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?