How to build a home studio
After about a year of preparation and budgeting I transformed my unfinished basement into a beautiful home studio with a vocal booth and tracking room. If you are building a home studio this can be a great resource. Remember to take a lot of pictures along the way and let me know how it goes! Although it may seem I was sponsored by Auralex to make this, I was not. I am just really happy with their products and found their website an extremely great resource.
Step 1 - Planning and Budgeting
I wanted a place where I could record myself and local musicians professionally. I wanted it to be comfortable and usable. I love this space and spending time in it.
I started by measuring the space and forming a mental image in my mind of what it would look like. Next I drew up a scale floor plan.
I played around with the idea of having angled walls and ceiling for less reflections and better sound in the tracking room. I was also thinking of having 2 booths to record vocals, guitars, drums and bass at the same time. But this would have been to expensive and would be bad for the resale of my house. Not everyone wants a music studio in their house. Crazy right? Here was one of my original plans.
Once I decided on the right floor plan for me I started making a list of tools and materials I would need. I tried to include absolutely everything I would need including the screws. But, I still budgeted for an extra 10% for the things that come up. Here was my construction budget.
Step 2 - Framing and Insulation
I started by insulating the ceiling with sound insulation. Wear a dust mask, fully enclosed safety glasses and gloves. This stuff gets nasty.
I framed the vocal booth. I wanted this to be really insulated and quiet so I framed a mini room so the walls didn't touch anywhere other than the floor. I used wood framing because it is much easier to work with, although I have heard metal framing is better for reducing sound transfer. I left an opening for the door and a 2 foot by 3 foot window. I used screws because I am more comfortable using them and I think they hold better.
I then framed the walls of the control room. I put poly plastic sheeting on the outsides of the vocal booth and the control room to keep the insulation in. The control room and vocal booth walls also do not touch each other. I had to make sure my 2 window and door openings lined up exactly. Sound can transfer easily through materials (For example and cup on a string telephone), so anytime you can create an air gap do it.
Now it was time to run all my electrical and sound wiring. It is really hard to do after the insulation is in the walls and even harder when the drywall is up! I ran sound wires between the vocal and control rooms. 2 for headphones, 4 for microphones and 4 for speakers (amp head in the control room, speaker cabinet in the vocal booth). I also put sound putty on the back of all the electrical boxes because this can be a big source for sound leakage. Hire an electrician if you aren't comfortable with the wiring or your local regulations.
One of the big sound leaking areas is the heat vents. I couldn't just close them off because I live in Canada and once it hits minus 30 this room would be unbearable. I built a wooden box that is then attached to the heat duct outside of the room using an insulated tube that snakes back and forth to remove a direct path for the sound to travel.
This was a good time to get the electrical inspected because I could make any changes pretty easily at this point. Here are the changes I had to make.
I could then insulate everywhere. Again, remember to where a dust mask, fully enclosed safety glasses and gloves.
Srep 3 - Drywall and Sound Proofing
I did a lot of research on sound isolation and decided to use the Auralex RC8 resilient channel spacers for my first layer of drywall. This adds an air gap for less sound transfer. Just remember EXACTLY where you put them so you know where to screw in your drywall. (you will need metal drywall screws if you use this option). Run the spacers perpendicular to the framing and space them 2 feet apart.
Next up was hanging the first layer of drywall, I was lucky and it would all fit through my basement window. The company I bought it from also brought it all in for me. I would for sure go this way even if have to pay extra. You could mud this first layer to try and fill some air gaps, but I didn't.
I then added a layer of Auralex Sheetblok, which has the same sound reduction as 8 layers of drywall. This stuff is extremely dense and heavy rubber. I cut out the sheets and glued them using tile glue. It was expensive to use, but is the biggest reason my studio is so quiet. I filled in all the gaps with Auralex Stopgap.
I then added another layer of drywall and taped it all, the hardest part was trying to hit the metal spacers again.
I chose yellow because it is bright and inspiring. The later added Auralex Studiofoam to help it from being too bright.
Step 4 - Flooring and Finishing
I raised the floor using Dricore sub-flooring, which is an interconnecting subfloor with foam on the bottom to reduce sound from travelling to the concrete.
I decided to use cork on the floor because it isn't as hard as hardwood and I didn't want lots of sound reflections. Cork adds really warm sound to the rooms.
The windows to the vocal booth are two 1 inch solid glass. They are surrounded with acoustic silicon and the auralex rubber sheeting. I also added some cork because it looked pretty cool.
The doors are solid 1 and 3/4" wood with Auralex Sheetblok on the inside of each door.
Step 5 - Sound Absorption and Diffusion
I took advantage of Auralex's free room analysis to find out the best place to put my acoustic foam.
I have about 30% of the walls covered in the mixing room and 80% in the vocal booth. The bass traps in the corners are very important.
Lastly I put foam under the speaker monitors to reduce vibrations traveling through the desk.
I hope this guide is helpful. Give me shout if you have any questions or would like me to mix any projects you are working on.