How to Build an Inexpensive Home Studio

Do you ever wonder how there are so many “independent” music labels in existence? With music recording contracts apparently becoming a thing of the past, it’s no wonder that there is a home studio in virtually every neighborhood in America. Whether you want to be a star, or you just want to record music as a hobby-there are many ways to build an inexpensive home recording studio.

First and foremost, it’s time to decide what kind of musical recording is being planned. While most recording equipment and techniques are universal, certain genres of music require specific equipment. For instance, if you’re planning on doing any vocal work, microphones, headphones and mic stands are necessities. Another example, for those doing DJ work, a specific equipment need would be a set of turntables. The tricky part of this whole endeavor really depends upon what you wish the “output” or end result to be. For musicians, a standard kit of instruments (or even just one or two) is also a necessity. However, the type(s) and number of musical instruments really depend on the level of skill and/or personal preferences of the musician. With this in mind, start perusing local music stores. Sometimes they run excellent sales on their equipment. In addition, acoustic and electric guitars, electronic keyboards, horns, and even complete drum kits can be purchased at local pawn shops. Another great resource to refer to, is the internet. Community message boards like Craigslist.org can be great methods to finding quality used musical instruments either for a fraction of typical costs, or free altogether. In addition to Craigslist, Ebay and MusiciansFriend.com are also excellent places to shop for instruments and equipment.

On the other hand, the lack of instruments does not necessarily mean that no music can be made. Technically, you can create entire masterpieces (done more often than not, these days) without a single musical instrument. All this can be done with a computer and some musical recording software. Ranging in price from $40.00 to $300.00, popular software packages like Cakewalk, FruityLoops, and Pro-Tools, have the capability of replicating the sound of live instruments. Whether you’re playing instruments live, or re-creating them digitally, you’ll need something to amplify your sound and make it “portable”. Therefore it would be wise to invest in a P.A. system and speakers, so that you can connect to any recording equipment. That recording equipment certainly is not limited to computers. As a matter of fact, a wise purchase choice in setting up your studio would be in acquiring some sort of external mixing equipment. For only around $800.00, one can purchase a Fostex VF-160 16-track mixer. This is a pretty standard digital machine, capable of recording, mixing, and compressing tracks. The VF-160 also has a CD drive/ burner so that you can create copies of your material-or upload files into the mixer. Since much of this equipment calls for electricity, you’ll also want to obtain a surge protector or two, depending upon the number of machines you have. Electric instruments will also necessitate cables which connect to your speakers. However, it is best to inquire about these types of items upon acquiring your musical instruments.

Once you have attained everything you need, it’s time to establish the space being utilized for the home studio. Assuming that the studio is being set up in a spare bedroom or den, there are a few logistics to consider. For instance, vocal work dictates that certain conditions be present in the room. It’s best to record in tight, compressed spaces where there is little room for sound to bounce off of surfaces. For this reason, small bathrooms and closets make excellent sound booths. If securing this type of space is not feasible, it’s entirely acceptable to line the walls with a coating that will reduce sound feedback. This coating can be as simple as covering all wall surfaces with cardboard egg cartons (a popular “grass roots” approach), or with foam padding, which can be purchased at hardware or other home supply stores.

You will need an area designated for the mixer, speaker(s), and P.A. system. Try to arrange seating so that you will be comfortable accessing the machines. In addition, it’s a good idea to consider setting up a small work area with a computer. Even if not using the computer (or software) to record, it’s wise to store files or keep logs of your work. With viruses so prevalent on the World Wide Web, it’s recommended that you use the computer strictly for storage purposes, without connecting to the internet. Viruses are capable of infecting your files, potentially ruining months (or years) of valuable work. Though there are sophisticated anti-virus software packages available these days, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

As soon as you’ve arranged all your instruments, speakers, and other various pieces where they should be, you might want to evaluate your space to see what’s left for guest seating. If you lack the room for furniture, pillows and beanbags make for colorful and comfortable guest nooks. And unless you’ve designated the wall space as “Sound Proof Central”, you might want to decorate the walls with vibrant fabrics, or even music-related memorabilia. You should also make sure that you have ample storage space for any equipment manuals or other helpful materials. Home studios don’t have to look “technical” and boring. Nor do they have to cost thousands and thousands of dollars. However, the home studio can and should be a comfortable and inviting place to record.

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