Lesson 73

Recording Space Layout

Since this course is designed for home recording artists, I’m going to talk about different ways to setup a recording space in a common house hold room.

The common way for big studios to plan their space is to have at least 2 rooms, a control room where the engineer hangs out with his computer and all his gear, and a live room where the microphones get set up, and the magic is created.

In a home studio, you probably don’t have that option. Even if your space is big enough to be split into 2 rooms, is it beneficial?

If you remember from the room acoustics lesson, a bigger space will be acoustically better than a smaller space. So if you put a wall in your room, you will have 2 small spaces which won’t sound as good as a single bigger space. 

My setup is a 600 square foot garage. It’s not very big. I’ve decided to go with a single space, with the live room and control room in one. I could put a wall down the middle, and divide it in 2, but even as it is, the room size is still my weakest link, so 2 smaller rooms would certainly hinder my sound quality. 

And there’s advantages to doing everything in just one space. You can work with the artist faster and more efficiently. They are only standing a few feet away from you, so you can easily talk to them, adjust microphones, hear the performance, and listen back to takes. 
The disadvantage to the 1 room layout is that you need to be absolutely quiet while recording. Another minor disadvantage is that the room acoustics will the same for recording, and mixing, which can mask issues, but it’s not much of a problem.

A common thing some studios do is use a vocal booth. These are great for creating a quiet environment that’s isolated from the outside, but they are not so great for sound quality. Remember... the larger the room the better the sound. 

So for most home studio setups, I recommend having just 1 room where everything gets done. The biggest issue you’ll probably face is room acoustics. If you can use a room that doesn’t have 4 walls, like a living room that’s open to the kitchen, or a basement room that’s open to a large area that would be ideal. Even if there’s a little bit of noise from something nearby, like a fridge, or computer, the trade off for better acoustics would be worthwhile. 

So once you have your room, where will your desk be? Where will your monitors be? Where will the recording space be? 

So the rule of thumb is if your room is rectangular, split the room into thirds the long way, at the 1st third mark is where you want to sit facing the wall closer to you. Have your desk and monitor speakers in front of you. The middle of the room is empty, and the other third line is the recording area. 
The reason for this layout is because of the interactions of the reflected waves. When you analyze how the waves reflect, you can clearly see that in this first and third spot, the waves are neutralized.
In theory, this works great. In practice, because of the complexity of reflections from the other walls, ceiling, and items in the room, it doesn’t make much of a difference. What really is prominent though is the build up of bass in the corners. Try it, right now if you like... here’s a steady bass tone. Walk around your room and listen for variations in its volume. You’ll notice it’s significantly louder in the corners. 

So don’t set up your monitoring position or recording position in the corners. Other than that, it doesn’t really make much of a difference where in the room you are, but following the rule of thirds will help a little bit. The sound of the room will be part of the recording, and there’s no way around it, other than proper room treatment, or recording in a different room.