For many years we traveled around in our fifth wheel and recording along the way. Each year when we left Wisconsin in the fall, we had a new idea for "the studio." The first year out, we used our dinette area. We took out the table and used a two-tiered keyboard stand. Using plywood and a few screws, I made a place for computer, speakers, keyboard, synthesizer, and a few other necessary components. The end result was a sore back from sitting at a bench seat for hours and the purchase of a couple of folding snack trays so we had a place to eat.
The following year we reclaimed the dinette, but we lost our love seat area to a standard size office desk. Using the desk would be just the ticket for a better work environment. No more wobbly keyboard stand, plus I got a nice, comfortable office chair to sit on. It was a definite improvement. In 2014 we got a new fifth wheel with two bedrooms. The second bedroom was converted into a studio. This was by far the most awesome way to go! We were so excited and felt so blessed. Unfortunately, the RV had to be returned in the spring. It seems the salesman (now no longer a free man) sold us a rig that was not his to sell. After reclaiming our trade-in from the lot, we found our recliners had been removed, so the desk went against the back wall where the recliners used to be.
As we recorded and mixed on the road, no matter where we had our gear, we ran into the same two problems. 1. Reflections while recording vocals. Every room resonates, absorbs, and reflects different frequencies. The RV, with its many windows, fabric window treatments, and odd roof and wall shapes was a nightmare. The fact that Kathy and I sing loudly when getting to the higher parts of our vocal ranges made the problem much worse. 2. Mixing in an acoustically challenging room. The same room characteristics that made recording vocals difficult, made mixing difficult, too. We would spend time mixing, put the song on a CD, take it to our truck to listen, and it would sound completely different. Over time we learned how to minimize these problems. Also, I found a great piece of software that could analyze a room and adjust the sound. That helped a lot. Kathy sewed some fiberglass insulation into burlap and made sound absorbing baffles. Depending on recording or mixing, the baffles were hung in the RV where needed. Fortunately, they were stored out of the way much of the time.
Despite everything we had tried over the years, we spent more time fixing than mixing because of the area we were recording in. When it came to mixing, we still had to guess how songs would "translate" once played on other systems. Then there was also the fact that we had to give up precious space within our RV in order to record/mix. On our way home in the spring of 2016, I asked Kathy if she would want to build a permanent studio. Nothing fancy, just something acoustically sound, and comfortable. We had built a 12X14 room in our pole shed a few years back, and I started making plans. By the end of June, and with the help of our son-in-law, Jeff, the room was wired, heated, air-conditioned, sealed (barns in the woods can get critters), insulated, dry walled, painted, and carpeted. Soon after the gear was set up, I got a custom plan for our studio for acoustic wall and ceiling treatment. Even though it's still not paid for, we both really love this space. We can do things so much faster, and with better results.The pictures here show the progress of the construction phase. In the weeks to come we will do a video or two of the studio itself and the studio in action.
This project was not done in a vaccuum. Special thanks go out to
- My awesome wife and musical partner, Kathy, for letting me go way into debt so that I could have a way cool musical man cave.
- Our son-in-law Jeff Behnke for helping to get the project done, and done right
- Graham Cochrane from the Recording Revolution for lessons on how to set up a home studio
- IK Multimedia for creating ARC2 (Advanced Room Correction software)
- Auralex Acoustics for custom plans on what to use and where to place different types of foam on the walls and ceiling.
If you are ever interested in setting up a home studio and want someone to bounce ideas off of, drop me an email at email@example.com
I also repeated enlarged copies of the pictures above at the bottom of this week's blog.