Home (or “project”) studios have become so common in today's music industry, that even well known artists with access to commercial studios have been known to do tracking and production from the comfort of their home. Whether you're looking for a place to explore your hobby and master your craft or you plan to build your career as an artist, producer or recording engineer, having a proper studio at your fingertips is of utmost importance. With the right space, materials, tools and budget, almost anyone can build a project studio.
Finding The Right Space
The first and most important aspect of building a studio is handling the acoustic space. If you just moved into a new home and have the option of choosing a room for your studio, you'll want to choose one that isn't a perfect square shape so as to avoid common reflection and frequency issues. Other ideal room characteristics may include odd and larger dimensions, a walk-in closet that could be used for a vocal/instrument booth, and room dimensions that are not divisible by each other or the same number as Home Studio Corner advises. Once you decide on a room, grab a tape measure and get ready to have some architectural fun!
Now you'll want to measure the dimensions of the walls and ceiling to determine what type of acoustical treatment will work best for your studio. Every room is different, so don't make the mistake of just buying a foam kit at a music shop without determining the proper set up. The RealTraps and Auralex websites provide great resources for the science of where to place acoustical treatment and what kind might be needed for your listening space and iso booth based on the room dimensions. There are also room measurement kits such as Room EQ Wizard, as well as special microphones that can record the frequencies of your room for honing in on specifics as to how to arrange your listening position.
Absorption and Diffusion Materials
As AudioRecording.me explains, sound absorption refers to removing sound from a room, while diffusion means to distribute the sound waves throughout the room. In a properly balanced studio, there should be a combination of both processes occurring. Perhaps one of the most important elements of absorption in your control room is reducing the buildup of low frequencies. You can either build or purchase bass traps that are typically placed in the corners of the room that will reduce the excess of these powerful low frequencies. Bass traps are most effective (and affordable) when you take the DIY route. Along with absorption panels for your walls, bass traps can be created using rock wool insulation (which you can purchase for cheap at Home Depot or Lowe's), wood slabs and linen. Absorption panels and foam wedges for walls and ceilings are also very important as they will reduce more mid-range and higher frequencies. Taking an extra step by installing plastic or wooden diffusors to evenly spread the sound waves also can't do you wrong.
Monitoring, DAWs and Recording Interfaces
The world of recording equipment can be overwhelming, as there is an endless supply of hardware and software options at your fingertips. Fortunately, sites like Sweetwater, Sound On Sound and Gearslutz provide great resources for reviews,ratings, how-to's and specs on a range of products. Studio beginners might start with basic but trusted studio monitors such as KRKs. However, if you have a heftier budget, opt for more professional caliber monitors, such as Adams or Dynaudios. When choosing a recording interface, you'll want to make sure you find one with the right amount of inputs and outputs for your tracking and routing needs. Focusrite, RME, Apogee and Digidesign all make solid quality interfaces. Your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is your recording and production software. There are many resources that will help you weigh the costs and benefits of DAW options, but the main contenders are Protools, Logic, Cubase and Ableton. There are versions of each DAW ranging in price depending on how deep your usage will be, so be sure to read the descriptions thoroughly.
Building a home studio is a learning process that involves everything from the science of sound waves to computer software knowledge. The learning will never stop as you will find yourself updating and maintaining your space and equipment to reflect the evolution of your craft and skill. However, once you have your initial studio set up, you can finally focus on what motivated you to build it in the the first place—the music!