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Acoustic Panel Suggestions

My elem. general music classroom is getting an upgrade with acoustic panels, since the room shares a wall with a 5th grade classroom. However, the principal is asking me to specify brand/size/quantity that is needed and I completely out of my element! I'm open to suggestions for a school budget. The room is going to be used for K-8 general music, 4th-8th bands, and 4th-8th choirs. 
Replies (4): Threaded | Chronological
on July 2, 2015 6:40am
Wenger (the company that makes the risers) comes to mind immediately, but Perdue Acoustics has been doing this kind of work for years around Texas.  I think they patented the acoustic panels you see in auditoriums, churches, band halls, and choir rooms.  Contact them on the net.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on July 4, 2015 9:59am
This may be complicated, because there is a difference between soundproofing a room and improving its acoustics.  If this room was built properly as a music room, it would be acoustically isolated, and it would be irrelevant that there is a 5th grade classroom next door.  The fact that there IS a classroom next door makes me think that your room was not designed as a music room, only designated to be a music room.  In this case, acoustical panels could improve the acoustics in the room, while still allowing sound to leak into the classroom next door.
 
In 14 years of K-6 music teaching, I have taught in four "music rooms" in two districts.  Their characteristics:
 
Room 1: A former gym locker room with concrete floor and no windows; designated as a music room after the original music room was partioned off to be shared by the school psychologist and speech therapist. 
Room 2: A regular classroom designated as a music room; it leaked some sounds (World Music Drumming) through to the adjacent reading resource room.  In consideration of my colleagues, I rescheduled our drumming for spring and fall when we could move outside to an area away from classrooms.
Room 3: Almost properly designed as a music room, and acoustically isolated between the cafeteria and a hallway: also across another hall from the stage & auditorium.  The wall between cafeteria and music room was properly soundproofed, but unfortunately, the lunch recess route from cafeteria to playground went right past my window!  What were these highly trained and paid architects thinking??
Room 4: Properly designed and isolated, and set at the end of a five classroom wing.  The wall between my room and the adjacent classroom blocks all sound.
 
Several years ago, I phoned Wenger about their acoustical panels, due to the horrible acoustics in our gym (we have no auditorium).  I was told they would send an engineer out to look at the space and make recommendations; rough estimate of cost around $10,000.  Since money was unavailable, we now have concerts in the cafeteria, where acoustics are better (almost satisfactory) but seating is limited and logistics difficult.
 
I think your principal's expectation that you should have expertise in this regard is another example of the widespread ignorance regarding music education, and the low status of music in our schools.  Does your principal have any knowledge of the complexity and costs involved?  Probably not, since we have trained architects who design traffic patterns that send 500 kids past the music room windows every day!  Do principals and superintendents receive any training regarding the fundamentals of music and the proper design of music education facilities?  Not that I'm aware.  Is there money in the budget AND time for your project to be researched and done correctly? 
 
On the plus side, you have been given an opportunity--whatever its limitations--that most of us don't get.  Best wishes for success! 
on July 4, 2015 11:25am
P.S.  In residential and hotel construction, acoustical isolation can include:
1.  Double walls with space between (a few inches) to prevent sound transmission through solid wood or masonry materials.  This still leaves ceilings and floors as sources of sound transmission.
2.  For walls and ceilings: two continuous layers of sheetrock, or special acoustical panels, each a different thickness (and thus different resonant frequencies); the layers separated about 1/2" by folded sheet metal strips.
3.  Continuing the soundproof wall construction up above the ceiling to the roof.  This often complicates the routing of utilities like wiring and heat.
4.  Meticulous plugging of all wall and ceiling penetrations with soundproofing foam.
5.  Elimination of penetrations in the design or renovation phases, to prevent the need for #4.
 
on January 30, 2016 9:56am
I see that this thread is aready a few months old, but I will comment that you might consider hiring an independent acoustics consultant in this situation. The advantage is that you can get a well-conceived panel design that can be used to obtain bids/competitive pricing from a few different panel manufacturers. If you go straight to the manufacturer, their incentive is sometimes just to sell you more of their product (which you may or may not need).
 
My firm does this type of work (see link below), or I could also refer you to someone local if you prefer.
 
Tim.
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