It's easy to make music at your home today. However, you can't put up low budget monitors and a microphone and call yourself a studio. There is a difference between a nice home recording studio – even if it's just one spare room – and a low-cost corner in your bedroom, especially if you want to make money with it. We all start somewhere, even if it is in the corner of our bedroom but what separates the men from the boys is being able to take it to the next level. What follows are some of the foolproof ideas to make your home recording studio sound better.
1. Make It Quiet
I have a studio in the spare room of my house. The one thing my friends notice when I show them my studio is how it suddenly becomes quieter in that particular room than in the rest of the house. Not surprisingly, the acoustics, echoes and all that jazz are obviously controlled for a better listening experience. The reason my home studio is so quiet is all the acoustic treatment on the walls. But in order for your home recording studio to be a controlled listening space you need to start by getting rid of the subtle echoes that scatter around the walls.
It's amazing how quieter a room gets once you start putting absorbers on the walls. Personally, I use Auralex foam but there are many different ways to get rid of echoes. There have been numerous tutorials in the past, like the wrap up a few weeks ago that goes into the easiness of creating your own acoustic panels. But rest assured, getting rid of pesky reflections and flutter echo will go a long way to improve the sound of your home studio.
2. Take Care of Your Monitors
Correct monitoring is an important element in making your mixes sound better. Because, if you can hear everything well in your studio, your mixes are going to translate better outside it. I recently did an overhaul of my monitor placement. Before, my monitors were too close together on my desk, nothing too terrible but not great either. I decided that I needed my monitors to be away from the desk on stand-alone stands, spread further apart to be more effective. Buying $200 monitor stands was a bit out of my frugal price range so I decided to create my own for $25 and a little DIY tendency.
This is how easy it is to create your own monitor stands:
I used three cinderblocks per stand. For added stability I added wooden panels on the top and bottom, also because my monitors were a bit bigger than the base of the cinderblocks I wanted to be absolutely sure they were going to fit on top of the stands. Using liquid nails, which is a general all purpose adhesive, I glued three of them together with the wooden panels on each end, made them sit over night to be absolutely sure that the glue would hold and then voila! Instant cheap monitor stands for $25.
A few things to be aware of:
- Make sure that they are the correct height. Three cinderblocks on each stand is a bit high but I use Auralex MoPads to decouple and eliminate the vibrations coming from the stands and they are conveniently designed so that I could angle my monitors down to hit the sweet spot of where I was sitting.
- Measure your monitor stands so that you are the third point in a equilateral triangle. This means that if you measure the distance between the monitors and it's, say, 40 inches, then make sure that your head is 40 inches from each monitor. This should serve well to easily find the sweet spot where your monitors sound the best.
See the video below from a studio rescue session. This guy had a serious monitoring problem due to incorrect placement, so if you have similar problems like the ones below make sure you correct your monitoring before doing anything else.
3. Killing Primary Reflections
Like I pointed out before, it's good practice to eliminate echo and reflections from your room. But some reflections and more annoying than other and it's imperative to eliminate them first. Primary reflections, or the sound waves that hit the first walls should be taken care of as soon as you've set your monitors up. Because you can easily remove them by padding the wall areas around the monitors.
A good rule of thumb is to put absorbers by the side walls to your left and right, starting at your monitors and ending more or less by where you are sitting in your monitoring position. That way the primary reflections that radiate from the monitors won't bounce off the wall to hit your ears, but rather be absorbed by the acoustic treatment you've placed there.
Don't worry about placing them too high or low, the middle of the wall or more or less in the same height as your monitors is a good bet. In addition to this, don't think that the sound discriminates against where it bounces to. Make sure your ceiling, or the area right above your head is treated with some sort of absorption as well. Killing reflection left, right and above will maximize the accuracy of your mix and make your monitoring experience that much truer.
4. Make It Look Nice
A comfortable working environment, especially if it's a recording studio, will encourage better recordings. Regardless of what type of decorations you are into, a warm and inviting home recording studio that looks like it was acutally built with some sort of professional appeal in mind will make a client feel at ease and eager to record. Since your studio is only as good as the recordings you make there you better make sure you are creating an environment that encourages musicianship and amazing performances.
This might be the easiest to do right since decorations don't really matter when it comes to engineering, but in the long run, a cozy studio will give you the best results out of all these suggestions.
The preceding advice is easy to follow, gives great results and hopefully results in better recordings. A little absorption to kill the reflections and make your room quieter, correct monitoring and a wide stereo image resulting in easy mix-down in a cozy environment goes a long way to give your home recording studio that professional feel.