THE HOME STUDIO MANIFESTO: DIY Tips and Tricks

There are infinite possibilities for recording situations and environments...

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

There are infinite possibilities for recording situations and environments. Everyone loves discovering that their favorite Stones songs were recorded in a French chateau, or that a mega hit was recorded in the bass player’s garage and made it to No.1.

There are infinite possibilities for recording situations and environments. Everyone loves discovering that their favorite Stones songs were recorded in a French chateau, or that a mega hit was recorded in the bass player’s garage and made it to No.1.

In the meantime, we as songwriters and players have the real world around us, and the everyday sonic barriers we get to adapt to or modify. I have chosen three pretty common scenarios for anyone trying to record in their space. Each example utilizes a different level of construction skills and tools-ranging from basic carpentry and upholstery to thumb tacks.

Please don’t stop reading just because you saw the words construction, tools, carpentry and upholstery. You might not be Bob Villa or some pin cushion wizard, but your Uncle Buck and Aunt Bea might know a thing or two about both. Tell them your ideas and situation and see if they can help. Show them this article, and they’ll get the picture. If not, be like me, a completely stubborn Capricorn who has an unquenchable need to learn everything first hand. Dig it?

Funky Walls and a Window

If you check out the illustration, this is a common corner in a room: Mötley Crüe poster, blinds, outside lawn mower noise and all the fixins for a nasty-sounding corner. To me, it looks perfect-a great guitar corner or maybe bass world. First things first-call on Uncle Buck and his workshop. You’re gonna need to measure the window and make a wooden inside frame. This does minimal damage to the existing window frame and kills the outside noise.

Uncle Buck needs to cut a square piece of wood to match the measurements of the window. A trip to the hardware store can get you two handles and two peg-style latches. Put ‘em on the wooden cutout and mount it in the window frame.

Now for Aunt Bea and her wonderful sewing fetish; let’s put the old gal to work, shall we? If you look closely at the illustration, you will see the strange-looking items mounted on the window cutout and side wall. That is a NurfTM ball cut in two halves and covered with the fancy pants fabric Aunt Bea had left over from a few Easters ago.

What I am trying to achieve is a little variety in that funky corner. Fabrics offer a ton of varieties based on what you need. Foam, for example, completely absorbs sound. Burlap stretched over a frame captures sound and lets it reflect off of the backing wall, yet eliminates a lot of harsh sound waves because of the burlap barrier between the surface and reflection. Velvet, think velvet…it’s great for the eyes, ears and hands.

Keep the Noise In, Keep the Noise Out

This is a situation where you either own your own house or apartment, have a really long lease, or have a landlord who allows the tenants to modify the property. I do not recommend dropping a sand floor just any old place; they are heavy, and extremely messy to cleanup.

Now the disclaimer has been made and the lawyer has been notified. Let’s build a sand floor to keep out the noise below and maintain the sounds you create. This is a mega Uncle Buck project. It might take a few weeks really, depending on how much sand you can carry in one day. Ok, what you need is a measuring tape, pencil, saw, screwdriver, wood screws, play sand, garbage bags, two-by-fours and flat board wood.

The basic procedure goes like this. First, measure the floor of the room. You are going to build a wooden frame that lies on the floor, like building a frame to hang drywall. Take the measurement and cut the two-by fours wood beams to fit. Every 16 inches you need to put a new beam down to build the frame, i.e. a Tic-Tac-Toe board. Screw everything together. Don’t use nails. Nails make noise.

Within each 16″ by 16″ square, put down garbage bag lining. Once you have filled each square with the plastic lining, fill each square with play sand. It takes a lot of play sand to do this, like 1,500 lbs. for an eight-foot-by-seven-foot room. Don’t get construction sand. Construction sand often contains the eggs of bugs. It would really suck if those bug eggs hatched when you’re tracking Aretha Franklin.

Last step. Put the wood board over the sand-filled squares, creating a new floor. Put down planks and throw your peanuts on the floor. Or, put down a rug, and no one will ever know why that room sounds so peaceful…like the beach.

You Live in a Box and Can’t Do Construction

Alright road dawgs, this one’s for you. You’ve got the Ricochet gig, your Roland recorder is ready to go, and the first thing after the first show is four days off in Midland, Texas. That’s right, Midland. Semi-home of George W. Bush. What else? Umm, good BBQ? OK, that and umm…a Hobby Lobby? It’s the perfect time to set up shop and record some tunes in your hotel room, but the newlywed couple next door is breaking through the wall.

Look what you have around you, and use it to your advantage. The newlywed couple can be blocked out by propping your mattress against their wall. Go over to the Hobby Lobby and get the following items: thumb tacks, a red light bulb and some Christmas lights. On your way back to the room, stop by housekeeping and pick up some more pillows. Tell ‘em your back hurts from doing a back flip off the drum riser. Pillows absorb sound. The more harem the less you hear ‘em.

Now, simply hang those bedding covers over problem areas with the thumb tacks in hard-to-see areas for pin point-no need paying for room damage. Problem areas come in the form of windows, open closets and room-connecting doors.

String up the Christmas lights and put the red light bulb in the lamp. Plug in your Fender Super Six Reverb and blast the newly weds with some Viagra Falls love rock!!!!!

Leave a Reply

EMMA POLLOCK > Watch the Fireworks

10/30/07 The Whigs @ Exit/In, Nashville, Tenn.