The Concise Guide to Setting Up Your Home Recording Studio

Whether you’re a seasoned musician who never thought the day would come, or a new sound engineer who’s been drawn to the scene by its recent accessibility – home recording studios are finally here. With a little time and money, you can turn almost any room of your house into a professional recording studio. Gone are the days where you’ll have to spend a bomb in building a studio. Though undoubtly some spaces are better than others and there are some considerations to make about optimizing your studio’s performance.

Before you break out the hammer and paint though, you’ll need a clear vision of your studio and your purpose for building it. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I making, engineering or producing music?
  • What kind of music will I be working on?
  • Will I be working with bands or other musicians?
  • Do I need space for performances or large recordings?
  • And the million dollar question. What is my budget?

Answering these questions will give you a clearer vision for your studio, and help you map the space accordingly. It will help you navigate the options you have as you continue to build and add.

For example, a game composer probably won’t work with bands and do not need a large performance space. All he needs is a great sounding room for mixing and composing. On the other hand, a rock producer who regularly works with bands and singers would ideally need a two room setting, one for the band to perform and the other room for tracking and mixing.

A hip hop producer only needs a single room setup… Well, you get the idea.

Picking the Ideal Space

As a rule, a bigger room is always better, as studio equipment, instruments and musicians tend to take up a lot of space. Of course this isn’t always an option for many of us and you don’t need a large space if you’ll be working alone most of the time. However you should note that a larger space allows better sound quality for your monitoring purposes.

Notice the wood flooring? Picture courtesy of Chris Cooper

Notice the wood flooring? Picture courtesy of Chris Cooper

The floor material used in your studio is also important. Hard surfaces like concrete and wood are preferable to carpet. Did you know carpet actually absorbs high frequencies and distorts sound? Try an area rug if you must protect the floors from equipment, but avoid fully carpeted areas. If you observe most commercial studios which are properly sound treated, you’ll find that they don’t have fully carpeted floors.

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Be sure too that whatever room you choose is relatively free of noise distractions. These can be anything from the sounds of traffic to a bubbling aquarium in the background. Doors and windows are often responsible for not only letting outside noise in but letting good sound from the studio out. Unless you want the neighbors to come knocking at your doors every night, there are a multitude of products available to seal doors and windows for the specific purpose of sound-proofing.

Ensuring Sound Quality

Bass Traps & Acoustic FoamsWhile sound-proofing will eliminate any unwanted noises sneaking into your studio and cluttering your judgement in your mixes, giving your studio an acoustic treatment will allow for the highest quality of recordings. It’s essential to any studio, but requires time and money.

You will likely be focusing on bass traps and acoustic panels for your home studio. These serve to absorb residual frequencies and let music ring truer, with the bass traps taking care of the bass frequencies bouncing all over your room and the acoustic panels taking care of the mid and higher frequencies. Some studios have acoustic panels installed but forget using bass traps, which end up in their home studio getting standing waves.

To know whether you have a ‘standing wave’ problem, just stand in a corner of your studio and listen for an increase in the bass frequency. Found a corner of your studio to have a ringing bass that gets louder? Congratulations! You’re a new proud owner of a standing waves in your studio. Time to look for some bass traps.  

Accessories and Gadgets

Once you’ve picked a room, sound-proofed it and given it an acoustic treatment for frequency absorption, it’s finally time for the fun part. The startling amount of equipment available may be confusing for a beginner, so here are some quick essentials for getting started.

A Computer 

You don’t need anything fancy to start, but some bare minimum requirements include 2GB RAM, at least 500GB of storage and a multi-core processor. Depending on your needs, a laptop may be preferable for its portability. I prefer using a laptop because I’m always on the go but it really depends on your working habits and where you see yourself working most often in the months and years to come. Read more on choosing a computer for music production.

Digital Audio Workstation

Whichever DAW you choose, it will take some practice and getting used to before you’re expertly recording and mixing with ease. Ableton represents one of the best DAWs on the market that attracts lots of electronic and home musicians; use these Ableton tutorials to learn & create astonishing music. On the other hand, the more standard type of DAW like Cubase or Logic may appeal to you better.

Studio Monitors

They don’t have to be expensive, but studio monitors are necessary for any studio, amateur or professional. Regular speakers take their own liberties with sound distortion, while studio monitors are designed to give you raw, uncut sound. A quick tip for you. I usually advise aspiring producers to buy 6-inch studio monitors at minimum.

Lighting

Because you’ll likely be blocking and sealing any windows, you’ll need proper lighting for your studio. Be careful, though, as some lights hum or make other noises. Consider soft, glowing lights. String lights are also a popular choice for studio lighting.

Tom Holkenberg aka Junkie XL, one of my favourite's is quite an analog gearhead.

Tom Holkenberg aka Junkie XL, one of my favourite producer is quite an analog gearhead!

Now that you know the basics of building a home studio, and have a clear vision of what you’d like to accomplish with it, the possibilities are endless. Always keep your goals in mind, remember you don’t have to spend a fortune to sound like a million bucks, and keep your creative juices flowing. The most important part of your studio is that it inspires you, that it feels like a space you want to spend time. If you don’t love the space, all the rest won’t matter.

How are your current studio setup? Comment below because we’d like to see them!

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