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By their very nature, tents are designed for convenience and portability.
Whether this is a small camping tent, or a large event marquee, the purpose of a tent is that it’s easy to put up and quick to take down. However, I’ve found that these properties mean they’re not at all soundproof, which can be a severe drawback in many situations.
How To Soundproof A Tent
To solve the issue of sound leakages, I decided to find out how to soundproof a tent. There are seven steps or ways which I recommend:
- Install an Acoustic Barrier inside
- Put carpets on the floor
- Hang soundproof curtains
- Use destructive interference
- Set up a separate acoustic barrier outside
- Raise speakers off the floor
- Invest in a more permanent structure
Install an Acoustic Barrier Inside
An acoustic barrier is basically the same technology that’s used in recording studios and sound rooms. It’s an extra layer of heavy material like MLV that’s designed to block the direct travel of sound waves, and so reduce noise pollution outside of the space.
They’re commonly used on construction sites and along busy roads so residents don’t have to deal with constant noise.
Setting up an acoustic barrier in a tent isn’t a massively easy task, but is actually easier in bigger tents.
I found that most acoustic barrier material comes in large sheets and is designed for use in rooms, rather than a tent. This means it’s much harder to fit into a smaller tent.
That said, acoustic barriers are probably the best way to soundproof a tent. Provided you’ve got the space to set up a proper barrier within the tent, it will offer a noticeable reduction of noise.
It’s worth bearing in mind however that acoustic barriers are only really effective against high-frequency sounds, and will do little to stop bass frequencies from escaping.
Put Carpets on the Floor
Putting carpets on the floor works on the same basis as an acoustic barrier, but will help combat bass frequencies that can travel far through the ground. I found that putting down several layers of carpets really helps to dampen the sound created by both music and people.
It doesn’t matter what kind of carpet you use, but the thicker they are the better. Thick, shag carpet has more chance of absorbing sound than a thin carpet, mainly because there’s more cushioning.
If you can’t get hold of any particularly thick carpet, throw down several layers of thinner rugs and hope it does the job. The more you can do to cushion the ground, the more noise will be absorbed.
Hang Soundproof Curtains
If your tent is big enough, hanging soundproof (heavy) curtains (check on Amazon) is a more cost-effective method of soundproofing than an acoustic barrier.
It does the same basic job by absorbing or dampening sound waves before they travel through the thin walls of the tent.
However, acoustic barriers are usually quite expensive and can be inaccessible on short notice, and so curtains make a handy alternative.
The same logic applies to curtains as it does to carpets, the thicker the better. I’ve found velvet curtains are the best because they’re very heavy and are usually made of several layers. Read my article on soundproofing curtains.
If you’re not able to get thick curtains there’s probably not much point in trying to hang thin ones, this would do little more than hanging sheets on the walls.
However, if you’re able to get hold of enough thick curtains, hang them a few layers deep. This will help soundproof the tent even more, although it’ll never be as effective as a proper acoustic barrier.
Using heavy curtains will also insulate much of the heat, which isn’t always ideal in a tent full of people.
Use Destructive Interference
This is only really applicable if you’ve got a sound system in your tent, but that’s usually the main reason people need to soundproof it anyway.
Destructive interference works by putting a noise “in the way” of the sound waves, with the intention of disrupting their path. Although this doesn’t completely cancel out the noise, it does help to reduce the amount that escapes the tent.
The main focus is to point the sound exactly where it’s needed. This is especially useful with bass sounds, which can travel much farther. For example, pointing your speakers at the dancefloor or audience in a semi-circle means the speakers are mostly pointing at each other, which means they disrupt their own frequencies.
While this method doesn’t soundproof a tent, it’s a very good way of controlling the amount of noise that escapes. If you combine it with some kind of sound insulation on the walls, however, you’ll find the results very effective. The trick is to effectively manage where the sound comes from, and the best way to disrupt its path out of the tent.
Set Up a Separate Acoustic Barrier Outside
During my experiments with soundproofing tents, I found that noise would still escape, even with the best of efforts. So to combat this I decided it was necessary to set up a barrier around the tent, with the intention of catching any noise pollution that got through my other methods.
One way to do this is to set up an acoustic barrier like the ones they use on construction sites. These are usually large walls made of acoustic insulation foam and are designed to be quick to erect. They’re not necessarily cheap, however, and should only be used if you have the money to invest in the technology.
A soundproof wall also helps if you have an open-sided tent, or if you have people entering and exiting regularly. It will help you to establish an area for people and will block any noise they make outside. This can be particularly useful if the tent is set up in a residential area, or if you have concerns over potential noise complaints.
Raise Speakers Off the Floor
If you’re trying to soundproof a tent because of a live concert or event then it can help to raise speakers off the floor. Much of the bass vibrations travel through the speaker system directly into the floor, and so this can make a massive difference at the source of the noise. If you’re hosting an event in a built-up area this can make all the difference.
Obviously, if your event is a temporary function (which is likely if it’s in a tent), raising the speakers off the floor can be difficult because there aren’t any solid walls. To help with this, either mount speakers on stands, or put the speakers directly onto an insulating material that will absorb the sound waves.
The best material for this is vibration insulation pads, as this is specifically what they’re designed to do. If you can’t get your hands on these, any kind of dense foam will do the trick, as long as it provides a barrier between the speakers and the ground. Again, you could use carpet, but make sure you use plenty of it.
Invest in a More Permanent Structure
This doesn’t mean choose a building instead of a tent, because then you’d lose all the benefits of using a tent in the first place. However, if your tent is going to be up for a few days then think about making semi-permanent alterations to its structure.
The best thing you can do is install wooden frames on the wall to hold soundproofing insulation. This will do a better job than a temporary acoustic barrier and will absorb much more sound. Setting up wooden frames on the walls will be time-consuming, but it’s worth it for the extra sound insulation.
There are loads of different products you could use to fill the cavity, from normal wall insulation wadding to specialist soundproofing foam. The goal is to create a cavity, the wider the better, and fill it with a dense material. Read my article on best insulating materials.
While the material needs to be dense, it does help for it to have some air pockets as this traps the sound more effectively.
Is it Possible to Completely Soundproof a Tent?
I’ve tried many different methods to soundproof a tent, and for a variety of different reasons. My experimenting found that it’s impossible to completely soundproof a tent because of its very nature as a structure.
The only truly soundproof rooms are deep inside thick-walled buildings and are filled with specialist equipment specifically designed for that purpose.
However, it is possible to massively reduce the amount of noise that escapes a tent, providing you’re willing to invest time setting things up.
The methods I’ve described above will all do a good job individually, but the more you can do at once the better chance you’ll have of reducing noise. The trick is to plan in advance for the type of event and reason for needing a soundproof tent and to select the methods that would best suit.