Top 11 Recording Studio Construction Mistakes

Brandon Drury —  January 22, 2011 — 10 Comments

recording studio construction

#1 Believing In The Recording Studio Stereotype Myth

If you want to believe in voodoo, psychics, curing cancer with spoons, or holocaust denial, knock yourself out. I won’t say a word. (Not here anyway.:p) If you want to believe that there are “rules” to having a recording studio that extend past “a room where you make kick-ass records”, you are about to blow a big wad of cash on a piece of junk that doesn’t sound good.

A recording studio IS NOT some ultra-architecture monument with 14 rooms. A recording studio doesn’t have to have a vocal booth, a console, a giant room with 30′ ceilings and a $4,500/month electric bill.

A recording studio is nothing more than a kick butt engineer’s work environment. If the Prodigy guy can mix REAL records on airplanes on a laptop with a UAD card and a good pair of headphones, a 747 is now a recording studio…..more or less.

I wish someone would have kicked me in the head when I was 21 and said, “Hey idiot! Build whatever works best for the music and they will come.” Most of the problems in this article stem from people doing what they are “supposed to do”. (Not what seasoned audio pros say, but what their uncle is saying). It’s the usual Nuremberg Defense. “Just following orders” won’t cut it! Not here! You have a responsibility to crank out kick ass tunes, so even if your wife doesn’t understand why you broke rank, she’ll never understand why you built a crappy studio to work in and be in.

#2 Building Blind

It seems that everyone who hops into the home recording world has dreams of making their facility look like an ad for a recording school. The first step everyone takes is jumping right in and ordering the foam, making a trip to Lowes or Home Depot, and pulling out the power tools. I did this myself back in 2001. I had zero experience building anything serious, but that didn’t stop me from investing months of time (that should have went into recording) into fixing up a little recording room.

The end result? The only thing I learned was that I had no idea what I really needed.

Guess what. When I build my “super studio” this year, I know EXACTLY how I like to work, what I need, what is important to me, and what is not. My years of experience of working around the confines of a home will allow me to build an ultra facility, not because it LOOKS like a studio, but because recording in it will sound better and be more efficient.

Quite a few people can build stuff that looks good, but if you’ve got a truckload of drywall or even a hammer in your hand without understanding what constructions techniques make rooms sound better or will improve the efficiency of making recordings, you are just building blind.

Most people can imagine “the drummer goes here” and “the guitar amps go there”. That part is easy. Do you know how much lighting and at what angle is necessary to see your settings on your rack gear? Are you REALLY going to mount the headphone amp in your main rack(s)? Do you know how many amps you want to record at the same time so you can decide how many speaker cables you need to permanently run through the walls to your live room. What about combo amps? Have you planned your instrument cable runs? (Do you even want to run instrument cables that long/) These are all issues that you want done RIGHT when you settle down to build the studio you’ll be using for a decade.

Of course, this assumes you know how to get the live room isolated from the control room in the first place and know what is needed to get the mud out of the room.

Another possibility is, with a stroke of luck, you’ve already got some great sounding rooms and the wife can’t even hear you playing drums. Home run! You don’t want to blow a bunch of cash and time if you’ve already got something awesome!

I recommend putting 5-10 records under your belt, documenting your problems, and brainstorming solutions along the way before you even think about building. You have a lot to learn before you tackle the technical hurdles of studio construction even if you are Bob Vila.

In the meantime, get a hold of a bunch of packing blankets and use them to tame any reflections that are out of control. A blanket on a mic stand is something you see all the time, even in bigger studio situations. (They often have purpose-built fancy versions that do the same damn thing.:rolleyes:) You will always find use for these blankets in studio land so this is an investment that won’t go to waste. It’ll hold you over while you figure out exactly what each of your rooms really need.

Now that I think about, all of these mistakes are going to involve people not understanding how construction will improve the sound of the recordings or the efficiency of making recordings. So be it.

#3 The Use Of Studio Foam

Studio foam is the biggest load of crap in this side of the studio world. Believing the hype about studio foam is like believing what the news tells you about wars. It’s all-agenda and all bs. Someone is profiting from the damn thing, but it just looks like everyone ends up unhappy.

Here’s the deal. The #1 reason (other than humans) that [U]home[/U] recordings aren’t always pro recordings is the fact that the typical room has all kinds of low end bouncing around all over the place. This makes tracks recorded in these rooms sound bad. It makes mixing decisions made in these rooms even worse, which means the cd probably won’t translate to your buddy’s car.

Studio foam doesn’t have the ability to absorb anything in the low end or even the low mids. It does, however, suck the high end and upper midrange reflections that often make a room sound exciting. So if you are using studio foam, it’s safe to say that in 99% of all cases, you are making the situation worse. There are exceptions where ANYTHING is better than nothing, but these same problems could be handled via blankets or any other soft material for a fraction of the price.

Owens Corning 703 and Rockwool in the 4lb/cubic foot variety are what I recommend.

#4 Believing In the Basstrap Nuclear Suitcase Myth

In this modern era where there have been literally hundreds of thousands of terrorist attacks on the Western world in the past decade (9/11, 7/7……that’s all I can think of), we’ve come to believe in this idea that a nuke in a suitcase could flush Chicago down to the bottom of Lake Michigan. That may be true.

Likewise, people seem to think that if they place a suitcase worth of Rockwool or Owens Corning 703 in their recording room, that all of their low end problems will go away. It doesn’t work that way.

A better approach would be to imagine that you are skydiving and your chute doesn’t open. Then you remember how much Roxul you tossed in your recording room. You should be able to land on your control room and live. That’s how much bass trapping you need. ([I]Note: Just wrapping Rockwool in fabric is NOT a bass trap….not even close[/I].)

This is one area of physics where we haven’t made much progress. Once sound is in the room, turning it into something besides noise, regardless sheer freakin’ quantity. There’s no way around it.

My super studio will easily have more than 2,000 pounds of Rockwool in it. I actually plan on building 16′ ceilings to house a massive fortress of Rockwool sandwiches, and then building a false ceiling out of my red squares (see below) at the 8′-10′ level where the top half of the room is literally 33% Rockwool. This is my ultra-ideal “dream studio” situation.

In a house with a wife, kids, and a budget this isn’t exactly possible. Just remember that any treatment is better than none. 100 sheets are a whole lot better than 2. When in doubt, cram as much Roxul or 703 in a room as you can or look into bass trap designs that don’t use much cubic volume. (They are out there. Tell Ethan Winer I sent you.)

#5 Expecting Too Much From Soundproofing

There are cases of people who nailed some stuff to the ceiling of their basement studio and it saved their marriage. There are also cases of people who’ve won the lottery more than once. (Who in the hell plays the lottery after already winning the lottery????)

It’s beyond the scope of this quick and dirty article, but there are a bunch of good reasons why your soundproofing could be hit or miss.

To do it right, you need to start from scratch with a large room to put together your soundproofed room. It’s extremely difficult to take an existing structure, tear it apart, and build it back up in a soundproofed fashion.

#6 Cramming People Into Closets

If you’ve got a walk-in closet, you don’t count on this one. For those of us who have closets that resemble coffins, I think I’ve already made my point. Lock a 16-year-old girl (or even a grown man) in a coffin and ask them to sing their guts out. Good luck.

Everyone seems to forget how hot a closet can get. Humans are 100 watt heaters. Seriously. It doesn’t take long to get the room uncomfortable and singing is one of those things where you sweat even when you are doing it in the snow.

Not only are closet sentences a punishment for shoplifting in some countries, they sound terrible. I can’t think of one time ever in my recording career where a client has asked for the “in the closet” sound. Okay, maybe I know why. :eek: Either way, closets sound bad. I won’t bore you with the technical details, but you’ll need an outrageous amount of absorption to tame this acoustical nightmare.

#7 Worshiping Vocal Booths

I’m not sure what it is, but everyone wants a vocal booth. I suspect Dr. Dre had something to do with it, but I need more evidence before I publish my paper on it.

If you’ve never gone to a real deal, big boy studio, let me enlighten you. Your typical vocal booth in a big boy studio is about 10′x12′x16′. This is actually bigger than my drum room by a hefty amount when you factor in the ceiling height. They do get smaller, but not by much. Many of these rooms don’t look that big as most of them are jam-packed with a few hundred pounds of Owens Corning 703 or Rockwool. Then they put a cover over all that ugly stuff (see my non-communist red square idea below), sometimes they even place a few wooden panels here and there to liven the room up acoustically. You rarely know how high the ceiling is because there is usually a red square covering even more absorption there, too.

When you factor in that all kinds of singers hate vocal booths and many big names prefer just to sing in the control room (Bono comes to mind, and I read that Alicia Keys did a record this way), there’s no reason to get too excited by them. They are a luxury that’s reasonable only when you have the real estate.

#8 Splitting Up Small Rooms Into Tiny Rooms

I never understood why people don’t just take a chainsaw and cut their car in half to make two cars. Two cars is better than one. If you have tried this OR you have taken a perfectly good 10′x20′ room and cut it into two horrible sounding rooms, you know that neither approach works.

There is a critical mass when it comes to cubic volume of a room. If you nail it, you avoid all kinds of acoustical problems. (This gets tricky because some rooms sound great for that bathroom guitar sound but terrible for vocals, etc.) For any room that needs to sound good on pretty much all instruments, you want as much space as possible. If you bust up a room that is adequate, you have big problems. Rooms that are too small sound terrible, are impossible to make mixing decisions in, are cramped to work in, and offer no place for bands who bring in huge amounts of gear or people.

The one-room studio doesn’t seem as sexy, and doesn’t cater to the stereotypical view of what a recording studio is, but it is dramatically more effective at actually being a recording studio when space is at a premium.

#9 Pink Stuff Insulation

See Studio Foam. However, there’s one major difference. Pink stuff insulation is cheap enough that it’s reasonable to get this stuff pretty thick. How thick? Ideally, in the 6″-12″ ballpark. If you do that and keep it a good 6″-12″ from the walls or ceiling, pink stuff measures pretty damn well.

#10 Using Expensive Aesthetics

Recording studios, as a rule, play by different rules when it comes to creating a comfortable place to work/create/whatever. It’s totally acceptable to see a 8′x8′ red square with a wooden frame around it. No one knows what is behind the red fabrick square and most people will think it looks cool since this isn’t the kind of thing you see in a doctor’s office or an architecture magazine.

I built all my own racks. I used the cheapest 2×4′s they had at Lowes, didn’t care if they had major flaws, stained them, and covered them with a zillion coats of polyurethane. I get compliments all the time. I know any serious woodworker would tell me not to quit my day job. The clients like it.

#11 Not Getting Creative With Lighting

I don’t care what anyone says, Christmas Lights are THE answer to studio aesthetics. I can’t think of one time where killing the main lights and just using the soft lighting of the LED Christmas lights didn’t immediately get the singer more comfortable (and less bitchy). Do it! (Don’t use dimmers, they make noise.)

You aren’t limited to Christmas lights, obviously. Little colored glowing things are your friend. You don’t need anything elaborate and the cheaper, the better (both in terms of costs and effectiveness). The more small lights you have, the better. A room that just kinda glows is ideal. The blinding light of one 100,000 watt bulb sucks. By using multiple lamps and such you can custom tailor the lighting to the situation by simply only turning on two of them. This will make sense when a singer wants mood but also needs to read her lyrics.

I highly recommend some creative lighting around your racks so you can work in near-darkness. Some singers want nothing on but your computer monitor. Changing a hardware compression ratio is tough in the dark. Plan ahead.

Conclusion

Don’t jump in face first. Do some homework and record a few bands. Don’t skimp on bass trapping. Avoid the studio foam and avoid the pink stuff (unless you don’t need low end absorption….YEAH RIGHT!!). Don’t waste cash on aesthetics when recording studios are one of the cheapest rooms to make cool, but it’s worth putting a little effort into making your room fun to be in.

One last thing. The more you research, the more you realize that the typical home studio is entirely inadequate for music production in technical terms. However, take a look around RecordingReview. That hasn’t stopped us! You can DEFINITELY crank out exciting as hell music even if not-so-ideal environments and if you have the skill, overcoming your facility is doable.

If you have any questions, ALWAYS feel free to post your questions on the forum. We have a specific forum just for this sort of thing: Acoustics and Studio Construction

Saved Comments
paul999 – 01-23-2011, 01:32 AM Edit Reply
Awesome article! So where are the red squares?

brandondrury – 01-23-2011, 01:50 AM Edit Reply
Thanks! It does appear that my red squares are missing. I’m struggling right now for a commie-joke. There must be a commie joke. I’ll get to the bottom of this.

Brandon

na118 – 01-23-2011, 12:11 PM Edit Reply
Great article, dispels some myths and gives some great advice. I’m going to start a conversion process of a smallish room (not bedroom size, but smaller than I would like) and it’s completely unfinished (concrete floor, insulation exposed on the walls, floor joists exposed from the above ceiling) so I’m gonna have a good time with that. #4 (the bass trap nuclear suitcase one) made me reconsider my previous plans on how I was going to attack it, it seems like I’ll need to build a lot more traps than I thought I did.

I started a thread relating to a few questions I had about the acoustic properties of an unfinished room (and some relating to my room in particular) compared to that of a sheetrocked room that this article made me think about, and I put them in this thread. Feel free to take a look at it: Acoustics of an Unfinished Room

Sorry if I hijacked the thread at all

luc3nt – 01-24-2011, 07:34 PM Edit Reply
Start watching this video at 2:30 YouTube – How to Soundproof a Room : DIY Soundproofing

talks about bass trapping/soundproofing on a budget

dfalkiewicz – 01-25-2011, 12:15 PM Edit Reply
Brandon, do I have to setup this page differently to see folks response? I just see the names of the folks, but its blank underneath?

Thanks,

Dave

PaddyG – 01-25-2011, 12:21 PM Edit Reply
Great Brandon! Just what I needed when I needed it. Thanks for all your efforts.

Luc3nt, !!! Great link…

felixd – 01-25-2011, 12:32 PM Edit Reply
Great article, I’ve been hearing (and dispelling) all of these myths for years. Now I can just point people here instead of listening to their bullshit.

dudermn – 01-25-2011, 12:47 PM Edit Reply
It’s easy to name even 100, but where’s the mathematics? :P

Myramyd – 01-25-2011, 01:05 PM Edit Reply
While I agree with your article, I have to say something about the “Vocal Booth Worship” thing.

I understand what you mean in relation to not needing to build a studio with a vocal booth but, for those of us who do record at home or in a makeshift office space, recording vocals and voiceovers is one of the most difficult pieces of the whole puzzle. I struggle with that on almost a daily basis. I can’t even count how many times we have recorded hours of voiceovers only to find that a dozen or so critical parts have very significant noise coming through (airplanes, motorcycles, cars without mufflers, etc.). It seems no matter what you do, you can never get an environment where outside noise doesn’t cause multiple do-overs! So for people like me who can’t afford to build anything close to a soundproof room yet, regardless of size, vocal booths are almost like a wet dream, if only to get that outside noise out of the recordings. I can cram amps into closets with blankets and do great, then we use electronic drums fed into Superior Drummer with good results but vocals are so tough without a “real” studio of any kind. I think that’s where some of us are coming from.

I do agree however, if you have any kind of real studio, recording vocals either in the control room or the live room are more fun than a cramped space, which I think was your point.

J

fullcrib – 01-25-2011, 01:08 PM Edit Reply
Brandon….have you been peekin in my 12′ x 20′ manufactured tool shed and coppin’ my design??
Have you also been attracted to the two dimly lit par38′s on one end of the shed and the 20′ string of non-flashing white xmas lights on the other end that cost me $3.22?

The exact approach I took….KEEP IT SIMPLE DUMBASS TILL YOU HAVE A GOOD REASON TO CHANGE SOMETHING!!!!

tb-av – 01-25-2011, 01:18 PM Edit Reply
So where are the red squares?
I’m struggling right now for a commie-joke.
Dude, the red squares are the commies that don’t like Jazz!

( feel free to use that any time )

garageband – 01-25-2011, 02:45 PM Edit Reply
Originally Posted by tb-av
Dude, the red squares are the commies that don’t like Jazz!
That would have been so hilarious in 1959.

tonesponge – 01-25-2011, 06:45 PM Edit Reply
RE “Just wrapping Rockwool in fabric is NOT a bass trap….not even close”

So what is a bass trap? Is it this?

YouTube – How to make a Bass Trap Acoustic Panel (Tutorial)

Or this?

YouTube – Building My Home Studio and Bass Traps

cooljoebay – 01-25-2011, 07:27 PM Edit Reply
“Just wrapping Rockwool in fabric is NOT a bass trap….not even close”

I liked this article. But I don’t entirely agree with it. And the effort put into trying to be funny makes it difficult to take seriously. Lol. I have been recording for almost 30 years and rock wool does indeed make a big difference in bass just by placing it in the area of problem. Many tests have demonstrated its use. I really think you should consider that before writing an opinion. I cannot imagine how my room would sound if I had not placed 2″ panels around me.

IMAWriter – 01-25-2011, 11:49 PM Edit Reply
Nice work, Bri.
I am fretting the forthcoming CMS sub for my Focal 65′s. I’m sure I will need some anti low end absorption, maybe not so much for my near-field sitting position, but for anyone having the unfortunate circumstance of sitting behind me a few feet. LOL

Do you make house calls?

jhawkdville – 01-26-2011, 12:18 AM Edit Reply
Great article as I’ve neither the cash nor the real estate for a “proper” studio. But I make the best of what I have and the indie record co. I’m dealing with is happy.

hotzhot – 01-26-2011, 07:53 AM Edit Reply
anyone have any step by step how to build a home studio? link or pdf or video? anything?

brandondrury – 01-26-2011, 09:19 AM Edit Reply
And the effort put into trying to be funny makes it difficult to take seriously.
There is no “effort”. I don’t TRY to be funny. I write how I speak. The end. This is me. Take it or leave it. This actually reminds me of something I do when everyone is cracking up at a fun session. I SCREAM, “STOOPPPPPP!! No having fun!!”. I hold a straight face for 4 seconds and then laugh. It appears you actually don’t want to have any fun. Oh well, maybe I’m just not that funny. (Hume’s Law says it’s most likely I’m not funny. )

This studio construction business is not fringe science. It’s straight up physics 101 and therefor you don’t have to rely on my personality traits to determine my knowledge on the subject. All my views can be checked. I can explain all of them.

If you want the a studio construction book that seems like a cyborg wrote it, I highly recommend: Recording Studio Design Review

Personally, I believe the Ben Stein-style is just bad teaching. Why would you intentionally be boring? That makes no sense to me.

I have been recording for almost 30 years and rock wool does indeed make a big difference in bass just by placing it in the area of problem. Many tests have demonstrated its use. I really think you should consider that before writing an opinion. I cannot imagine how my room would sound if I had not placed 2″ panels around me.
Let me elaborate as we are having a disagreement on definitions.

Bass trap – A gadget that is specialized in keeping low end from bouncing all over the room.

Rockwool / 703 will absorb relatively low, but if you are simply wrapping it in fabric, you have a really good broadband absorber. You are still pulling more mids/highs out of the room than you are low end. A 2″ panel wrapped in fabric is not doing much at all in the low end. The equations for this are well documented. (Look for the 1/4 wavelength concept. That applies here.) If you need them, check out Recording Studio Design. He holds nothing back in terms of hardcore physics. (It’s harder to read than most Stephen Hawking stuff.) You can even see the idealized absorption coefficients by Roxul themselves aren’t inspiring at 125Hz for the 2″ stuff. Note: A 60Hz they fall off fast in terms of their absorption.

To get Rockwool to perform real-deal bass trapping requires specific tactics. I used Helmholtz resonators and tuned them with a wide bandwidth (I was foreseeing a quick move 6 years ago when I built them.) They have wood front panels with holes in them. They reflect midrange and maybe some top end back into the room but are aggressive as hell at the frequencies I tuned them to.

There are other methods. You can see examples at Ethan Winer’s site. You can actually use pink stuff for one particular design because insulation is there to tame the resonance from the wood panels, not to actually absorb the low end itself. Glued drywall is actually pretty damn impressive in its ability to absorb low end. I’d have to look it up, but it may have been more effective than 2″ wrapped Rockwool @ 100Hz.

There are many other designs for true bass trapping that won’t kill the room dead in the upper frequencies.

I cannot imagine how my room would sound if I had not placed 2″ panels around me.
Definitely! The difference between zero treatment and a nice amount of treatment is HUGE. However, I guess this becomes a personality trait. If I was to invade a country, I’d go full-blown Blitzkrieg. I’d go all-freakin’ out to absolutely maximize my chances of victory. I wouldn’t send in a few advisors, even if it’s possible that they could get the job done. I wouldn’t risk it.

I wouldn’t risk my monitoring on 2″ panels when 4″ panels aren’t THAT much more expensive. I wouldn’t risk using simple broadband absorbers when low end is the enemy and it doesn’t cost THAT much more to mount a full blown assault on low end reflections. (My super studio will most likely have 4 FEET of Rockwool in the ceilings, for example.)

Of course, the definition of “THAT” varies with your budget and how much of your life resources you are willing to flush down the toilet for your recordings.

I am fretting the forthcoming CMS sub for my Focal 65′s.
AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!! That’s like saying, “I’m really worried about banging this super model”. 1) You are supposed to ENJOY the toys you buy….not dread them. 2) Your acoustical situation has not changed.* Your Focal CMS65s have been fighting through whatever low end mess this entire time. If you don’t notice a problem, there wasn’t one. For all practical purposes, all you are doing is turning the bass up. In some ways, it’s like you are saying that a Nelly cd would have less accurate low end than some non-bass heavy cd on just your 65s. Your frequency response is fixed (assuming your locations stay the same.)

* One exception is the time/phase relationship between your sub and monitors and time/phase relationship from reflections. The other is the phase distortion from the crossover frequency.

These reasons are why the rigid science recording dudes don’t recommend subs. They are not bad reasons. My experience, however, has shown that we get into a chaos situation where acoustics is so damn complicated it becomes simple again. (That’s why a dude can use 2″ Rockwool and be happy in certain situations.) This is why I have no problem listening to music on my computer speakers. My office acoustical situation couldn’t be worse. I couldn’t care less.

When you study how room modes work, you can never kill all the reflections and ultimately your frequency response curve is literally held up by continuous modes/reflections throughout the entire spectrum. That anechoic chamber print off they include with monitors is more useless than a politician at an IQ contest. (Okay, that was me TRYING to be funny….it obviously didn’t work. )

Brandon

machobana – 01-26-2011, 12:46 PM Edit Reply
Awsome Dude – Great minds think alike / Fools never differ. . .
How you have explained it is exactly how I operate – ‘Old British Army Blankets ‘ left overs from the Second World War I think – (The Red Square. . . A Brown Army Blanket Square – +/_ 1 meter Cube) Christmas lights work like Angel Breathe – but you seem to frown alot more ! ( Hell, I look like Willy Nelson anyway )

I loved the article – It’s gritty and true National Geographic intensity of Acoustic reallity !

godembryo – 01-26-2011, 06:15 PM Edit Reply
Brandon,

I designed and built a 2,000 sf dance room. I read a book about home acoustic design which proved quite boring. I will look up the one you mention about studio design. From my book I found a formula in the back where you plug in square feet of materials such as floor coverings, sheetrock, acoustic tile, and many other material ratings you can get from his large supplied database. Then you plug in the formula to excel (so you don’t have to do the calculus yourself) and it tells you how “live” that room will be. Then you tweak materials until you get it under 1.75 reverberation. Now you have a very live room but not echoy.

Also I learned that you never want sound reverberating directly onto itself. For example, when I used to do work (I’m a carpenter and building maintenance guy) in large rooms, such as a gymnasium, I could hear my ghetto blaster if I stood within 10 feet of it. But after that I could hear the sound but not understand any of the words. All the details got jumbled. The sound reflects from a wall and, when it returns to you it has traveled a different distance than the sound that comes directly to you. So the sine waves no longer line up but, instead, get in-between each other literally canceling out the details and leaving a sound more and more like white noise. But, as you pointed out, you do not want a completely “dead” room with zero reflection. The answer to this dilemma is to slant the walls and ceiling at least 11 degrees from each other so the sine waves never directly oppose each other. The 2000 sf room I built worked beautifully in that you could hear all the details of music throughout the room. I made the ceiling with scissor trusses which provided 2.5:12 pitch which is well better than the 11 degree minimum. The end wall was 40 feet long. I pulled out the center two feet which offset that wall from the other end wall 50 feet away. Then the side wall was a series of about 12 foot by 4 foot jogs which connected to the other part of the building. The whole room connected to the larger building in a 22.5 degree dog-leg so this wall shape provided an interface between the two while it nicely offset the sidewalls at 22.5 degrees.

The custom shape combined with selected materials yielding a 1.75 reverberation factor worked wonderfully to create a very live room with totally intelligible sound throughout. I recommend that even a much smaller room can benefit by tweaking the floor plan and the ceiling shape to offset opposing walls, ceilings, and floors by at least 11 degrees. You might have to construct walls within walls to achieve this in an existing space. You could even mount a series of 2′ panels (a series of shallow V shapes in plan view) if you want to save some precious usable square feet. That way your reflected sound will not be “canceling” itself out anywhere in the room. That way you need not sound dampen every surface, just enough to get past the echo effect which is anything above 1.75 reverberation as prescribed by the formula in Noise Control Manual for Residential Buildings by David Harris. The book costs about $75 with shipping but the formula in the back is invaluable as is the materials database. Then, when you finish with it, you can just sell it back again on Amazon like I did. If you want some help with expert carpentry contact me.

Your brother,
Larry Woods
godembryo at yahoo

Brandon Drury

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Brandon Drury quit counting at 1,200 recorded songs in his busy home recording studio. He is the creator of RecordingReview.com and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.

10 responses to Top 11 Recording Studio Construction Mistakes

  1. Brandon,

    Please contact me directly to discuss a build out for my glass enclosed sun room.

    Thanks,

    Dylan: 847-724-1772

  2. Hey! Great Timing for me to see this site! In two weeks I’m building out a 36′x36′ space with an attached 12′ x 14′attached room, including the control room in a home studio. The carpenter has done some research but really knows very little about the studio environment. I didn’t think about the heat that light produces. I’ll get the 100x bulbs out of there now.

    I’m not going to do this build myself, I want to hire it out, at least the design…. Any suggestions?

  3. I’m not sure of the height of your space, but 36′x36′ gives a lot for a person to work with. There’s a lot that can go VERY right. There’s a lot to go very wrong.

    Great construction (like you’d find in a great, new house) could very well land with a well-built studio that sounds like garbage and does nothing you want it do. If you aren’t interested in designing the studio, I’d hire someone that will. I’d expect that to be expensive, as well, but at least it would be done right if you used a reputable studio designer. There are way too many horror stories of people assuming construction workers are acoustics experts (or even remotely understand the needs of the studio).

    Another way to go is to do a lot of the designing yourself and posting it on the forum here at RecordingReview so we can pick it apart. That will not be a replacement for hiring a real-deal pro studio designer, but it will be a start.

    Brandon

  4. I came across this blog looking for studio ideas to build a video editing suite. Although my intent is for video editing, I wanted to build a acoustically sound room so that I can truly hear my audio. There are some great points in the post but where are the pictures that you speak of? Without pictures of your superior studio, how can one agree with the post?

  5. Hi, I have a few questions and hope to get some helpful replies here..

    I am a qualified Recording Engineer and Producer having recently completed my studies. I hope and dream to have a real “Super” studio one day but at the same time realistically I know it will take time and money to get this far so in the mean time I am happy to be patient and use what I have to gain more hands-on experience before splashing cash into something I am not fit to run just yet. Having a diploma does not mean I am able to handle any situation or client, these things take time and are learned through experience and I am happy get there one day when I am ready…
    My question is this;

    I currently have a “music room” which I would like to convert into the best possible recording and mixing environment possible, within budget, and also without completely destroying the existing room as I do not own my house..
    My room measures roughly 8m x 3m with a ceiling height of roughly 3m (Not very high I know), It has a small bathroom running off on one end, 1 large window and 2 smaller windows along the sides, a door opening into the house and a glass door (not sliding) opening to the outside.

    I would like to set a up a decent environment for tracking drums, vocals, guitars etc as well as electronic music without cramping the room or disturbing the neighbors or people in the house too much.
    I am not overly concerned with noise bleeding out as my neighbors are relatively friendly but I also do not want to take too much advantage of their friendliness and keep them up all night with that one really difficult drummer who may be taking a little too long to get the beat right..

    My main concern here is blocking noises from outside (Dogs, Birds, Cars, children etc) from getting into my mics when tracking and naturally creating a good acoustic environment to get the best out of each instrument or vocal take.
    I would also like to have a separate drum area so as to be able to hear the drums through my monitors if possible, while the drummer is playing, it is very difficult to tell if what you are hearing is coming straight from the drums or being picked up by the mics and playing through the system if everything is in one room…

    I realize that the size of my room would probably suite a one room studio better than separate rooms so if anyone has any ideas on how to go about sound proofing, treating acoustics, plugging windows, covering doors etc to get the best out of this type of room without breaking the bank I would really appreciate all the advise I can get.
    Bare in mind too pls that the room is right on the road so I get passing traffic a lot of the time but it is residential so not too busy, Also, I would like to be able to use the glass door to access outside so closing it off is not an option, if there is a way to plug it or cover it temporarily that will allow me to open if I need to that would be great!

    Another thing to bare in mind is that this room also serves as my office as well as a practice room for my band so spacing etc is crucial here, I currently have my office set up in the corner closest to the end with the bathroom door (infact my desk is between the bathroom door on one side (my left) and main door leading into house on the other (my right) so does not take too much space from my music space.. Any suggestions how best to lay the room out for best recording and jamming results in terms of console, monitor, rack placements etc are also more than welcome..

    I hope I have made sense and that someone out there has perhaps had the same scenario and has found the perfect balance and is willing to share there advise and experience..
    As mentioned before, I am aware that it might not be possible to create a complete dead sounding booth etc but as long as I can get good acoustic treatment and sounding recordings with minimal outside bleeding as well as a good mixing spot etc I will be happy for now.

    Hope to hear back..

    Adrian

  6. You’ve got enough questions here for 10 forum threads and would probably get better answers busting these up into 10 forum threads here: http://forum.recordingreview.com/f8/

    I’ll go quick to cover it all in the limited time I have. For radically more thorough responses you may want to look at my Killer Home Recording series.

    My main concern here is blocking noises from outside (Dogs, Birds, Cars, children etc) from getting into my mics when tracking

    That is soundproofing. You can’t do it right without construction….often massive amounts of construction. You may get lucky and be able to plug up a window and that provide significant results, but keep sounds in/out generally requires mass….lots of mass.

    Putting a few gobos in between the mic and the noise source may be your only option. It’s never perfect and it’s a lot easier to block high frequency noise than low frequency noise.

    I would also like to have a separate drum area so as to be able to hear the drums through my monitors if possible, while the drummer is playing, it is very difficult to tell if what you are hearing is coming straight from the drums or being picked up by the mics and playing through the system if everything is in one room…

    Tweaking drums while the drummer is playing is a nice luxury. You don’t have it and you never will in your current setup without enough construction to make your room too small to sound good. (We are already pushing the limit on that one.) You’ll need a different place purpose built for isolating drums (EXPENSIVE) or you’ll have to do what everyone else does and record the drums, listen back, make changes, and repeat.

    I realize that the size of my room would probably suite a one room studio better than separate rooms

    Correct. Isolation between the engineer and the musician is HIGHLY under rated. The downsides of two rooms that are way too small radically UNDER RATED. I never recommend recording in two bad rooms when you could have one good one.

  7. All of this presumes that we are discussing a home recording enthusiast working on a limited budget. After 30 years in the business, my home studio was designed by a very well-known studio designer, has floating floors, no right angles (which lessens standing waves), is a room within a room (using two sets of walls that are detached), and benefits from custom designed panels to tune absorption. It is entirely possible to build a meaningful home studio that will produce accurate sound and “Bitchin’” records for days depending on the needs of the user. In the modern digital environment, there are people with great work flow and the ability to make great records in the box or otherwise outside a proper studio environment. However, those folks are rare. I think the message to take away here is that a good studio is the result of planning, planning and more planning.

  8. All of this presumes that we are discussing a home recording enthusiast working on a limited budget.

    It’s the limited physical space that’s the problem. He wants his drums fully isolated from his monitors, an office, soundproofing from the outside world, accurate monitoring in that isolated control room, and a band live room. I’d be curious what $1,000,000. Oh yeah, and he can’t do any real construction because it’s a rental.

  9. Thanks for the reply.

    As mentioned the drum isolation is not crucial as I know the space is limited for separate booths, I just meant that I would prefer this if possible.

    I have got quotes from pro studio builders involving separating the rooms, floating floors, dry-walling, double sliding doors between control room and booth as well as re-shaping the entire control room to create even shaped sides etc & sound proofing, they even designed a vocal booth within the drum booth which didnt look practical as i know the size of my room and could not see a full kit fitting in comfortably and still having enough room to sound good..

    All I am looking for here are some ideas to get the best recording sound out of a room this size and shape, isolating drums would be nice but wont work so Ive moved on from that idea for the time being.
    We currently use the room for jamming (3 piece band so not much space needed) and I have my gear set up for mock recordings but the acoustics are not good for quality recordings, what I need is some ideas on how to treat the room as best as possible without major construction.

    Any ideas are welcome so that I can plan, plan and plan some more as suggested by Mike…

    I know I will never get maximum sound proofing or isolation and I can handle that as long as the acoustics are good for capturing good audio takes and dynamics etc..

    Window plugs, door plugs, maybe a raised drum platform and floor under the drums (the floor is wood and creaky in places so I will def need to treat this) ceiling treatment, proofing the door to the house (Maybe adding a 2nd door?) etc.. this is the advice I am looking for.

    I have ideas and have researched and planned this project for some time now but just thought that maybe someone here could offer some practical home advice on low budget sound proofing and acoustics that work, as well as monitor placement etc for this type of room.

    I will be moving in the future and looking for a place that is more suitable to construction etc so do not want to waste money here as I will need to remove again when I do move.

    I Basically need a place that I can “practice” and gain experience while doing small projects as well as my own recordings and my band projects.

  10. I have got quotes from pro studio builders involving separating the rooms, floating floors, dry-walling, double sliding doors between control room and booth as well as re-shaping the entire control room to create even shaped sides etc & sound proofing, they even designed a vocal booth within the drum booth which didnt look practical as i know the size of my room and could not see a full kit fitting in comfortably and still having enough room to sound good..

    I’m skeptical. I have no doubts that these items could be designed into your space. I’m more concerned about once you get into that space you won’t like what you hear.

    I’d request estimated room modes and frequency response of studio monitors in such a control room. Any reputable studio builder will give have this for you.

    All I am looking for here are some ideas to get the best recording sound out of a room this size and shape,

    I didn’t catch the height of the space. If a room is too small, it MUST be dead. Some instruments some of the time like a small, live space, but you’ll run into sessions where you don’t want that almost guaranteed

    I hesitated for years to try the 100% dead thing. I loved it. I like big, open spaces. Since I was recording in a room about your size, I went 100% dead and realized immediately that a person will NEVER miss bad ambiance.

    I’d set the room up for control room acoustics. I’ve not seen a floorplan yet, but big ol’ bass traps in the corners, broadband absorption (Roxul / 703 based) spaced at least 8″ off the wall to nuke any direct reflections, and the rest should be tuned to taste. This is the basic premise behind all control room treatment and I see no need to deviate. The control room treatment happens to be exactly what I recommend for small live rooms as well.

    Again, you’ve got a bunch of questions/issues. I recommend creating new threads for all of them on the forum. SMILIE

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