I recently caught up with my brother and musician Paul at Steakpie Studios for tea and yum yums. His studio is so cool, that I had to get it down on paper in an interview, and ask him how he made it in the first place. So, as a bonus, here’s his guide featuring twelve things you’ll need to build your first homemade music studio.
There are people who listen to music and those who take it apart, piece by piece. When listening to a song I was always fascinated by the sound of the room, the tone of the guitar or trying to work out how the producer got so many instruments to fit together to make that breathtaking piece of music you love. My first real influence was Steve Albini’s work on Nirvana’s In Utero. The drum sound was stunning and I felt like I was in the same room as Grohl.
The first thing you need when building a studio is passion, this is quickly followed by a whole lot of your time and infinite patience. After all the tears and frustration, the day you sit and have the first listen of your latest (or first) music project is indescribable.
RODE NT2-A – £269 – Condenser microphones tend to have larger diaphragms for picking up a wider range of frequencies. The NT2-A is a versatile Australian designed mic. It’s got three pattern options (basically the direction the mic will pick up sound), low pass filters (for cutting unnecessary bass) and gain control; I’d recommend the NT2-A for great quality and versatile mic at a budget price.
Whiteboard – £13 – Amazing for a quick picture of where you’re at, especially if you get really complex projects.
Books and magazines – I swear by Sound on Sound magazine. It goes into a lot of complex audio jargon but occasionally publishes useful guides.
Hooks – £4 – Cables can be a nightmare, so I use wall hooks to loop them and keep them organised. This helps to stop sound bouncing off bare walls too.
Tascam DP-32SD Digital Multitrack Recorder – £399 – You’ll need a Studio in a Box (SIAB) or Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) to record mix and master your projects (if you have the finance you should get an engineer to master your project separately). SIABs are a dying breed, but they give you fantastic portability, a decent sound and are a relatively cheap way to start a home studio. DAW’s enable people, with the right knowledge, to create audio every bit as good professional studios. I use a Korg D3200 (SIAB) (no longer produced but you can get them second hand) which offers an impressive sound and 12 mic inputs which is fantastic for recording drums or live bands. Many musicians who play at home can create full albums using DAW’s and plug in software that can allow you to program drums and other instruments.
Acoustic foam wedge tiles – £29.50 – Panels and bass traps to treat your room. Panels help reduce reflections which enhance upper frequencies which affect the listener when mixing. Bass traps help reduce the amount of bass that bounces back to the engineer. For example too much bass reflections will mean your recordings may end up sounding thin (lacking bass) because you over compensate for your studios acoustics
KRK ROKIT RP6 G3 Active Studio Monitors – £164.99 – These are active monitors. You can buy passive monitors but you would have to research buying amplifiers. Active monitors are more practical for those starting out. Hifi speakers are designed to enhance certain frequencies of audio whereas monitors are for allowing the sound engineer to balance the range of sonic frequencies needed to create a vibrant and powerful piece of music. The Rokit 6s are a very good set of budget entry monitors.
Mopads – £27 – To isolate monitors. Bass travels from the speaker though anything it sits upon further enhancing bass frequencies so it s vital to isolate monitors as much as possible. Ideally monitors should be on dedicated stands, but this isn’t always possible if you’re tight for space.
Korg Electribe ESX2-RD Sampler – £366.66 – Great machine for producing beats and samples. Used by a number of artists. Bit of a steep learning curve though.
Lighting – £22 – Your studio is where you go to escape and get creative, your lighting will set the mood! I have blue lights all around my studio. One of Eve’s favourite tracks of mine happens to be called ‘Blue Lights’.
Desk – £100 – Attach a shelf to that speakers are at same level as ears. Desks need to be solid and not wobble around as you try to nail a mix.
Storage – £103 – No matter how messy you are, you do need a de-cluttered studio.