RangeOfSounds.com is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page.
The link between music and garages is robust and inextricable. For so many musicians, the garage is the natural setting for their first recording or practice sessions. “Garage rock” is even an established genre, associated with fresh, rough, and raw-sounding music. Early punk music was born of garage rock, seeking to eschew the sterility of the studio in favor of a natural and unpolished sound.
The Garage as a Music Studio Space
To this day, the garage can be a surprisingly ideal location to set up shop. If you seek to build a more serious studio space, the home garage has a lot going for it. First of all, many professionals maintain that a concrete slab is actually the ideal flooring for a music studio– sound familiar? Also, home studios frequently face the challenge of making a small room sound good. A one- or two-car garage is the largest room many suburban homes offer. Not to mention that it could be taken over without affecting the livability of the rest of the house.
But a home garage is obviously designed to house cars, not a music studio. So a person seeking to convert from the former to the latter still has work to do. Perhaps the biggest issue is soundproofing. This word is frequently abused, and can refer to audio treatment, or to sound isolation. Here I am referring to sound isolation- the art of keeping sounds from leaking into or out of the garage. The good news is that you have a lot of options at your disposal. But the bad news is that the most effective options involve significant work and budget.
Typical Garage Weaknesses
The first step is to identify a garage’s sound isolation issues. Effective sound isolation is determined by two elements- a lack of air gaps to the outside world, and the presence of heavy sound-dampening material such as drywall and insulation.
Typical garages have several weak spots:
- The garage door, which tends to be made of a thin material, and feature plenty of small gaps to the outside air.
- The windows, which are also thinner than typical walls and are prone to small air gaps.
- The walls, which often lack the insulation and drywall found elsewhere in the house.
An effectively sound-isolated garage music studio must take all these into consideration. Your approach depends on whether you want to temporarily or permanently seal the garage door.
Temporarily Sealing a Garage
As you may have guessed, temporarily sealing a garage will not block sound as well. But it is less expensive and much easier to reverse.
As it happens, many of the same attributes that isolate sound also insulate against weather. Therefore, the first step to improving a garage’s sound isolating properties is to weather-seal it. Sealing the air gaps to the outside will cause less sound bleed into and out of the garage, as well as making the space more comfortable to work and play in. Seal the bottom of your garage door with a bottom seal and a threshold seal. Install a vinyl seal around the top and sides as well.
Beyond this, you can install blankets inside your garage door. Specialized acoustic blankets exist but are expensive. Musicians have collectively realized that moving blankets are a pretty great alternative. They work just about as well but are much cheaper. Buy the heaviest-duty ones you can find, as mass is your friend here. Cut them to fit, and install grommets along the top. You can hang them from nails or pegs above the top of your door. Hang and take them down as necessary.
On the topic of less-permanent soundproofing solutions- If you have windows, try building custom-fit window plugs. This is sort of like a classic bathtub drain plug, but the exact right size and shape to plug your window. These are much cheaper than specialized sound-blocking windows, and they can be removed at will (because who wants to work all day in a windowless room?) In fact, my commercial music studio has windows, and I am in the process of building my own plugs at the time of writing. I used mass-loaded vinyl for mine, but this excellent guide suggests acoustical barriers and insulation available at popular hardware stores as well.
Permanently Sealing a Garage
If you’re going whole hog, and you know you are more interested in working on beats than you car’s bearings, seal your garage door and turn it into a permanent wall. This guide features the basic steps you will need to undertake. Essentially, you will take down your garage door and build a wall in its place. Most of the supplies are best purchased at a local hardware store, but use Green Glue noise-proofing sealant instead of typical caulk to seal any gaps.
Finishing Unfinished Garage Walls
If your garage has just interior wooden studs and no drywall, then your walls will be a major source of sound leaking. You will also be subject to the whims of the weather. If you want to sound-isolate your garage music space, finish building the interior walls. Fill the gaps between the studs with insulation, preferably one like Roxul Rockwool that boasts sound-insulating properties.
While finishing the walls, you can take steps to insulate sound more effectively than typical interior walls. For example, hang sheets of the aforementioned mass-loaded vinyl between the studs and drywall. Use resilient channels to hang drywall to the studs- these decouple the drywall from the studs, so there is less transmission of sound vibration through the material. Hang multiple layers of drywall, connected with Green Glue noiseproofing compound (different from the sealant mentioned above). Any of these steps (and especially taking all of them together) will play a huge role in isolating sound to a professional degree.
Building a Room Within a Room
This is your ultimate step. It is the most expensive and time-intensive. In terms of noise isolation, there is no comparison- all large professional studios employ this approach. I have written a guide that could provide a good starting point, with links to more resources. Keep in mind that if you have reached this stage, I advise you to consult with an architect or a civil engineer. This is a structural project and you could risk your own safety or the fortitude of your house if you do a poor job. That said, the project is not out-of-reach for a person with the time, space, and decent DIY skills.
Houses are designed for living and garages are designed for cars. But musicians are designed for music, and with a little ingenuity, so too can be your garage. Whether you want to make some temporary adjustments to improve your garage’s sound isolation, or you want to make major modifications to create a truly professional space, you can unlock more of your garage’s potential. I live and work in Los Angeles, and I have visited some industry-level music spaces that were originally built as garages. Once you are creating music in your garage studio, don’t be afraid to reach out to professional mixing and mastering services to help polish your music. They can be surprisingly affordable, and a great resource to build your skills by example. Keep working, and feel the joy of the music!
Robert is a freelance audio engineer and the lead writer for Range of Sounds. Robert has had a lifelong obsession with dissecting and understanding music and is a self-taught composer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, singer, and recording engineer.