In this article, I'll be providing you with a list of practical tips to improve your bedroom studio recording. In the previous post in this series, I outlined why acoustic treatment is so important for getting the most out of your music.

I also explained why you don't need to spend an arm and a leg on treating your bedroom studio, and that it's worth investing time and energy first instead to gain an understanding of acoustics and where best to put your money when the time comes.

Objectives

By the end of this article, you'll be able to do the following:

  • Identify 10 techniques to improve your bedroom studio recording;
  • Describe how these methods will improve your recordings;
  • Apply these techniques to improve the sound of your own room and recordings.

In case you didn't catch the previous article, or you'd like a recap, you can check it out here.

While it's pretty much impossible to achieve a 'perfect' bedroom studio recording space at home due to the architectural limitations of a standard residential property, there is a lot that can be done to improve your bedroom studio by implementing some simple tricks.

Bedroom studio recording tips

In the following tips, I'll provide some DIY solutions that you can try out before investing your money in proper acoustic treatment.

Although these methods are home brew solutions, you should notice that the acoustic issues are gradually reduced. You can then decide if any additional treatment is needed with a greater understanding of where to invest.

1) Analyse your room

I discussed this in the previous article, but it's the most important aspect of any acoustic treatment plan.

Before you even consider spending money on acoustic treatment, you should begin by testing and analysing the acoustic properties of your recording space.

Start by walking around each area of your bedroom studio and clapping your hands as loudly as you can. Listen to the response of the room in each area and take note.

There may be varying reverberation patterns in each location and, depending on the dimensions of the space and the objects and surfaces within it, there may be a number of issues.

clap test

Issues could include flutter echo (from corners, plasterboard reflections and windows) and reflections. When playing music, the room may also exhibit resonant frequencies and standing waves.

This process will inform where best to place acoustic treatment, much of which can be done with DIY solutions.

I explained some of the science behind reflections in the previous post and how to minimise them with absorption and diffusion.

In short, absorption will help to reduce liveliness, minimise resonant frequencies and deaden the space, while bass traps in corners will help to reduce the effect of standing waves. Diffusers will then aid in removing any remaining problem frequencies.

As you go through the rest of these bedroom studio recording tips, remember to continue to test and listen at each stage to assess the difference that each step is making.

2) Avoid corners

Corners are one of the worst offenders for reflections and flutter echo. Parallel lines and hard surfaces just aren't good for acoustics and corners have both!

As mentioned, applying absorption to the corners in your room will reduce much of the high-frequency ringing and flutter echo. Furthermore, bass traps can also help to reduce low-end frequency build-up.

3) Avoid parallel lines where possible

If you read the previous article, you'd know that a cube-shaped room is one of the worst places for sound, as it will magnify the effect of parallel dimensions (I'm referring to walls here, not the sci-fi definition). It's a classic problem in bedroom studio recording.

Any curves or irregular shapes that you can introduce into your space will help to break up these lines and reduce their effect.

4) Absorb low end

Large, heavy objects with layers of material tend to be pretty great at absorbing low-end frequencies.

Here, the fact that your studio is in your house can be a big advantage. If you're in a bedroom studio, your bed and mattress are natural bass absorbers and will remove a lot of the resonance that can build up in a smaller room.

Mattress

Make use of your bed and mattress to take the edge off an otherwise lively space.

Alternatively, you may have a sofa, sofa bed or futon that you can put to multifunctional use.

futon

The fabric on these objects also helps a great deal to prevent ringing and flutter echo.

5) Cover your windows

If you're in a bedroom as opposed to a basement, you probably have a window to contend with on at least one of the walls. Glass is a hard, reflective surface that can generate 'slapping' reflections and a false perception of the high-end in your tracks.

window glass acoustic

It's a good idea to think about some heavy blackout curtains that can help to absorb sound waves before they hit the glass surface, or even covering the window altogether with absorbent acoustic panels.

6) Keep your bookshelf

Even if you're not into reading books, a well-stocked bookshelf can become a really useful diffuser. The varying sizes, shapes and textures are just the kind of inconsistency that you'll need to disperse those problematic frequencies.

bookshelf

7) Get closer to the microphone

Now we're getting into some of the more specific bedroom studio recording tips.

One of the most straightforward ways to avoid unwanted reflections and to record as much of a direct sound as possible, is to simple move the microphone closer to the source. This small manoeuvre can provide a great deal more focus to the sound, both in the recording and the mix.

close mic amp

There are just a couple of things to be mindful of when implementing this technique. First, be careful of the proximity effect as the tonal balance of the sound will be altered. For example, cardioid microphones will exhibit more bass response - this can be good or bad depending on the situation and what you're aiming to achieve.

Also be aware that the probability of signal variance is increased. A vocalist, for example, is likely to move during recording, the effects of which will be magnified at a shorter distance from the microphone.

8) Utilise the back of the microphone

Microphone polar patterns have varying properties that are useful in different situations. For example, omnidirectional mics record sound equally from all directions, which is useful for recording ensembles and ambience.

Figure-of-eight patterns reject sound coming from the sides and focus on the front and back, so can be used for a duet, an interview, or to isolate the source from nearby instruments, to name a few.

figure eight polar pattern

Figure-of-eight polar pattern

Did you know that cardioid microphones actually reject sound from behind? They're designed to record sounds from the front, and are the most ideal option for the bedroom studio as you can use this to your advantage.

cardioid polar pattern

Cardioid polar pattern

Going back to your room analysis, there will have been certain areas that were worse than others, areas that were the most problematic, with the highest amount of reflection/resonance. This could be, for example, a window, computer fan or a particularly noisy wall.

Position the front of your cardioid microphone facing directly away from this area with the back facing it. This will focus the mic on the source sound and reject most of the nasty reflections coming from the problem area.

9) Use a reflection filter

With your cardioid mic set up to reject sound from behind, you can enhance your recording further using a reflection filter. A reflection filter is mounted behind the microphone to absorb as much of the source signal as possible.

Why? To prevent the sound waves from hitting the rear wall, reflecting back to the opposite wall (behind the source) and back into the microphone. This greatly minimises the amount of reflections entering the mic and can help to improve isolation of the direct sound.

reflection filter

The most well known brand producing reflection filters is sE, but their models can be pretty high-end with a price tag to match. While it can be worth investing in a well-engineered filter (sE's are very well optimised), Thomann offer some more affordable options and you could even research crafting your own homemade solution.

After all, something's very often better than nothing!

10) Make use of the closet/wardrobe

The first thing I'll say here is that recording in a small environment is not ideal. There is a big misconception that vocal booths need to be small and dry.

Small booths can work, but they need to be appropriately treated in order to avoid the 'boxy' sound at around 400-800 Hz that is such a common issue in home and beginner recordings, and this isn't always possible.

However, when you're limited, a wardrobe or closet can be a better option than a reflective bedroom with plasterboard/drywall. A reflective, roomy sound is a dead giveaway that a producer is a beginner, and it will immediately ruin a track...not cool.

closet recording booth

An average closet or wardrobe has a variety of absorbent and diffusing materials

Your average closet comes pre-prepared stacked full of clothes and inconsistent surfaces, ideal for absorption and diffusion. You can also add pillows or cushions to shelves to increase absorption.

If you have a big enough space, you can even use it as a makeshift vocal booth as it should have a fairly tight sound. Again, just be careful of those corners and any frequency build-up. Not an ideal solution, but one worth exploring if you're limited.

Another useful tip is to place additional acoustic absorption panels on the inside of the wardrobe doors for some added flexibility when recording to break up parallel lines.

Improve your bedroom studio recording

Hopefully this overview has provided you with some useful tips to instantly improve the sound of your bedroom studio recording without any crazy upfront investment.

To recap, you should now be able to:

  • Identify 10 techniques to improve your bedroom studio recording;
  • Describe how these methods will improve your recordings;
  • Apply these techniques to improve the sound of your own room and recordings.

You don't need to achieve all of this overnight. By all means, keep this post as a reference and work through each point over the course of the next few weeks, and explore the impact that these techniques have on the quality of your recordings.

By simply observing some of these techniques, you'll be well on your way to better bedroom studio recording. The key takeaway to remember is that a perfect home studio environment is pretty much a physical impossibility, unless you're Deadmau5, or have a sizeable bank account, and that therefore this shouldn't be the focus.

If, after applying some DIY acoustic treatment and testing out some recordings, you find that there's still room for improvement, that's good! By going through this process, you'll have a better understanding and awareness of your room and, more importantly, where to invest your time and money.

Next steps

In an upcoming article, I'll be tackling mixing. I'll be providing more practical tips that you can implement to, once again, improve the sound of your room and optimise it for mixing tracks.

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