How to Create a Home Recording Studio on a Budget
As a musician, you probably know when creative inspiration hits you need to get it out. Having an at-home music studio can be the perfect way to record your ideas. Plus, an in home recording studio can come in handy during times like the 2020 stay at home movement. I know the idea of a recording studio can seem expensive, but today I’m going to walk you through all of my tips and tricks to set up a studio in your home on a budget!
It’s surprisingly easy to build a music studio in your home, regardless of your needs!
If you want to create a minimalist recording studio, I’m going to just list the very basics you’ll need, along with a few extras here and there if you want to splurge!
*This post contains affiliate links, which means if you buy anything through here, I’ll make a percentage of what you buy.
Everything You Need For a Home Recording Studio
I’m going to break this down into sections of what you’ll need. Any of these can be done on a range of prices, and I’ll do my best to give you all of the options. If you’re working on building a home recording studio, send me a tweet and let me know!I'm building a home recording studio! Click To Tweet
The first thing you want to consider is your room. I live on a super busy street, so I got heavy duty soundproofing materials. I built a booth using Roxul Rockboard panels:
You can also buy them directly from the source here. I made a small vocal booth with these and plywood, but you might not have the ability to do that if you’re renting or don’t want to do a big construction project.
If you want a sound-proof room, egg cartons do NOTHING, do not bother with that. They do not soundproof, they just mildly reduce reverb in your room. Plus, they look really bad. You can buy decorative foam if you need to reduce reverb here:
Reducing reverb is different from soundproofing. While these foam panels will take down some of the room echo, they won’t block out sound. A thick blanket or quilt will do a better job of soundproofing in a pinch:
I’ve had success with this blanket:
Honestly, any heavy blanket will work to a degree. You can hang these over the windows in the room to cut down on outside noise, or you can create a vocal booth by hanging these in a closet. It won’t be 100% sound-proof, but if you use a noise gate in your DAW, you can have pretty decent sound with little background noise.
If your room is upstairs, you’ll also want a thick rug to cut down on noise below:
This is a VERY brief overview of soundproofing. Soundproofing can be so detailed you can turn into a whole career, but I’m trying to make this simple for the beginner. If you want to go deeper into this topic, here is a good article.
Seats are no joke and should be considered seriously for a music studio. You’ll be sitting a great deal, especially if you’re mixing or playing an instrument, so you need to consider this when choosing a seat. If you don’t already have one, here are some options:
This gaming chair is highly rated for people who sit all day playing video games. Musicians spend a LOT of time sitting too, so you need to make sure your chair helps you. This one is ergonomic and will help with common musician problems like posture, sore muscles, etc (although you should get up and walk around occasionally!)
I use this stool in my booth because it’s lightweight and easy to move if I want to stand. Plus it’s super cheap. It’s not the most comfortable, but it does remind me to get up and move when my butt falls asleep.
Get your abs toned while you’re getting your songs done, so when you go on your worldwide tour you’ll have J Lo abs with this exercise ball.
Optional: Bean Bag Chair
If you want to have some casual extra seating for friends, bean bag chairs are a cost-effective and cozy option. They’ll make your studio look cooler and more put-together, and they’re great for a pre-release listening party.
If you already have instruments, you can skip this section. If you’re starting from scratch, you have several options at multiple price points.
I highly recommend going mid-range on your first instrument price. You don’t want something super expensive if you end up not playing it, but you don’t want something so cheap it will discourage you from playing. Some instruments are straight garbage so I won’t even put those here and waste your time or money, but if you stray from this list, feel free to send me a DM on Instagram (link) if you want a second opinion before purchasing!.
Here are the best mid-range instruments I recommend:
Beginner guitar tip: Use electric strings on an acoustic guitar. Electric strings are a lot softer and easier on your fingers, and they still sound good.
If you get an electric guitar, you’ll also want an amp, so I recommend starting with an acoustic guitar if you’re not sure what you want to do. If you do want an electric amp, here are some I love:
Electric Guitar Amps
You can also get a whole guitar package, which might be easier than having to sift through all of your options:
Everything in these packages are a good starting point for beginners. Once you get the hang of how everything works, you can start to decide what to keep and what to upgrade.
I highly recommend a keyboard over a regular piano (although if you really want one – here they are). Pianos need to be tuned regularly, they take up a ton of space, which I certainly don’t have in my home. Plus, they aren’t portable. These keyboards have none of those issues and you can use SO MANY SOUNDS on them. You pretty much have a whole band right on your keyboard!
Some keyboards can go directly into your computer, which is handy. You can also record them using an actual microphone, but if you go that route, I recommend using two mics at opposite ends of the keyboard, to capture the whole range of sound. It can get complicated, but this is all a learning process! Don’t be intimidated, be excited for all the new things you can learn.
The ukulele is a perfect beginner instrument. It’s easy to learn, very small and portable, and also relatively quiet if you want your kids to practice something while you watch Netflix for 20 minutes.
I just published the ultimate guide to microphones here (link), but here’s a highlight reel: For recording purposes, you’ll want a condenser microphone. You’ll also need an interface, a stand and a cord; but for now let’s focus on mics. As with all things music, there are a variety of price points. This is the one I use:
Obviously it’s pricey, but this is my job so I need high quality. If you’re not doing this for a living, you can get good mics for way cheaper:
These are all decent for vocals and instruments. If you want a small mic that can easily record multiple instruments, check out the Little Blondie Microphone. Full disclosure: The creator of Little Blondie Microphones is my co-writer. The mics are good though, trust me, and they’re super cheap compared to others. They excel at recording instruments, so you may want an additional vocal mic if you want a variety. There is also the Slate microphone, which imitates a number of popular mics:
I haven’t tried this one, but it has good reviews.
An interface is basically what connects your microphone and headphones to your computer. You’ll adjust the volume of both through the interface. If you have a condenser microphone, you’ll need an interface.
The standard newbie interface is the Scarlett 212:
This is what I still use, it works great. It also comes in a handy package if you want to get it all in one:
There are other options if you want to check them out:
Note: You *CAN* use a USB mic, which will negate the interface and go right into your computer. However, I don’t recommend these. The quality is not great and I’ve had multiple tech issues with them. I do want to mention them though, in case you don’t want to bother with the interface and the cord. Here are some that have good reviews:
These are commonly used for podcasts and honestly, if you’re just trying to make songwriting demos on the cheap, they’ll probably be fine.
You need a cable to connect your mic to your interface. You will also need a cord for your electric guitar if you are using an amp, or for your keyboard.
Here’s the thing: You can buy super cheap cables. Many beginner musicians do. However, they sound like crap, they wear out easily, and they cause a lot of issues. Many songwriters tinker with their gear, wondering why the sound isn’t great, when their cords are the problem all along. Trust me when I say, these are 100% worth it and will save you a lot of headache and frustration: I use these, which have gold in them:
Again though, this is my job, so you don’t need to go this fancy. Here are some mid-range cords which should work fine:
Important note: Pay attention to the length of the cables! You don’t want to order one that’s too short, so err on the side of caution and get one longer than you need. They go from 3 feet all the way up to 25 feet.
You have multiple options here, depending on how you’re recording. If you’re recording a guitar, or standing when you sing, you’ll want one stand that can move around and do a variety of things:
If you’re going to sit, you’ll want a desktop one:
A stand is one area where you can probably get away with being a little cheap; but you don’t want to skip it altogether. For recording, you need the mic to stay in one place to avoid sound issues.
A pop filter is a must have if you are recording vocals at all. They are not expensive but will save you anytime you sing a word with h “P,” “S,” or “T,” . Without one, you run the risk of your mic freaking out. These are called “plosives” (link), and your mic does not like them. A pop filter will soften these so you don’t have to spend hours trying to say or sing something in a softer way. You can totally use a cheap one of these, it’s fine:
You do not need a pop filter if you are recording instruments.
This is such a broad topic and there are SO many price points on these, it’s hard to know where to even begin. I ordered a cheap, crappy pair just recently and regretted it after a few days. You want comfort and quality, which may stretch your budget. You can get a decent pair for less than $100 though:
Of course, you can go fancy and buy Beats by Dre or something, but honestly you don’t need them unless you want a cool Instagram pic (no shade, if that’s your goal, go for it!). Headphones are pretty self-explanatory, but there are different styles and you’ll just want to pick what works best for you.
A DAW is a Digital Audio Workstation, I wrote about them in detail here. You’ll need this to record on your computer. You can make a whole career out of just knowing this, but I’ll simplify it for you: All you really need to know is how to record into it, and how to export. Everything else will come over time.
If you have a Mac computer, you can download Garageband for free in the app store. They also apparently have it for PC but I haven’t used that version. I started by using this program and highly recommend it. It’s easy to use, and if you ever want to upgrade, you can get Logic Pro X (which is basically Garageband’s older, hotter sister).
If you have a PC, there are loads of DAWs that you can try for free. ProTools is the industry standard for some reason (Logic is way better, don’t @ me). There is a stripped down free version available, and that’s all you need to need to get started.
There is a bit of a learning curve on these, but my best advice is to just get in there and play around. It takes maybe a week or two of making mistakes and fumbling around, but the more you use it, the better you’ll be.
Other Things You Might Need
If you get an electric guitar, you might want to buy a pedal or two. These are things that change the sound of your guitar. You don’t *need* them (despite what most guitar-loving uncles will say) so if you’re trying to save money, I would just get the acoustic guitar and hold off.
If you do want some pedals, here are some cool ones:
These have multiple effects in one pedal, but you can buy pedals that just do one thing. I recommend starting with these, figuring out what effects you like, then finding specific pedals for those effects.
If you want to get into mixing music (a whole other side of the industry, but super important and can be fun), you’ll want studio monitors. To be honest, I don’t know a ton about these so I won’t get too into it. I do enjoy mixing but I’ve always done it at other studios. Here are some options that friends recommend:
Some people claim that your monitors need stands and/or isolation pads to hear the “true” sound (by reducing the vibration that comes off of the desk). I’m including those here just in case you do want to go full on into this, but you can start without them:
I’m assuming you have one, but on the off-chance you don’t, you’ll need one with decent memory and storage space. Here are some options:
I have the latest MacBook and I’ll be honest with you: I’m not thrilled with it. I hate that they took the USB out of it. Most of my recording stuff requires adapters to work now, which is super frustrating. If you do want one, here it is, I just want you to know my honest thoughts on it.
Uninterruptible Power Supply
These are good if you suddenly lose power and you haven’t saved your work. I don’t have one of these, because I like to live life on the edge (jk I’m just cheap and stupid). I do lose power quite a bit, but I just don’t record when the weather is bad. This is definitely optional, but here is the cheapest one if you want it:
This isn’t really optional, but I’m assuming you do have lights in your room. If you spend a lot of time working on music, you need great lighting. Lighting affects your eyesight, but it also affects your mood over a long period of time. I wrote a post about self-care for musicians (check it out here), and I talked about how songwriters and musicians spend WAY too much time inside with bad lighting. That shit affects your mood over time, so avoid this by getting lighting that you enjoy. I hung colorful string lights in my room and I plug them in when I feel my energy dipping low:
Here are some cool lamp options. These are indirect, soft lighting that will absolutely affect your mood and performance:
Plus, you’ll obviously want to take lots of pics for social media, so you’ll want great lighting for that. I’m not joking, musicians NEED to be on social media. Here is an interview I did with a social media expert (here) who will explain why it’s important. Unless this is just a hobby for you, but I still recommend the lighting for the above reasons.
Optionals For Singers and Voice Actors
I consider these “essentials,” but you can choose what you want and need:
Throat Coat Tea
This. Shit. Is. Fire. I cannot tell you how many times this has made the difference between an “okay” performance and a “great” one. It literally coats your throat with a soothing magic that will allow you to adlib like Ariana Grande and scream like Lizzy Hale:
If you don’t like the flavor, Yogi tea has an Egyption Licorice that does the same thing:
Don’t let the “licorice” throw you off, it has a sweet marshmallow taste (and honestly it could taste like hot horse piss and I’d still use it). Here are some other brands I use and recommend:
Dry Mouth Spray
I have Misophonia (link), which is the unnatural hatred of mouth sounds. Why I got into a business where I deal with mouth sounds all day, I don’t really know. But this baby is great for reducing any dry mouth sounds that will ruin a performance:
Pro Tip: If you don’t want to buy the spray, you can eat a potato chip before recording. The glycerin will coat your mouth in a similar way. Plus it’s an excuse to eat potato chips.
I have an issue with just eating one, so I use the spray.
Even if I don’t have a cough, I use these pretty much all the time:
You don’t want ones with menthol in them because they dry your throat out. Any of the ones without are good options.
You don’t *need* these to get started, but I highly recommend them, especially if you’re going to take this seriously. I tried a Skype lesson online if you want to see how that went, and I think Ramsey Voice Studio is currently accepting students.
If you don’t want personal lessons, Ramsey Voice Studio has an online program. I took it here if you want a review.
E-Home Recording Studio has an extensive list on literally every single thing you need to have a studio if you want to go pro.
I left a lot of stuff out of it because a lot is way advanced and beginners don’t need it. I’m happy to answer any questions if you have any, feel free to comment below!
If you want a free checklist to set up your studio, join us in the Melluminati to get it for free, along with a bunch of other VIP stuff like free music, a complete guide to finishing your song, and much more!