In a perfect world, we’d love to start any home studio tutorial with a link to the best pre-built home studio around (ahem) and let that be it. But the world isn’t perfect and when it comes to starting off your voiceover career, it’s all about getting your hands dirty and working with what you’ve got.
So with that philosophy in mind, let’s tackle one of the most important features that any new voice artist needs to get started on: building their own home studio. But instead of just telling you to build a booth, let’s assume that you don’t have the room to simply construct a home studio right in the middle of your house. Instead, we’ll be getting our hands dirty and adapting an area of your home into a home studio that you can produce quality work with.
The Adaptation Method: Finding A Space For Your Home Studio
Unlike simply buying a booth or building one from scratch, a viable method for fitting a home studio into your home is to simply take a space and retrofit it as a home studio. Now clearly, this isn’t the optimum option. There’s a reason why the best recording studios are specially built facilities and not hosted in someone’s cupboard.
But for the purposes of a voiceover who is starting out in the industry and simply wants to produce good quality sounding audio with the aim of producing a demo reel or getting their first work, it’s a good workaround. It may also be your only option if you’re renting a place or your space is limited since you don’t want a home studio taking up what little room you have and a few landlords might not take kindly to you building a whole new room in your place.
The first thing to focus on is finding a good spot for your new home studio. To do that, we must first understand what we want our home studio to achieve (it sounds simple, but stick with me here).
Not a reader? Watch our webinar about building your home studio!
The Objective of Our Home Studio – What It Has To Achieve
From professional studio to a home booth, to your own cupboard studio, the goal of a studio is always the same.
We want to achieve a space where we can capture appropriately loud, clean and noise free, high-quality vocal recordings with no sound reflections.
In simple terms, we just want your voice to be the right volume (we have a good example of this in our webinar), be captured by a good quality microphone and for there to be no extra noises to ruin your recordings.
To do this we need to do 4 things:
Prevent Sound Ingress – Stop sound coming in from outside e.g neighbours, traffic e.t.c.
Prevent Sound Egress – Stop sound going out e.g. so you don’t annoy people you live with (but this is less important depending on how anti-social you are)
Prevent Sound Reflections – Stop sound bouncing back into the microphone off hard surfaces
Create A Stable, Repeatable Environment – Every time we record, we want it to sound the same each and every time.
How To Build Your Adapted Home Studio In 4 Simple Steps
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your home studio, but unlike Rome, we can nail it down in 4 simple steps. We’re uncertain how many steps it took to build Rome, but we’re confident we’ve beaten it.
Step 1: Start With A Home Studio Test
So the first objective is to get rid of unwanted noises and find the quietest place that we can. While there’s little we can do about sound egress (the sound getting out) since we can’t completely soundproof the area, the next best thing is to find the quietest place we can and identify what we need to change to stop noise getting in (sound ingress – now we’re learning!).
Doing a home studio test is the quickest and simplest way to discover your problem spots. Just follow these steps to do a thorough home studio test.
- Record for 2 minutes with your microphone.
- Set levels to between -3 to -6 db at slightly over-projected dialogue (like you’re talking to friends loudly).
- Record 30 secs of noise floor (background noise of the room) with you outside the room.
- Enter the room and record 30 seconds of you talking into the microphone.
- Then clap your hands near your mic and then around the room comparing noise from around the room. Say where you are situated in the room as you clap.
- The objective is to hear the noise floor and what you need to fix to stop noise getting in. You also want to hear sound reflections around the room and listen to the reverb tail with the claps.
You should do this in multiple places around your house until you find the perfect spot for your home studio. Recording the noise floor will tell you how quiet the area is. If you have tried this test in two parts of your house and one is quiet and the other has the sound of the main road outside, then simply pick the quieter one.
The next step is to see how you sound when you’re actually speaking. How much reverb and echo do you get off the walls? How much does the sound reflect?
Finally, the clap test allows you to identify the entire room and where the sound reflections are the worst.
After doing this test, you can pick the best spot in your house and start adapting your home studio!
Step 2: Let’s Start Soundproofing!
We’ve found a quiet spot, so the sound ingress is as low as possible. Now it’s time to begin deadening the walls and covering all reflective surfaces so we can get rid of the sound reflection and reverb which will ruin your recordings. If you have the budget for it, then buying acoustic tiles are a great way to do this. Good acoustic isolation material will stop any sound reflections right in their tracks and give you a clear sound.
You can even purchase acoustic dividers, which can cordon off an area so you can even adapt the corner of a room into a pseudo-recording booth.
Of course, if acoustic tiles aren’t available, then there are lots of cheap alternatives. You can use thick bedding and bits of thick carpet, which will also stop reflections from causing a problem.
The key point is to make sure that you are surrounded by acoustically isolating materials and to cover every hard surface. If you have a desk in your studio and other clutter then remember that this will also reflect noise back into your microphone. If it’s a hard surface, then cover it or get rid of it.
The big things to remember are to remove as many sources of sounds as possible. You’d be surprised how many there are, even after you’ve covered all the hard sound reflecting surfaces and acoustically treated the walls.
We highly recommend leaving your laptop or PC outside the recording area as unless it’s the quietest thing in the world, it is going to add to the noise floor of your recording area and ruin your recordings. The best way to deal with this is by running cables outside of the area, so you still have your microphone connected to your audio interface and laptop, but without the noise from either.
You can then leave your monitor in your booth to read your scripts from and edit your audio on the fly. With modern tech, this is made even simpler with wireless keyboards and mouses, so you can use your laptop from a separate screen instead of having it in front of you. Of course, you can forgo the monitor completely and read your materials from an Ipad or even paper (provided it doesn’t rustle), then you’ve solved that problem as well.
You’d be amazed how much this improves the quality of your recordings.
There are a few things that you will have to accept about the adaptation method. The biggest issue is that you are still going to have to deal with vibrations and sounds coming from the floor. In a home studio booth, you actually design the floor of the booth to be just off the floor of your home to avoid any extra noise or vibrations. In this case, you’ll have to lay down carpet or as many sound absorbing materials as possible to lower the impact of this restriction.
And the final tip – get LED lights and have some form of ventilation in there. You’ll thank us later when you’re not shorting out your equipment with sweat.
Step 3: Repeat Your Home Studio Test
As you go through the process, keep doing that same home studio test. Keep it as similar to the first time you did it and keep repeating it until all of those sound reflections and background noise have gone away.
There might be some things you have to accept about your new home studio. You may find that even though you get no more sound reflections, every day at 4pm a bus drops kids off outside your house and there’s a lot of noise. Just try to control as much as you can and if it turns out there are certain times you can’t record, learn from it and work around them.
Step 4: Once It’s Built, Leave It As It Is!
You may have adapted your home into the perfect studio, but remember that point earlier about repeatability?
This is a thing which trips up new voice artists all the time. They build a great studio setup, have a great recording session, but when they come back to it, they can’t get the second recording to sound like the first.
Little things can change a lot about your recording, so you really have to make sure that your recording environment is kept the same and your recording quality and sound are both repeatable.
A story I always tell is how one of our members cleverly adapted their closet into a home studio. It was a great idea! It was compact, quiet and full of clothes which deadened a lot of the reflections right away. But a closet is used daily and by the time a few coats and clothes and bits of makeup had been moved around, it was too late. The sound of the room was different.
If you are going to adapt an area of your house for a home studio, remember to leave it alone and keep it as consistent as possible or else you’ll lose all your hard work.
Be Inspired And Don’t Forget To Get Creative!
The fact of the matter is, that while there’s good rules to follow and things you need to achieve, there are a thousand ways to adapt your house into a home studio. It’s all smoke and mirrors and if it walks and talks like a functioning home studio, then that’s what it is.
It doesn’t matter if it’s cramped up in a cupboard, or behind the sofa in the corner of a room. If it sounds the part and allows you to produce high-quality work which starts getting you voiceover jobs, then it’s a home studio! Over time, you’ll get the work you need to invest in a better studio, but there’s no time like the present and there’s no excuse to not get started right away.