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Canadian Music Artists

Building a Home Recording Studio

How to Build a project recording studio in your home on almost any budget.
by Kevin Healy
January 01, 2007

Technology has changed the face of recording in the music industry. PC based recording has allowed artists to build home recording studios that are almost of equivalent in quality compared to a professional recording studio. Laptop studios have also been on the rise, giving artists total control and freedom over recording and song writing in any environment.

So what does this mean for you? It means you have plenty of choices, and budgets to work within, when creating your own project studio. A few questions you should ask yourself before building a home recording studio:

Do you plan to record a band all at once or recording band members one at a time?
Are you comfortable using computers or do you like using hardware?
Where is the best place to set up your studio?
What equipment is going to get used the most?

Location & Room Construction

The first thing you should consider when building a studio is the amount of space you have to work with. Software studios tend to take up a lot less space than hardware studios, but if space is not an issue I would recommend going the hardware route. The shape of the space is also important. Square and rectangular rooms are more desirable than L shaped rooms, and having 2 rooms or a room with a closet is ideal. L shaped rooms are bad because they are hard to get proper speaker placement for a good sounding playback when mastering a track.

The geographical location of your studio plays a role in soundproofing your studio. You do not want to be under a heavy traffic airplane zone or near any loud interferences (ie. Trains, highways, etc) but work with what you have I just wanted to bring these points to your attention when choosing a location for your recording studio

If you plan to be doing a lot of on location recording then maybe you can benefit from a mobile laptop studio due to its small size (less to lug around). Computers are advancing at such a fast rate that new laptops are of sufficient speed to run recording, editing and mixing software.

Software & Hardware Studios

You can always build a combination of both. PC based studios with hardware accessories like: effects units, synthesizers, instruments, microphones, etc, are great because you are never limited in any of the paths you take, all sound equipment is made to work with each other some how, just make sure you do your reading into compatibility and reliance issues of the equipment.

If you want to run synthesizers along side software synthesizers then by using a midi interface card or a sound card with midi capability then you can meld your hardware and software to run in sync with either the synth, or the computer, set to control the mater timing of the devices.

What you will need for the most basic recording set-up:

  1. a computer with a sound card
  2. a microphone and a mixer (or microphone preamp)
  3. powered speakers or stereo
  4. a midi keyboard (optional)

This will enable you to record vocals and record instruments on a single track basis. The midi keyboard is optional, you can always click the notes in to your sequencer patterns, but most prefer to play the sounds on a midi controller.

The Layout of your Studio

The mixer is usually the heart of your studio, so it should be the main focus of how you gear is arranged. A good rule of thumb is to sit in your chair, stretch your arms out and swivels around, anything within reach of your arms is considered valuable space reserved for your most often used equipment. There is no "best" way to set up your gear , it will all depend on how you go about writing your tracks and what set-up is most comfortable for you.

There are many different rack mount solutions for you to use in your studio, you can have racks integrated into studio desks, table top racks, and roller racks that can be tilted for ease of use.

I'm sure as you quickly noticed that cables will be snaking all over your studio, creating a lot of tripping hazards and the chance of a cable getting snagged and your gear getting damaged. A good solution for routing cables is to buy some flexible plastic tubing and slice it down the center then route the cables through the hose and have the enter and leave anywhere along the hose through the center cut, you may also want to notch out holes along the center cut so that your cables don't get pinched depending on the type of flexible plastic hosing that you use.

Speaker Placement

Proper speaker placement to maximize the purest sound from your speakers has become an art it includes factors such as matching characteristics of your amp to your speakers, dealing with the positive and negative space balance in the room as well as taking into account any reflective properties of furniture, flooring and walls of a room.

A few tips to help you achieve a decent sound:

  • Raise your speakers to ear level
  • Do not tip them on their side
  • Do not put them directly in the corners of a room, Position them a little bit out from the wall

My best advice is to buy the best equipment that you can afford. It always sucks when you buy some new equipment only to find out that six months later, you need to upgrade the equipment because you decided to go the cheap way first, costing you more in the long run.

Suggested Reading
  • Furniture for Your Recording Studio
    Furniture solutions for your home recording studio. Exploring all aspects of whats needed to furnish your studio space.
  • Basics for a Home Recording Studio
    Here are the five basic essentials that you will need to get your home recording studio up and running, and some general advice on features to look for in audio recording equiptment including: studio reference monitors, audio software, midi controllers, and soundcards.
  • Building a Music Production Studio
    How to build a home recording studio, PC based studios, things to consider before purchasing your recording equipment
  • Sound Proofing
    How to sound proof the walls of your studio, including tips on preventing sound from entering and leaving a room. and how to compensate with noise reduction techniques.
  • Proper Maintenance of your DJ Equipment
    How to clean your records, slipmats, and sound equipment.
  • Laptop Studios: Mobile Audio Solutions
    Having the freedom to create music on a laptop studio in any location can really open the possibility to some very interesting and inspiring recording environments.
  • Intro To Home Audio (Basics) - Part 1
    This guide answers alot of home audio questions for anyone struggling with home entertainment center or just simply trying to hook up that old amplifier and set of speakers.

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