I remember the first time my band and I decided to start recording at my home studio. Only, back then, it wasn’t much of a studio – more of a spare guest room where I used to store all my instruments. We learned a lot about recording music that summer. We made a lot of mistakes during the beginning but with some research, we were able to really turn things around for ourselves.
One of the most major challenges we faced revolved around reducing echo. Let’s face it, you can’t achieve the perfect sound until you figure out these pesky loopholes. We could barely call ourselves ‘professionals’ back then which is why we opted for some short-term fixes. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out so well which is why we decided to splurge a little. And I can honestly say this; it was the best thing we could do for our band during the time.
Anyway, I understand that echoes can be quite annoying, luckily, there are many fairly inexpensive ways to counter this problem.
Ways to Reduce Echo in a Room for Recording
So to help all fellow artists, I’ve compiled this detailed guide to help you on your quest to achieve the perfect echo-free sound:
1. Inspect Your Surroundings
Most newbies don’t know this: an empty room can quickly turn into an audio nightmare. Yeah, most new artists love the space and freedom to unleash their ‘sound’ but an empty room isn’t going to help with that. Instead, you’ll need to pack the room with items to absorb the sound, thus reducing echo.
A fairly inexpensive way to do so is by filling up your room with tons of sleeping bags and couch cushions. Carpeting the entire room is another nice long-term fix that you can opt for. Once the floors have been taken care of, you’ll need something for the walls too. Consider hanging up blankets on the walls. Of course, you can always use sound blankets since they are specially designed for this purpose.
The key here is to find materials that are heavy and porous enough to absorb sound waves. Everyday towels can also work if you’re looking for a short-term fix. As you begin to have a bigger budget, you can invest in sound absorption panels. These panels work by catching sound waves before it turns into echoes.
2. Invest in a Shotgun Microphone
If you’re having trouble recording because of echoes, consider investing in a shotgun microphone. This is the perfect microphone if you want to keep unwanted sounds at bay. These mics are designed to do a better job at reducing echoes. If you are serious about home-recording, I strongly advise you put more thought in the kind of gear you use since it will directly impact the quality of sound you are trying to achieve.
3. Start with Small Changes
You don’t necessarily have to install the best gear during your first week of home recording! Start by making small changes. For instance, heavy furniture with soft fabric can be a life-saver, so move those old upholstered couches to your recording room. Upholstered materials perform a better job at absorbing sound when compared to wood exteriors and leather.
Another inexpensive fix is to hang heavy curtains. My spare guest room already had these heavy curtains which did a pretty decent job in absorbing sound. I reckon this helped minimize echoes to a great extent. You can also invest in special curtains that offer better sound-muffling properties.
Also, consider moving bookshelves to your recording room. We obviously don’t recommend this if you don’t have a lot of books but if you, it just might help. The books will help absorb sound, minimizing echoes.
I strongly suggest you try I combination of the suggestions I’ve shared with you above. You will probably have to rearrange the furniture a couple of times until you achieve the best results.
4. Consider the Microphone’s Placement
People put in so much thought in buying the right microphone that they hardly think about the right placement. Once you’ve got the right equipment in order, placement is key to reduce echo while recording. Generally, I’d recommend you position the mic as close as you can to the singer’s mouth. I would advise not to cheap out while buying your gear since you are making a long-term investment. Here’s my view on the best mics for singing at home.
5. Carpet the Whole Room
A friend of ours recently installed carpet over his recording studio and he was able to get rid of most of the echo problem. Like others, he initially started off with rugs but that did not help him achieve the results he wanted. An extra tip would be to check out the local home supply store in your neighborhood and ask recommendations for sound-absorbing carpets.
While a bit pricy, this is a good option if you don’t want to anger your landlord or make any permanent changes to your room. I will add that it’s best you ask a professional to take care of the installation for you since it is quite a difficult job. Not to mention, it is labor-intensive and requires the use of special equipment.
6. Install Mass Loaded Vinyl
Now at some point or the other, you’ll have to consider that short-term fixes won’t reap the best results. If you’re serious about home recording and have talked it over with the guys, I would suggest you install mass loaded vinyl.
Speaking from personal experience, you will not be disappointed! This is an incredible sound-absorbing material that will make recording much smoother. I will admit, it is a little difficult to install but with some help, it shouldn’t be a major problem. What’s best is since the material will be covered by drywall, it won’t lead to any permanent change in the appearance of your room. And I’m sure you will be relieved to know that!
My bandmates and I took care of the installation ourselves. The thought of opting for the DIY route just came naturally to me after I did some research. Though, if you’ve never done something like this before, I urge you to call the help of a professional. The mass loaded vinyl is first fixed onto your current walls, after which you’ll have to apply a fresh layer of drywall. You’ll be pleased to know that most businesses that sell this material will also offer installation services – so that’s one less thing for you to worry about!
7. Install Sound-Dampening Underlays
OK, I’ll admit it. My bandmates and I don’t always go the DIY route. When it came to the floors, we started off with good old carpets to reduce echoes but it just didn’t give us the best results. A couple of months into recording, we knew we had to put in some extra effort into improving sound quality. And that’s when my buddy Mike suggested with install sound-dampening underlays.
This material basically functions as a layer beneath your floor. And as we discussed before, more layers means that sound is absorbed much more effectively. Since this is extensive work, we had to hire the professionals to take care of the job for us. I would urge you to do the same as this is a labor-intensive task. It starts by removing the old flooring, installing the underlays and then placing the new flooring on top.
So you see, this isn’t something you can pull off on your own by simply watching a couple of videos online. Do yourself a favor and hire someone to get the job done. Yes, it will be expensive but it’s an investment that will eventually pay off if you want to reduce echoes while recording.
8. Hang Tapestries
Similar to how hanging curtains work, using tapestries and hanging paintings on the wall can also minimize echoes. Not to mention, this will also enhance the aesthetic appeal of your room, causing it to liven up a little. Unlike some of the other fixes I have mentioned in this detailed guide, you should be able to do the installation yourself.
Move around the paintings to test out different spots and you should be good to go.
9. Install New Flooring
Last but not least, you can always reconsider your flooring options. In my personal experience, I’ve found that cork does a finer job in absorbing sound – much better than pine and other wood materials. This is a good option if you’re thinking long-term and want to get the most out of your home recording studio over the years. If not, you’re better off with a more temporary fix or should rather look for another place to start recording. Yes, installing flooring can be much of a hassle but recording will be twice as fun.
Wrapping it Up
So there you have it. These are some effective ways to reduce echo in a room for recording. Is there something you’d like to add? Please tell us about how you managed to minimize echo while recording in your home studio.
Further reading: best laptops for music production