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 rooms are like that…
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. And in step 3, I’ll show you exactly what they are.
STEP 2: Preparing 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 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.
Done? Let’s move on…
STEP 3: Adding Acoustic Treatment
The fact is: Without acoustic treatment, good recordings are virtually impossible.
Yet 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:
Another simpler option you may want to try is a reflection filter.
And here’s why:
Despite the fact that acoustic treatment is essential for recording good sound…
In small bedroom studios that only record vocals…the time and cost required for a proper setup is often more than most people want to invest.
In this case, there’s a quick and easy shortcut known as a reflection filter, which I highly recommend.
Check out this article for more info:
Now…the final step:
STEP 4: Arranging Your Setup
Now that you’ve got an empty room with great acoustics, it’s time to fill it up with some equipment.
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.
Either way, the first thing I recommend adding is your…
No matter your type of studio, your desk/workstation will always be the centerpiece of your room, that everything else is organized around.
So it makes sense to start here.
While any desk you have can be used for starters, ideally you want to get something a little more professional as soon as practical.
To see which ones I recommend and why, check out this article:
Again, I’ll say the exact same thing. Any chairs you have lying around the house is fine for starters.
But with the amount of time you will eventually be spending in your studio…
At some point you will want something better.
When you’re ready for that, here’s what I suggest:
Monitor Isolation Pads
Assuming you’ve already got a decent desk for your room, the next step is to add some monitor isolation pads.
And here’s why:
By resting your studio monitors directly on your workstation, much of the vibrations will transfer down to the desk, and on through everything else it touches.
And this causes sound from your monitors to be far less accurate than they otherwise could be.
With monitor isolation pads, the monitors themselves are acoustically isolated, meaning NO vibration transfers, and the integrity of the sound is undisturbed.
To see which ones I recommend, check out this article:
Studio Monitor Stands
If you really want to get the maximum sound quality from your monitors, you can take things one step further by using studio monitor stands instead.
The problems with putting your monitors on a desk are:
Positioning options are limited so often times, you simply can’t put them where they ideally should be in relation to your ears.
Stands solve this problem by allowing you to position them literally anywhere. The height, angle, and width are all fully adjustable.
To see which ones I recommend, check out this article:
Now all that’s left is to add your actual recording gear, and you’re all set. 🙂
And if you still don’t have that stuff yet either, let me refer you back to Chapter 1: