There are always going to be two issues when recording in a shared space: You bothering the neighbors or the neighbors bothering you. Luckily, there are some tips to reduce the incidences of noise complaints in your recording studio. This post is assuming that you have done the standardized studio acoustic treatment with bass traps and foam.
- Time - This would be the first aspect that musicians should consider when figuring out a diplomatic solution to both recording and mixing. Try to get most recordings out of the way in the 11am-6pm timeframe and maybe a little bit later on weekends.
- Volume & Headphones - Get your mixes as close to how you would like them to sound with studio reference style headphones. I have AKG 702’s - I try to get my mixes on point with these headphones and then finish the mixes on my studio monitors at a later point in time. Obviously reducing volume can be your best asset when mixing with short peak intervals to check bass levels.
- Guitar Recording - There is always the option to record direct input (DI) into your audio interface. This would be the quietest solution to a problem. Another option could be sound proofing a closet or utilizing an isolation box with heavy duty absorption. If the sound is coming into the room - Use a dynamic microphone hooked up to the amp pointed away from the sound source and towards the amplifier.
- Sealing Apartment - This is a great way to keep sound out with acoustic vinyl to fill any tight spots that could be leaking in/out on top of your already treated room. Here is an example: http://www.nextacoustics.com/nextblock-mass-loaded-vinyl/. Seal vents and air ducts in a temporary fashion where the soundproofing materials can be placed on/off and make sure to not turn on heat/air conditioning when covered.
- Portable acoustics - These are perfect because an musician can create their own vocal booth using these for sound isolation. These can be moved around all over the apartment - Remember to have some sort of panel to place over top of the portable booth like a 2’ by 2’ panel. http://www.auralex.com/product/promax/
- Ask for a floor plan - This would give a better idea of where everyone is in relation to your recording space including neighbors above or below for the apartment complex.
- Isolation Pads - These will reduce the amount of rumble that the source creates from direct contact of the ground, desk, or walls. http://www.auralex.com/product/mopad-mopad-xl/
- Practice and Rehearsal - This will minimize the amount of time needed for recording and set up sessions into blocks. Preparation is key to a great recording session and the less time you take, the less chance of any problems arising.
- Listen - It is important to find where the problems lie to act accordingly. Windows can be a big problem with letting sound in the apartment to interfere with recording. Additionally, Doors and air ducts can hold significant issues to potential mixes. Try to listen to where you can hear your neighbors - Odds are there is some reciprocation factors.
- Acoustic curtains - Some people don’t believe acoustic curtains hold any value in a recording studio but I have found them to be effective for windows and doors. Hang these up to get a broader spread of acoustical treatment in your room.
- Recording drums - Instead of bringing a huge drum set to the apartment, utilize an electronic drumset or a sampler like an MPC60 or Maschine drum pad.
- Volume Test Room - Have friend stand outside of door while recording or mixing. Have them give you an assessment of the room volume. Also, do another test of floors above and below you.
I hope these tips helped! I strongly believe if one uses common sense and a courtesy to their neighbors in a pleasant manner - There shouldn’t be any issues recording in this setting.