Hi guys, Sean here (not Shaun Letang). Recently I went through the process of building a semi professional recoding studio and learned a lot along the way. I thought I'd share with you some of the lessons I learnt. Most things went well, but there are a few things I'd do different next time. It's my hope that you'll use these lessons to save time and money on your own build.
If you've ever wanted to create your own home recording studio, or even build it out in an office space like I did, you'll probably find these tips useful. Whether you want to build a recording studio which you'll hire out to clients, or use it for your own personal recording use, read on for some helpful dos and don'ts. Please share this guide if you find the ideas useful.
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Do Research What Goes Into Building A Recording Studio!
The first important aspect of a recording studio build is to research everything. There’s a reason why there are entire college courses based on sound engineering. There are just so many factors to consider; equipment purchases, DAW software selection, vocal booth size and treatment etc.
I was given some advice when I was younger that has stuck with me until this very day. When you think you know everything, assume you know nothing. If you sit down and take the time to research your individual project then you're more likely to get it correct the first time. There’s nothing worse than turning around after 3 months wishing that you had done things differently. Research time costs nothing, but can surely save you an expensive mistake.
Don't Buy Studio Equipment On The Fly!
Relating slightly to my first point, it’s incredibly important to buy the correct equipment to suit your needs. Some people will argue that it’s not always that easy or cheap. I totally understand that, however it can be.
A lot of the time the correct equipment doesn't mean the most expensive equipment. For example, I was prepared to spend close to €3000 on my recording interface. It was a large mixing desk with plenty of faders, pots, whistles and bells to amaze any incoming customers.
After careful thought, I realized that the thought process I had was that a “big” mixing desk would excite and entice clients potential clients. So I thought: “Wait a second. I’m spending all of this money on a mixing desk just to look cool? Why don’t I spend a little over half of that and impress my clients with their mixes?”
In the end I purchased an interface and some rack gear. This saved me money down the line for a contingency budget (another important aspect of a build.)
One tip I can give to you is to only purchase items that you believe you’ll be using in five years time.
Do Plan For Everything (Be Organized)!
Having spent close to three weeks in an environment that started off as an office and ended up as a semi-professional recording studio, I can truly stress how important it is to have a record of everything. It may seem simplistic, but keeping a To Do list or Total Spend Calculation is vital to a successful build; and more importantly, a good sleep at night.
Set yourself an initial budget between materials, labor costs, equipment costs and contingency. Try and stick to this budget as much as possible. Nobody likes to go over budget.
At the end of the project, if you're left with some contingency (or by some amazing walk on water miracle all of your contingency), save it. It’s important to have contingency, not only in business, but in life as well. You never know when your flight will get canceled or you’ll run out of gas!
Don't Set Strict Deadlines When Building Your Recording Studio
The thing is, you never really know how long your build will take. I had four walls, doors, lighting and electricity to start with and it still took me close to three weeks to complete my build. At every corner, there's an opportunity for something to go wrong. A task completed in a shorter time than you had originally thought does not mean that you will finish your studio build three weeks earlier. Leave enough or even more than enough time for completion. If you rush the build, you can guarantee that you’ll regret it later.
Do Set Some Sort Of Deadline.
As important as it is to not have a guaranteed finish date, it’s also important to have a definitive direction of where you’re going with the build. Considering I knew very little about construction before going into the build, I found it comforting to have a detailed understanding of the process as it developed.
On a side note, it’s hard to look at brick walls for three days straight and visualize a finished product. If you feel the same, why not draw up some concept art for your studio space? It doesn’t need to be professional or anything. A simple drawing of your ideal outcome will not only give you guidelines but it will motivate you. Motivation is key to moving in a positive direction.
Don't Book Clients Until You Are Ready.
If your studio's due to be finished within the next week and you plan on hiring it out, don't go out and find clients just yet. Consider the possibility that you need to adjust to your setup. After all, you're looking to produce the best possible sound and that doesn't come overnight.
Find your four wall’s stamp on the music industry before you look for potential clients. It’s always nice to network and casually mention that you’re in the middle of a studio build, but don't book anything. If you do, those four walls will collapse before you know it.
Remember, if you get your clients work wrong, they won’t return. And even worse than that, if you get your sample work wrong, you won’t get any clients in the first place. Take your time and adjust to your new setup. Learn and become confident in what you do.
Do Work Hard And Learn!
Remember, it’s easy to get a little star-struck when you sit back in that studio chair for the first time after build completion. In fact, it can almost be a little daunting. Every moment you spend sitting in front of that desk is and should be treated like an opportunity to further your knowledge in the field.
Always strive for perfection in your work. With the switch from analog to digital, home recording is becoming increasingly popular. If you’re a studio open to the public, be aware that this means that competition is growing all the time. And if you’re just producing your own work, always work hard to achieve the best result possible.
Log the hours in your library or in the form of YouTube tutorials. It’s worth it in the end. Technology developments also mean that we’re edging closer and closer to producing professional records in our homes. In fact, a lot of people already say we’re there. It’s not the gear that makes the record, it’s the mind behind the work.
In closing, I think the best thing you can do with a studio build is have fun. A build has the exact same creative output as creating music itself. Get into the mind-set of building your own little “creative-space”. Enjoy the time you spend during the build and create your own Four Wall Stamp on the music industry.
Happy music making!