I will categorize each of these tips in one of two basic areas, sound isolation and sound absorption.
Let's begin by defining our two distinct categories. These two areas will become the foundation to understanding home music studio design.
Sound isolation is the ability to lower or eliminate the db (decibel) of audio produced from any source.
This includes keeping unwanted noise out (like the neighbors barking dog) as well as isolating one recorded source from another. For example, isolating the db of an acoustic drum kit can be critical in keeping the snare drum from bleeding through the vocal track during multi-track recording.
Sound absorption is the ability to control the decay or bounce of any audio source within your home music studio.
Absorption is needed to eliminate or lessen any unwanted echo within your recording space. As a general rule, the larger the space and the smoother the surface of the walls and ceiling, the more sound absorption will be needed.
Building a home recording studio on a budget can require a great deal of creativity. However, with a little forethought and careful planning, it is possible to eliminate isolation issues without spending thousands of dollars. Consider your studio space and what sources you intend to record.
Is it in a basement? What rooms are above your space? Where are the windows or possible isolation issues that could come from outside? Think through the audio you intend to record. Try to create recording stations that are as isolated from other audio sources as much as possible.
Percussion and acoustic drum sets often require the most isolation as they typically produced the highest db levels.
Consider building a few sound isolation walls to create a drum/percussion recording booth. Take a look at the image below for a general purpose and inexpensive design.
Isolation is best created by high density material and the elimination of vibration. In the above design, drywall and insulation are used to create high density in a small space. The staggering of the interior studs creates a vibration barrier from one side of the wall to the other. Two or more walls like this can be created and attached at the corners to provide a free-standing isolation option.
If the ceiling in your space has considerable noise bleed through, both in and out, an R-19 or better insulation may be helpful to install. Again the idea here is to create as much density between your recording sources and unwanted noise as possible. Drywall is another inexpensive ceiling option for building a home recording studio on a budget. It is typically more dense than drop ceiling tiles and should be considered a viable option for basement studios.
The next major consideration to building a home recording studio on a budget is sound absorption. If your home music studio space has nothing but drywall and smooth floors, you'll probably notice that everything sounds like you're in a Jr. High locker room shower. Sound, especially at higher frequencies, will bounce off most smooth surfaces. To lessen or even eliminate this echo effect there are a few inexpensive things that can be done.
First consider what is in your room. Is the floor wood, cement or any other smooth surface? Place a throw rug down or even find a cheap carpet remnant to install. What about the walls and ceiling, are they drywall or paneling from the 70's? Thick drywall or sheet-rock is great for sound isolation but not very good for absorption.
One affordable fix would be to attach egg crate foam to the walls itself.
Studio foam panels can be purchased but they can get very pricey. If that's not in your budget, head down to any department store and pick up several foam mattress bed liners. Use a hot glue gun or staples to attach them to the wall. You will be surprised by the difference in the sound of your home music studio space.
Hopefully you found some value in these tips to building a home recording studio on a budget. Do you have any more ideas I may have missed? I'd love to hear your thoughts, please add them to the comments section below. Also don't forget to download your free copy of my e-book pamphlet entitled "Understanding Compression in the Home Music Studio.