Most musicians plan to get their work recorded at some time in their life, whether as a demo for agents and producers, to sell at gigs or online or simply to share with friends and family.
One option is to rent out professional studio space – but this can get expensive, particularly if you’re planning to record a whole album over a number of days.
The alternative is to set up your very own studio at home. This will involve making a few purchases, but once you have all the equipment you need, it’s there for good!
So, how can you construct a home music studio on a budget?
1. Soundproofing and Diffusion
One of the most important aspects of your studio is the nature of its acoustics. You need to cancel out any echo and “deaden” the effects of sound bouncing off hard surfaces.
The practice of “spreading” sound evenly and absorbing any unwanted noises is known as “diffusing”.
You’ll also want to avoid any “sound bleed” – both in and out of your recording studio. This term refers to unwanted noises coming into the space from the outside and vice versa.
Professional recording studios use high quality acoustic insulation materials such as foam tiles and sound proof panels. The cost of these can be significant, so many artists opt instead for thick fabric hung on the walls to diffuse sound. Felt, velvet and burlap are popular options.
Consider hanging fabric over your door to stop sound bleed around the frame. A high quality draft excluder can be placed under the door to help to block out noises as well as cold air.
Soundproof curtains are available to prevent disruptive noises from the street outside.
The cheapest professional options available to soundproof the entire space are acoustic foam or fabric tiles.
According to Ruban Selvanayagam of quick home selling experts Property Solvers: “when musicians, producers and sound engineers are looking for properties, we often find they’re interested in basements and areas which are secluded. This is particularly important in city based properties as they want to be able to let their artistic juices flow without disrupting neighbours.
“Saying that, the sound proofing technology today is better than it’s ever been which means that people can create music studios in parts of the property that previously would have been difficult to do (at a reasonable price),” he adds.
2. Your Computer
Most modern computers are capable of supporting the software you’ll need to record professional-quality music. Just take care that your machine has enough RAM to store long, high quality audio files.
We recommend acquiring at least 8GB of RAM, as this will not only ensure high quality recordings but the smooth running of all software.
3. Your Software
There are numerous free sound editing softwares available online (Audacity is a highly popular option) – and you may find that these are all you need to produce the tracks you want.
However, these programmes have their limitations, including a lack of sequencers, loops, real-time editing, limited mixing abilities and the occasional need for extra plug-ins or encoding tools.
Free software can also become glitchy or buggy and effects can’t be edited once they’re applied – they just have to be removed and reapplied in the preferred manner each time.
New pieces of affordable recording software are being made available all the time. Keep an eye out for deals or sales and always check reviews to make sure that the programmes you’re considering will produce the effects you want. Apple’s Logic is among the most popular.
Watch out for free trials and demos, but be aware that most of these will only allow use of the most basic tools – so you’ll probably have to pay in order to enjoy the full complement of options.
It’s important to double-check that whatever you buy is totally compatible with the rest of your equipment.
4. Your Recording Equipment
You’ll need a good microphone as well as great headphones, monitors and an audio interface in order to create and reproduce the highest quality of sound.
As with many electronic products, you do tend to get what you pay for – but there is a wide range of very affordable options that will enable you to achieve superb results.
Make sure you pick up an interface with as many inputs as you require for all of your equipment. You won’t require one if you’re working solely with Virtual Instruments, but if you’re going to be singing or playing an instrument yourself, you’ll need a means of recording each thing easily.
Most available interfaces will do the job perfectly well. We just recommend checking out reviews before you make a purchase. Check out online marketplaces for pre-loved options.
The condenser mic is the preferred option for creating vocal recordings in a studio environment. You may need a few if you want to record acoustic guitar, piano, drums and other instruments that don’t plug in.
This is another piece of equipment that can be bought cheaply and still produce great effects.
Good headphones and monitors (or speakers) are vital. After all, you’ll need to be able to hear all elements of your track absolutely perfectly.
You’ll need equipment with a “flat EQ” – that means no inbuilt tweaking when it comes to the bass or any other part of the mix – as this will give you a false impression of the recording you’re making and will result in an unbalanced mix.
Keep an eye on offers and reviews for these products. Yamaha produces speakers favoured by the music industry – particularly the HS5 or HS8 monitor, both of which are relatively affordable.
Sony, Audio-Technica, Beyerdynamic and V-MODA all produce great quality, affordable headphones that are perfect for both tracking and mixing.
There are many tech enthusiasts in the world of music production, a high percentage of whom are always on the lookout for new and improved equipment.
This means that you may be able to find good-as-new second-hand headphones, monitors, mics and interfaces on online marketplaces for a reduced price.
Whatever the quality of the equipment, you’ll be sure to produce great tracks as long as you use it in an expert manner within a suitably prepared space.