It’s no secret that if you want to make it in the music industry, you need to be prepared to invest lots of time, effort, and above all, money! For aspiring musicians, cash can be really tight, especially when it comes to renting precious recording studio time. I mean, talk about expensive!
But don’t freak out just yet! what if I told you there’s a way for you to score all the studio time you need while being able to ditch your ramen diet? Well, building your own recording studio can grant you exactly that and so much more! However, as exciting of an experience as this is, it can also get rather confusing. This is why I’m here to guide you through the process step by step, so you can build the best recording studio possible to launch your professional career.
What You Need To Know Before You Start:
Building your own recording studio is a work in progress. Don’t expect to get it all done in one day, or pull some kind of a magical all-nighter and wake up to an up and running place. It’s a process that may take a while to complete, but it’ll definitely pay off.
How? Well, it’s totally understandable that you might be wondering if it’s worth the hassle. Let me start off by stating how cool it sounds to have your own creative space! But in all seriousness, building a private recording studio offers several advantages that’ll definitely convince you:
- Time is money? Well, at least you won’t have to worry about that anymore! Your own studio means you get to work for as long as you need it. You’re not limited by other people’s schedules or your by the number of hours your money can buy. Moreover, if you’re a perfectionist, then trying over and over isn’t going to be costly.
- This also means you can get creative whenever you feel like it. How many times did inspiration hit you at four in the morning, only for your idea to die out because the studio is closed! With your own place, this will be the case no more.
- If you don’t like being exposed to strangers judging your work, well, there won’t be any of those at your home! You won’t have to deal with the stress affecting your session’s quality.
- Since it’s your place, you have the freedom to pick colors, choose what items to include such as posters, figures, or even a dartboard. Basically, whatever gets your creative juices flowing.
Those are only a few of the perks that come along your very own recording studio. I didn’t even mention how frustrating situations like your car breaking down or getting stuck on a rainy day, won’t stop you from going about your work. It’s pretty much convenience right under your nose, so let’s dive in!
1. Find The Perfect Spot
It may seem obvious, but I was very surprised by how many people seem to forget they need to first think about where the studio is going to be. You can’t randomly pick out a room and call it a day!
You want a place that’s accessible but also enjoyable since you’ll be spending a lot of time in there. Ideally, I’d recommend a separate garage or a basement that you can turn into a musical pit, but really, it’s about what’s most comfortable and appealing to you; a place you’d actually want to be in.
No matter where your choice lies, here are some crucial factors to consider:
How spacious the room should be, varies from one artist to another. A band of five members would definitely require much more room than a solo DJ. What really makes the difference, is having enough space to accommodate your needs.
Always account for space your current equipment or instruments will take up, as well as future additions you’ll purchase. I can safely say that the general rule here is; the bigger the better.
If you’re planning on using a regular house room, you need to understand that they don’t usually offer the best acoustic surroundings. Low ceilings, cramped spaces, and parallel walls aren’t exactly optimum conditions for crisp sound quality.
I’d aim for a larger room with a high ceiling and preferably textured walls. Of course, this isn’t an easy task, which is why professional studios spend hefty money designing then from scratch. However, for DIY, you’ll need to make the best of what you have, which can always be improved by some acoustic treatments we’ll be discussing in a bit.
In my opinion, daylight is rather important to create a nice atmosphere for work. I mean, you don’t want to end up feeling imprisoned.
We’ll be discussing legit soundproofing later on, but you can make it a bit easier for yourself by choosing the quietest spot in your house or apartment, especially if you live close to a highway or a bus stop. It may not bother you while you’re immersed in tunes, but once you hear the recordings, you won’t be so calm.
From wind, cars, and birds all the way to plumbing and neighbors, these noises are going to come through, possibly ruining your whole piece!
2. Seal And Secure
Making sure the place is tightly sealed gives you a certain degree of freedom that would totally change your music game. Think about it; no tiptoeing with the volume so your neighbors don’t call the cops because you’re too loud and no postponing those epic late-night sessions in fear of waking up everyone else. Moreover, sound leakage can compromise the quality of your music, which means that proper sealing is kind of a win-win solution.
To achieve this, pinpoint potential areas for sound leakage. You’ll find at least one doorway to work with and possibly a window or two, so you’ll need to pack and plug those zones as securely as possible. A heavy door can simply do the trick, however, not everyone can just have a new door installed (or really want to). For this reason, sealing strips are an excellent method to cheat the system.
Made of foam, rubber, or vinyl, these sealing strips act as an effective sound barrier to keep it all in. You can find them available from multiple brands, typically at affordable prices. To start you off, I think the MAGZO foam seal tape is a great choice with a wide selection of sizings to suit any room. It’s also quite simple to apply!
3. Vent And Breathe
Now that you got all the cracks, gaps, and holes nice and parched, you need to let some oxygen in! Not only so that you don’t pass out mid-jamming, but a supply of air is also beneficial for your recording equipment as it provides protection against accumulation of moisture on their surfaces.
Since it’d be super irrational to “un-seal” doors and windows, installing a ventilation system is a smart solution for adequate aeration delivery. Here’s how you can do this:
- First, you want to create both an inlet and an outlet with wide even spacing apart from each other as much as possible. Note that one of those gaps should be equipped with a fan.
- Now, that you basically ended up with a giant hole in your supposedly closed environment, you’ll need to add, or rather build, an acoustic box for coverage.
How To Make An Acoustic Box
To build an acoustic box, you’ll be using MDF which stands for Medium Density Fiberboard (you can easily find in your local Home Depot). It’s sold as sheets or boards of different sizes and thickness, used for various types of crafts and indoor applications due to its reliable strength.
Once you’re done with your MDF box, make an “S” shaped duct and insert it into the box to allow the flow of air, then pad the remaining parts with acoustic foam.
Finally, place your acoustic box over the vent holes and throw in some mesh to keep gross bugs out of your sacred haven.
4. Tweak Your Floors
This step is all about achieving the best sound quality you can have. You can do this mostly by modifying two things: the floors and the walls, to eliminate unwanted resonance and vibrations.
Some call it floating floors while others call it elevating floors. Whatever the name is, the purpose here is to reduce or completely diminish any noisy distractions or vibrations that would otherwise interfere with the clarity as well as the purity of your recordings. So how do you float or elevate your floors?
The simplest way around this is to raise only some equipment off the floor, not redo your actual flooring structure. Begin by laying a few foam blocks, such as the platfoam by Auralex Acoustics, a couple of inches apart from each other. Then carefully place a sheet of plywood on top of your foam base, and voila, you got yourself a “floating floor”.
Make sure the wooden board is securely rested above the foam blocks to avoid wobbliness and ensure maximum stability. Also, if you find that your floor isn’t level, you can slowly trim down some of the foam blocks to make up for it.
To help diffuse the sound an extra bit, you can always carpet your floors. However, you should take into consideration that a carpet doesn’t absorb low frequencies. It tends to wear out quickly under chairs as well as in areas with heavy footwork. Check for carpet colors that contrast sharply with the blackness of cords and cables to avoid accidental tripping.
5. Treat Your Walls
Sound has a way of bouncing off walls that may or may not be welcomed depending on the materials of which your walls are constructed. Unfortunately, I usually find the latter scenario to be most likely, which calls for a technique similar to the one I mentioned for the floors.
You’ll need to break up and scatter the reflected sound to lose the echo effect. This is called diffusion, while absorption is when materials retain certain frequencies. A combination of both methods is what I’d recommend, here’s how:
You can build yourself sound absorption/diffusion panels using hardboard sheets covered with mineral wool insulation. Alternatively, you can buy ready-made foam absorption tiles to get the job done, for example, the ones from Pro Studios Acoustics.
Adding furniture like a sofa or a beanbag can further help cut down on the harsh soundings.
6. Choose Your Computer And Software
Ah yes, you made it to the technical part! So, you have your room all set, now it’s time to pick a computer and of course, the recording software.
The choice of a computer for music production has nothing to do with the never-ending Mac vs PC feud, it simply comes down to what operating system you find smoother to use. Whether you go for iOS or Windows, it’s important that the device carries enough RAM for multitasking as well as adequate Hard Drive space to store all your hard work. To make things easier, check out the 8 Best Computers for Music Production.
If you have a hard time staying still in front of a computer for too long, consider a more portable device such as a tablet for musicians.
As for your recording software, there are heaps of options, including the popular Ableton Live. What you need to watch out for, is the cost of subscribing to those programs. Typically, basic functions are featured in “free” versions, and if you want more, you’ll be asked to pay up. You may not need all the extra jazz, so I suggest you do your homework in order to choose the most suitable software.
7. Set Up An Audio Interface
Replacing your computer’s sound card, an audio interface allows your recording software to process audio signals from instruments and microphones into your computer as well as out your speakers.
An audio interface also lets you connect multiple instruments at the same time, but you’ll need to figure out how to hook up everything and search for an interface that serves your unique requirements.
8. Gear Up
No recording studio is complete without some essential gear to round up the professional experience. I’m not talking about your instruments, but rather equipment like headphones, microphones, and speakers.
Your headphones (best budget audiophile headphones) should be high-quality and pro-grade, not those tiny average-listener earbuds. This how you can really hear the layers of your creations come to life. For the microphone, both dynamic and condenser microphones should be on your to-buy list.
Following these steps, I truly hope you finally get to build your dream recording studio. The process surely isn’t quick or effortless, but the sweet results will make you forget all about it. Go big and go home, am I right?
Other posts worth reading: