David Hakan's Blog

I will post here when I can about life on tour and my work with The Online Musician Course. Please subscribe here to see all the posts. 
I will also send these to Facebook on my David Hakan page. Thanks.

Audio Test Passes! Let's Do This.

posted Feb 6, 2017, 5:29 PM by David Hakan

The Gypsy Wagon Shell audio test was supposed to take one or two days. Well the good news is that my fears of low frequencies getting magnified was unfounded. But I was getting a "bump" at 1,000 Hz. So I unplugged my "big" Rode mic and hooked up my "little" Rode mic. The bump was almost gone. Ut Oh. Time to invest in a really pro, flat response mic. So I order a Blue Microphones "Baby Bottle". When it arrives I get a much better reading. I put a little padding by the door and everything evens out. I will have to "tune" the final Gypsy Wagon Studio, but that should not be hard at all. 

Once the test was done, I didn't want to leave. I just kept playing my guitar and singing. The space gives a natural compression. This means all the subtleties and nuances of the instrument are heard clearly. These are the delicate parts of a wooden instrument that get lost in a living room with carpet, upholstered furniture and drapes. There is also a natural reverb. When I closed my eyes it seemed like I was playing my guitar in a space twice that size. No echoes, but not dry either. Amazing sound. (And the real Gypsy Wagon Studio will be 5 inches taller. Much bigger. It will have 3/4 inch Douglas Fir Tongue and Groove paneling instead of thin plywood.) It will really sound amazing. 

So my builder is working this week to finish the design and give me the detailed price quote. Let's do this. 

Every Home Has A Door

posted Jan 31, 2017, 2:36 PM by David Hakan

Every Home Has A Door

We are close, very close to finishing the Gypsy Wagon Shell. I was able to make the door, but not hang it in place. I learned that you can’t make a door from the hole you cut in the front and expect it to work. You have to trim it some so it is a bit smaller. 

Now the final ribs under the rafters. Stain to match. Bring in the other light and put a hook up for it. Oh, my. It is done.  It took just a bit longer that a couple of days, more like 26 hours of work for the two of us. But worth it. 

Now to test the audio. 



I Like The Old Tech

posted Jan 31, 2017, 1:54 PM by David Hakan   [ updated Jan 31, 2017, 2:07 PM ]

I Like The Old Tech

I was on my own this week with Dave Lizor busy at work. No problem, I have a power miter saw in my basement. It will be fine. 

Except that after sitting for two years…it would not work. Not even turn on. 

So I grabbed my old had crosscut saw and used some elbow grease. Slow but sure. 

It was time to build the two walls of the bathroom in the back corner. Since this is mainly an audio test, I just needed to cobble something together from the scraps left from building the shell. The problem with the bathroom is that the wall facing the benches is parallel to the big open wall at the front. So it needs two things, a diffuser and a bass trap. Now you can spend money on these made out of wood for your regular recording studio, but they are pricey. 

So for this test I needed some cheap half-cylinders. Branches, yeah. Really cheap. Don’t worry, I’ll have a real artist do the real diffusers. It will be fine. 

Then I needed a bass trap. (Not a bear trap.) The bass notes often are a problem in a small space so the really Really pricey ones out of wood are really just a lot of vertical slats. Two-by-four scraps are all over my garage. Really cheap. It will be fine. Modern art.


Gypsy Wagon Shell Raise the Roof

posted Jan 22, 2017, 4:48 PM by David Hakan

I have been wanting to put the roof on the shell as soon as I got the staining done. Waiting, waiting. 
Finally we have the rafters in place. Now the hard part. Keep in mind that we only have a few inches of headroom above the top of the shell because my little garage has a flat roof that slants down toward the back. 
We get it wrestled into place and start to bend it down. It is NOT wanting to bend the whole way. We need our hands free to do the drilling and driving the screws. Dave says, "Here's where we really need a third person."
So I go looking for some short scraps of wood and jam one into place. It works. 
As SOON as we get the first roof panel in, the space is totally transformed. It is dark. It is cozy. I stop in mid-sentence when I hear my own voice. Then when all three are in place it is magical. 
And a mess. I can't wait till tomorrow when I can clean up and start to build the door and "cabinets" by the door. I SHOULD wait to bring my guitar inside, but I doubt I will be able to wait. 
Dave and I "high five". So cool. 



Gypsy Wagon Shell Raise the Rafters

posted Jan 22, 2017, 4:31 PM by David Hakan

The original plan of putting this shell together in a couple of days was SO optimistic. Here we are in the third week looking at the slight problem of the curved roof space being Bigger than the 4 x 8 foot sheets of plywood.
On the plans, the arc of a 6' radius circle created by a chord 93" long is 7.8 feet. On paper. In theory. But we needed the roof pieces to attach to the outside frame of 2x4s holding the walls. So that is another 3 inches. 
The answer? More wood! So we hand draw, trace and cut out solid wood curved rafters to go out from a central beam. This will take more time, but it the shell will be even closer to the actual inside of the finished gypsy wagon this way. So we get them done and mounted. This also really makes the whole structure more solid. We filled in the gap on the south side with 2x4s. We are ready to raise the roof. 

Gypsy Wagon Shell Stain Test

posted Jan 15, 2017, 5:53 PM by David Hakan

The Gypsy Wagon Shell is pretty well done except for the ceiling (roof). This will not be easy. I will also need to get More Wood again to support it. 

So before the ceiling goes on, it will be easier to stand up and put the polyurethane on the wood. This has to be done to test the sound reflection because raw wood is So much softer than finished wood. But since I have to apply the hard coating, why not test a stain, too. 

So I got Polyshade that combines stain and polyurethane so it goes on in one coat. Now I can test for sound reflection and test the movie lights and the darkness of the stain I will need for the finished Gypsy Wagon Studio. 
This will not only be a soundproof recording space, it will be a place to film music videos. So the lighting and color/darkness of the stain will be critical. This stain is called "Pecan". 
What song should I use to test the lights and stain? 

Gypsy Wagon Shell Day Two

posted Jan 11, 2017, 5:55 PM by David Hakan

As soon as the two-piece back was up, we started to get excited. The challenge of the 8 degree slanted sides and the big arc of the roof slowed us down, but it transformed the wood into a cool space. 

Next was the front door. Well the opening for the front door at least. Thank goodness for warm January weather. We were running out of room in my little garage. 

To make the 1/4 inch plywood secure took much more wood than I had planned. Time to get more wood over lunch break. 

As we got the sides up, we just couldn't stop. It was looking so much like the inside of the wagon already. But it was a tight fit. 


  It's a wrap. 

Gypsy Wagon Shell Day One

posted Jan 11, 2017, 5:41 PM by David Hakan

The building of the Gypsy Wagon Shell begins. This will test the concept before the custom order for the trailer is placed. 
Day One of the Gypsy Wagon Shell Build. Who needs plans when you have a master carpenter to help you? Thanks to Dave Lizor for making this fun and looking GOOD. The floor went quickly and the big arc for the curved top of the back and front got done. -David

Lumber Arrives for the Gypsy Wagon Shell

posted Jan 4, 2017, 12:25 PM by David Hakan


This project has been all on paper and computer files and in my imagination. But now there is lots of lumber in my garage. A solid commitment. To the Shell at least. 

I find that I am itching to get started. The smell of raw wood is intoxicating. My space heater is warming up the garage. 

So what is an acoustical shell anyway? If you have been to a big theater that has classical music, the stage was probably bounded by three sides and above by special reflective panels. Some outdoor stages have a curved wall at the back that looks like the inside of a sea shell. Both are designed to reflect sound to the performers and to the audience. 


But wait! Isn't this supposed to be a recording space? Don't you want the sound totally deadened? (You may ask.)
Well, yes, I may need to put sound deadening Foam Wedge Acoustic Panels around the inside to block all reflection at times. (Like if I'm adding a track to something recorded elsewhere.) But I think most of the time I will use the natural reverb of this small concert chamber produced by the Gypsy Wagon wooden interior Shell. Most folk instruments: guitar, banjo, mandolin, violin and dulcimer have subtle nuances that are lost is a deadened space or outside. (If you have played your instrument in a living room with drapes, carpet and upholstered furniture, then you know how true this is. Play the same instrument in the bathroom and you hear everything. Yes, the bathroom. Go try it now.)

The problem with small rooms is mostly the parallel surfaces, and the echos that are produced. Now look at the inside of a a Reading Style Gypsy Wagon. Three slanted walls and a curved ceiling, all in wood. This is what I am testing with the Shell. No one knows what this will sound like. No one has even thought about making a small concert chamber. (Except KOA campgrounds. Their small cabins are sloped ceilings, with wood paneling on the floors, walls and ceilings. Even with beds, these spaces sound amazing.) Here is a Vardo Wagon inside. Imagine the bed taken out. 

Vardo Wagon inside
The Shell with replicate the space created by the inside of my Gypsy Wagon Studio enough to test the reflection of various frequencies. If this passes the test, then my design will work. It will sound amazing. Besides recording, and filming, it will be great for live webcasting, practice, lessons and, of course, song circles. David

Gypsy Wagon Studio - First Step on the Journey

posted Jan 3, 2017, 5:39 PM by David Hakan

Gypsy Wagon Sketch 1

The birth of an idea is often messy, noisy, and can take longer than you think. 
It all started when I came back from two trips to music festivals in camper trailers. I was able to brew coffee in the morning and in general, it was way better than a tent. I also, realized that I have too much stuff when I tour and camp at the same time, for my little Subaru Outback. But I vowed Never to pull a trailer. (Remember this vow.) No, I would get a small motorhome. This fall I started realizing that teachers don't make enough (OK, not nearly enough) to ever ever afford a small motorhome. But that didn't stop me from looking and dreaming. (Someday) But what I quickly realized was that even nice motorhomes are Cramped. Yes, by the time you get all that kitchen, bed, bathroom, and seating inside, you have barely enough room to squeeze around anywhere. They are definitely not guitar friendly. And TWO people with guitars? Forget it. So my Brain is undaunted and suggests: What if I pulled a small trailer behind that just had benches and room for five or six people with their guitars? (Don't believe everything you think.) So I search for small basic trailers, just used to haul stuff. 

Now since Google throws in images of anything with the words, small, basic, or trailer, an image popped up that was a Gypsy Wagon Trailer. So like a search junkie (Is that a real condition?) I then searched for Gypsy Wagon Trailer. Wow. I had no idea people were out there building unique one-of-a-kind DIY wooden camper wagons and tiny houses that are modeled on the traditional gypsy wagons in England and Europe. No idea. 
But what really grabbed me, and would Not Let Go, was an image of a beautifully wood paneled interior with the slanted sides and curved ceiling. My Brain then puts me in this roomy gorgeous space (minus the bed) with my guitar. Then friends join me with instruments and harmony in this wooden band shell concert chamber, and it sounds heavenly. My mouth is open, so my Brain then jumps in with: You could record music videos in here. (Soundproofing would be easy.)
Yes, I can be quite gullible at times. Easy? Easy? Try impossible. More like: No One Has Ever Even Tried It impossible. 

So by now you are thinking about my sketch and my vow. Right. 
I have had wonderful friends who have put up with my obsession, questions, and what if's all fall, and helped me get a clearer picture of what this might become. 
So now I have one more "proof of concept" test to do before I make the leap of faith to have a custom Gypsy Wagon Studio built. I need to test the acoustical space of this 7 x 11 foot wooden box with slanted sides and curved ceiling. I have no experience building. But I do know how to test the sound inside this space. I call it the Shell.  (Finger crossing is allowed.) -David
PS The tree and animal designs on the outside would be carved, stained wood, not painted on. (Maybe in Phase Two?)

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