking for direct answers here, or ways to help me help myself...

This is long because I don't know what info is needed for this question...

So, finally getting a grand piano after "needing one" for 28 years (I play professionally and am no longer using a separate studio).

But now that we are not moving to a new house, we cannot fit a grand piano into my official studio downstairs, so it needs to go in the living room. BUT, it's going to be opposite/along the kids' bedroom wall! (They cannot move to another part of the house.)

Right now, the kids love hearing the muffled, smaller piano sound coming up through the floor. It helps them sleep, it lets them know that we are home, etc. It's 100dB at the source, and is much quieter by their bedroom.

The grand piano is going to be huge, 6'3", and for sample recordings, the lid WILL BE FULLY OPEN. I assume there will be at least 105dB coming out of that thing, even if I dial back my playing. Yes, it's a huge piano for the room, but the size is decided for other reasons.

How can I sound proof the kids' room? I am not looking for 100% noise reduction here. I am looking for the best I can do, though.

I found MLV. Do I attach this to the shared wall on their side of the wall...with nails? Or will it not do any good if it's not sealed between two layers of drywall? Can I put it on the shared wall, the back of their door, and then put blankets under their door to cover the 1" gap between their door and the floor? Or will the sound travel through the floor and ceiling so much that it's pointless to sound-proof just one wall and the door?

Can I put acoustic tiles on the wall on the living room side? Or does that just direct the sound in a nice way but does nothing for soundproofing?

Do I need to get a sound-proofing expert to evaluate the situation?

Advice needed, please! (But no answers like, "can you move the kids upstairs?" "can you put the piano in the garage?" "can you adjust your practice schedule?", etc, please.)
posted by TinWhistle to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do the kids already have a white noise machine going while they sleep? We have one, and our guy sleeps through TV, music, and even the occasional party.
posted by ignignokt at 7:57 AM on December 1, 2016

Get a big tent, a dome tent. Line it with Beautyrest Geomatt material for sound proofing. Make sure you have some tough foam under the feet of the piano to inhibit sound transfer through the floors. You can make a foam dome instead, then it is possible to compress it for the daytime look of the room.
posted by Oyéah at 7:58 AM on December 1, 2016

Or will the sound travel through the floor and ceiling so much that it's pointless to sound-proof just one wall and the door?

This may well be the case. Especially if you play piano at 105(!) dB.
posted by thelonius at 8:03 AM on December 1, 2016

This guy seems to have a lot of ideas on the subject.
posted by cecic at 8:15 AM on December 1, 2016

I think you're going to have to soundproof the room itself, not just the wall and door.

Friends of mine have soundproofed their garage into a recording studio and it is insanely quiet. Guitar and base at serious volume with almost zero transfer to the room next door. But it is double doors with rubber seals, an additional floor with rubber between it, isolated inner walls and the concrete and acoustic panelling everywhere. They did it remarkably cheaply (struggling musicians!) but it is extremely effective. It was a LOT of work, though.
posted by Brockles at 8:22 AM on December 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Thanks, cecic! Not sure how that site didn't come up in my own searches.

105dB is not that loud for a piano. It's usually not an annoying sound, so people don't realize how insanely loud pianos are.

I, too, have professional musician friends who have 100% sound-proofed rehearsal spaces, but I can't go to those extremes in my own living room.

Thanks again!
posted by TinWhistle at 8:38 AM on December 1, 2016

earplugs for the kids at bedtime? the little squishy foam ones that you can get for hearing protection at hardware stores work really well if you put them in per instructions.
posted by kate4914 at 8:44 AM on December 1, 2016

Kids will eventually adapt. While growing up my mother to destress would play the music in her room (across the hall from me) really loud and pace. Really loud - if I went in her room at the time it would hurt my ears. I slept with no sound proofing beyond the two hollow core doors. I also learned to sleep through screaming fights in the hallway by the bedrooms; they'd initially wake me up, I'd realize it didn't involve me, and I'd go back to sleep.

Obviously there might be exceptions to this. Perhaps try going a month or two to see if your kids start sleeping through (judge my checking to see if their awake when you finish playing - otherwise they might report that they stayed awake "the whole time you were playing", when it may have only been five minutes (because obviously when they're asleep they stop hearing/remembering you playing).
posted by nobeagle at 8:52 AM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Would it be possible to baffle / mute the piano a bit by (removeably) strapping or velcro-ing pieces foam to its exterior and inside the open lid? And it would definitely help to have the piano on a rug and the piano's legs on pieces (or a rug-sized piece) of high-density foam.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:27 PM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Putting high-density foam under the piano legs is good idea. A rug under the piano will help, though if it stands on the rug, then the rug itself will be mostly ruined for anything else, which is still worth it if you don't use an expensive rug.

(I wouldn't attach any foam to the piano itself, I think it would change the sound too much (you could experiment with this if you're feeling experimental about piano sounds, but hey.))

You could hang long heavy curtains or packing quilts on the walls of the piano room. This would also be good if you're thinking of doing some recording.

These are simple solutions which you can try out, before going to the next level of layering MLV or styrofoam/drywall on the adjoining wall. I am not an acoustician, but I think that making the piano room sound less resonant will help more than adding a layer to the other wall. But every bit helps.
posted by ovvl at 7:08 PM on December 1, 2016

Your lucky if a standard gryproc and wood framing wall has a measured STC of 40; STCs as low as 30 aren't unheard of. With a noise source at 105db on the other side of that wall you are skirting the edge of permanent hearing damage for continued exposure in the bedroom. So even if your kids would tolerate it you have to cut that down.

Most sound transmission (especially of high frequencies which tend to be the loudest) is via air gaps. Interior partitions aren't generally sealed in any way so noise leaks through wall/floor interfaces, duct work, and penetrations into stud bays from both sides. And the low mass and solid connections conduct low frequencies. To reduce transmission across the spectrum you need to seal penetrations (even the little intermittent 1/16th of an inch gap between the floor and wall) and increase the mass of the barriers.

Living rooms tend to be hard to mitigate sound from because of large windows and multiple entryways often without doors. Bedrooms are much easier. Just attenuating the dividing wall is probably not going to be sufficient because sound will travel down hallways etc. MLV is great but it is very expensive compared to other strategies. Especially in a case where you don't need 100% mitigation.

So if it was me I would try to reduce the noise entering the bedroom as being easier (Semi ordered list):
  1. Empty the bedroom and remove carpet.
  2. Caulk the wall to floor junction with Acoustical Sealant on the interior walls (As a first step I'd ignore any exterior wall). (Curse the Gods that someone hasn't come up with a product that works as well that isn't so messy)
  3. Optional: If you have the budget install MLV on the interior walls
  4. Install resilient channel on the interior walls.
  5. Install at least one layer of gyproc on the resilient channel
  6. Extend the electrical boxes on the effected walls. If there are receptacles sharing a stud bay on the living room/bedroom wall consider having an electrician move one of them (you're gyprocing in the bedroom anyways so this will be fairly cheap in most cases)
  7. Tape, mud, sand and paint new interior wall surfaces.
  8. Reinstall carpet. If the room has hardwood floors consider room size area rug or carpet install
  9. Replace what is typically a cheap hollow core bedroom with either solid wood door or even better an exterior door. The exterior door can have panelling applied to match the regular interior doors of your house. In either case install full weather stripping (use weather stripping attached to the bottom of the door rather than a threshold to avoid installing a threshold).
These steps wouldn't get you sound proofing but would cut the noise transmission over regular home walls by 20-40db while still being in reach of DIYer or relatively cheap and easy for a contractor. The hard leakages to cut are shared duct work (consider blocking the registers in the piano room (with a concrete paver wrapped in carpet) to cut down on noise entering duct work) and leakage through the floor and ceiling though these are usually less of a problem because of the double transmission path (in and out). Especially if the ceiling is an insulated attic. Any steps you can take to reduce the direct transmission of noise into the floor will help with low frequency transmission (like I'm guessing the foot cups in cecic's link).

If the above steps don't cut the noise enough or you feel like going whole hog (budget permitting) you can install the channel and gyproc on the ceiling and the exterior wall. You can also add additional layers of gyproc below and above the resilient channel (so up to 4 layers). And you can use 5/8ths drywall instead of the normal 1/2". Stripping the bedroom walls to the studs would let you install acoustical insulation in the stud bays and a vapour/high frequency sound barrier. Sitting the piano on a layer of concrete patio blocks (can be covered with laminate flooring or carpet to disguise them) would work well to minimize transmission into the floor (I did this when I needed to run a large compressor in a workshop space created from a bedroom). Though these steps are approaching sound proofing and are probably overkill.
posted by Mitheral at 9:51 PM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the additional responses, but I want to clarify again that the 105dB is at the piano--if you were to stick your head in it. Certainly the sound is about 100dB to the player, and much less (60? 50? by the time it's in the kids' bedroom with the door closed).
posted by TinWhistle at 5:57 AM on December 2, 2016

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