11 Tips To Improve Your Home Studio Building Experience
Starting your own home recording studio can be a daunting prospect. The mere though of it can be overwhelming. "Where to start, what to consider, what do I need, how much to spend..." The list goes on.
There are many good resources to help you get started, and you can find more specific help in other articles I will mention in this post. There are a few things though, you should always keep in mind while building up your system, not only to start off the right way but to keep you moving in the right direction.
For this reason these 11 tips were compiled to help you navigate the process and keep you motivated. Something you can always come back to if you get overwhelmed or feel like you're loosing direction.
1. Plan And Do Your Research
Set some time aside to plan what you want to do. You know the saying, "Failing to plan is planning to fail". It applies just as much to building a home studio than it does to any other endeavor you undertake in life.
Many helpful hints and references to other useful articles are given throughout this article to help you lay out your plan and approach, but you do need to plan.
Set aside a week, two weeks or even a month. This will all depend on your own needs and the urgency. Then make sure you learn as much as you can during this period and use a notepad, your phone, computer... anything to make notes of important things you find and want to include in your plan.
Now, set yourself a deadline. This is very important. Whether it is 2 weeks or 2 months you set aside for your planning, stick to this deadline. (One or two extra days to tie up some loose ends won't kill you, but limit it as much as possible.) There is very important reason for this deadline.
Countless people get stuck in this vicious circle of forever researching, stumbling over new ideas, or endlessly watching the latest expert opinion or new product reviews on Youtube. The big problem with this is, the majority of people never get started.
Let me very honest. You will never be fully prepared or have everything perfectly planned out. No one has ever been fully prepared whenever they started something new, no matter how successful they may be now. Most of the time you only really find out what exactly you need after you started. You also learn the most after you started.
So, set yourself a time and deadline, learn as much as you can, draw up the best plan you are able to, and just get started.
2. Determine Your Budget And Break It Down
This will be one of the first important considerations of your planning. You are the only one who will really know how much you can and are willing to spend on your recording setup.
Not only does this depend on your financial position, but more importantly what your goals are and how urgently you need to achieve them. Whichever the case, you do need to budget!
You may be a full time recording artist who seriously needs the convenience of a home recording studio and are going to use in it the long term and probably expand it as your career grows and budget expands. On the flip-side of the coin, you may have a full time career completely unrelated to home recording, and this is just a hobby you want to pursue more seriously in your spare time.
You may be in any of the above situations, but most probably find yourself somewhere in between. Take all of these factors in consideration when deciding on your budget.
Once you decided on your budget, you need to break it down for yourself before you just start spending. Factors to take into consideration, are equipment, acoustic treatment and maybe a little on space (depending on what you have available or make available).
Equipment will definitely take the biggest bite out of your budget, so make sure you set enough funds aside for each piece of equipment you will need. To help you decide which type of setup you will use and what components you will need, I give an overview of the full topic with all the important options to consider in this article.
3. Consider Your Recording Space
Apart from your budget this is probably the most important factor to consider after you decided to set up your home recording studio. It is actually surprising how many people jump straight into buying equipment and only after a small mountain of boxes are delivered and piled up next to their front door, do many start thinking about where all this equipment will actually be set up.
The space, preferably a separate isolated room, is essential not only to provide enough room for setting up your equipment. The space in which you are setting up your home studio is as important, if not more so, than the equipment you will use for the the proper sound quality to be produced.
I do not need to go into much more detail (You can read everything you need to know about room space in this article). But, no matter whether you are using a separate room or creating space in a much bigger room, make sure you address this issue before doing anything else.
4. Plan Ahead (Look At Your Future Goals)
By doing your planning and taking stock of your goals, you not only make sure you have a solid framework in place to help you through every step of setting up your studio. You can also ensure you save money in the long run and stop yourself from incurring unnecessary expenses later on when expanding or making changes to your setup.
With condenser microphones available from less than $100 to well over $5000, and audio interfaces available from less than $50 to over $1000, you can see how big the impact on your choice of equipment can be.
Knowing that you are busy building up a system that you will expand fairly rapidly as you are a professional and are going to end up needing a very high end system, may prompt you to save a little extra for a higher quality microphone that will be able to grow with your system. (Saving you the expense of having to upgrade fairly quickly to a much more expensive microphone to perform with a higher end system.)
A "weekend podcaster" just wanting to have decent sound for his audience, may be satisfied with an affordable USB condenser microphone and happily use it for the lifetime of the microphone.
As you can see, it works both ways. You can overspend on a device whose full potential you will never need, or waste money on equipment that you will outgrow within months, when you could have waited a bit longer for a higher quality component that would have lasted you much longer, and potentially saved you a small fortune.
The key is having a good idea what your goals are and plan accordingly to make the best and most cost effective decision.
5. Better And More Expensive Equipment May Not Always The Best Choice
It is always tempting when your budget allows it, to look at the the more expensive and prestigious piece of equipment. This may not always be necessary and can sometimes cause more difficulties than advantages.
As an example, you can produce audio quality on a good $300 audio interface that is basically on par with an interface more than double the price. The untrained ear, and even some seasoned professionals will never be able to tell the difference. Especially if the slight difference in sound quality is only really audible on an expensive hi-fi system that very few people can afford anyway.
Many of these high-end audio interfaces also come with extra features and more complicated DAW software that provides a very steep learning curve, which will make things unnecessary complicated for you, as these are features you will never use.
It really is best that you choose audio components that fits in best with your actual needs.
6. Don't Be Stingy When Purchasing Your Microphone
Your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software has revolutionized the way audio can be edited and manipulated. It completely replaced mixers, equalizers and many more devices in some cases. It even adds a host of features previously unavailable.
The reason I am bringing this up is that many novice users believe anything can be corrected and cleaned up by DAW software, no matter how bad the quality of the source. You cannot be more wrong if you believe this.
This is especially true when it comes to the microphone. The quality of sound captured by the microphone will largely determine the overall quality of the recording. Bad source audio quality can never be completely cleaned up, no matter how good your DAW software.
Therefore, always be willing to spend that little bit extra on the best quality microphone you can afford. You may have to wait a little longer, but you will be very grateful you did.
As a bonus, you will spend less time in post-production, and have a microphone that will serve you much longer than you originally intended.
7. Never Neglect You Cables
We all make this mistake. We all focus so much on the equipment we use, we pay little or no thought to the cables connecting them. As long as everything is connected, you are satisfied.
There are a few features in cables that can have quite and effect on the audio quality of your home setup. Pay attention to them and you will be able to produce the best sound your system are able to.
First, learn how to tell the difference between each cable and what each one is used for. Some cables even look the same, but perform different functions. You can learn all about cables in this article.
Secondly, make sure you have a good connection between your cables and equipment. Some high-end cables use gold-plated connectors, as it provides better connectivity and are able to transfer the signal without loss in quality. Not everyone will want to spend a small fortune on cables though.
What you can do however, is make sure you have a solid tight fit between the connectors of you equipment and cables. There is nothing worse than very loose fitting connections, contributing greatly to a loss in sound quality.
Thirdly, keep your cables short. Especially analogue cables loose signal strength and quality over the length of a long cables. Especially in home studios, it is not uncommon to find a 15 foot cable rolled up underneath two pieces of equipment just inches apart. Rather use a 3 foot cable, get a much better quality sound and save yourself some money in the process. (And you save yourself from heaps of cable piling up on the floor.)
8. Get Your Microphone & Instrument Positioning Right.
This will save you hours of extra work and big headaches. Sometimes you just can't get the right sound from your voice or instrument. No matter how much you change equalizer settings in your software or change the gain on your microphone, the sound keeps getting distorted, constantly peaking or sounding too soft, and popping and hissing occur despite your pop filter and windscreen in place.
All the while, your microphone was simply in the wrong position. By simply placing it a few inches further away or just closer, a little up or down, you would have gotten a crisp clear sound without making a single adjustment.
This is a rookie mistake that is made by more experienced users as well. Whenever something is not sounding right, play around with the placement of the microphone in front of the sound source. You will be surprised how often that is the root of your problem.
9. Do Not Overthink Things
This ties in closely with the last two points, but feel its necessary to address them separately.
Overthinking often takes place when decisions has to be made about choosing between equipment when starting or upgrading your home studio. This also happens when deciding on the best space to place your equipment in your studio for optimal sound quality.
You end up procrastinating, as you keep on reading review after review and endlessly comparing features, sometimes wasting weeks or even months.
Avoid this by setting a deadline for yourself, as I mentioned in an earlier in this article. Rest assured that you made the best choice with the available knowledge you obtained. (There will always be a better choice around the corner, so you will never get it 100% right.)
The same applies to placement of your equipment in a room. Find the best possible spot for each piece of equipment within a set time and move on. You can always move the equipment at a later stage as you gain experience and find out what works best in which space.
10. Don't Wait Until Everything Is Complete & In Place
You may have seen a Youtube video or finished a comprehensive article explaining in detail how to set up your home studio and everything you need to create the perfect sounding setup and environment.
Many users make the mistake of believing that you need all the equipment, all the acoustic treatment and materials, the right DAW sotware, exactly the right room before they can get started.
Apart from the fact that most of us don't have the budget to instantly have access to all these elements, its also not necessary. If you have the basics ready to start recording, start right away. Even if you still need better equipment, lack acoustic materials or don't have the perfect room, that's fine. You add it as you go along and get the necessary funds or the right space becomes available.
The important thing is that you get started and gain knowledge and experience as quickly as possible. This is more valuable in the long run and something money cannot buy.
The truth is, you will never be finished. There will always be equipment that can be replaced with better ones, newer versions of software becoming available and changes in acoustics to be made. This is a never ending process, so don't wait for something that will never happen.
11. You Don't Need To Know Everything
I am pretty sure when Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking reached the end of their lives, they were left with more questions than answers. If these brilliant men were unable to get many of the answers they were looking for throughout their lives, what chance do we have?
The answer is simple, we will never know everything or enough. The sooner you make peace with this the better. Even in the very unlikely event of you learning everything that is possible to be learned, within days (if not hours) new information will become available at the speed of light. It is livelong exercise, so embrace it and don't let it hold you back.
Therefore I need to repeat what I said in the beginning of the article. Learn as much as you can within a set period of time and then get started. If you get something wrong, don't be hard on yourself and beat yourself up about it. We all get things wrong. It's the only way we learn and grow.
But only by starting and making mistakes, do we learn and grow. So, no more excuses. Get you plan ready and start building your home recording studio. And enjoy the process, that's part of the fun!
The specifics about how and what when it comes to building and expanding your home recording studio can be found via links in this article, and a wealth of other resources on the web. Just Google it.
The aim of this article is to help you start off the right way, and more importantly, to get you started. It also emphasized a few points to help you avoid some of the pitfalls during the process. Most importantly, the aim is to keep you motivated.
Building , expanding and maintaining a home recording system can be a long and exhausting endeavor. Keep at it and enjoy the journey!
Feel free to leave me any comments or suggestions you may have. Remember to join my Mailing List to be informed whenever a new article is released, and share new developments and helpful hints & tips.
Catch you in the next article and happy recording!