How to build your studio? A very important question these days, on which I thought it was very interesting to write an article. While thinking about how to write this article so that it is relevant and gives you answers to the questions you are asking yourself, I realized the need to do it in several episodes, like the blockbusters of the cinema!
Before we embark on this exciting adventure, let’s ask ourselves a few questions about the future studio of your dreams.
What kind of studio?
It is important to define specifications for the studio you want to create, for the following reasons:
- The purpose of this studio: what will it be used for? Is it a mixing studio, a mastering studio, a beatmaking studio or a recording studio?
- From the purpose flows the place: we do not set up a recording studio to receive the public, and more precisely groups, on the 4th floor of a residence…
- From the purpose and the place comes the acoustics, because you do not isolate your Home Studio in the same way as a Mastering studio.
- And the most interesting thing: the furniture. This is the position that suffers the most in all the configurations I have had the opportunity to meet since I started working in this profession.
- The central core of your studio: the equipment, whether virtual or physical.
To resume, we can say that there are 4 configurations.
- The Home Studio versatile enough to enjoy and practice at home.
- The very versatile Project Studio with a fairly high pro level.
- Studio Pro for recording, mixing and mastering.
- The Nomad Studio to collaborate with other artists, or friends….
Let’s detail the configurations to better understand how to set up your studio.
Who doesn’t dream of having their own Home Studio? Still need to know what a Home studio is? Simply, a studio at home, in a room of his apartment, his house, or an outbuilding of his house. We then arrive at a very large home studio.
Moving to the countryside?
Personally, I know of some that are over 70m2 and others barely 9m2. You can choose to settle in the countryside in a place well isolated from the rest of the world, to make music and therefore noise without any concern for sound isolation.
In my opinion, this is a mistake in several aspects:
- you isolate yourself from people who could collaborate or come to work with you because you are located outside a city and its means of transport.
- you may not have access to the Internet with a speed close to or equivalent to that of fibre. We must now consider that many of our software tools and plug-ins require updates, not to mention sound banks. A small example: it takes about 4h30 with the fiber to make a complete installation of the Native Instruments KOMPLETE 12 ULTIMATE Collector’s Edition pack…
- Another disadvantage of being in the countryside and this I have already seen several times alas, your studio may be visited and the equipment you accumulate will be stolen from you, which is not very reassuring.
And the city?
That being said, being in the city also has its disadvantages. You will have to make your Home Studio in a room of the apartment where you live or even in the dining room! Neighbours may often come to tell you that you make too much noise (this is an experience I personally had when I started more than 25 years ago…) If you buy your apartment, no worries about doing some small sound isolation work. If you rent on the other hand, it’s another story… The advantage is of course friends who can come and share and collaborate with you and even remotely, because with the Internet now everything is possible…
What are you planning to do with your Home Studio?
Let’s assume that every studio is alive and that as you experiment, learn and achieve, it will evolve. A Home Studio in general is made to please yourself, even if with time you can spend a lot of money and energy on it. So, whether you want to do beatmaking, electro music, rock, pop, dance hall… There is no need to think big from the start. One piece of advice I can give you: yes, you can dream, but not too much. Stay reasonable!
What is this word attached to the word studio?
It is true that in France we do not hear much about this term. It is used much more on the other side of the Atlantic, and particularly in the United States where it comes from.
To define a Project Studio and its role, it is a hybrid studio between the Home studio and the professional studio.
You can do recording sessions, vocals, guitar, solo instruments but this type of studio is not intended for group recording or re-recording only.
We also work on mixing, arranging, composition, recording, but also mastering. In general it is possible to work on the entire sound chain. In addition, it perfectly integrates all MAO tools, but also analog tools such as synthesizers, drum machines, electronic drums, but also compressors, equalizers and preamplifiers.
Its target audience in terms of clientele is not very different from a professional studio. It is simply very varied: you can work for amateurs as well as professionals, labels or record companies. Important customers for a Project studio are television channels, and audiovisual production companies. Working for video games is not excluded, quite the contrary. To give you a simple example, this is the case of my studio, where I can modulate what I want as I want and define processes and working methods according to the needs of my clients. I don’t have the same constraints as the pro studios. In summary, a Project Studio is a professional studio without recording booths.
So where do you set up this kind of studio? It can be in the city or on the outskirts of a city. It requires good acoustics, a space reserved for the work part and a space reserved for the customer reception part. A good Internet connection is essential for a Project Studio, as many jobs are processed remotely. A parking lot for customers and musicians who come to work at your place is a significant plus. I say this from experience, because for my clients and the artists who collaborate on certain projects, it is very pleasant to be able to park next to the studio. The easiest way is to invest in a house that will allow you to install your Project Studio, without forgetting to foresee that it too will live and evolve according to the weather and technical and musical practices.
Who hasn’t dreamed of working in a professional studio? Personally, I spent a lot of time there 15 years ago in the past. Today this type of studio tends to disappear and the reason is simple, because it is economical. Having a structure for recording, mixing and mastering with a sound recording booth and a control room capable of recording groups becomes a heavy financial burden.
The current trend is that more and more artists are producing themselves at home. Like many, they use Logic Pro X, Ableton Live or other software such as Pro Tools to make their models and find ways to finalize them at a lower cost. There are labels or professionals who are looking for suitable locations, both acoustically and technically, with a renowned mixing board (e. g. SSL or Neve mixing board) and interesting devices. From there to having a financial regularity in invoicing, it may become complicated. Unless you have a star who makes you the reputation of your studio.
There is a solution!
Find a very large room that you will equip acoustically, in terms of furniture and equipment. To make this professional studio profitable, you will need to build four rehearsal booths. Of course, as the booths are all connected to your control room, you will have the opportunity to offer an attractive rate for the rental and recording of the rehearsal sessions.
Album making will come naturally next, which will give your pro studio its reputation if you do a good job! However, expect to live on staggered schedules, and to have to manage the rentals of rooms, musicians and bands that come to work, which may leave you less time to focus on your work as a sound engineer.
Needless to say, the structure must be located on the outskirts of the city with impeccable sound isolation and good facilities. There should be no walls attached to a gym or repair shop, which could make noise and make your recordings unusable. Avoid renting! For example, one of my clients rented a room that is now completely unusable during the day because of the noise pollution caused by workshops with walls adjoining his professional premises. In addition, he does not have the owner’s authorization to carry out the necessary work for sound isolation.
If you wish to embark on this adventure I strongly recommend that you call me first via this link. I could give you some very good advice to avoid a lot of trouble. The ideal place for this room is to have a car park, with access via public transport, fiber, a nice relaxation area, and very good equipment.
It is becoming more and more common to have everything in your laptop. Example: his MacBook Pro, even if I see more and more people working on Mac Mini. The advantage of Studio Nomade is that you can work with friends, on the train and even on holiday. Studio Nomade is essentially ITB, i.e. In The Box. A lot of plug-ins, a software that we master ideally designed to make the stage! I will talk in a future episode of Ableton Live 10 about a very good sound card, and one or more good microphones and a very good headset.
Concerning the acoustics of a nomad studio
This is not the most important thing, but there are solutions like Filter reflections from sE Electronics.
Personally, I have a mobile configuration that I use when I go to some customers or when I work with friends or family.
But recently I also opted for another configuration, namely an H6 zoom magneto to record in any situation without having to bring too much equipment.
The objective is simple: this is only for sound design work. If having a Nomad Studio does not restrict you, it is also important to say that it can be used to bring sound material back into your Home Studio. A place where the sound card and your laptop are the heart of your configuration. In this case, a small room with a minimum of acoustics is required to ensure quality listening.
Let’s talk about acoustics.
Having gone through these 4 configurations, let’s now look at an important point: acoustics. Whether it is on the floor, walls, or ceiling, solutions exist depending on the result you are looking for.
The easiest solution: avoid egg boxes! It isolates very badly and interior decoration is not the best!
For a Nomad Studio or a Home Studio, I was talking about the Reflexion Filter. Another inexpensive solution is a library full of books. From experience, I have recorded many voices in reading spaces or libraries. In addition to the sound aspect, this brings a cultural touch, which can be useful. It doesn’t matter what the books are. The important thing is that there are many of them. For the record, it doesn’t work as well with vinyl libraries, which doesn’t mean you don’t have them!
A solution from the United States: Acoustiblock, a viscoelastic polymer material that attaches to floors, walls and ceilings. It offers important sound insulation properties. I let you visit their website via this link.
Finally, alternative solutions can be put in place. As a floor and ceiling in Wooden bar, 15x15x30cm for the floor and 10x10x30cm for the ceiling. The part to be treated requires a large volume, as it will be reduced by about 60 cm in height (max 30cm for the ceiling with relief and 30cm without relief for the floor). The walls can be insulated with acoustic rock wool isolation. In double thickness, this reduces the noise by about 30dB.
Also think about the decoration. It’s important because it’s a room where you might spend a lot of time… So, you might as well make yourself feel good there…
The continuation of the next episode….