CREATING THE PERFECT HOME STUDIO FOR BEGINNERS
Author: Carlos Trejo
More and more budding music artists are deciding to set up their own home music studios. And, why not? For the cost of renting professional space a few times, you could invest in your own studio that you can use any and every time you’re feeling inspired. You can record music conveniently in your own space. This is the perfect setup for many among us, and it won’t cost a fortune if you set it up carefully.
We have some helpful advice about how to choose a room and convert it into the studio of your dreams (within your budget) and a superb outlet for your creativity.
Choosing the Perfect Room
First, you’ll need to decide which room of your house will make the best home studio location.
There are some important factors, including the size and dimensions of the room, its surfaces (such as walls, ceiling, and flooring), the ceiling height, and noise levels inside and outside the room.
An ideal recording studio is large and provides plenty of room for musicians, instruments, recording equipment, and other gear. Make sure there’s room for you and whoever else is coming to record or mix music to sit, lounge and be comfortable. You don’t want to cramp anyone’s style, so to speak. A larger room usually ensures a better-recorded sound, too.
Photo by Boštjan Pertinach
Along with size, consider a room that’s quiet—the quieter the better. Go inside each room and listen for outside noises that could show up, uninvited, in your recordings. Barking dogs? Roommate or children’s noise? A TV in the other room? Traffic, birds, obnoxious neighbors? Try to pick the quietest room in the house, if possible.
Also look at your floor, ceiling, and walls. You don’t want a square room or a concrete floor, and you don’t want very low ceilings or drywall walls that are parallel. Floor-to-ceiling windows or large mirrors also are no-nos in a home recording studio. No room will be perfect, so try to work with the room that fits the bill the best. For instance, you can always add more sound-absorbing material to hard walls and low ceilings.
Wood floors are a good choice for a recording studio room because carpeting can result in muffled recorded sounds. Now that you’ve found the most ideal room in your house, it’s time to empty it of its current contents and start building your studio.
Home Music Studio Essentials
There are some must-haves for your home music studio. Those include a good computer to record, mix and store music, along with music-mixing software, an audio interface, a microphone with a pop filter, a microphone stand and cable, headphones, and monitor speakers. You’ll also want a desk, monitor speaker stands, and a comfortable recording chair.
Your music needs will dictate what type and how much you’ll need to spend on an audio interface. The USB audio interface lets you connect your headphones, microphone, and headphones to your computer. The more interface connections it contains, the more versatility you’ll have when recording.
You can start with a moderately-priced interface and then upgrade as needed. Keep in mind that you’ll need more channels for projects involving drums or a number of vocals at one time.
When choosing a microphone, buy a mid-range one with a large-diaphragm condenser that’s good for vocals and acoustics like acoustic guitars. Don’t forget a microphone pop filter to minimize the “pop” sound that people make when singing or speaking sounds like “t” and “p”.
You’ll need one microphone stand per microphone. Invest in one that telescopes and adjusts well so you can place it at the perfect level for your voice, whether you’re standing or seated, and for any instruments.
When purchasing headphones, remember that there are a couple of types: open-back headphones (for mixing) and closed-back headphones (for monitoring while you’re recording).
Installing the best acoustic treatment for your room choice is critical to the quality of your musical output. Acoustic treatments help make your space as “neutral” as possible, absorbing or soaking in the reverberation in your room when you’re recording and mixing.
There are three kinds of acoustic treatments: panels, diffusers, and bass traps. Panels absorb sound energy, diffusers scatter and spread sound waves around the room, and bass traps trap lower frequency sounds.
Acoustic treatments or soundproofing, help your music sound more like your music and not like something recorded in your bedroom. There are numerous options for acoustic treatments in many budget ranges. You might consider foam panels because of their lower cost, but keep in mind they only absorb high-frequency sounds.
Photo by @marcelstaats
Because house rooms typically aren’t designed to become an audio production studio, you’ll need to do some trial and error before you get the acoustic renovations right. Taking out all the furnishings, including any pictures or posters, mirrors, and furnishings that could vibrate and then analyze the empty room by walking around and making lots of noise.
Listen, and gauge how much sound diffusion or absorption you already have and how much you may need. You’ll probably need to move the acoustic pieces around the room as you perfect the sound, so don’t permanently affix them until you’re sure.
You can buy entire music studio acoustic treatment kits. However, to save money, you may want to make your own fiberglass panels. To make the panels more efficient, don’t forget to include an air gap between the panels and your walls.
If you’re on a very strict budget, instead of buying or making panels, you can absorb high-frequency sounds with objects around the house, including thick quilts or duvets, thick drapes, or even mattresses.
Don’t forget to add bass traps to room corners to help absorb lower-frequency acoustical energy. Bass traps help solve the “muddy” sound in your mixes so you hear the bass sound better.
Strategically Place Your Furniture
Believe it or not, where you put the furniture in your new music recording studio is important. Comfort and accessibility are important. Do you have enough room to sit and play a guitar, bass, or drums, and also to stand up or sit down at the microphone when recording? Does space let you easily move from one spot to another? Is there room for others so you can collaborate or record a band? Do you have room to mix your music after recording? Did you know that Joe Vegna, OLLO Audio endorser, mixes on headphones 99%? The mixing approach is changing in the industry and so are the professional audio tools, so consider this too, when you're designing your home studio.
Photo by @freezeproductions
To help sound quality, remove from the room anything that can vibrate, including wall decorations or objects on your desk. Keep furnishings to a minimum, like a sturdy desk near a wall for mixing. Don’t forget a comfortable chair for playing music or singing, and a couch or even bean bags for relaxing while listening to music. Pay attention to the flooring. Use area rugs under vibrating instruments like drum kits to muffle some of the sounds.
Where to Place your Equipment
Strategically place your microphone away from your desk so the sound of your computer fan doesn’t get picked up on recordings, but close enough so it picks up only the sounds you want.
Photo by @daverecordingb
Position your monitors ideally at ear level, on either side of your computer, and carefully read the instructions that come with your monitor speakers. The placement of your monitors is extremely important and can make a big difference in how you hear the sound.
Creativity at your Fingertips
No matter what kind of home studio you’re setting up – for music, videos, or still photography, start with the basics and upgrade as you see fit (and your budget allows). You’ll be amazed how easy it is to light that spark of creativity as you experiment and perfect your craft in the convenience of your own home.
Carlos Trejo, Porch