Looking to record your latest sounds in the comfort of your own home? Well, you’re in the right place. A home studio is the perfect location to record, mix, and experiment in your own space with your own gear.
Of course, starting one can be a daunting experience. You have to consider the cost, the space, and the amount of gear you are going to need. It can seem like there will be a lot of planning involved, but it actually doesn’t take as much effort as you might think. You’ll be making music in absolutely no time at all. How? Just follow my advice.
If you are ready to embark on your home studio creation journey, now is the time to take a few minutes and really study this epic guide. Everything you need to know, and more, are clearly listed below for your reading pleasure. Make notes, get shopping, and start building your dream.
What Do You Need for a Home Studio?
Home Studio Recording Kit
Building the Studio
What Do You Need for a Home Studio?
It’s the first thing you have to consider before you can actually embark on your journey. What do you actually need to start a home studio up? Obviously, there are some basics like speakers and recording equipment, but it goes a bit deeper than that. Let’s check out a concise list of all the main gear (and the extras) required.
Home Recording Studio Essentials
Here’s the big secret; you only need nine items to make the ultimate home studio. Sounds too good to be true, right? I assure you that it’s not. Here’s a quick list of those top nine pieces:
That’s it, as simple as. Of course, many studios have a lot more gear than this, but you are only starting out. When you are new to the game, you don’t really need more than this. However, this is the complete guide, so I’m not going to just leave you with that. The next section goes into greater detail, listing every piece of kit you need alongside what they actually do (including the above).
Recording Studio Equipment List
Looking for the complete list of equipment you need to create a home studio that will both impress people and leave them envious. From the very basics to those that more seasoned artists will want, you will find it here. Plus, I detail what each of them is used for just to make sure you have a clear picture. Check it out below:
Home Studio Recording Kit
Now you know what you need, and you are ready to build your home studio recording kit. You’ll have to consider things like your budget and the amount of space you have available. In this chapter, I’m going to take you through some of the best software as well as how to get things up and running on a budget.
What is the Easiest Studio Software to Use?
Before I get into the details, I want to let you know more about the kind of computer you are going to need in order to use your equipment and software. You can use either a laptop or a PC; this doesn’t have an impact on the way things work. However, you will need a minimum of 8GB of RAM and a powerful CPU in order to run it all. Now that we have that sorted, onto the software.
This can actually come across as pretty daunting, but there’s no need to worry. I’m here to keep things simple and ensure that all the facts are made clear for you. So, what about the software, and what is considered the easiest to use? Take a look below and read through my quick software round-up for your studio.
#1 DAW. The Digital Audio Workstation is one of the most popular pieces of software, and one that I have mentioned already. It can be downloaded onto your phone or tablet (I recommend the latter) and used to record, edit, and mix your music straight from your computer. It’s easy to use and makes a very computerised process fun again. Plus, it can make your studio setup a lot cleaner too.
#2 Equalisation. This one is really good, and the chances are you have heard it in action. Ever listened to a track and heard all the instruments clearly at the same time? That’s Equalisation in play. It works hard to ensure that there is a balance between the sounds and no instrument gets left out; producing that lovely balanced sounds. There’s a lot to play with, and so many frequencies to explore.
#3 Reverb. This tool brings unity to a mix, and it can completely change the feel of where the track was recorded. A lot has changed since its original use, and no more are the days of only being able to get that recording studio feel. Now, you can make it seem as though your track was recorded anywhere – from a gorgeous cathedral to under an old bridge. The possibilities really are endless.
#4 Delay. If you are recording Dub music, this is the tool for you. It’s software that creates a repetitive echo in the music, filling space and creating a new sound that you can mix freely. It’s pretty useful, and while similar to Reverb, it is better for genres like Dub because of how specific it is.
#5 Auto-tune. I was going to leave this one out, but it is actually just as important as the rest. It’s made history many times, as well as some best-selling albums, and can correct the pitch of even the worst singing. Even if you aren’t producing vocals to release, it’s a great way to test how your lyrics sound with your music. Not every lyricist and artist can sing amazingly, and that’s why we have software like this. It’s ok not to be great at every musical branch.
Home Studio on a Budget
You’re on a tight budget but want to build a great home studio to get started in. I get that; we have all been poor hopefuls at some point. There are plenty of ways to achieve this with very little money, and I have all the best tips and tricks of the trade for you below.
#1 Use what you have. Already got a computer that works, perfect. You can use that as your recording kit as well as your standard laptop/desktop. The same goes for any gear you might have lying around that still works. Make use of anything that you already have instead of buying new stuff. Even things like mic stands can be made with a bit of DIY instead of bought.
#2 Go second hand. Visit charity shops and ask on selling pages on social media and dedicated websites. It’s amazing what people are selling for a low price or giving away for free. Honestly, you’ll be shocked that you didn’t discover it sooner. A lot of the kit is fantastic quality and in new condition as well, so that’s an added bonus.
#3 Stick to the basics. I have listed a lot of fancy stuff, but you only need the nine essentials I listed earlier if you want to succeed. Some of those pieces are accessories as well, which means they are bound to be cheap. Don’t go all out when you don’t need to, and save your money for later on when your studio is ready to expand.
#4 Shop around. Don’t go with the first website you see, shop around a little instead. You might end up finding a lower price for the same product elsewhere, and this is why it’s vital to check a number of places first. Weigh up your options and pick the ones that offer the best price for some potentially huge savings. It’s well worth the time taken to go through each one.
Building the Studio
Now, we come to the most important part, building the home studio. This part will take some time and careful thought before you actually go ahead with any of it, but that’s because you can only really make this choice once. As soon as the studio is built, moving it will be a difficult task. So, follow each piece of advice I set down below and watch as your home studio comes alive.
How to Choose the Perfect Room in Your Home
First, let’s take a look at the things to avoid when you are searching for that perfect room. They are as follows:
Once you have ruled these rooms out, you can get down to picking one. If it is still a little noisy, there is no need to worry too much; you can add soundproofing. Now that you have made your selection, the next thing you need to do is completely empty it. The floors, walls, and ceiling should be completely bare (save any light fixtures, of course). Anything that vibrates also needs to be removed.
After this, you can set your acoustic treatment up. If you are a little confused about it, there is no need to worry; I’m taking you through it in more detail a little later in this chapter. It doesn’t take too long, but it can make or break your studio’s quality.
Now for the fun stuff, getting your workstation ready to go. You can really take your time with this to create the optimum space for your recordings. Start with the desk and the chair, then move onto the rest. Keep in mind that your desk and chair are the very centre of your work area, and so you need to build around these pieces of furniture. My top tip is to ensure that the chair you choose is comfortable so that you can sit in it for prolonged periods of time.
When you are arranging the rest of your gear, there is something you need to keep in mind. Are you working alone or with others? This can change the way you set things up completely, and I have a little advice for you for each scenario:
#1 Going Solo. The classic way to do this is to place all of your equipment in a circle, which leaves you in the middle of everything for easy access and recording. Of course, if your room is quite small, this can cause some excess noise, and you should be aware of this. Additionally, it is only suitable for one artist and doesn’t work if you want more.
#2 Group Recording. Think of your room as a mirror image. On one side, you are going to have your setup (musician), and on the other, you will have a replica (engineer). Flanking these, you will have all of your equipment, leaving more than enough spaces for two artists to perform freely. It’s perfect for this situation, but you can’t use it alone as it is impossible to jump between the two stations.
#3 Hybrid. To solve any issues between going from solo to group performance, I present to you the hybrid method. It looks exactly like the group setup, but there is one key addition that makes all the difference. You’ll have a remote that can control the engineer station easily, allowing you complete control over all of your equipment without moving.
The DAW remote is everything you need and more, and it’s a simple control panel app that you can download on your tablet. There really is nothing else like it, and it can be downloaded across all device types for easy access.
Once the layout is done, you can move onto connecting all your gear up. This is the moment of truth when everything is powered and running for the first time. After that, the placement of your studio monitors is all that’s left. This is not a simple task, but one of the best ways to ensure perfect placement is to see yourself as the tip of a triangle and your monitors as the other two points. From where you sit at your desk, this should give you a clear idea of what to do.
Where to Place Your Speakers
When you hear the words monitor and speakers, they are usually referring to the same thing in your home studio; the monitor speakers. The thing is, once you set these bad boys up, they are going to stay there, and that’s why you need to carefully consider their placement. Allow me to give you a hand with that part.
The first thing to remember is that the majority of speakers have bass ports on the back. This means that if you place them up against the wall, they won’t work correctly. It’s something that you should always check with the manufacturer’s guide, especially as there are plenty of urban legends out there about distance and bass.
If the speaker is the same distance from the side wall as the one behind them, move the speakers. This is because the equal distance builds something known as standing waves, causing low-end frequencies to appear louder than they actually are. Ensure the distance is not equal before you settle your speakers into place.
If you have a larger room, the best place for your speakers is along the longest wall. This is because the reflection strength from the short walls is exceptionally strong and can cause disruptions, whereas the long wall reduces the power of these frequencies. By placing the speakers in the middle of the longest wall, you maintain sound symmetry and ensure that the results are as balanced as possible. Just remember, this is for large rooms only.
You should also consider the ceiling as well, for one that is too close to your head can result in a distinct loss of bass. Make sure you position yourself so that your head and workspace are a good distance from the ceiling and not close to it. Additionally, I would like to remind you that placing the speakers so that your head is the tip of the triangle and they are the bottom points is vital for clear sound.
Please remember not to put your speakers on their side. I see this too much, and they were not designed to be placed that way. In fact, when they are, they actually end up losing that sweet spot. You should also have them angled so that they are pointing towards your ears and never straight ahead. After all, you need to be hearing everything clearly.
How to Add Acoustic Treatment
When you look this up online, I know it comes across as pretty intimidating. The first time I set my home studio up, I was terrified and nearly lost hope. However, it isn’t nearly as daunting as it seems, and acoustic treatments are actually a breeze to get through. Just remember that the process has two main goals to complete:
That’s it, all you need to keep in mind when thinking about the endgame. The next thing you might be thinking is about how expensive it is. Well, it doesn’t need to be. Acoustic treatment can actually be pretty affordable. I will suggest that you avoid foam treatments, though, as cheap and tempting as they might be. They only affect high frequencies, and home studios need to be focusing on the low ones. Instead, go with Rockwool or fibreglass.
Completely strapped for cash and already got a broken bank to contend with? No need to worry, there are some nifty tricks you can use when you are completely stuck. Take a look at these emergency absorber panels that you can use in a pinch:
As we are done with that, let’s move onto adding acoustic treatment for different purposes. To start with, let’s take a look at what you need to do if you are using the studio for mixing:
#1 Reflection Points. The side walls that are either side of the speakers are like a mirror, with sound bouncing between them. The walls where you picture the speakers to be should be acoustically treated to ensure efficiency and that the sound is not absorbed by the walls. A little air gap between the panels can also improve efficiency. You can even add absorption to the ceiling if needed.
#2 Corners. The bass builds up the most in the corners of each room, but there is an easy way to overcome this. You can buy bass traps that have been made for the task, or you can place an acoustic panel across the corner to absorb the excess. The panels here should be nice and thick as well. Add an air gap to that, and the effectiveness is increased.
#3 Speakers. After you have done all the wall work, you can create further acoustic treatment behind your monitor speakers. This means you can move them a couple of feet away from the wall without having to suffer through comb filtering from the various reflections. It’s a way better and more efficient setup to employ.
Next, we can go into detail about how to add acoustic treatment for a home studio that is being used for recording purposes:
#1 Be Reflective. Instead of focusing on absorption, your room should instead be aiming towards being reflective. All you need to do is remember that there is such a thing as overtreating your room, and this will have a negative impact on the sound. Keep it simple.
#2 Be Flexible. Use panels that can be moved around as it makes your workspace more versatile so that you can change the setup as your recording studio grows. Not only that, but you can also adjust them according to your specific recording needs at the time; perfect for a variety of situation and instruments.
#3 Split the Room. This is a pretty good method to use when you have two different purposes for the same space. That way you can dedicate one side of the room to mixing, and use the previous tips, while also leaving the other side “live” so that it can be used for recording. It’s a good way to ensure everything remains together and as effective as possible.
Starting up a home studio of your own doesn’t seem that hard, right? That’s because it’s not. It’s going to take some time, and a little money, but it doesn’t have to break the bank in order to be a massive success. I hope that this guide has been able to show you just how easy it is to get started and make your studio dreams a reality.
After all, is there anywhere better and more comfortable to record your latest tracks than your own home? Whether you want to try something on a budget and with the basic equipment, or you would rather go all out, this guide is able to cater to that need.
What did you think of my home studio guide? Was it as complete as the title suggests, or are there things you felt got left out? I love hearing from you, so feel free to leave a message in the comment section below.
References and Resources List