11 Unit Three, Part Three: Home Studio Spaces

When designing your own home audio space, please remember that electrical safety is part of our technical pillar and staying within a budget is part of our method pillar. It goes without saying that when choosing home recording equipment, safety requirements and cost are both extremely important. Thoroughly research your gear, measure your space, and ask questions.

Another important aspect in putting a home studio together is take time and visualize it, imagine it, and day dream about it. How do you see it in your head, and how do you imagine your recordings sound? What kind of audio recordings will be made in your studio? Start small, but dream big. Read as much as you can about other studios and make notes on what your dream studio will sound and look like. Creative people and successful people alike are visionaries first and foremost.

My first home studio wasn’t much to brag about. It featured a twelve channel mixing board, an early version of a cassette four-track, and about eight cheap microphones. I mixed bands down to DAT tapes that made copies in real time. But I stayed with it and kept making adjustments to my space and equipment as time went on. Making it affordable for other struggling musicians like myself was important to me, so I made it affordable with different pricing to fit an artist’s needs. But I also wanted the recordings to sound presentable for college radio broadcast and full of energy. The more I experimented with it, the better the demos started to sound and the more efficiently I could work. Not to mention, it started to help pay the rent. I recorded dozens and dozens of projects over the course of five years and eventually was hired by a bigger studio as my body of work grew.

I tried with each session to expand my technical knowledge along with using solid recording and mixing methods. Since I didn’t have top-end equipment, I had to rely on good microphone placement and creative energy more than adding processed effects and expensive pre-amps. In the end, once I got better at those first two pillars, my creative side could take over, and I began to create my own signature sound. I liked the way bands and performers sounded when they felt at ease in my basement late on a Friday night. I understood that music fans can hear when a band is having fun and sounds like they have a secret they are sharing with a listener.

Maybe it didn’t sound completely clean and up to professional industry standards, but the more proficient I got at it, the more those demos got passed around town (and sometimes out-of-town). Some of those songs started to receive college radio airplay and positive reviews. One night driving home from a gig, I turned on the radio and heard the late-night college radio deejay say, “Here’s the newest single from Shaky Ray Records…” What a great feeling hearing that a song from my home studio was on the radio! And I specifically remember–it did sound like an energetic band with a secret making rock music in my tiny basement studio. Suddenly, it dawned on me that the music sound that my friends and I created was changing the industry standard to something more earnest and energetic. Of course, just like any sound manager, I thought, “This is great, but I wish I would have mixed it better!”

Below is an outstanding PDF link from Disc Makers on all the different aspects of putting together a modern home studio.

Disc Makers Home Studio Handbook

image  Used by permission from Disc Makers Blog

More useful Links and Home Recording Information

Home Studio Set-Up

Apartment Music Studio Set-Up

Tinashe TV–Inside Home Studio/Bedroom

Home Basement Studio In Depth

Home recording is the practice of recording sound in a private home instead of a professional recording studio. A studio set up for home recording is called a home studio or project studio. Home recording is widely practiced by voice actors, narrators, singers, musicians, podcast hosts, and documentary makers at all levels of success. The cost of professional audio equipment has dropped steadily as technology advances during the 21st century, while information about recording techniques has become easily available online. These trends have resulted in an increase in the popularity of home recording and a shift in the recording industry toward recording in the home studio

A recording studio is a specialized facility for sound recording, mixing, and audio production of instrumental or vocal musical performances, spoken words, and other sounds. They range in size from a small in-home project studio large enough to record a single singer-guitarist, to a large building with space for a full orchestra of 100 or more musicians. Ideally both the recording and monitoring (listening and mixing) spaces are specially designed by an acoustician or audio engineer to achieve optimum acoustic properties (acoustic isolation or diffusion or absorption of reflected sound echoes that could otherwise interfere with the sound heard by the listener).

Recording studios may be used to record singers, instrumental musicians, voice-over artists for advertisements,  dialogue replacement in film, television, and animation, or to record accompanying musical soundtracks. The typical recording studio consists of a room called the “studio” or “live room” equipped with microphones and mic stands, where instrumentalists and vocalists perform; and the “control room”, where sound engineers, sometimes with record producers, as well, operate professional audio mixing consoles, effects units, or computers with specialized software suites to mix, manipulate (e.g., by adjusting the equalization and adding effects) and route the sound for analogue recording or digital recording. The engineers and producers listen to the live music and the recorded “tracks” on high-quality monitor speakers or headphones.

Often, there will be smaller rooms called “isolation booths” to accommodate loud instruments such as drums or electric guitar amplifiers and speakers, to keep these sounds from being audible to the microphones that are capturing the sounds from other instruments or voices, or to provide “drier” rooms for recording vocals or quieter acoustic instruments such as an acoustic guitar or a fiddle. Major recording studios typically have a range of large, heavy, and hard-to-transport instruments and music equipment in the studio, such as a grand piano, Hammond organ, electric piano, harp, and drums.

Recording studios generally consist of three or more rooms:

The live room of the studio where instrumentalists play their instruments, with their playing picked up by microphones and, for electric and electronic instruments, by connecting the instruments’ outputs or DI unit outputs to the mixing board (or by miking the speaker cabinets for bass and electric guitar);
Isolation booths are small sound-insulated rooms with doors, designed for instrumentalists (or their loud speaker stacks). Vocal booths are similarly designed rooms for singers. In both types of rooms, there are typically windows so the performers can see other band members and other studio staff, as singers, bandleaders and musicians often give or receive visual cues;
The control room, where the audio engineers and record producers mix the mic and instrument signals with a mixing console, record the singing and playing onto tape (until the 1980s and early 1990s) or hard disc (1990s and following decades) and listen to the recordings and tracks with monitor speakers or headphones and manipulate the tracks by adjusting the mixing console settings and by using effects units; and
The machine room, where noisier equipment, such as racks of fan-cooled computers and power amplifiers, is kept to prevent the noise from interfering with the recording process.
Even though sound isolation is a key goal, the musicians, singers, audio engineers and record producers still need to be able to see each other, to see cue gestures and conducting by a bandleader. As such, the live room, isolation booths, vocal booths and control room typically have windows.

Recording studios are carefully designed around the principles of room acoustics to create a set of spaces with the acoustical properties required for recording sound with accuracy. Architectural acoustics includes acoustical treatment and soundproofing and also the consideration of the physical dimensions of the room itself to make the room respond to sound in the desired way. Acoustical treatment includes and the use of absorption and diffusion materials on the surfaces inside the room. Soundproofing provides sonic isolation between rooms and prevents sound from entering or leaving the property. A Recording studio in an urban environment must be soundproofed on its outer shell to prevent noises from the surrounding streets and roads from being picked up by microphones inside.

Equipment found in a recording studio commonly includes:

A professional-grade mixing console
Additional small mixing consoles for adding more channels (e.g., if a drum kit needs to be miked and all of the channels of the large console are in use, an additional 16 channel mixer would enable the engineers to mix the mics for the kit)
Microphone preamplifiers
Multitrack recorder or digital audio workstation
A wide selection of microphones typical for different types of instruments
DI unit boxes
Microphone stands to enable engineers to place microphones at the desired locations in front of singers, instrumentalists or ensembles
Studio monitors designed for listening to recorded mixes or tracks
Studio monitoring headphones (typically closed-shell, to prevent sound from “leaking” out into the microphones)
“On Air” or “Recording” lighted signs to remind other studio users to be quiet
Outboard effect units, such as compressors, reverbs, or equalizers
Music stands

Isolation booth

An isolation booth is a standard small room in a recording studio, which is both soundproofed to keep out external sounds and keep in the internal sounds, and like all the other recording rooms in sound industry, it is designed for having a lesser amount of diffused reflections from walls to make a good sounding room. A drummer, vocalist, or guitar speaker cabinet, along with microphones, is acoustically isolated in the room. A professional recording studio has a control room, a large live room, and one or more small isolation booths.

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Audio Production Course Manual Copyright © 2021 by Mark J. Lindquist is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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