Musical recordings start as ideas or feelings in the mind and heart of their composer. Recording gear and musical instruments help translate these ideas into sound waves. Music can be exciting, exalting, sensual, soothing, and fulfilling. However, it takes good recordings to preserve music for the time to come.
If you’re looking to start a home recording studio, you’re in the right place. In this guide, I’ll go through some of the steps to follow when building your home recording studio as a beginner.
Step 1 – Choose a Space
There are many places in your home to set up your home recording studio. Choosing the right space to set up will depend on how you plan to use the space. For a solo recording artist, you probably don’t need too much space. However, if you’re planning to track a full band or a drum set, you will need to find a larger space to accommodate everything. Below are some spaces in your home to set up a recording studio.
- The Bedroom – This is usually one of the first option people consider when setting up a home recording studio. A bedroom is easily accessed and secure, and you don’t have to worry about major electrical adjustments to accommodate your needs. However, because it is closer to another room, you’ll disturb family members or people interested in having a peaceful time. Inviting people outside your immediate circle will also give you less privacy.
- The Basement – This is another great place to consider setting up a home recording studio. The basement does not have heavy traffic, so you can practice and record without disturbing anyone. It is also easier to soundproof a basement than a regular room because most basements are built with cement or brick, which is generally more soundproof than drywall. Although it seems like a good place to start, you’ll need to install solid wiring, which can add to the startup price. Most basements are also prone to dampness, affecting your health or destroying your equipment.
- The Garage – You’ve heard of garage bands all over the world. The garage is one of the popular choices for setting up a home recording studio. It is a private space that does not need to be accessed by someone else. If there’s a car to be parked, consider parking it in the driveway or on the street. Because most garages have sealed concrete floors, you’ll have less to worry about sound reflections. The walls are also solid, which keeps the music from going out. However, because of the parallel wall, you can have an unpleasant echo when recording. If you also want to alter the garage’s structure, you” require a building permit.
Those three are the most popular options for setting up your home recording studio. Consider each space’s pros and cons and determine which will give you more benefits.
Step 2 – Design Your Space
Once you’ve chosen your studio space, it is time to decide how it will look. First, clear the floor because you’ll need any space. This includes any clutter or anything you can stumble on when working in the room. Next, remove any items on the walls that may cause the sound to bounce off. Paintings, pictures, or anything else should be removed.
You should also work on temperature control to create a comfortable working environment. If it’s uncomfortably hot or cold, you cannot create your best work.
Reshaping your room, in some cases, is a must to create an ideal setting for recording music. Suppose you have odd walls, like a parallel wall. In that case, that can create sound reflections. You can consider removing or working on them to ensure they won’t affect your music. The choice of color in your recording room will also affect your mood. Vibrant colors are great for creating a cheerful environment, while darker colors do the opposite.
How you design your recording studio will dictate the quality of your recordings. Think carefully when trying to create the best design. Only incorporate something if it will positively affect your ability to make good-quality music.
Step 3 – Acoustic Treatment
If you’re working with a huge budget, it will be easier to get the acoustics of a recording room correct. However, for a beginner working on a budget, you’re looking for economical ways to acoustically treat your studio. Below are some cheaper ways to sharpen the acoustics of your home studio.
- Buy a Large Sofa – This does not seem like a technical way of acoustically treating a room. However, if you’re working on a budget, this is one of the cheapest solutions out there. Placing a large sofa in your studio will act as a bass trap and absorber.
- Cover the Windows – If you have to work in a room with windows, you’ll need to cover them up. Buying some acoustic panels and placing them in front of the windows or getting heavy drapes will create a bit of a sound barrier.
- Buy Mattress/ Foam – Placing a few mattresses behind the recording microphone and around the room is also a great way to improve the sound quality in the room you’re recording in. Mattresses and foam will help absorb vibrations when using the mic and also prevent sound reflections around the room.
- Remove Mirrors – Traditional mirrors create a highly reflective surface in a room. Because of this, it is better to get rid of them, or there will be plenty of echoes when you’re trying to mix.
The final sound of your music is extremely important. Even if you choose the best room location and use the best equipment, bad acoustics will destroy all that. Apart from these ideas, there are more ways of acoustically treating a room. Check out our recording room acoustic treatment guide.
Step 4 – Soundproof Your Home Studio
When you’re in the studio making the best music, only some people want to listen to it. If you want to avoid endless complaints from family members and neighbors, the best way is to soundproof the room you’re recording music in. Soundproofing can be expensive, but here are some economical ways.
- Do it Yourself – If you’re working on a budget, working on soundproofing the room yourself will save up on the cost. There are so many tutorials, books, and videos available that can help you do it on your own.
- Turn Off The Lights – Light can travel anywhere it can, and this includes small cracks and crevices. To locate cracks around your recording room, turn off the light inside and see where the light is coming through. If you locate cracks, mark them and use a sealant to cover them. For large spaces like under the doors, use a soundproof door sweep, like this one, to reduce sound and noise traveling through.
- Hang Tapestries on Large Walls – If you’re looking to reduce the amount of sound going out from a room, try hanging tapestries on the walls. Old blankets, quilts, and heavy drapes can all work in reducing sound escaping. Apart from soundproofing, tapestries can help with acoustic treatment and decorating the space.
- Install a Solid Core Door – Many doors used in our homes are hollow core doors. Hollow core doors are cheap but lightweight and must improve blocking sound. A solid core door is a way to go if you’re looking to block sound from going out. Solid core doors are thicker and denser, which deadens sound more effectively. However, solid core doors are more expensive to buy and install.
Overall, there is no studio that is 100 percent soundproofed unless you’re willing to invest thousands of dollars. Try using a combination of different tips and tricks to get better results, while saving on the cost. For a start, check out our guide on soundproofing a recording room.
Step 5 – Get Essential Gear to Start
You don’t have to shell out hundreds of dollars to start home recording. When starting, a few essential pieces of equipment will get you going, which you can choose to upgrade afterward. Below are the essential pieces of equipment you’ll need to start recording.
- Computer – You may already have a computer. Still, there may be better options for someone looking to start a home recording studio. When choosing a computer, do not skimp on the budget because it could cost you in the future. There is no pain like using a laggy, overheating computer for home recording. Please choose the best to satisfy your needs without damaging your pockets, whether a PC, Mac, desktop, or laptop. Look for a CPU with multiple cores, purchase as much RAM as possible, and get a large hard drive.
- Audio Interface – This is the core of your recording studio. It is responsible for translating analog audio signals from microphones and other instruments to digital audio signals that your computer can work with. When choosing an interface, consider the number of inputs you’ll need; the more inputs, the better. You should also look out for the sound quality. A 24-bit interface will be better than a 16-bit interface. If your goal is cutting costs, select an audio interface with a software package.
- Studio Microphone – Your microphone is the first ingredient that stamps its signature on your work. For this case, you should carefully consider the studio mic you get. When starting out, a good dynamic mic, like Shure SM57 or Shure SM58, is good to go. With this mic, you can record vocals and other instruments. Avoid buying used microphones, which can have unseen damages from the previous owner. Look for microphone packages, including stands, mounts, and pop filters, to save up.
- Studio Headphones – Studio headphones are optional for beginners but make a good investment in the long run. Headphones in the studio allow musicians to hear their instruments and backtrack and be used for mixing. Closed-back headphones are for recording, while open-back is used for mixing. For a beginner starting, if you’re to choose one headphone, go with a closed headphones design. The two closed studio headphones that have stood the test of time are Sennheiser HD280 Pro and Sony MDR 7506.
- Studio Monitor Speakers – Most mixing in the studio is done on studio monitor speakers. These should be distinct from stereo speakers used in our homes. Monitor speakers are designed to give a flat frequency response, which does not color the sound. Mixing on studio monitors will help you properly mix and EQ your tracks. If you’re looking for good budget-friendly monitor speakers, check out the KRK Rokit 5 G3.
Check out our in-depth post on essential home recording studio equipment.
Step 6 – Choose a Recording Software
Audio recording software has grown significantly over the last few years. Popular home recording studio software includes Ableton Live, Apple Logic Pro, Pro Tools, FL Studio, Cubase, Studio One, GarageBand, and Sonar, among many others. A Digital Audio Workstation, DAW for short, is used to record, edit, and mix tracks.
Most DAWs will offer the basic functionality to start your home recording studio. However, each will have its characteristics, its strengths, and shortcomings. When starting, it would be time-consuming to try all of these to decide the best. Although it’s hard to make a wrong choice, comprehensively research the primary DAW vendors to pick one that fits your tastes.
If possible, spend time with the demo of a product to determine the quality and variety of effects and processors, workflow support for loops, support for software synthesis, and collaboration with other musicians. Many vendors give time-limited demos of their products, be sure to try them out before you buy.
If you’re looking for free DAWs, check out Audacity, GarageBand, and Cakewalk. If you’re a complete beginner without experience in audio production, you can rely on these for a start and upgrade later on.
Step 7 – Happy Recording!
Once everything is set up, it’s time to start recording. As you grow your skills, you’ll upgrade your gear and even move out to a standalone studio space. Although that takes time, starting slow and growing slowly is the best. Remember, the best recording gear and recording software do not guarantee the best record quality. Everything from choosing your space, setting up, acoustic treatment, and soundproofing will determine the quality of your tracks.
Happy Home Recording!