Once you’ve got a basic collection of recording gear…
The next big task is designing your room.
While most beginners underestimate the importance of this step, the truth is…
A well-designed room can be the difference between smooth sailing and major headaches down the road.
So to spare you the months of frustration…
In this post, I explain the ENTIRE step-by-step process of setting up your recording room the RIGHT WAY.
Let’s get started. First up…
STEP 1: Choosing the Right Space
In an average household, you might have the option of 2-3 rooms to set up your studio.
If you only have one option, the choice is simple. Otherwise, there’s a choice to make…
And since some rooms are better for recording than others…
Here’s what I recommend you know to find the BEST one…
The Top 4 Things to Avoid
Choosing room is less about finding good qualities, and more about AVOIDING bad ones.
Particularly, these 4:
1. Cramped Spaces
The general rule of thumb is: the bigger the room, the better.
Big rooms allow for:
- More space for multiple musicians, and…
- More space for your ever-growing collection of gear/instruments
Not to mention…they sound better (more on that topic later).
While many beginners might prefer the privacy and coziness of smaller rooms, my advice is…
Be smart…and choose the bigger one.
In everyday life, you forget how much noise is actually around you. But once you hear it through a microphone, all that noise is magnified 100x.
All these things are common sources of noise that can easily ruin your recordings.
So pay close attention to which rooms are the worst noise offenders, and choose the quietest one with the fewest neighbors.
Because as well as avoiding outside noises, you need to realize that YOU will undoubtedly be a source of noise for OTHERS.
Ideally, you want a perfectly silence space where you can make as much noise as you want, at any time of the day you want. But since very few room are like that…
Some degree of soundproofing may be required in order to create a useable workspace for yourself. And so…to learn more about how it’s done, check out this article:
3. Poor Flooring
For your recording room, hard flooring such as concrete, tile, or hardwood is ideal.
Carpeted rooms often cause problems for two reasons:
- because studios get a lot of foot traffic, and carpet wears out quickly.
- because carpet absorbs high frequencies, but not low ones, which negatively affects room acoustics.
If and when you need carpet, such as for a drum kit, you can always lay down an area rug instead.
The other problem to watch out for with upstairs floors especially is excessive foot noise. If possible, choose a downstairs room instead.
4. Poor Acoustics
Bedrooms in a typical family home look something like this:
- They’re small,
- With low ceilings,
- And parallel walls made of drywall.
Sadly for us…
It just so happens that ALL those features NEGATIVELY affect acoustics.
Ideally what you want is a large room with high ceilings, asymmetrical walls, and lots of irregular surfaces. However, the chances of having access to a room just like this are virtually ZERO.
Pro studios have them, but only because they spent tons of cash to DESIGN them. You on the other hand, will most likely need to compromise.
Don’t expect perfection, just choose your best option. After all, there are plenty of work-arounds for a room that is less than ideal.
So choose your best option at don’t look back.
Once you’ve done that, next is…
STEP 2: Transforming the Room
Before we start adding new things INTO the room, let’s take everything that we don’t need OUT.
- Clear off all floor space
- Take everything off the walls
- Remove anything that vibrates
If the room you’re using also doubles as bedroom, living room, etc…
You may not be able to clear it out completely, but anything that CAN be removed, SHOULD be removed.
Adding Acoustic Treatment
The fact is: Without acoustic treatment, good recordings are virtually impossible.
Yet so many beginners skip this part, either out of ignorance, or lack of money.
I know, because that’s what I did. And I regretted it later. So learn from my mistake, and take care of it now.
For an introduction on how it’s done, check out this article:
Now that you understand the basic process, next it’s time to make some purchases.
The standard sequence which people add acoustic treatment to their room is:
- Bass Traps
- Acoustic Panels
While most home studios will decline to use diffusers, because they’re expensive and less-effective in smaller rooms…
The first two are absolutely essential for any studio, home or pro. So here are two articles that explain each of them in-depth:
Despite the fact that even though acoustic treatment is perhaps the most essential element for recording good sound…
For small bedroom studios who only record vocals…the time and cost required to build a proper setup is often more than most people want to invest.
Luckily for these types, there’s a quick and easy shortcut known as a reflection filter, which I highly recommend. And in this post, I show you the best ones currently on the market:
Now…the final step:
STEP 3: Setting Up Your Gear
Now that you’ve got an empty room with great acoustics, it’s time to start filling it with gear.
Pro studios have the luxury of multiple rooms for multiple tasks. But in your studio, that ONE room will be used for EVERYTHING. So the setup will be different.
The rules for this part aren’t set in stone, so you’ll have to do some experimenting to find an arrangement that you like. The general idea is to have TWO areas set up:
- a desk/mixing area for the engineer
- and a recording area for the musicians
If you mainly recording others, arrange the two areas such that each person has their own space to work. If it’s just you, the two areas must be combined in a way that allows you to multi-task without running back and forth.
For your recording area, all you need is a single mic stand, a quiet chair, and whatever mics/DI boxes/electronic instruments you use most often.
For your desk area, any simple desk will do for now. Arrange you gear (audio interface, computer, etc) however you like. But with your studio monitors, there’s a RIGHT way to do it and a million WRONG ways. And how you set them up affects how well they perform.
So here’s the right way:
Other than that, how you arrange your gear is almost entirely up to you. Experiment, develop a workflow, and over time, it will evolve into a setup that feels comfortable to you.
If you enjoyed this post…