Thinking of setting up a recording studio in your home? Even the most careful, research-devoted person in the world isn’t perfect. There are certain aspects of this complicated endeavor that anyone might miss when setting up their first recording space. The advice here is meant to help prevent that.
For those thinking of making the studio plunge, here are five common mistakes you should look out for while putting your home studio together:
1. Buying Equipment in Excess / Poor Prioritization
This is a very common rookie mistake – especially when there is a lot of money at one’s disposal.
Even if you can afford to buy lots of gear or the most expensive versions thereof, only buy what you need at the moment and start with that. As time goes on, the need for other equipment will arise and it will be obvious.
For example: Only recording solo artists or smaller, stripped down projects to start? Perhaps wait on buying a large, multi-channel control surface for when clients, and subsequently funds, are regularly recurring and start with a smaller DAW that still fits your needs without breaking the bank.
Otherwise, you’ll only be taking up useful space unnecessarily. This is not to say that you should compromise on quality; buy quality, but keep necessity in mind.
If you have limited resources, you must prioritize what comes first and what comes last.
The primary goal is to create an environment that is conducive for recording music. Always remember that.
2. Not Seeing Your Studio As a Workspace
Even though you enjoy making music, know that you’re setting up a workspace and not a playground. Some people set up their recording studios to double as a gaming lounge or mini movie theatre of sorts.
That’s not to say including these kinds of elements is without merit. But think of it this way: Would a photographer use his professional camera to take random selfies? Probably not. When you set up your studio as a workspace – even if it’s a personal studio – it has a psychological effect; every time you get in there, it’s easier to get in the “zone” and conduct a productive session.
I’m not saying that you can’t relax after working for hours or that you can’t create a space that allows for decompressing between takes. Just don’t let it be the central reasoning for certain decisions when initially setting things up.
3. Wrong Studio Monitor Placement
Playback and evaluation of recorded audio is one of the most crucial aspects of working in a studio. If you place your studio monitors carelessly and-or without proper support, you will have a harder time getting an accurate picture of audio output from them.
Placing speaking flush on a desk? Vibrations from the speaker output will cause the desk to vibrate. This will cause much-unwanted noise. It’s always better to place the monitors on isolation pads. This will prevent the ripple effect of the speaker vibrations. The best method to use here, is to have a separate speaker stand for your monitors, rather than placing them on your desk.
Additionally, your speaker arrangements will determine how much value you get from them.
If your studio monitors are not placed in such a way that the tweeters are directed accurately at your ears, all the audio you will hear will be off-axis. This is important to keep in mind because at the start, you might feel the speakers sound good, even though they are poorly arranged. So, be sure to think carefully about arrangement to get it right the first time, even if the difference doesn’t seem apparent at first.
4. Inadequate Acoustic Treatment
You may have heard that if you cover your studio walls and windows with blankets, you’ll be just fine. No need for fancy absorbers, right? Nothing can be further from the truth. Good room treatment is the foundation for having a good recording. Get good acoustic panels and line them carefully in your recording space. See if you don’t hear the difference when you’re done. Microphone shields do not replace good room treatment either; they are designed to complement a good sounding room. If a microphone shield prevents reflections from the front of the mic, what about those from behind? It always pays to get your room sounding as good as you possibly can. It makes your work in the long run, a whole lot easier.
5. Using the Wrong Headphones
Headphones are a necessity in a recording studio. What often goes unconsidered is that there are different headphones for different purposes.
There are two major types: open-back headphones and closed-back headphones.
The open back headphones allow sound to seep out, and in through the earcups.
This means that if a person was using an open ear headphone near you, you would hear what they were listening to. If you use this for recording, you will not get the best results because the headphone will leak into the mic, creating noise problems when you mix.
I suggest these planar magnetic headphones for home studio use.
Good luck to all you future studio owners out there!
Jennifer Webster is a passionate singer, blogger, and audiophile from Detroit, MI. She’s on a mission to help music creators to create fine music that helps them get well positioned in the saturated music space. She is a regular blogger over at Sound Maximum.