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Giving Musicians the Tools to Make Better Music

How To Build A Home Studio On a Budget

How to Build a Home Studio On a Budget in 2023!

What's In This Article:

  • What equipment you need to start a home studio
  • Where you can save money
  • How much it will cost you to start up
music production desk

So you want to start a home studio eh?

You’ve seen the fancy spancy producers behind their mixing boards and now you want to learn how to do the same.

Well the good news is that today we don’t need to have hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gear to make great sounding music. In fact, what required a full professional music studio 30 years ago, can all be done with a few essential items and a laptop! Talk about advancement! In this article, I’m going to show you exactly how to build your own home studio in 10 steps without breaking the bank.

Here are the steps:

  1. Plan Out Your Spot
  2. Get a Computer
  3. Find an Audio Interface
  4. Buy Some Studio Monitors
  5. Choose a DAW
  6. Aquire Microphones
  7. Find Some Headphones
  8. Put Up Some Studio Treatment
  9. Invest in a MIDI Keyboard
  10. Grab some Cables

1. Plan Out Your Spot

When it comes to setting up a home music studio, picking out the right spot is one of the most important decisions you will make. But for someone on a tight budget, it’s often a decision that gets pushed down the list of importance.

I’ve seen too many home studios in dark corners and dingy storage rooms!

It’s essential that your studio be located in an area that has minimal outside noise, good acoustics and plenty of space for all your equipment. I know that can be hard to manage with all of the other stuff you have to keep in your house, but I promise that creating a space for yourself will be worth it! Having more space will allow you the room to record instruments and minimized any conflicting frequencies when you start to mix. And believe me conflicting frequencies are bad.

Make sure that you are able to get enough natural light without too much glare from direct sunlight or windows. Though musicians are notoriously nocturnal, getting some natural light will make the place feel less like the shoebox that it probably is. It’s also important to keep in mind that adding soundproofing will take away some of your usable space. So, if you can manage it, give yourself some room!

 

Note: If you really can’t dedicate the space to creating your fully, fledged music studio, then that’s okay! There are some more important music studio essentials that need to be covered.

2. Get a Computer

Selecting a computer for your home music studio is no laughing matter. It’s the workhorse of your whole operation. It can be the difference between waiting an hour for your 60 track masterpiece to load and 1 minute. But if you know what to look for and how to shop around, you can find the perfect machine that will help create some amazing musical masterpieces.

Here are some things to consider when purchasing a computer for making music.

Storage

The type of storage you choose will determine how quickly and efficiently you can work on your projects. There are two main types of storage – hard drives and solid state drives (SSDs). Hard drives tend to be cheaper but offer slower speeds, while SSDs are more expensive but offer faster speeds. Either one is acceptable. And because this guide is focused on budget, hard drives make a bit more sense.

In either case you’ll want to include at least 500gb of storage capacity! At least! But it’d be better to get 1 terabyte! As files get bigger and bigger, 1 terabyte will future proof your machine a little more. When you start adding samples, plug-ins, and instrument libraries you’ll find you run into the same problem as when you were trying to pick a space for your studio, you just don’t have enough of it!

Ram

Ram is ‘desk space’ you have available to you while working. I like to imagine the more ram I have, the bigger imaginary desk I have. Do I need my desk to hold a bunch of papers at the same time (play a lot of tracks)? Then I’m going to need a lot of ram!

While all computers have some form of RAM, having too little can cause your machine to run slowly and lag while you’re trying to make music. But how much do you really need? Well, if you want to get serious about production or recording, I recommend at least 8GB of RAM. If money isn’t an issue then 16GB or even 32GB would be best! Believe me when I say that investing in more memory will pay off in the long run! Sitting there waiting for your track to load because you’ve decided to put 45 plug-ins on each of your tracks is not the way.

Home Studio Computer Recommendation

My first recommendation would be to buy a used computer that fits these requirements. My next recommendation would be to make sure it’s a mac! Getting a mac isn’t a must do, but it will make your life easier for some of the reasons I’ll talk about later in the article that include: access to apple audio software, ease of use, and pure speed. You can get a newer mac mini that will run that latest versions of the software you need. If you pair this with some of apples own audio software, the results are lighting fast. I’ve been super impressed by the results.

 

If you don’t like Mac or the apple ecosystem and you want to stick it to the man, then I’d actually recommend building your own PC! Parts can be found for fairly cheap through reselling sites like marketplace and it’s not all that difficult to build! Follow the spec guides I gave earlier and you’re golden.

3. Find an Audio Interface

Audio interfaces are the unsung heroes of the music production world. They don’t get the same amount of love and attention as synthesizers, drum machines, and other instruments, but they’re absolutely necessary for creating great music.

Without an audio interface, you’d have to plug your microphone into your laptop or computer directly – which would not only sound terrible but could also damage your equipment! Audio interfaces are responsible for transferring the audio signal from your microphone or guitar cable and putting it into your audio software!

So if you’re serious about making high-quality recordings at home, investing in a good audio interface is essential. But don’t worry – even on a budget there are plenty of options available that won’t break the bank! In fact, some might say these little boxes offer up more fun than their pricier counterparts:

Scarlet 2i2

4. Get Some Studio Monitors

The good news is that remixing songs can be relatively easy with the right tools and guidance.

In this section, we will explore the world of remixing songs and answer the question – are remixing songs easy?

Remixing involves changing the tempo, adding or removing elements, or altering the structure of the song. With proper help, it is a perfectly achievable goal! 

But — is remixing songs easy? Well, it depends on a few factors. Firstly, it depends on your level of experience and knowledge of music production. If you’re new to music production, it may take some time to learn the necessary skills to remix a song successfully. However, if you have some experience in music production, remixing a song can be a fun and rewarding experience.

Another factor that can influence how easy remixing songs is for you is the tools that you use.  There are a variety of software programs and instruments that can be used for remixing songs. Some programs, like Ableton Live, are specifically designed for remixing and can make the process easier and more efficient.

5. Choose a DAW

Okay you’ve got the computer, some hardware, now it’s time to soften things up a bit. It’s time to choose the application you’ll use to record your audio into, otherwise known as a DAW or digital audio workstation.

There are a plethora of choices including some free DAW’s! If you followed my advice from earlier, then download Garageband and get started today! If not, I’d recommend checking out some of the other paid options. Even my favorite free option Garageband can’t stand up to its paid competitors.

Here are some of the options you have Ableton, Reaper, FL Studio, Logic, Cubase. The list goes on. I’ve actually made a full video on the topic specifically geared towards beginners that you can check out here: And if you’re not feeling like watching, here’s an article I made on the same topic!

tldr is Logic is my favorite! (If you couldn’t tell that already!)

6. Aquire a Microphone

Micophone oh Microphones. How lovely are thy grills? The next step in how to start a home studio is to purchase a microphone. Though microphones can be pretty sexy, for this guide, we’re worried more about how they sound and how much they cost!

Microphones are an essential part of any home studio set-up and come in various shapes, sizes and price points. From dynamic to condenser, there are a range of microphones available to suit all types of recording needs. But if you’re planning on just making beats or EDM without any vocals, you might not actually need one! However, if you’re a home musician that is planning on recording at home, then I’d recommend getting the two different types of microphones mentioned below.

Dynamic Microphones

Dynamic microphones are defined by the way they pick up sound. Dynamic microphones don’t record as much detail as condenser microphones, but they’re much better options for particularly dynamic sounds such as screaming vocals, drums, or loud distorted guitars! Dynamic microphones do a better job of deflecting room noise which make them suited for use in an untreated studio! On top of all those benefits, dynamic microphones are inexpensive!

shure sm7b

Condenser Microphones

If you’re going to record vocals or acoustic guitar in your studio, then I’d highly recommend picking up an inexpensive condenser microphone. Condenser microphones are much more sensitive to changes in volume than dynamic mics. They also record the high end of instruments in a much greater detail. Condenser mics will pick up everything in the room along with it, so be sure to use some sort of acoustic treatment to help tame the frequencies!

Here’s my choice and one that I used for years! 

The Audio Technica at2020

7. Find Some Headphones

The next essential on the list is a pair of studio headphones. Studio headphones differ from normal headphones in the same way that studio monitors differ from normal speakers; they try to use a flat frequency response. Instead of coloring the sound, studio headphones will give you an accurate representation of the music you’re listening to. This makes it way easier to translate to other listening systems when you finally finish the mix!

Headphones are also great for untreated rooms. In untreated rooms, studio monitors will bounce sound around that muddies up the audio picture. With headphones, you’re getting a straight sound injection right into your ear canals. No need to worry about pesky walls and windows!

There are some great affordable options out there for headphones as well! My tried and true pair of headphones is the ATH-M50. These are the home studio aficionados dream.

8. Put Up Studio Treatment

You’ve got the gear, the space, the software, but there is one thing missing and I KNOW you didn’t think of it before… studio treatment. For the beginner, this isn’t exactly required, but this is the first recommendation I give to anyone who wants to up their studio game! If you do-it-yourself it’s affordable, and it’s the BIGGEST game changer when it comes to sound and recording.

Sound bounces around an untreated room like a beach ball at a Nickleback concert. We don’t want that. That leads to roomy sounding recordings and clashing frequency hot spots. Treat your room!

If you’re not looking to DIY or you don’t have the handyman equivalent of a green thumb, then here are some professional studio options I recommend: Auralex. But if you’re interested in some big savings, I’ll walk you through how I made my DIY sound panels for cheap!

“Quality is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

9. Invest in a MIDI Keyboard

Now we’re on to some more of the fun stuff! The next item on the list is a MIDI controller! This will make your MIDI programming miles easier and quicker. The MIDI keyboard will transmit the data that you play into your DAW, essentially copying your playing. It records volume information (as velocity), timing, note release, and more!

MIDI notes are the basis for synths and all other virtual instruments. That means you can play a trumpet sound, a violin, piano, or xlophone, all from this little keyboard!

There are a lot of options available but unless you’re a piano player, I recommend getting an entry level controller. You’re looking for some nice drum pads, an okay amount of keys, and a decent modulation wheel. Here’s my beginner recommendation to get you started!

Here’s my intermediate recommendation, it’s a little more money, but well worth the increase in build quality and functionality.

10. Grab Some Cables

And the last thing on the list that you’ll need to start a home studio is cables. Nothing flashy, nothing fancy, just plain ol’ cables. In order to plug-in all of these things you just got you’re going to need cables!

You’ll mostly use two types:

XLR Cables

An XLR cable is a microphone cable. It has two different ends so you can’t mess up plugging it into your audio interface! XLR’s can also transfer power to microphones that require it. These are essential!

1/4" Cables

The next type of cables you’ll need are 1/4″ cables. These are guitar cables. They will help you plug-in your guitar, if you have one, and plug-in your studio monitors to your audio interface! They are everywhere!

Do I Need Expensive Cables?

Expensive cables are nicer than cheaper cables and generally last longer, but there’s really very little difference in what a ‘nice’ cable does vs a ‘budget’ cable. If the signal is being transferred properly, than that’s all you need and a budget cable will serve you well!

I’ve been buying my budget cables for the low low from a site called monoprice.com for years. Though I have suffered some cable malfunctions, the cheap price has kept me coming back!

Conclusion

Once you get a few of the essentials, you can focus on the most important part of a home studio, making music!! At the end of the day, this stuff will only multiply the skills you already have. Some of the best producers could make a album from a shoelace, but that comes with practice and time!

So, it’s time to get creative and set up your home studio on a budget! With the right equipment and a bit of know-how, you can have professional quality sound without breaking the bank. And if all else fails, remember: even with just a shoelace and some imagination, you can make music that will blow people away! Now let’s get to recording – happy producing!

Thanks for reading! If you still need help, check out my Free Vocal Presets for Logic Pro X that will get your vocals sounding amazing in no time!!

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