If you’re like most musicians, you’ve probably dreamed of having a recording studio in your own home. While many might think this dream is out of reach, the reality is that nearly anybody can build a home studio when they have the right help. If you want to learn how to turn your home into the next Capitol Studios, keep reading.
At Lamont Bros., we’ve done a lot of memorable remodels around the Portland Metro Area. But none have excited our inner musicians quite like the small handful of home music studios we’ve built. Though few and far between, home studios can be some of the most rewarding remodel projects. They also come with some incredibly unique challenges to overcome.
In this article, we’ll share some remodeling best practices that you can apply to your own home studio build. By the time you reach the end of this page, you should have a stronger understanding of:
- Introduction to home studios
- Potential home studio layouts
- How to use sound isolation in a home studio
- Digital vs. analog home studio gear
What is a home recording studio?
At its core, a home recording studio is a space in your home capable of capturing professional-level audio recordings. Depending on your level of expertise and recording needs, your ideal home studio might look different from everyone else’s.
A composer who specializes in electronic dance music might only need a single soundproofed room with studio monitors, a MIDI controller, and a computer. Comparatively, a semi-professional indie rock band that records all their own material would likely need a much more complicated setup.
When it comes to building your own home studio, consider what will best fit your needs as a musician. How do you plan to use the space? What should you be able to do here that you wouldn’t be able to do in another studio? Once you have an idea of what your studio needs, then it’s time to start designing.
How do you intend to use the space?
There are thousands of different instruments, and for each one there are several methods of recording its sound. How you choose to record your music will affect the setup of your studio. Will you be producing only electronic music via MIDI or a direct audio interface? Then you might only need one “studio room.”
Do you plan to only record one instrument at a time? In that case, you might want a single recording room, plus a control room. This is where the audio engineer oversees the recording process and gives cues to the musicians.
For many studios that record multiple musicians at once, the main recording area is the “live room.” In this type of studio setup, all of the musicians play together in one large room, while the engineer runs the show from the control room. Although each instrument is typically recorded on a separate audio track, it can often be difficult to edit those tracks because of sound bleed between instruments.
To overcome this challenge, many live room studios also have separate isolation rooms. These soundproofed rooms contain louder instruments, such as drums or pianos. Separating the loud instruments from the rest of the band allows for better track isolation but requires more soundproofing in the studio. Most vocal recording is also done in an isolation room because vocals require a lot of post-production work.
How much sound isolation do you need?
The level of sound isolation your home studio requires will depend on the number of separate rooms you plan to have. Once you know how you intend to use your home studio, you can then plan on how to build the sound isolation around it.
Designing a home studio for a residential area is a challenge on its own because chances are, somebody’s going to be living in the home while you’re recording. When it comes to soundproofing, the trick is to maximize insulation while minimizing sound-conducting points of contact.
Double Drywall with Green Glue and Clips/Channels
One of the most effective methods of soundproofing is to use twice the amount of drywall as normal. The first layer of drywall attaches to the wall using soundproofing clips. These specially designed drywall hangers limit the amount of contact between the drywall and the surface it attaches to. That way, noise can’t travel as easily from one surface to the next.
Then, on top of the first layer of drywall goes the secret sauce: Green Glue. This noise-isolating sealant reduces sound vibrations even further. Green Glue can go into walls, ceilings, and subfloors to deaden sound from all directions.
After the Green Glue, a final layer of drywall goes on to further reduce sound transfer. Inside the walls and ceiling, a layer of foam insulation or mineral wool provides an additional soundproof countermeasure.
Soundproof Doors & Windows
The walls may be well and good, but what about doorways? Although soundproofing a door may be slightly more complicated, it’s still completely doable. For most doorways, your best soundproofing option is a solid-core wooden door with a rubber seal on the bottom. The density of the door should parallel the soundproofing quality of the walls themselves.
The amount of sound that transfers through a material is measured using a sound transmission class (STC) rating between 25 and 65. The higher the STC rating, the less sound can travel through a material. The Department of Housing and Urban Development offers a guide on different methods of soundproofing based on STC ratings. When it comes to doors, most standard solid doors can only offer an STC rating of around 40. However, some specialized door companies offer more soundproof options.
But what about when the engineer needs to be able to see the musicians in the live room? Can you soundproof a window? The masters over at Soundproof Studios can. In fact, their soundproof glass technology is so robust that they even offer a 60”x80” soundproof sliding glass door with a perfect STC rating of 65. That is if you’ve got $12,000 to spend.
Even after all of the hard work that goes into soundproofing the walls, don’t underestimate the power of some well-placed sound panels. The walls are designed not to let sound pass between rooms. These panels help keep the sound from bouncing around within a room. Whether they be the cheap foam kits you buy at Guitar Center or a custom-built wooden sound diffuser, wall panels are still an essential part of a soundproofing setup. Put some bass traps in the corners, and you’re good to go!
Do You Prefer an Analog or Digital Setup?
Ah yes, the age-old question: Should you embrace new technologies or cling to tried and tested methods? Such is the argument over analog versus digital recording. While each has its merits, there is no right or wrong way to record music. However, the one you choose will affect how you build your home studio. If you’re unsure, of which is best for you, you can read about both below.
Analog Recording: The Way of the Master
In the music world, you’ll find plenty of analog purists. While the process may take much longer than modern digital recording, it’s hard not to like the unique character and richness of analog audio.
Analog recording involves a lot more physical gear than digital. Very few people still use tape decks for recording. However, many studios still cling to their analog outboard gear such as tube preamps, EQs, and compressors. The general consensus is that these units yield a higher-quality sound than their digital counterparts. However, analog recording involves managing several daisy-chained units at a time. As a result, the process can be incredibly time-consuming, and it’s difficult to adjust everything to get the sound you want. Not to mention, getting started with even entry-level analog gear can cost tens of thousands.
If you prefer the character and style of analog recording, you should plan on including several rack storage cabinets in your control room to house all of the gear. You can also expect a generally more complicated recording setup.
Digital Recording: The World at Your Fingertips
As recording technology continues to evolve, advances in digital recording have revolutionized the modern home recording studio. With easy access to thousands of tools and plugins, digital music production has never been more accessible. Although digital recording has streamlined and simplified the music production process, many complain that the sound quality isn’t what it was in the analog days.
Instead of several racks full of expensive audio gear, the modern digital engineer keeps all their equipment on the computer. Digital emulators for analog EQs and preamps promise comparable sound at a fraction of the cost. Some digital instrument samples even sound convincingly similar to the real thing.
Do you prefer a digital setup? If so, just make sure to do your research on which digital plugins will serve your music best. While some are available for free, most digital recording plugins worth their reputation will cost you something.
Don’t Build Your Home Studio Alone
To build a recording studio inside of a home, you’ll need to plan the project carefully. With a remodel this complicated, it’s best to work with a professional designer. A trained set of eyes can help you address the technical building challenges that come with transforming a residential space into a professional-level recording studio.
As a design-build firm, Lamont Bros. works with clients in both the design and construction phases of remodeling. Let us help you bring your home studio dreams into reality! Click the button below to schedule a free design consultation with a member of our team. We’ll walk you through the process of remodeling, from initial designs to your first jam session.