If you’ve decided to join the community of millions around the world who’ve discovered the joy of making music in the comfort of their home, then you have come to the right place.
Back in the day, music recording required a plethora of heavy (and expensive) equipment, preferably set up in a large recording studio.
Fast-forward to today, and making music is easier than ever (provided you have the talent), and you probably do, which is why you’re here.
Thanks to the advancements in modern technology, gone are the days where recording your own music meant striking a deal with a record label or hiring out an independent recording studio to help you record your first demo.
Nowadays, with a few well-chosen pieces of equipment, it is possible to create your own low-cost and fully-functional beginner studio room in the comfort of your home.
How We Got Here – A Brief History of the Recording Studio
Before the digital revolution of the early 90s, recording studios, such as the likes of Capitol Studios in Los Angeles and Abbey Road in London, were the go-to choice for recording artists who knew they were going to get a sound quality that was second to none in these facilities.
While these spots still retain their legendary status amongst professionals and novice musicians alike, the coming of the digital era made it possible for aspiring musicians to get access to cheaper, more efficient recording equipment without having to break the bank.
In what seems like ages ago, Digidesign released the Digi 001 Audio Interface and Pro Tools LE in 1999 in an attempt to make professional-grade digital recording tools accessible to independent musicians that didn’t have the backing of a major record label.
This was the first time that even those who were just entering the music industry had easy access to the tools that, up until then, were only accessible to the pros.
In the years that have followed, digital recording software and tools have improved by leaps and bounds.
This has made it possible for everybody, from the professional musician to the hobbyist, to create their favorite music and beats without having to leave their home.
Today, aspiring musicians have an endless array of options when it comes to digital recording equipment.
Being extremely efficient and affordable, building a home studio setup is now within reach of anyone who has an interest in creating their own music demos as a musician or beats as a beatmaker, which also turned out to be another red-hot profession.
Recording Equipment for Your First Home Studio
But, with a plethora of options available in equipment and software, putting together a beginner studio room can be a tough nut to crack for many people.
If you’ve been thinking of becoming a musician or beatmaker, but are still on the fence when it comes to choosing the various recording equipment that you’ll need, then you have come to the right place.
This is going to be your guide to all the essentials that you’re going to need to set up your very first recording studio in the comfort of your home. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
Computer (Laptop or PC)
Your computer is going to be at the heart of all of your digital recordings.
This means, if you’re building your beginner studio room from scratch, you will have to make sure that you choose the right computer for the job.
If you already have a laptop or PC that you’d like to use, then take a look at your hardware to see if it needs to be upgraded.
It doesn’t really matter whether you choose a desktop or laptop as a hub for your beginner studio room because there’s recording gear that’s specifically built to run on various setups and configurations.
That said, you will have to make sure that your computer is fast and powerful enough to not crack under the pressure while you’re in the middle of recording.
Since your computer is going to be the centerpiece of your home recording studio, it’s smart to invest in a solid system that can run the audio recording and editing software smoothly.
As a beginner, it wouldn’t be right to invest in a powerhouse machine just yet.
The good news is that when it comes to using a digital audio workstation, most computers with a decent hardware configuration will do the trick.
When it comes to the Windows vs. Mac debate, as a beginner, this is going to be a non-issue since there are more than enough DAW options that have been built for both operating systems.
That being said, it is also important to note that some software programs are designed for specific devices.
For example, FL Studio, which is a popular beat-making program that is extremely popular amongst beatmakers and producers, is a PC only program.
On the other hand, Logic, which is another popular audio recording program, can only run on Mac devices.
The only real challenge you will face when choosing between a PC and a Mac device is the screen size.
While a laptop is a great option if you want to take your music along with you to gigs, a PC does offer more bang for your buck since it allows you to run multiple screens simultaneously.
While that’s not a big issue, if you’re a beginner, a 15-inch laptop screen does tend to fill up awfully fast if you’re running multiple applications in tandem while recording.
Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) Software
Now that you’ve got yourself a laptop or PC that you want to use in your beginner studio room, it’s time to choose another crucial part of any recording studio; the home studio software or digital audio workstation (DAW).
This is going to be the program that you will use to create, record, arrange, edit, and mix your music or beats.
Before you choose a digital audio workstation for your home studio, you need to think about the music you intend to create.
For instance, are you a musician looking to create a demo or music on your own, or are you are beatmaker who will make beats to sell later on?
The advancements in sound recording and editing software through the years have made it possible for various brands to come up with some amazing DAW software that allows you to do just about everything at a professional level.
That being said, like all other things in life, when it comes to a DAW, you get what you pay for.
This means that there are plenty of options in home audio software that range from beginner to mid and expert level suites that allow you to create your next masterpiece without leaving the comfort of your home.
If you’re a beginner who does not want to pay for a DAW, then you’re in luck, because there are also plenty of other options available that are free of cost and allow you to get access to the same premium tools that you would look for in a paid version of a digital audio workstation for your beginner studio room.
Again, when selecting a DAW, make sure you are clear about what you plan on using the software for, since the features and plugins of the audio software vary, depending on the manufacturer.
Another important thing to factor in is the type of PC or laptop that you’re running.
If you have already invested in a PC or laptop, then you will need to check the compatibility of the home audio software that you are about to use.
It goes without saying that while some DAW software programs are compatible with Windows, Mac OS, and even Linux, others have been designed to work on specific devices only, so you will want to choose a DAW that is compatible with the operating system you’re running.
This might not be the first thing that’s on your list while planning a beginner studio room if you only plan on creating beats and melodies.
However, if you are a musician, then you’re going to need a good pair of microphones to record the sound of your guitar or keyboard.
You will have three options from which to choose from when it comes to a studio mic.
You can either go with a mic that lets you connect it directly to the computer – you can do your recordings via an audio interface, or you can invest in a USB microphone to record audio.
It’s important to note that as someone who is just starting out, you will not need to spend an exorbitant amount of money on a studio microphone.
Whether you go with a USB mic or another type of mic, there will be a plethora of options to choose from depending on your situation and recording needs.
You are also going to need two microphones, one for recording the sound of the instrument you are playing and one to record vocals.
When choosing a microphone for the latter, it’s best to go with the traditional large diaphragm condenser vocal mic.
Different mics produce different results. For instance, dynamics create a powerful and loud sound and are mostly used for drums and guitars.
Condensers are a popular choice for vocals and if you’re using acoustic instruments during a recording session.
Ribbons offer a smooth, well-rounded sound with darker tones but tend to be more delicate as compared to the other two, and as a result, are prone to breaking easily.
You can invest in a basic studio microphone as a beginner and add in the other types as you expand and grow your home studio setup.
Just because there are loads of options when it comes to monitor speakers, it does not necessarily make it easier to pick a good monitor speaker.
This is simply because judging music or sound is always going to be subjective.
That said, when choosing a monitor speaker, you will want to choose one that produces a neutral sound and does not flatter or try to mask the sound.
For instance, boosting the bass or making other adjustments to the music that can interfere with your ability to hear the true tone of the melody or gauge the power of the beat.
Since we’re on the topic of speakers, you should also invest in a good pair of studio subwoofers, even if you’re a beginner.
Getting good subwoofers will help you create those deeper frequencies and enhance the quality of your mixes.
That said, a good pair of subwoofers for a home studio room is going to be priceless when it comes to creating bass-heavy tracks.
The audio interface is another important piece of equipment that you’re going to need for your beginner studio room.
An audio interface is a gadget that will give you the ability to get audio into your computer while recording, and out of the computer for playback later on.
Even as a beginner, you are going to need a good quality audio interface to create music.
The good news is that even an entry-level audio interface will give you all the features you need while recording in your beginner studio room, such as digital-to-analog conversions for playback and analog-to-digital conversions for recordings.
Even the most basic audio interface will have an input to connect the microphone or some other instrument you might use, an output for the headphone, and one stereo output to connect reference monitors.
Cables and Stands
While there are wireless options available, those tend to be more expensive and not an absolute must if you’re setting up a beginner studio room.
The main cable that you’re going to require is a microphone cable that will connect it to the audio interface – unless you have a USB mic, which will go straight into the computer.
If you’re going to be using a microphone, you will need to invest in a mic stand since it’s not practical to do your recordings with a handheld mic.
USB microphones normally come with their own stand, and you can also skip the long, standing boom stand for a more compact desktop stand to hold the mic steady while you record.
Add Other Gear
With time, you will look forward to scaling your beginner studio room setup.
Some additional pieces of equipment you can add are more studio speakers, microphones, and a better DAW that offers you more recording and editing features.
What are the Must-Haves?
We’ve already talked about the importance of the computer, digital audio workstation, audio interface, microphones, and the speakers, but the one thing we left out is a good pair of headphones.
When purchasing headphones for your beginner studio room, it is important to remember that there are two types of headphones available in the market today, and both offer different functions.
- Closed-Back Headphones – Closed-back headphones are used for optimal isolation while tracking records.
- Open-Back Headphones — Open-back headphones are essential for mixing because of their ability to offer optimal sound quality.
Closed-back headphones are considered a must-have for a beginner studio room while open-back headphones are more of a luxury, and can be added later on to your studio setup.
What’s the Right Size for a Studio Room?
A home studio is a private space in your house where you get to record your own music or make beats using professional-grade equipment.
The reduced costs of having a beginner studio room make it the preferred choice for many aspiring musicians and beatmakers.
When building a recording studio in your home, one of the factors to consider is going to be the size of the room where you’re going to set up your recording studio.
Why Does Choosing the Right Room Size Matter?
The sound that’s created in a studio is determined by a combination of tools and the physical audibility of the listeners.
Creating high-quality sound mainly depends on the positioning of the speakers, the position of the listener, and the shape of the room.
When considering the size of the beginner studio room, it is important to factor in the width, length, and height of the room.
Multiplying these factors will give you the cubic volume of the recording space.
Rooms that measure up to less than 1,500 cubic feet are not considered a suitable size for recording sound efficiently.
That being said, a room that’s the size of less than 3,000 cubic feet is also not considered to be the ideal size to work in when recording music.
In other words, the dimensions of a room are going to determine the quality of the overall sound that’s produced.
Small rooms tend to be a challenge to work in, especially due to the low frequencies that are produced due to the low modal density of the room.
The easy solution is to use a room in your house that’s evenly proportioned and has an adequate amount of space to house your equipment.
When it comes to finding the best dimensions for your studio room, this, unfortunately, can only be achieved through trial and error.
You will have to experiment with the sound quality by using a number of different combinations when it comes to equipment placing and a listening position until you find the perfect sound.
This can be difficult to do if you’re going to be recording in a small room, to begin with.
The sound reflections that are created by the sound bouncing off the walls of a small room will be harder to avoid, even with bass absorbers on the walls. This certainly does not mean that bigger is better.
As a rule of thumb, the room you decide to place your recording equipment in should not have dimensions that are divisible by the same number or each other.
Needless to say, your room is also going to need acoustic treatment to improve the quality of sound that is produced by the DAW.
Acoustic Treatment Vs. Soundproofing
A common mistake that’s made by aspiring musicians is using the terms soundproofing and acoustic treatment interchangeably when, in reality, these two terms have completely different meanings.
Soundproofing a room means minimizing or stopping any sound from traveling in or out of the room.
This can be done by sealing up the air gaps in windows and doors or blocking then with heavy, dense material.
The benefit of soundproofing a studio room is that you do not have to bother about noises from outside the studio room being recorded along with your music, or being visited by disgruntled neighbors because the music is too loud.
Acoustic treatment basically means preventing sound reflections within a room during the recording process, which helps produce better sound quality.
The acoustic treatment of a room can include using foam panels on the walls of the home studio to absorb the natural reverb of a room. It also includes using bass traps for the absorption of low frequencies.
This is the reason why foam panels are a mainstay in recording studios. They’re not only cool to look at, but they also serve an important purpose.
Ideally, using foam to absorb the sound and keeping it from bouncing off the walls works great alongside diffusion.
Using foam panels to absorb the sound in the room you record in can result in the room sounding uncomfortably dead.
This can be avoided by using diffusers that allow some sound reflections to occur. By using the right combination of absorption and diffusion, it is possible to create a great sounding beginner studio room that has perfect acoustics.
How to Know the Acoustics of Your Rooms
Everything about a room, including the shape, type of furniture, and the equipment in a room, can greatly influence the sound quality of a studio room.
Also, symmetrical rooms, as in, perfectly square or rectangular, are known to have bad sound quality.
This is why it’s important to test the acoustics of a room to ensure that you get the best sound quality possible.
The good news is, you can easily test the acoustics of a room without needing a degree in audiology.
The following are some of the ways to test the acoustics of a room you wish to turn into your beginner home studio.
First, remove any carpet and walk across the empty room. While you’re walking, focus on any echoes or reverberation that’s created by your steps.
Rooms that produce loud echoes or reverberations have poor acoustics and will be difficult to work in.
You can also play a song that is well-balanced and features the full-audio spectrum and walk around the room to see how the volume from the speakers differs in various areas of the room.
While these changes might be subtle, it will give you an idea of the quality of acoustics of the room.
To find any flutter echoes, close the door and clap while standing in the center of the room.
If you notice a serious of distinct echoes, these are called flutter echoes and can also give you an idea of the acoustics of a room.
The results of these tests should give you a better idea of the type of acoustic treatment your room could use for you to produce better sound quality.
Is it a Good Idea to Build a Home Studio in a Basement?
Out of all of the rooms in a house that can be turned into a beginner recording studio, the best option has got to be the basement.
The main advantage of having a basement recording studio is that the concrete walls of the basement and the mass of earth surrounding the room provide a natural form of insulation or noise barrier.
The concrete walls of a basement also prevent echoes from bouncing off the walls as they would when using above-ground options.
One of the challenges that you might be faced with is the fact that sound travels like water.
This means that it will find the weakest link to escape from, in this case, it is going to be the roof of the basement.
The sound that’s produced in a basement studio could escape through the ceiling, which would require you to reinforce the ceiling of the basement studio.
The same applies when using an old cellar as your beginner studio room.
5 Additional Tips for Setting Up a Home Studio
Building a home studio can take months of planning and a significant investment in recording equipment if you want to create quality music.
If you are going to set up your first studio room, then you’re going to need all the help you can get.
The following are a few additional tips that will be useful for those who are planning their beginner studio room:
Split the Room
More often than not, beginners get too carried away with space they have for the studio room.
This can result in creating clutter that’s only going to get in the way and have a negative impact on the sound quality. To avoid that, you should split the room into two halves.
Use one half for setting up your recording equipment, which is going to include the computer, speakers, microphone and other essentials, while the other half of the room should be left bare, which will give you more space to include more equipment in the future or work on your music or beats along with your friends.
The idea is to only keep the equipment you need in your studio room to keep clutter at bay.
Choose the Right Equipment
Whether it’s deciding between a laptop or PC setup, or choosing a DAW for your beginner studio room, you should take your time when it comes to choosing the equipment you need for your beginner studio room.
Many times, beginners get carried away when it comes to choosing equipment and end up wasting money on unnecessary tools and equipment. They also make the mistake of paying too much for a high-end brand.
While the computer and DAW, along with other equipment is going to be essential parts of a home studio, it will be your level of creativity that’s going to produce those awesome sounds.
Keeping that in mind, it is fine to invest in a mid-range DAW if you can, but there are many options that are available for free that you can also use as a beginner musician or beatmaker.
We just touched on the importance of organizing your studio equipment, so you don’t create clutter in the beginner studio room.
The same goes for the music you create on the DAW, which is why it is important to organize your workload.
For instance, you can color-code the tracks and faders that you use in the DAW to streamline the process.
Color-coding will also make it easier for you to navigate through the tracks you have created during each mixing session.
Picking the Right Size Table
You’re going to need a place to put the laptop or PC, along with the speakers and other essentials in your beginner studio room.
This is where having the right size table or studio desk comes in. It is important to choose a studio desk that’s in proportion with the room’s size and blends well with the décor of the home studio.
But, even more importantly, the studio desk you choose should provide you with enough space for all of your equipment, or else, your beginner home studio will end up looking clumsy and disorganized.
You can find contemporary desks that are heavily constructed with heavy-duty wood and casters to provide your table with extra support.
Before choosing a studio desk, make sure it’s going to be large enough for any future equipment that you would like to add to your setups, such as additional screens or speakers.
Choose a Good Studio Keyboard
You will need a keyboard that you can use to input notes or adjust parameters and do a number of other tasks.
The keyword doesn’t have to be too fancy, but it should have enough options and features to give you the creative freedom you need while making music or beats.
Whether you’re going with an analog synth or a Roland A-49, making the right choice when it comes to choosing a studio keyboard will help you create some amazing music, all in the comfort of your home.
Making your mind up on all the separate things that go into setting up a beginner studio room might be a tough nut to crack for many who are just starting out, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
The tips and information given in this guide should help any starry-eyed musician or beatmaker set up a top-notch beginner studio room in the comfort of their home while staying within a budget.