Crunching Numbers: Sound Choices in Practice Space

As we move closer to construction for Cohere Bandwidth, things are getting real. Really real. Like “sit down and talk to the people who build things” real. Which is precisely what Amy and Angel did last week, spending some quality time with pens, paper, calculators, and Brandon (pictured below), who took some time out from Downtown Artery re-construction to talk through some nitty-gritty rehearsal space details. Mostly: about sound.

Cohere Bandwidth Blueprinting

You know, sound, our familiar frenemy in our quest for shared rehearsal space. We already know more than we ever wanted to learn about constructing soundproof spaces, but Brandon took things up a notch. Not all the way to 11, thank heavens, but — let’s just say it got reaaaal scientific. We talked about green glue (our favorite!) and genie clips and isolation joints and Roxul (<<which, incidentally, may be our new band name) and staggered subfloors and agggghhhhhhhh. But we truly needed this level of detail so we could then ask Brandon to come back again with an even MOAR detailed estimate. So we might then identify places where we *could* cut costs — for instance, perhaps the waiting room needs less attention to sound attenuation than the practice spaces themselves — and places where we under no circumstances should we ever, ever attempt frugality. Like making sure the practice spaces are built so you can get to the electrical and HVAC for repairs without busting a decidedly un-soundproof hole in the wall that you just spent thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars to construct. Smart construction. SOUND decisions. You know.

Because what it boils down to is this:

me: “if we get this right, we’re going to be SO HAPPY.”
Angel: “and if we get this wrong, we’re going to CRY.”

So, we’re using a “measure twice, cut once” philosophy (or a “high-five thrice, cry zero times” approach, if you prefer). Why all the pre-caution? Because Community-Building 101: we want to get this right for the people who are going to use the space, so they’ll actually use the space. Because if we screw up the sound, we diminish the happiness of the musicians. And because, for our little two-room project here, we’re currently talking six-figure construction costs and worrying about band budgets. Because the space we’re moving into is for sure going to have neighbors who have to be kept happy, too, and this has become a little bit more delicate now that those neighbors aren’t going to be drummers after all. Alas, maybe that one was a little too good to be true, but we sure felt extra-lucky there for a bit. 🙁

All that said, we are moving forward. Brandon is sharpening the pencil. Amy and Angel are reminding each other what a beautifully synergistic co-existence Cohere Bandwidth and the Downtown Artery will have for many years to come. We’re planning for green glue shooting parties where the community can invest some sweat equity, and we’re becoming appropriately enraptured by bass traps.

Only moment later, Angel performed a "clap test" -- which just wasn't the same without Ian.

Only moment later, Angel performed a “clap test” — which just wasn’t the same without Ian.

Most importantly, we’re taking our lessons in patience to heart and not being too hasty to make decisions right now that could have disastrous effects in the years to come. Because as anxious as we are to start, we are 500 times more anxious to make sure that what we choose is smart, and that our choices keep the musicians at the forefront, not lost in the background noise.

Bandwidth Update: Breathing Into Paper Bags

The problem is: the Sound of Music. No, not the holiday classic film or even the impending Carrie Underwood don’t-call-it-a-remake live production. It’s the cacophony created when rehearsing musicians bring the noise. Not at raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens level. Think doorbells and sleigh bells and wild geese, but at a decibel that inspires a dog bite/bee sting rage in your neighbors. Soundproofing rooms is difficult and expensive, and in this search for rehearsal space, it’s the thing that’s proving to be the most maddening. When I asked Angel if she had any advice re: blog topics for this week, her reply was: “Panic?” As you can see, we’re feeling … von Trapped.

So, how do you solve a problem like cochlea? (OK, OK, I’ll stop, I promise! — when I panic, I burst into hysterical musical puns) We’re not sure. We have found two potentially viable spaces, but those spaces have upstairs neighbors and paper-thin ceilings. We did a band practice test drive a couple weeks ago in one of the buildings, at not-even full volume. The result from upstairs was a crystal-clear concert backed by a bone-rattling bass vibration that would possibly require a trip to the dentist to shore up your fillings after one song. The poor bassist felt compelled to defend himself with a demonstration (see?! It’s only on like a 2, I swear!), and I only cried a little in the car on the way home. It’s so. Frustrating.

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Still, it feels like we’re getting closer. If we can just get this sound thing figured out — pause for nervous laughter — we’ll be in business. But getting there may require an investment in all kinds of crazy stuff (we now know more about things like green glue, double-drywall, drop ceilings, mass loaded vinyl, baffles and diffusors than we ever, ever wanted to). We don’t really have the money for rent AND soundproofing, nor do we think that dumping a bunch of money into a rental is a smart move in terms of sustainability of the space. Etc. Etc. Etc.

However: we do have another glimmer of hope on the horizon this week. But I don’t want to jinx it by telling you too much (the guy we’re attempting to work with on this possibility ended up in the hospital on the day of our initial appointment, so that’s already a bit foreboding thankyouverymuch). The bottom line remains that the musicians themselves have to consider a solution satisfactory, or there’s no point in going down a given path. We’ve been lucky enough to have several band members agree to help us out, taking time away from practice, work, lessons and life to help evaluate options. And we’re not done yet. In the meantime? We’re just taking small steps forward and trying not to hyperventilate every time it feels like two steps back. We still have fa (a long long way to run) to go, you know?


(sorry Ian, you had to see *that* one coming … it was either that or Julie Andrews.)

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