How to Build a Home Recording Studio

I started recording music 16 years ago. A question I often get is, "What gear do I need to record myself"? While having a basic set up of your own isn't likely to make you a number one hit. You will learn a lot about the process and can potentially make some pretty great music.

In the end, a professional studio will provide a higher quality sound and be able to save you a lot of time but it's understandable that people either want to attempt to save money or want to bring a studio to life as a hobby.

For those of you who this applies to I have put together a list of entry level information and equipment that will get you started.

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1. Treatment

This blog is catered towards beginners so I am going to assume you are setting your studio up in a pre existing room. Ideally you would build your studio from the ground up but since that's not ideal for the beginner we will assume you're using a room in your house.

If you have a choice of rooms, try to find the most quiet room. Away from busy streets, large windows and loud roommates.

Once you decide what room you will be using you will want to treat the room first. Treatment is most important. You can always upgrade gear, however treatment is more difficult to retro fit and you won't get good mixes without it.

There are different types of treatment.

Sound proofing: this type of treatment reduces the ability of sound to transfer through it.

You won't likely use any of this in a beginning set up. If you do your best bet would be to cover your walls with Green Glue and wrap them in a layer of drywall or MDF board. You would want to follow up by using acoustic caulk on the corners and using a rubber gasket to seal your door. 

Sound deadening: this type of treatment absorbs certain frequencies.

Below is a list of common sound deadening treatment.

Acoustic Panels: large panels used to absorb frequencies and capture them in their material and the space between them and the wall.

Bass traps: Placed in corners to absorb lower specific frequencies.

Diffusers: Most commonly placed on the back wall or above the mixing station to absorb both low and high frequencies.

Your desk should go up against or close to a wall that will allow you to place your monitors at roughly 30 degrees on either side of your head. Monitors should be roughly 42" off the ground. There should be panels behind the monitors on the wall as well as on the back wall where the monitors reflect most and on the side walls where the largest reflections are. You can add more panels to reduce echo if necessary. You will want to place 4 bass traps in the corners at the back of the room. More in the front if you can afford it. If you have any windows you may want to install a sound absorbing curtain.

2. DAW

You will need a computer, either a desk top or a laptop and a Digital Audio Work space. As long as you have plenty of RAM and Storage on your computer you should be fine. At least 16 gigs of Ram and a Terabyte of storage should do. You'll want to have a fast CPU as well. There are free DAWs such as Reaper that I hear are pretty good and there are DAWs you need to purchase such as Cubase and Pro Tools. Most DAWs work pretty great. The only thing you'll want to keep in mind is, there a large learning curve involved. Once you start working with one you'll likely want to stick with it and some outboard gear only works with certain DAWs. So if you plan to build a commercial studio down the road, consider which DAW you purchase. This is the program you will use to record your music into, to mix your music, master your music and your overall production will take place in this program.

3. Hardware

Starting out you will only need a few pieces of hardware:

Monitors: You will need a high end pair of monitors. These usually run around $400 a pair. The reason you need them is so that you can hear your music in depth. With good monitors you can hear many more frequencies than with standard speakers. Rokit, Yamaha, JBL are just a few of the companies that make great monitors.

Interface: You need an interface so that you can get sound from you mic into your computer. Your interface will most likely be USB. There are other kinds of connections that are faster such as Firewire and Lightening. However, with the upgrades to USB, the difference in speed is not likely to be noticed by ear. I recommend the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 for a beginning interface. This is a quality interface that will take you a long way.

Mic: You need a mic to record your vocals into the interface. You can use several different mics but if you're recording vocals you're going to want a condenser mic. MXL 990 is a great entry level mic that should get the job done.

In summary:

If you shop around you can likely get started for under $400. Just remember. You're not going to be a pro overnight. If you're looking to get high quality sounds right out the gate you will want to save your money and go to a professional.