How to set up a home studio AGAINST ALL THE ODDS

Hello there. Do you feel overwhelmed just by the thought of setting up a home studio? Do you lay in bed at night worrying about how many more opportunities you’d have and all the money you could be earning if you could just record at home, even just to audition?

Well, I am here to tell you it’s your lucky day. YOU can make your dream come true, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of your time, money, or energy, and you don’t need much in the way or supplies or skills. This is a quick and dirty guide to being resourceful when establishing a home studio. It is not a step-by-step process or a wealth of information. More so, its purpose is to open your eyes to making any situation work.

I am not claiming even proficiency at voice-over studios, acoustics, equipment, or what have you. What I am claiming is that I had some common sense and a bit of help from the VO community to guide me. I can only assume you have access to as much.

The good news is that, if you’re doing this Morgan Bailey Keaton style, you probably have most of the raw materials available to you: I used blankets and comforters, nails, a couch cushion, and an extension cord. There’s only one item you may not have: LED rope lights. All of this cost me under $25.

The entire process took me four hours. That includes shopping, as well as the experimental first set-up of my studio that I later almost completely retooled. You can’t beat that time frame.

Let me begin with a couple things I learned from this process:

1) When you are creating a home studio on a budget (or not), you have got to get rid of your pride and ego. Studios are meant to be heard, not seen. Does it sound like you’re in a beautiful booth?

2) Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I recommend the forum on Voiceover Universe (I’d be happy to invite you–just email me), Facebook groups (Voice-Over Camp and Voice-Over Friends), and querying the staff of a hardware or home-improvement store. That is what they’re there for!

I reside in an inner-city apartment of Chicago with creaky wooden floors, two roommates, and a tiny closet (around 3.5 square feet without the mic stand). I lease the apartment and am a serial relocator, so I didn’t want to do anything too permanent.

A couple notes on supplies: First, if you’re doing what I did, you want to chose the thickest blankets you can, since they’ll absorb more sound. Comforters work well, or blankets that are large enough to fold once or twice. Second, I recommend LED rope lights for a few reasons. Principally, I wasn’t able to do any hard wiring, so the rope lights were a life saver (I did operate in the dark for several days before buying them). LED bulbs are more environmentally friendly and last longer. They generate very little heat, which is good because they won’t start a fire, and they won’t make me any hotter than I already get in that cracker box. I also figured incandescents would be too bright.

When I retooled my studio recently, I decided to use the thickest blanket I had near the microphone, which rests in a strange nook of the closet that caused a lot of “sound bounce.” The other blankets were simply folded to create a thicker layer, and secured near the ceiling with wire brads. Like I said, I am no expert at acoustics, so I wasn’t sure where all the echo was coming from after setting up my studio the first go round. Then I crammed a couch cushion into the ceiling and was able to account for a good deal of it. The last step was to create holes in my wall (with nails) to mount the screws and plastic brackets that came with my rope lights.

That’s it! It’s as simple as a few hours, 25 bucks, banging some nails with a hammer, and snapping in some lights. I will tell you I’ve booked a broadcast gig out of that closet, so I must be doing something right.

Again, this is a quick and dirty guide from an uneducated architect. My booth remains imperfect (I haven’t treated the floor, and the blankets don’t cover all the drywall. I hope this inspires you to use what you have, no matter what the circumstances. Let me know what you’re dealing with and how it turns out! What supplies did you use? What unconventional steps did you take?

Mastering Guerrilla Marketing 1

I’m currently reading a book I first found in the Chicago Public Library about a year ago. It’s called Mastering Guerrilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson. Thus far, it is an excellent book full of helpful, easy-to-understand information and tips on making my business the most successful it can be. Here’s a quote I’d like to share from the book:

Excellence isn’t as much a goal as a process.

This is wonderful stuff. The philosophy of constantly training throughout one’s career agrees with this credo. Success is not a destination. Reaching excellence, to me, feels more like the beginning of a downfall than it does the zenith of my career. The sky’s the limit.

Inspirational Stuff: VO Scripts in Braille?!

Anyone familiar with The Fairly Oddparents probably knows the character, Trixie Tang, voiced by Dionne Quon. What you probably don’t know is that the actress is blind and her scripts are rendered in braille. I also recognized her as lending voice to Kimi Finster on Rugrats.
“Wow” is all I have to say here. Well, maybe a little more. This girl had a dream of acting, and she has been able to achieve it, despite one huge setback. You go, girl. Way to go for your dreams.

Lily Tomlin on being a “somebody”

“I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.”
–Lily Tomlin
Miz Tomlin’s right–we have to learn to be specific with our goals so that we know when we attain them. If we simply strive for “success” or “greatness” or a higher status, when will we know we’ve reached it? What quantifies success? If you don’t record somewhere that being successful in your ventures is quantified by “working for Disney” or “turning down jobs because you’re so busy” or “my advice being sought by people I’ve never met”, then you’ll forever be an ambler, wandering through life, searching for something that isn’t tangible.
Have you laid out a business plan? Do you have your ideas on paper? What’s your system?

Jassy’s Convenience Mart: Home of the Jerky Buffet

On my move up to Chicago last week, we came across a gem (in the least beautiful and least glamorous meaning of the word “gem”) in the Midwest: Jassy’s Gas Station and Convenience Mart.

Outside the eclectic town of Columbus, Indiana, at the ripped-up exit from I-65, lies a gas station and convenience mart by the name of Jassy’s. Inside Jassy’s, you will first notice a woman smoking a cigarette, and you’ll subsequently wonder what decade this is. Two dinner plate-sized ashtrays atop fake wood folding tables suggest this is not uncommon. The women’s bathroom, which you’d like so badly to pee in, is in use, so you go into the men’s. As you sit down on the toilet, you notice the “intimate personals” coin-operated dispenser on the opposite wall has something a little unusual. Next to the flavored condoms and the ribbed rubbers is: Horny Goat Weed. Yes. Horny Goat Weed, that supplement sold in natural grocery stores for libido, has made it into the armpit of America’s gas station (to enhance your “drive!”). As you leave Jassy’s mart, you notice countless items on the shelves (chip dip, e.g.) that are about to go out of date (how long have those been there?), and a jerky buffet. Yes, in fact, a jerky buffet: complete with four varieties of dried meat, a “use the tongs” sign, and several silica “Stay Fresh” packets littered throughout. Back outside Jassy’s, you want to get gas, but decide on another pump because there’s puke at Number 3. Jassy’s: home of the jerky buffet and Walter’s live bait.