How to Create a Home Studio

Monday, 07 July 2014

Building a home studio is an effective way to secure the time and space you need to practise and perfect your art. If this sounds like something you'd love, here's our guide to getting it right.

Define your objectives

Start by working out exactly what you want to achieve, how you plan on working, and how long you intend to use the space as your main studio. These factors will affect the planning decisions you make, as well as where you focus the bulk of your time and investment in making the space work.

For example:

• A large desk space for mixing and editing equipment is essential for those working primarily on a computer
• Quality soundproofing and plenty of room for session musicians is more important for live recordings
• A separate voiceover recording booth, which is usually a smaller, more dead space than what is used for recording instruments, is useful for clean vocals
• Knowing your equipment needs will inform how you divide your equipment between the kit and the space

Choose your space carefully

If you're working on a computer with high-quality headphones rather than recording live instruments, a conservatory would offer a pleasant environment. If you're regularly doing live sound recordings, though, this would be a nightmare. Though this is an extreme example, each room has its pitfalls, so remember the following:

• Windows reflect sound
• Collaborators and instrumentalists need a lot of space
• Separate access is useful to avoid collaborators traipsing through the house on arrival
• The space needs to be isolated for and from neighbours
• If anyone else wants to use the room for another purpose, it's unlikely to be a good space for a studio

Soundproofing solutions

Low budget:

• Rugs and thick curtains make great dampeners
• Thick cushions and pillows are great for absorbing sound and disrupting reflected echoes
• Square spaces let sound bounce around, so disrupt the geometry with careful placement of desks and soft furnishings
• Investing in dampening microphone stands or high quality headphones can have as big an impact as an expensive upgrade to your soundproofing

Higher budget:

• Floating walls and ceilings, involving suspending layers of soundproof plasterboard padded acoustic quilt and topped with acoustic foam, are the benchmark for a soundproofed space
• Floors should be covered in layer of sound deck before carpet is laid over the top
• Gaps in walls, ceilings and windows should be plugged with acoustic sealant

Adding electrics

One thing that is often overlooked is the electrical supply. Overloaded extension cables are a fire hazard, and trailing cables everywhere compromises health and safety. If you have a lot of electrical equipment, you'll need a qualified electrician to add extra plug sockets.

Flexible extras

• Space dividers are a flexible alternative to voiceover booths, and can be adapted from standard room dividers by adding acoustic foam
• Blackout curtains are useful additions if you also intend to take photos or videos of sessions
• If you have a large mixing desk, use small drawers and cabinets to maximise storage space

Don't forget security

To ensure your new space is safe and secure, the following items are advisable:

• Home insurance covering damage to your studio space
• Secure, lockable storage for expensive equipment
• Dedicated smoke and burglar alarms
• Double locks on doors and windows

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