As an independent musician, having your own home recording studio can be a game-changer.
It provides you with the creative freedom to work on your music at any time, without having to worry about the high cost of consistently renting a professional studio.
In this post, we'll cover how to build a home recording studio on a budget, without compromising on sound quality.
Table of Contents:
Section 1: What Equipment You'll Really Need
Before you start building your home recording studio, it's essential to identify what equipment you'll need. Here's a list of the essential equipment you'll need to get started:
Computer: A computer is the heart of your home studio. You'll need a reliable computer with enough RAM, a fast processor, and enough storage to handle your music production software. Our recommendation: Hopefully you already have one, as the computer will likely be the most expensive piece of equipment in your home studio. If not, the desktop computers I would recommend is the HP Pavilion TP01-2327C or the AMD Ryzen 7
Audio Interface: An audio interface is a device that connects your computer to your other audio equipment. It allows you to record and play back audio through your computer. Our recommendation: The Behringer U-Phoria UM2 audio interface - a great option that offers two inputs and outputs, as well as a built-in preamp for microphone recording.
Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) Software: A DAW is the software you use to record, edit, and mix your music. There are many options available, and you can find affordable options for beginners. Our recommendation: Reaper - a powerful and customizable DAW that offers a free trial and affordable pricing.
Studio Monitors: Quality studio speakers are crucial for music production. They offer a flat frequency response and accurate sound, allowing you to hear your music accurately. Our recommendation: The PreSonus Eris E3.5 - a budget-friendly option that offers excellent sound quality. They have a 3.5-inch Kevlar woofer and a 1-inch silk dome tweeter, plus they come in at under $100 per pair.
Microphone: A good microphone is essential for recording vocals and acoustic instruments. There are many options available, but you can find affordable options that offer excellent sound quality. Our recommendation: The Audio-Technica AT2020 is a great affordable option that offers a cardioid polar pattern, making it perfect for recording vocals or acoustic instruments.
Headphones: Headphones are useful for monitoring your recordings and mixing your tracks. Our recommendation: The AKG K240 Studio headphones - these are affordable, offer excellent sound quality, and are comfortable to wear for long recording sessions.
Section 2: How to Soundproof Your Room
Next up, soundproofing your room is an essential step in creating a home recording studio. It helps to eliminate outside noise and prevents sound from leaking out of your studio. Here are five key tips to soundproof your room:
Seal the Cracks
Use acoustic sealant to seal any gaps, cracks, or holes in your room. This helps to prevent sound leakage.
Create a Vocal Booth
If you plan to record vocals, you can create a vocal booth using PVC pipes and blankets. Or you can even repurpose a closet by adding some acoustic foam. (We will further discuss this next.)
Use Acoustic Panels
These are designed to absorb sound and reduce noise reflections. You can buy them pre-made or make your own using sound-absorbing materials such as foam or fiberglass.
Install Soundproof Curtains
Soundproof curtains are an affordable way to block outside noise from entering your room, and also absorb sound and prevent it from escaping the room.
Consider a Door Sweep
This is a strip of rubber or vinyl that can be attached to the bottom of your door to create a seal that prevents sound from escaping.
By implementing these tips, you can create a comfortable, quiet, and soundproof home studio that will allow you to produce high-quality music.
Section 3: How to Make a Vocal Booth (DIY)
A vocal booth is an essential component of any home studio setup. It is an inexpensive way to record high-quality vocals without picking up any unwanted sounds from the environment.
There are various ways to make a vocal booth, but here's a step-by-step DIY method that won't cost you a lot of money.
PVC pipes (quantity depends on the size of the booth you want to make)
Corner joints (4 for the corners of the rectangular frame)
Moving blankets (quantity depends on the size of the booth you want to make)
Clothespins (enough to secure the moving blankets in place)
Create a rectangular frame using PVC pipes and corner joints.
Drape moving blankets over the frame and use clothespins to secure them in place.
To further reduce any ambient noise, place some acoustic foam panels inside the vocal booth.
Detailed Step-by-Step Instructions:
Determine the size and shape of your vocal booth. You can make it as small or as large as you want, depending on your needs and the available space.
Create the frame using the PVC pipes and corner joints. Use the corner joints to connect the PVC pipes and create a rectangular frame. Make sure the frame is sturdy enough to support the moving blankets.
Cover the frame with moving blankets. Drape the moving blankets over the frame and use clothespins to secure them in place. The moving blankets will act as a sound barrier to reduce any ambient noise.
Place some acoustic foam panels inside the vocal booth to further reduce any ambient noise. You can use some leftover foam panels from your soundproofing efforts, or you can purchase them online or at a local music store.
Make sure to leave an opening for the microphone cable and any other cables you may need to run in and out of the booth.
Test the vocal booth by recording a few vocals. Adjust the position of the microphone and the foam panels until you achieve the desired sound.
Congratulations, you have now built your own vocal booth at your own home recording studio!
With the necessary materials gathered, and your DIY vocal booth assembled, we can now discuss tips and tricks associated when recording music from your own studio.
Section 4: Mixing and Mastering Your Tracks
Great! You now have high quality sounds and vocals. The next step to ensure your music sounds great is mixing and mastering.
In your DAW of choice, here are some guidelines to follow when you begin arguably the hardest part of production, mixing and mastering.
Start with the drums and bass. These two elements lay the foundation for your track.
Make sure each track is clear and distinguishable. This will help you avoid muddiness in the final mix.
Use EQ to balance the levels and create separation between the different instruments.
Use panning to give each element its space in the stereo field.
Experiment with reverb and delay effects to create depth and dimension in your mix.
Use EQ to balance the frequency spectrum of your song.
Use compression to control the dynamic range and create a consistent sound.
Use limiting to prevent distortion and maximize the overall volume of your track.
Make sure your track sounds good on different sound systems by testing it on various devices.
While there are plenty of resources online to help you learn mixing and mastering, it takes time and practice to develop the skills needed to produce professional-quality tracks.
Remember that the final sound of your music is a result of both the recording and the mixing/mastering, so taking the time to get it right is crucial for a successful music career.
Also, don't be afraid to seek out feedback from other musicians or utilize a professional mixing and mastering service to ensure your tracks sound as good as possible.
Utilizing plugins in your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) can improve the mixing and mastering process. Here are some common uses for plugins, which work with most major DAWs (FL Studio, Ableton, Logic, etc.)
EQ Plugins: EQ (equalizer) plugins are used to balance the frequency content of your tracks. They can be used to cut out unwanted frequencies or enhance certain elements. Free option: Nova by Tokyo Dawn Labs
Compressor Plugins: Compressor plugins are used to control the dynamics of your tracks. They can be used to make the quieter parts of your tracks louder and the louder parts quieter, making the overall sound more even. Free option: DC1A by Klanghelm
Reverb Plugins: Reverb plugins are used to create a sense of space in your mix. They can be used to simulate the sound of a room or add a sense of depth to your tracks. Free option: OrilRiver by Denis Tihanov
Limiter Plugins: Limiter plugins are used to prevent clipping and ensure that your tracks are at a consistent volume. They can also be used to add punch and impact to your tracks. Free option: LoudMax by Thomas Mundt
Stereo Imaging Plugins: Stereo imaging plugins are used to adjust the stereo field of your mix. They can be used to widen the stereo image or make it more focused. Free option: FerricTDS by Variety of Sound
It's worth noting that there are many different plugins available, and the best ones for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences. It's a good idea to experiment with different plugins and find the ones that work best for your music.
Section 5: Final Home Studio Tips & Tricks
Lastly, here are seven tips for your home recording studio setup to produce professional quality music with ease.
1. Keep your home studio organized
A clean and organized workspace can significantly improve your productivity and creativity.
Start by designating a specific area of your home as your recording studio and invest in storage solutions like shelves, racks, and drawers to keep your equipment and accessories organized.
Keep cables untangled and properly labeled to make set up and breakdowns efficient. Lastly, add some artwork, decorative lights, or other features to make your studio feel more personal and comfortable.
2. Use reference tracks
Reference tracks are songs that have a similar genre and style to your music, and you're familiar with how they sound. By listening to your reference tracks during your mixing and mastering process, you can use them as a comparison to guide your decisions on effects, EQ, and compression.
This can help you achieve the sound you're aiming for, and give you a reference for how your music should sound on various playback systems.
3. Use room correction software
Even with sound treatment in your recording space, there may be acoustic issues that can affect the sound quality of your recordings.
Room correction software can help to compensate for these issues by analyzing the frequency response of your room and applying corrections to improve the accuracy of your mixes.
4. Learn keyboard shortcuts
Keyboard shortcuts are essential to maximize your workflow and productivity in your DAW. By learning and memorizing the common shortcuts, you can speed up tasks such as recording, editing, and mixing.
Some basic shortcuts include copying, pasting, undoing, and selecting tracks. Each DAW has its own set of shortcuts, so make sure to learn the ones that are specific to your software.
5. Use automation
Automation is a powerful feature in your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) that allows you to control various aspects of your tracks over time. By automating volume, panning, effects, and other parameters, you can add movement, dynamics, and interest to your music.
Automation is especially useful for creating builds, drops, and transitions, and can help keep your listeners engaged throughout the track.
6. Don't skimp on cables and accessories
While it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of purchasing new gear, it's important not to overlook the importance of cables and accessories. High-quality cables and accessories can make a significant difference in your recording quality.
Make sure to find cables with high-quality connectors and shielding to minimize interference and noise. Additionally, explore optional accessories like MIDI keyboards, a pop filter, or stands to enhance your recording capabilities and workflow.
7. Experiment with virtual instruments
Virtual instruments are software-based instruments that emulate acoustic instruments, synthesizers, and other sounds. By experimenting with different virtual instruments, you can add new layers, textures, and sounds to your music.
Virtual instruments can also save you money on hardware and space, and provide you with a wide range of sounds to work with. Some popular virtual instruments include Kontakt 7 by Native Instruments or Omnisphere by Spectrasonics. Keep in mind though, these options are rather pricey so should be considered further down the line.
In conclusion, building a home recording studio on a budget is an achievable task that requires some time and planning.
The essential equipment needed for setting up a home studio includes a computer, audio interface, DAW software, studio monitors, microphone, and headphones.
Soundproofing the room is crucial for creating a studio-quality environment, and it can be achieved through simple DIY tips, such as sealing cracks, creating a vocal booth, using acoustic panels, installing soundproof curtains, and adding a door sweep. Plus, a vocal booth can also be made easily with PVC pipes and moving blankets.
Ultimately, with these tips and recommendations, aspiring musicians can set up a home recording studio on a budget and start creating high-quality music.