Posts Tagged ‘absorbers’

Just tell me where to cut the board.

October 9, 2020

Tim and I were hired to design and install the proper sound treatments to make a new venue worthy of the talent it was to be featuring on its stage. Tim was the sound engineer; the brains of the outfit; the guy who has recorded many of the best musicians in the area in his recording studio high in the mountains of Santa Cruz; the guy who works for high tech sound companies; a guy who reeks of smart.

I, a musician and woodworker among other things, was there to build whatever was needed to take care of all the echoes and noise in this empty building that used to be a dance studio.

Anxious to work on the sound absorbers, I asked Tim what the dimensions were for the first one. I had the board; I had the saw… all I needed was the measurement.

“Well, you see… there are three types of sound treatments to consider…” he said.

“Yeah, yeah… where do I make the cut? I can have it ready in a second.”

“… there are reflectors, absorbers, and diffusers,” he continued. “Each one serves a different purpose. “

Tim wasn’t going to let me do anything without first explaining what it was that we were making, and why and how it was going to work.

“You know the high notes are easy to take care of,” he said. “A little foam or carpet can absorb them – but it’s the low notes that take work to tame. Their wavelengths are longer and travel through material easier. That’s why when someone next door is playing music too loud, all you hear is the bass and drums. Those sound waves cut through…”

He told me how to read his excel spreadsheets that used precise calculations to determine how deep to build a sound absorber that would capture a precise frequency, based on the size and weight of the material we were building it with. He explained how, by alternating the absorbers on opposite walls, we could eliminate the echoes in the room.

Not wanting to make the room too “dead” sounding – Tim told me how we would leave some reflective surfaces to add “shimmer” to the room. He explained how, by pointing the main speakers in a particular way, we could decrease the amount of sound that was bouncing off the walls which added unwanted sound to the listener’s ears.

“Bass traps” – consisting of a stack of used tires filled with insulation and carpet scraps rested in the back corners of the stage, capturing the low notes that tend to accumulate in corners, while the convex covering I made served to both make the stack of tires “disappear” as well as to reflect sound in a wide arc, rather than directly back at the microphones.

When we finished, the room sounded absolutely terrific. In fact, many said it was the best sound in any of the local venues. I knew all about the sound in that room; how Tim’s knowledge and the science of sound directed me to construct the treatments; and how to know what I had actually been doing, and why.

Instead of simply following a set of blueprints, I was taught how to make my own whenever I needed them.

A year or so later, Tim and I were again hired to treat a room for sound – this time it was a recording studio that needed to sound neutral. And this time, I knew the drill. Tim still directed the project, but I knew more of the approach we were to take, and much of the time I anticipated, correctly, the next step and how we were to take it. Some of the time he even left me with the vaguest of instructions, knowing I could figure out the details.

I am a musician, after all. Sound is my life. It’s what I work with. I should know about it. And now I do.

And that’s why I don’t want to tell you what strumming pattern to use for a song 🙂

Treasures Roadhouse
The venue that sounded awesome.