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The Art of Making Music: How to Build a Music Home Studio

Table of Contents

When Grammy-winning artist Bon Iver (aka Justin Vernon) nursed a broken heart, he sought solace in his father’s hunting cabin. He broke up with his band, ended a relationship and faced personal issues in isolation. He almost had nothing but despair. 

Who would have thought this would give birth to a Platinum-selling record that sold over 1,463,000 copies? With just two guitars, a Mac with Pro Tools LE and an SM57 microphone, he recorded his debut album ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ on a music home studio setup for three months. It established his name in the indie folk music scene. 

This story proves that musical masterpieces can come from a music home studio built on a meagre budget. And if you’re an aspiring musician planning to build one yourself, where do you start?

Gone are the days when you need to hire audio engineers and rent expensive studios just to scratch your musical itch. Now, as long as you have a laptop for starters paired with a music course, you can make music in the comfort of your home.

To get started, check out this basic roadmap for setting up a DIY recording studio at home:

How To Set Up a Music Recording Studio At Home: A Step-By-Step Guide

music home studio

While a million-dollar facility like Abbey Road or Windmill Lane and high-end gear may be the dream of any aspiring musician, not everyone has the budget for that. The good news is, you can set up a great home music studio for as little as $400 to $500. Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you started:

Step 1: Choose a Room

The size of your music home studio entirely depends on its intended usage. For instance, you need to find a larger space if you want to record a drum set, something that can accommodate both the band and the equipment. Consider spacious basements, spare garages and other similar spaces.

However, you can just use your bedroom if you’re a self-producing writer. Since you’ll only need a recording area for vocals, guitar, keyboards and other small instruments, a simple room will do. 

Don’t forget to consider two essential factors when choosing a recording space: square rooms and low ceilings. Keep in mind that having a low ceiling reflects sound, leading to unclear microphone recordings.

You should also pay attention to your preferred room’s floor. We recommend that you choose a space with concrete, hardwood or tile flooring since they are better for acoustics. Carpeting, on the other hand, makes for terrible studio flooring.

Step 2: Get Yourself a Computer

Your computer will serve as the brains of your home recording studio. It will handle a range of tasks from composing to recording to mixing and arranging. Fortunately, most laptops found in the market today carry enough processing power to handle audio tasks with ease.

You don’t need to spend a fortune on a computer for your home music studio, but you do need something that can handle the demands of a digital audio workstation (DAW). 

A laptop or desktop PC with at least 16GB of RAM and a Core i5 processor should be sufficient. If you’re comfortable with a Mac, that’s a great option too. Ultimately, the most important thing is to use an operating system that you’re familiar with and that you feel comfortable using.

Step 3: Choose a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)

Considered an all-in-one music creation suite, a digital audio workstation (DAW) is a software application used to record, produce and edit music. It can also be used to experiment with audio effects, work on sound design and play with virtual instruments, among other things.

You’re lucky if you own a Mac computer since it already comes with a free DAW called Garageband. However, if you want to access full features and functionality, you can upgrade to Logic Pro—a comprehensive DAW popular with music producers. It’s available on the Apple Store starting at S$299.98.

On the other hand, there are also high-quality DAWs for Windows such as Avid Pro Tools, Cakewalk by Bandlab, Image Line FL Studio, Ableton Live and more.

To know which DAW suits your needs, here are the questions you should ask yourself:

What Do You Want To Accomplish With Your DAW?

Before signing up for a free trial or paying for a subscription, consider your intended purpose and how you plan to accomplish it. That’s why you have to figure out what your workflow is.

This is especially important when you haven’t produced your music yet. Download the trial version of your preferred DAW first and try to produce your very first piece to see if it matches how you create music. 

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you want to focus on electronic music production where you’ll be playing with sounds and effects?
  • Are you a singer-songwriter who wants to create demos of their songs?
  • Do you want to work primarily with studio recordings or do you want to solely focus on live tracks?
  • Are you interested in printing music sheets and arranging music?

What Is Your Budget?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of buying a DAW because it’s the most recommended in the market. You probably want to upgrade to the latest version thinking that it would help your music production process.

However, you have to choose a DAW within your budget. How much are you actually willing to spend on a Digital Audio Workstation?

Keep in mind that DAW prices vary greatly. For example, cheaper DAWs may come with certain limitations like fewer recording inputs and audio tracks. More expensive DAWs, on the other hand, provide a broader range of features, plugins, tools and other resources. 

You can also go for a free DAW if you just want basic music mixing and editing.

Whatever you end up choosing, make sure that it matches your experience level with recording software. Some DAWs are easy to use and master, while others are far more advanced and a bit overwhelming for beginners.

Step 4: Choose an Audio Interface

An audio interface serves as the device that facilitates communication between your computer and your audio equipment. Just like a translator who helps people speak different languages and understand each other, the audio interface helps your computer and audio devices communicate clearly.

If you want to record vocals, guitars or live performances, you’ll need an audio interface.

But even if recording won’t be a part of your production, having an audio interface reduces delays in audio, especially when using virtual instruments and plug-ins on your DAW.

Here are some of the factors to consider when choosing an audio interface for your music home studio setup:

  • Number of inputs and outputs
  • Your budget
  • Build quality
  • Sound quality
  • Features
  • Phantom power
  • Computer connectivity

Some of the most affordable options (under $200) in the market are the Behringer U-PHORIA UMC204HD, PreSonus Studio 26c and Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. For example, the Behringer model has two MIDAS-designed mic preamps which are impressive for a product priced at about $99.

However, if you have a big budget, you can go for the Antelope Audio Orion Studio Synergy Core. For about $2,150, you get access to powerful DSP processing and unparalleled sound quality. The device can also handle 14 inputs and 18 outputs and support audio resolution of up to 24-bit / 192 kHz.

Expensive doesn’t always mean better! Make sure that you choose within your budget and needs. 

Step 5: Set Up Studio Monitors

Studio monitors are one of the most important pieces of studio gear when it comes to producing high-quality mixes. These monitors are specially designed to produce flat and unaltered sound (without added EQ or colouration), helping you accurately achieve the kind of sound you’re going for.

The kind of studio monitor you should buy depends on your needs and the size of your music home studio. For instance, if you have a small room, you can start with smaller studio monitors: a six-inch monitor at minimum. 

You should also get stands to absorb unnecessary vibrations from your speakers. They also offer you the chance to position your monitors away from walls, drastically improving your low-end clarity.

If stands aren’t included in your budget, you can get isolation pads instead as a cheaper alternative.

Check out the most recommended entry-level studio monitors:

  • Yamaha HS7
  • Kali Audio LP-6 V2
  • Pioneer DM-50D
  • JBL Professional 306P MkII
  • KRK Rokit G3 6″

Step 6: Buy a Microphone

Shopping for a microphone is truly overwhelming given that there are countless models, types and brands in the market. They come in all shapes and sizes, and most of them are considered jack-of-all-trade mics due to their versatility.

Where do you exactly begin?

Let’s start by saying that you don’t have to own everything all at once. Your microphone collection doesn’t have to include every model because it will grow over time, depending on your workflow and recording preferences. 

If you’re just starting, we highly recommend that you buy a total workhorse mic that you can use to record everything. 

A great example of this is the Shure SM57, well-suited for both live sound reinforcement and recording due to its bright and clean sound.

Step 7: Get a Pair Of Headphones

Studio headphones, like studio monitors, prioritise accuracy over listenability. They have a flat frequency response, reducing the bass curves and trebles usually heard in listening headphones. 

There are two types of studio headphones you should know:

  • Closed-back headphones – These headphones are completely sealed in the back for sound isolation. They are considered ideal for recording since the sound in your headphones won’t leak into your microphone.
  • Open-back headphones – An open-back pair of headphones allow air to flow, reducing resonances and low-frequency build-up. They produce a more natural sound, making them the perfect choice for mixing and mastering.

Once you decide on the best pair of headphones that suits you, don’t use them for an over-extended period of time. It can cause hearing fatigue, ear damage and permanent hearing loss in extreme cases.

Step 8: Consider Buying a MIDI Keyboard

Getting yourself a MIDI keyboard is optional since they’re not an absolute necessity in home studio setups. However, even if you don’t play virtual instruments and create beats, they offer production tasks like samples, patch changes, triggering automation and many more.

MIDI keyboards are also helpful in post-production, helping you correct, edit and layer performances as needed. 

They come in different forms and sizes. You’ll find lightweight and compact controllers and heavier models with full-sized 88 piano keys complete with features. You can also find keyboards with pre-made mappings for Logic Pro, Ableton Live and other DAWs.

Step 9: Don’t Skip Acoustic Treatment

Most beginners often obsess over what equipment and gear to invest in and they forget an important step: doing acoustic treatment. 

Remember that rooms have sound. When you listen to music on studio monitors, you also hear the influence of the room’s reverberations. Oftentimes, this affects the quality and accuracy of the sound you’re trying to produce. 

Luckily, you can use foam panels, glass wool, rock wool and other absorptive materials to minimise reverberation. 

Don’t confuse acoustic treatment with soundproofing a room! With soundproofing, you’re only trying to keep the sound from leaking in or out of the room to reduce disturbances. Meanwhile, acoustic treatment is all about controlling sound reflections to achieve better-sounding recordings.

If this step feels a bit intimidating to you, you can consult with companies specialising in room acoustic treatment. They can conduct an on-site assessment, acoustic testing and solutions to figure out the best treatment for your music home studio.

Step 10: Get Cables And Other Studio Accessories

Your music home studio will never work without cables. You need them for everything: instrument cables to record guitar, speaker cables to connect your monitors, power cables to bring your speakers to life and so much more.

You might argue that cables aren’t that important to be on this list. But have you ever felt so inspired to create something only to find out you don’t have the right cable for your instrument? Doesn’t it kill the mood?

Other studio accessories you should also consider are reflection filters, microphone stands and amplifiers, to name a few. Of course, this will all depend on your production and recording work.

Step 11: Find The Right Desk And Chair

Another overlooked step of building a music home studio is finding the right desk. Some musicians would go for the cheapest desk they can find or settle for something they aren’t fully satisfied with just to get the job done.

However, your desk is the centrepiece of your home studio. It plays a huge role in optimising your workflow and protects your valuable gear. Besides, buying an ordinary desk may not work in the long run as you upgrade your studio and buy new equipment.

Moreover, studio desks come with features that you won’t usually find in regular desks. This includes speaker shelves, wire-routing holes for concealing cables, cable management features and a tray for MIDI keyboards. 

Pairing it with a quality chair completes a functioning, top-tier music home studio. Bear in mind that you’re likely going to spend hours creating new beats, recording instruments and finishing a record. 

The only way you can take care of your body is by getting a great studio chair that can properly support your shoulders, neck and lower back during long recording sessions.

Final Thoughts

It’s okay to take a step back for a while and think about how you’ll start building your dream music home studio. We understand how overwhelming the whole process is, and the urge to shop around for new microphones, keyboards and monitors seems never-ending.

Your home studio will be your creative sanctuary. This is where you’ll pursue your creative projects, make music, discover more about yourself as a musician and even attend music courses online. Your studio, above all else, is a witness to your not-so-stellar days and how you power through them.

This can even help you make money from home as a musician!

And once you start creating a home studio that works best for you, the thought that you should constantly upgrade and expand your setup will always be there. 

But even if you have the money to buy the latest equipment, it won’t make you a better musician. It all boils down to your effort, hard work and patience while you define your creative process. 

FAQs

How do I start building my own music home studio?

To start building your music home studio, here are the steps you need to follow:

1. Pick a space.
2. Build yourself a computer or buy a laptop.
3. Choose a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).
4. Choose an audio interface.
5. Set up studio monitors.
6. Buy a microphone.
7. Get a pair of headphones.
8. Consider buying a MIDI keyboard.
9. Don’t skip acoustic treatment.
10. Get cables and other studio accessories.
11. Find the right desk and chair.

Why should I have my own music home studio?

Having your own studio at home comes with several benefits like getting access to a music studio 24/7, having complete control over your workflow and acquiring a good learning experience.

Set Up a Music Home Studio With Orita Sinclair

After setting up your home studio, you will want to dive right in and start recording and producing music. How do you mix like the pros? Orita Sinclair is here to get you started! You can sign up for our music courses like WSQ Mixing Music Professionally in the Home Studio and learn about the music production process. This includes mixing techniques, sound processing techniques, mastering tools and more!Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We’re more than happy to guide you through your music journey—whenever you’re ready.

About Orita Sinclair

Founded in 2002, Orita Sinclair is one of the oldest music and design schools in Singapore. We are committed to fostering a love of design and music in our students by encouraging them to be bold and imaginative in their endeavours.

Here at Orita Sinclair, we believe that theoretical and practical foundations are equally important with the music and graphic design courses that we offer. For that reason, we have put in place a forward-looking curriculum that grounds students in key principles before being guided by field practitioners in applying theory and technical craft in authentic, industry-oriented projects. One of our best programme is Diploma in Interaction Design.

Our supportive learning environment prepares students for the demands and challenges of the music and design industries. At the end of their graphic design courses or music courses, our students are ready to step out into successful careers or pursue degrees at renowned universities.

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