10 Typical Mistakes to Avoid When Starting Your Own Home Studio

Here is a guest post from Tara Parachuk at Voices.com.

Having a recording studio at home is great. You can work whenever you choose to, and you don’t have to worry about booking and paying for studio time.

But there’s a catch. Setting up a studio can be extremely expensive if you go all out from the word go. This is a major mistake that a lot of people make.

The truth is, you only need the corner of a room and a few select items to get started. Once you have the basics and you’re earning money from it, you can grow your studio over time.

Take a look at 10 other common mistakes people make when starting a home studio and make sure you don’t fall into the same trap.

1. Buying Too Much Equipment Too Soon

Whether you’re used to working in a professional studio or not, the temptation to go out and buy all of the equipment is strong. However, it’s much better to concentrate on the key items and spend your money on them rather.

You can do a lot with one or two great microphones and multi-channel software on your regular computer. Think about what you’ll be recording and prioritize your choices to begin with.

2. Not Making It A Work Area

Much like a home office, a home recording studio can be a blessing and a curse. You need to separate your studio as a work area and not somewhere for relaxing or socializing. Even if you only record as a hobby, the psychological effect of walking into a work area to have a productive session will only improve your recordings.

3. Not Listening To The Room

Many people won’t have a choice in where they set up their home recording studio. There may only be one feasible space, and space may be limited. This means that you’ll likely have to work around the sounds in the room.

Take a moment to really listen—does the room echo, are the floorboards creaky, or can you hear the neighbors? Also, consider if there are different noises at different times of the day and how you counter them.

4. Putting Playback Speakers In The Wrong Place

Listening to your recordings is a critical part of any studio. Where and how you place your playback speakers is so important to avoid getting an inaccurate sound quality when you’re listening.

Speakers need proper support and should never get placed flush against a surface that they can vibrate against.

5. Getting The Wrong Acoustic Treatment

Acoustic treatment can be key to good-quality recordings in home studio environments. Though it is possible to mitigate the typical room reverb so common in home studios by getting close to the microphone and editing, investing in proper acoustic foam panels will take your studio to a professional level quicker than any other equipment that you could buy. The foam also isn’t that expensive if you ask suppliers for small offcuts.

But be warned! there are products out there that use foam that does very little (if anything) to absorb sound. If it is too inexpensive, that might be a red flag. Her is an example of PROPER acoustic foam panels: Auralex Sonoflat. Note that 14 of these 12" x 12" panels is $127. THAT is the range you should expect for proper foam that actually WORKS. Be wary of brands that will sell you 48 panels for $30!

Lining your walls with blankets or throwing a blanket over your head and microphone will work in a pinch, but it’s not the best way to go.

6. Buying Cheap Cables

Another area where you should try not to go cheap is on the cables you use to connect your equipment. You don’t have to go for the most expensive, but make sure you go for recognizable brands and ones that have good reviews.

Cheap, poor-quality cables can reduce the quality of your recording even if you have the best microphones on the market. And they will start to mess up your audio when things start to break down inside, which can happen within a year. You can avoid this by sticking to better quality cables.

7. Not Spending Enough On Your Headphones

Headphones are as important as getting the right microphones. You want to get a pair that give you accurate sound, not "good" sound. Consumer headphones will focus on trying to enhance the sound. But when editing your recordings, you want to hear what the audio sounds like "for real."

Closed-back headphones are a good way to go for critical editing because they block out external noise that you might mistake for being actually in your audio when editing.

Whether you go for over-the-ear or on-the-ear, you need to ensure that they fit snuggly, you can wear them for hours at a time and they don’t let sound in or out.

8. Forgetting About The Software

Many people focus a lot on getting the right hardware for their studio and don’t always factor in the costs of the software they need.

Amps, microphones, cables, headphones, pedals—they’re all important to get right. However, if you don’t have the right software for editing, mixing and exporting, you won’t be able to finish your recordings properly.

Another factor to consider about software is what kind of effects it can create. Sometimes you don’t need to buy a full drum kit and a bass guitar and a piano. You can create those tracks through your computer and end up with an extremely realistic sound.

Amazingly, for voiceover or podcast work, Audacity - which is free - can be all you need. It's amazingly capable for the price :-).

9. Relying Too Heavily On Effects

On the topic of effects, it is possible to rely too heavily on effects because you haven’t set up your studio correctly.

If you haven’t got decent clarity and warmth in your recording set-up, it’s tempting to compensate with pre-amp effects and then play around in post-production too.

The biggest mistake is putting too much reverb on your sound, which can cause notes to slur together and lose the clarity of the music. It should always be your goal to set up your studio so that you have a good, clean recording and then add your effects afterwards for specific reasons; not to fix a poor-quality recording.

10. Giving In To Distractions

The biggest difference between having a home studio and using one you have to book is the lack of distractions.

When you go to a studio, you’re there for a reason and you have usually paid for this time. This means you aren’t likely to let distractions get in the way of what you’re there to do. In a home studio, you need to exercise a bit more willpower. Distractions are a productivity killer and you need to know how to overcome them.

Start with not bringing your phone into the studio or turning off notifications. You could also turn off your WiFi for the session. This will ensure that you focus on what you set out to achieve—even if you are at home.

Summary

Setting up a home studio doesn't have to be a hugely expensive, labour-intensive project. Follow these tips, start small, and grow over time. You’ll end up with a studio that suits your needs, rather than one you have to rent.

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