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Professional Guide: How To Build A Home Studio (Interview With Attila Hanak)

 

Attila Hanak The Sixteenth Bar headshot

Building a home studio can be as simple as putting a laptop on a table and plugging in a pair of monitoring headphones. But it can also be a tremendously advanced process and long journey — sometimes spanning over several years.

If you're looking for someone with hands-on experience in building amazing home studios, it's Toronto-based producer, modular wizard, PML tutor and dream home studio creator Attila Hanak.

In a previous interview with him, where he gives us a tour around his studio The Sixteenth Bar, he gave us some insight into his most beloved synths, thoughts on his studio and more.

Today, we went a step further. We asked Attila Hanak the most common questions when it comes to building your home studio — how to do it on a budget, what gear you need and if a home studio can be profitable.

Check out: How I Built My Home Studio masterclass.

Let's begin!

Why build a home studio?

Attila Hanak's dream home studio in Toronto

These days, if you want to make music, you can do it pretty much anywhere. As long as you have something that can create sound – like a phone or a laptop with a pair of headphones.

Technology has advanced so much that we can make music on our cellphones. Or heck, our wristwatches, as far as I’m concerned.

I know this is a cliché, but you know the music producers with massive studios that spend tens or hundreds of thousands on luxurious gear that say you don’t need that type of gear to make great music – it’s true. You don’t need expensive gear to make fantastic music.

The real reason why we build home studious is for the love of it.

A great home studio gives you a sanctuary, an environment to escape everyday trials and tribulations and do what you love the most, making music.

However, ‘home studio’ is a wide term. A laptop and pair of speakers in the corner of your bedroom is considered a home studio.

It’s in your home, it’s a studio and you’re making great music with it.

At the same time, a home studio can go as big as a multi-room, several hundred-thousand-dollar setup, with mixing consoles, flawless sound treatment and a separate room for vocal recording.

Then you have everything in between...

“My studio is my sanctuary”

For me personally, I built a home studio because it’s my sanctuary. It’s where I love to be.

I made it as big and beautiful as I possibly could because I spend 12-14 hours here every day. Music is my life and I wanted to make it into a really inviting environment; somewhere I can escape from all the craziness that goes on in the outside world...

A place I can go and not care about anything except making music.

Another important point to why you might want to build a home studio is because it gives you structure. Sure, you can produce music on a laptop and a pair of headphones.

But when it’s a professional environment that you built with your own two hands, it gives you that extra step where, you know you’re not messing around anymore.

You have to get to work.

Instead of sitting down in your amazing studio, you think about getting music done instead of looking at crazy cat videos on YouTube and wasting time. You become more productive.

And when you are at a level where you make music that pays the bills, it’s like a place to go to work – it’s your office.

A place to get serious and concentrate on the things that matter.

What do you need to think about before you start building a home studio?

Attila Hanak's modular rack in The Sixteenth Bar home studio in Toronto Canada

To be honest, I don’t think many producers just starting out wake up one day and decide to build a massive home studio. That’s not how it works.

Often, it’s a slow evolution that can take anything from a couple of months up to several years. For example, the studio I’m building now I’ve built for five years.

If you follow me on Instagram or YouTube, you can see that I started out with a computer screen, headphones, and speakers. That evolved into the environment I’m sitting in right now.

If you’re determined to build a home studio and invest money, start with asking these questions:

  • What do you want to do?
  • Why do you need a home studio?
  • What kind of music do you like?

All these questions will shape your studio decisions and dictate how you will build it.

This is one of the reasons I put the course together. Building a studio is complex, and there isn’t a one straight answer.

There’s as many studios as there are producers – and we all have different needs. When we build a home studio, we build it for our needs.

Depending on the producer, the needs are going to change.

In the home studio course – this question gets answered many times. I take the student through the entire process of building a studio and explain why I make certain decisions and choose to do certain things.

There are a few other things you need to think about when building your home studio...

Routing in Attila Hanak's home studio The Sixteenth Bar in Toronto Canada

#1: How much space you can get away with

Space is critical, and it all depends on how you live and where you plan to build your home studio. If you live alone, it’s going to be easier.

But if you’re a student sharing a dorm room, you’re not going to have the same possibilities. So that’s something I would think about first.

#2: Where you want to take your studio?

A good advice is to always think ahead when building your studio. Whatever you think you need today, multiply it by ten and get that instead. If you can afford luxury to future-proof your home studio, do it. You will always need more.

For example, you might go with a 6-channel mixer that works fine today. But chances are, you will outgrow it and regret now buying the 12-channel mixer.

If you can afford a better version of something, do it. Make your studio futureproof.

#3: Electrical needs

Naturally, you will need to plug in a lot of hardware, including a computer, monitors, speakers, hardware and more. The more equipment you have, the more you have to think about your electrical infrastructure.

#4: Soundproofing

Making your studio soundproof is a super important thing – especially if you live in a home with your family, wife, husband and two dogs. You have to be mindful of the people around you.

Soundproofing your studio becomes especially important when you’re into sound design. Most of the sound design process is listening to some weird and pretty scary noises. Until you find what you’re looking for, sound design often sounds like a pound of nails in a washer.

Be mindful that you will expose your loved ones to your noise. They will be very thankful of your sound proofing and support you even more – which is tremendously important.

This is not a hobby that’s easy to support all the time, so please make it as comfortable as you can for the people around you.

What is the essential gear for a home studio and how much does it cost?

Three Budget Home Studio Setups

What gear is essential for a home studio is something many seek an answer to. But a concrete answer doesn’t exist. The essential home studio gear really depends on the person, what they need and what kind of music they make.

  • Are you an acoustic or electronic musician?
  • Do you prefer virtual over hardware synths?
  • Are you a hardware synth nut or want to experiment with modular synths?

All those questions will determine what gear you need.

But for essential gear, a computer and something you can listen to your music on, be it headphones or speakers, is a bare minimum.

However, if you’re a guitar player. You’re only going to need a guitar. And if you’re a singer, you only need your voice.

But if you want to get into the process of recording your voice or guitar, now you’re going to need a microphone.

And if you want to start recording professionally, especially vocals, you’re going to need a vocal booth where you can sing naturally without room reverbs and echoes.

To record your guitar or voice into a DAW, which is common, you’re going to need an audio interface.

And for keyboard players, you need a connection between your keyboard and computer.

As you can see, there are a lot of answers to this...

But from my perspective as an electronic music producer is a computer and listening device – whether that’s a pair of headphones or speakers.

How much does it cost?

Can you build a home studio for under $350? Oh yes.

The essential gear you need to build your home studio can cost you anything from a few hundreds of dollars up to several hundreds of thousands of dollars.

For a budget home studio, you can buy a semi-decent laptop for $200-300 which also might come with a pair of earbuds. Or you can invest $30,000 into a professional computer and another $10,000 into a pair of speakers.

It’s both the same essential hardware but with different standards. It all depends on your budget and needs.

Building your home studio will be an evolution. Start with what you can afford and fit after determining what you want to do.

But let’s take a more detailed example...

Quick gear example

Let’s say you’re an electronic music producer that loves techno. You want to create some crazy sounds that no one else has – from scratch. Then, you might need a great computer, a solid audio interface, invest into eurorack, maybe a hardware synth and a great DAW like Ableton Live 11.

In this case, that’s going to be the bare minimum, but only for that particular person.

This is one of the reasons I made the home studio course. All these questions that don’t have a concrete answer get answered throughout the masterclass.

I try to cover as many different scenarios as I possibly could during the course. There are definitely a lot of great answers – which is the reason the home studio course is great for anybody working with music on some level.

The course gives answers on all levels, from the producer with the $100,000 home studio to the producer with headphones and laptop. That’s why the course is so massive and took a long time to put together.

Does acoustics really matter and how can I improve my studio sound?

How To Get Better Sound Acoustics In Your Home Studio

(Screenshot from How I Built My Home Studio masterclass.)

Home studio acoustics takes precedence over pretty much everything else.

Once it’s all set in done, you have all gear, all essentials and you know what you’re doing, the most important part of making everything work well is your acoustics.

For example, if you buy a pair of $30,000 dollar speakers and put them in a poorly treated room, they can sound worse than a pair of $200 speakers put in a well-treated room. Your room is your listening environment which colors your sound. It’s how it is.

This is explained thoroughly in the masterclass, in a dedicated section which could very well on its own be a separate masterclass. The masterclass covers many best practices in home studio acoustics. I take a good portion of the course talking about this because it’s so important.

In the course, I have also collaborated with a studio acoustics expert who does this for a living. He does all types of studio acoustics and has a great YouTube channel called Acoustics Insider. In his chapter, he talks about six common myths on studio acoustics treatment in. There’s so much good info in there you can learn from.

Even though I didn’t record that part myself, it’s my favorite because there’s so much educational value in there.

Instead of going into detail and talking about acoustic treatment for your home studio (which I can do for days), I will say it’s one of the most – if not THE most important factor of building a studio. Pay close attention to it and know that there are great ways to tackle issues even on a low budget.

The course outlines a lot of DIY methods of tackling common issues. When you start building your studio, think about acoustic treatment.

If your room is poorly treated and you can’t do anything about it now, a solid pair of monitoring headphones is often better than monitors. The reason is because with headphones, there’s nothing between you and the audio source. No walls, windows, dogs barking or anything the sound can bounce off of.

All things you have in a room will alter your sound. So, if you plan on getting monitors, that’s something you really have to think about.

If you want good sounding music, especially if you decide to mix and master your own music, which most producers do, studio acoustics is extremely important.

There’s no way for me to answer how you can improve your home studio acoustics simply...

But if I were to give a few quick tips, it would be this:

Quick tips on improving your home studio acoustics

When you set up your studio, listen to what it sounds like on source material you’re super familiar with. Find 10-15 songs in different music genres and styles that you know the sound of extremely well. It can also help if you’ve heard the music in clubs or other venues.

Then, make the comparison on your system. Is it too much bass? Then you know it’s a problem there. Not enough high-end? Same thing.

Doing it like that is great because it allows you to work towards making the right changes and decisions that influence your sound in a positive way.

How you tackle issues with sound acoustics is another question... one where it’s again impossible to give a straight answer.

Sure, you could go to the store, buy a few pieces of foam, and slap them up on your wall. But great sound acoustics goes so much deeper than that.

And in some cases, the standard foam pads do nothing for your room acoustics – and sometimes even do more harm than good.

My advice is, watch the How I Built My Home Studio masterclass.

And don’t overthink it. Unless you sit in a glass chamber or underground somewhere, chances are your room will sound decent from the start – often as good as 85% okay.

Taking it to 95% can be done quite easily. But to take it the last few percent’s to perfection, that’s what’s going to cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars and hundreds of manhours to achieve. Don’t worry about too much (unless you want to, of course.)

When it sounds okay, leave it at that. And don’t buy foam pads and slap them up left and right on your wall, because you’ll waste your money and time in most cases.

Is a home studio profitable?

 

Let’s define what home studio profit actually means. If we’re talking about monetary profit, chances are a home studio is not going to give you that. But if you’re talking about profits as in value coming from the pleasure of making music, it’s very different.

Having the ability to escape to your sanctuary and having a place that gives you goose bumps and thousands of creative, happy hours, makes a home studio more profitable than anything else you can have in your home, as a musician. 

If you’re looking for a home studio to be profitable in money, it’s a business. Then you’re an established producer or mixing/mastering engineer or someone offering services to other musicians.

When that happens, you have to look at it and treat it as a business to make it profitable. Will it be profitable? It depends. Are you good at what you’re doing? How many clients do you have? It’s the same as with any other business in other areas as well.

If you want to turn your home studio into a business, you have to put everything into it and see if you can make it succeed.

If you do, make sure you have the freedom both financially and timewise. It will require your undivided attention for a very long time, before it shows any profit.

Unless you happen to know a musician or producer that comes to your studio and tells all his producer buddies about it...

In my view, if you make a home studio, no matter the size, and it gives you happiness when you spend time there – it’s supremely profitable.

If your home studio helps you become happy, gives you purpose, makes you wake up with a smile each morning and helps you become a better person – it’s all worth it.

In my eyes, my studio is extremely profitable because it makes me a happy person.

Learn The Secrets To Building Your Dream Home Studio Today

Millions of music producers around the world have created their own creative sanctuary at home by building a home studio. But many have wasted thousands of dollars and hard-working hours on simple mistakes that they could have easily avoided.

For example, acoustic treatment is absolutely critical if you want to use studio monitors instead of headphones...

Many producers buy expensive foam pads and slap them up left and right, which could do nothing to improve your sound or make it worse altogether. 

Then there's the questions on advanced audio and MIDI setup best-practices, building awesome euro racks and correctly setting up your monitors.

Now you can get all the answers to building your perfect home studio!

In the massive masterclass How I Built My Home Studio, Attila Hanak of The Sixteenth Bar breaks down the entire process of building the home studio of your dreams — sharing secrets, in-depth knowledge and vital tips throughout the entire process.

What you learn from the masterclass:

  • Studio room layout planning and construction
  • Acoustic treatment in deep detail
  • MIDI setups for different budgets
  • Building a eurorack modular synth
  • Important DIY skills to save money and time
  • Studio organization, labelling and maintenance

... and much, much more.

Watch and learn every step of building a professional home studio on a small up to a massive budget, so you can create your dream home studio with ease.

Course: How I Built My Home Studio

Learn all the steps to building your dream studio today.

 

Thanks for reading, and see you in the next article.

Pelle Sundin
About the author
Pelle Sundin is a Swedish music producer and writer, active with his chillout project PLMTRZ. He also produces psytrance. When he's not producing, he surfs, skates, and chugs coffee.

 



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