One of the biggest challenges that musicians face is finding the right space to record their music. Recording your voice on your phone’s microphone isn’t usually enough, but renting out a studio every month can quickly add up. One compromise is building your vocal box—and soundproofing it.
We’ll break down building your soundproof vocal box in seven simple steps:
- Find the right spot for your vocal box
- Set up the walls
- Use a solid door
- Soundproof the walls
- Drill holes into the frame
- Seal the gaps
- Place the final touches
At first glance, these instructions might look a little complicated, especially if you’re not a handyman yourself. If you’re going to take on this challenge, you’ll want to make sure you know exactly what to do. We’ve got more details below:
What Materials You’ll Need to Get Started
Before you start doing any real building, you’ll want to make sure you’ve gathered all your materials first. You might already have some of these tools lying around the house, but you’ll probably need to do a little bit of planning and buy some of them ahead of time. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Wooden frame
- Solid Door
- Sound-absorbing blanket
- Door draft stopper
- Acoustic foam panels
- Drywall sheets
Keep in mind that when we talk about building a vocal box, we’re referring to building a completely new structure. Some people might convert an existing room into a vocal box, but you’ll likely have some trouble soundproofing a room that’s already been built.
1. Find the Right Spot for Your Vocal Box to Go
Before you start laying down plywood, you’ll want to figure out where your vocal box should go. If you already have a music room that you use, this might be an ideal spot for your vocal box to go.
Ultimately, you want to make sure you place your vocal box in an area that you or your family doesn’t use all the time. For instance, your living room might have plenty of space, but you might have trouble practicing music if your family is making a ruckus or hanging out.
Areas like a garage, attic, or basement are all great options for you to place your vocal box if you don’t already have a music room. Once you’ve found the spot, you want to make sure you figure out exactly where the vocal box will be in the room so that you can take measurements.
2. Frame Your Walls
Like any construction project, you’ll need to set up the wooden frame of your vocal box first. Think of your vocal box like a room inside of a room—you want a frame that fits inside the larger room, but still leaves you plenty of room to move around while you practice inside. You can switch up materials, but many people use plywood for their vocal box’s wooden frame.
Using your nails and drill, you’ll want to set your walls up based on the measurements you took initially. If you aren’t sure how to go about making the wooden frame, check out this tutorial below.
With just a simple wooden frame, your vocal box isn’t soundproof yet, but soundproofing the walls comes a little later.
3. Install a Solid Door
One soundproof feature you might not immediately consider is the door. Believe it or not, most standard doors for interior passages have hollow cores. While the hollow center makes them lightweight and relatively easy to install, they aren’t always the best option for soundproofing. Solid doors, however, provide a thicker barrier and slow down sound waves more effectively.
Instead of the cardboard honeycomb materials you’ll find with a hollow door, solid doors are one thick wooden slab. For your vocal box, a solid door is a better option if you can afford it. If you’re working with a smaller budget (or just don’t have the manpower to haul it around), using a hollow door isn’t the end of the world.
In fact, combining a hollow door with a sound-absorbing blanket or heavy materials might just work almost as well as using a solid door. You can always add on a door draft stopper, which is a thick strip that helps prevent sound from traveling out from the crack at the bottom of the door.
4. Time to Soundproof the Walls
Once you’ve got the door and the frame set up, you can start soundproofing the walls. Many people consider this to be the most important step in the process since it’s where the bulk of the soundproofing happens. There are a couple of different materials you can use to cover the frame, and some of them work better than others:
One way to significantly reduce the noise outside your vocal box is by using acoustic foam. Experiments like this one showcase the dramatic difference that comes with using acoustic sound panels to keep the noise down.
Since acoustic panels come in all shapes and sizes, finding panels that fit the measurements your vocal box shouldn’t be too difficult. You can also experiment with thickness levels too. If you truly want to deaden the sound, you’ll want to go with thicker acoustic foam panels.
While there’s some debate as to whether or not standard drywall can really block sound, many people opt for this material because it’s so versatile. By itself, drywall might not be able to provide the soundproofing you need, but when you combine it with insulation or gypsum board, you’ll get much better results.
On a budget, fiberglass insulation can provide another barrier that absorbs sound. There are tiny, porous openings in the fiberglass, sound travels inside the hole, and creates friction with other air particles. That friction should help slow down your sound waves even more and even prevent them from reaching the other side.
The perk of using fiberglass insulation is that it doesn’t require the installation of a professional. It’s relatively cheap in comparison to other insulation types, and you might even be able to install it yourself.
If you’ve got a little more money to spend and you really want to make sure you keep the booth soundproof, gypsum board is another alternative. Gypsum board is usually more costly, but it’s also more effective too. Gypsum panels provide plenty of resistance, helping to “block” sound when it reaches the panels.
5. Drill Holes into the Frame
When it comes to soundproofing a structure, many people will tell you that you need to plug every gap and seal up every hole to prevent sound waves from escaping too easily. However, a vocal box is one exception to this rule.
Vocal booths often require certain cables that you might need to connect to outlets in the larger room, and these cables need a way to reach those outlets. Drilling different holes into the frame will make sure that your cables are able to run without interference, and they shouldn’t provide too big of an opening that you’ll be comprising your soundproofing measures.
There’s no specific number of holes you need to add, but you should consider what kind of instruments or equipment you’ll keep in the vocal box. Not to mention, you may have other electrical wiring or lighting to worry about.
6. Seal the Gaps
While you do want to drill holes in the frame for cables, you don’t want to leave too much open space. Acoustic panels or gypsum boards might be effective, but if there are tons of gaps between each panel, they won’t be able to do much soundproofing.
Before you start jamming out, you’ll want to take a caulk gun and look for small gaps between drywall or acoustic panels. Once you’ve found them, you can use the caulk gun to seal these gaps. There are different types of sealant that you can use, but many experts recommend silicone caulk, which could boost your soundproofing by 20%.
Silicone caulk is a form of standard caulk, which means you won’t need to dish out any money for a special or unusual sealant.
7. Place the Final Touches
Once you’ve sealed the gap, the next step is to add the final touches to soundproof your newly-built vocal box. This might include adding more sound-absorbing blankets to the door, floor, or even on top of acoustic or gypsum panels. With soundproofing, the more barriers you put between sound and the other room, the better off you’ll be.
One final technique that some people use when they’re trying to seal all the open gaps in their recording studio is weatherstripping. Generally, weatherstripping is a method that homeowners use for sealing up air leaks or breezy openings, but it can work just as well for your vocal box.
Weatherstripping looks just like it sounds: a strip of durable material that will decrease how much air (and sound) enters or escapes the vocal booth. Not only is it another barrier that sound has to contend with, but it also creates more friction for sound waves and air particles too.
You can place strips at the bottom of the door or in gaps at the bottom or top of the walls. You probably won’t be able to get every nook and cranny with weatherstripping, but you can use silicone caulk for whatever you’re unable to reach. Even if soundproofing your vocal box isn’t the intended purpose of these strips, some brands might create weatherstripping that’s specifically designed for soundproofing rooms.
Other Factors to Consider When Building Your Vocal Box
Keep in mind that even when you follow all the steps above, you’ll still have more work to do. You’ll need to do more than just build the structure of your booth and soundproof it. Other factors that you’ll need to think about while you’re building include lighting, ventilation, and electrical work.
You’ll need areas for wires to run as well as space to put some sort of light inside the booth. Not to mention, ventilation is just as important too. Although we’ve been talking about sealing up the gaps, you’ll still need enough airflow to prevent the room from getting too hot or stuffy while you practice.
There’s a lot to think about with building and soundproofing a vocal box, but if you follow the steps above, you’ll be a lot closer to owning your own tiny recording studio.