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I record and produce as a hobby, so funds are limited. What are some nice do it yourself solutions people have found.

As an example, you can line the walls with egg cartons instead of paying for expensive soundboards.

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Since you're not looking for a specific answer (rather, trying to create a list of solutions), I am going to convert this to community wiki to allow for more collaborative editing. –  Robert Cartaino Dec 9 '10 at 16:37
    
Some cool ideas. Thanks for all the suggestions! –  brian_d Dec 18 '10 at 3:40
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11 Answers

The pantyhose pop filter. So simple, so helpful, and so cheap.

Seriously, I can't believe they charge 30 bucks and up for these.

pop filter from nextplease

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+1 Works like a charm, bend a metal coat hanger to put the tights over it and your done –  Willbill Dec 10 '10 at 15:10
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Bring every sofa pillow you have in the house into the room and line the walls with them!

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Just make sure you make some DIY bass traps too! Sofa cushions, sleeping bags, and blankets don't absorb the whole spectrum, so if that's all you have, things can start sounding boxy or boomy from the unattenuated bass. –  Warrior Bob Dec 9 '10 at 17:25
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1+ this goes for mattresses too which are great for the walls of a DIY vocal booth –  Willbill Dec 10 '10 at 15:12
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FYI, egg cartons, at best, eat the high end. They do almost no soundproofing and don't control bass at all.

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They're half-decent diffusors though, which can help with flutter echoes and reduce reverb decay time in the room. But you're right, they aren't worth much as absorbers. –  Warrior Bob Dec 9 '10 at 17:27
    
This might be better as a comment. –  neilfein Dec 15 '10 at 19:11
    
Neither do soundboards of similar shape. Dampening bass is all about mass (so, very heavy plates and stuff like that). The egg cartons and soundboards are all about reverbs and room resonances. –  Sklivvz Dec 19 '10 at 10:54
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To make cheap mic stands a little more stable attach some velcro ankle weights or a barbell weight around the base.
ankle weights

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Keep a soldering gun around and learn to use it. Even if you don't ever crack an equipment case, it'll pay for itself when you fix 1/4" cables that are getting noisy because the ends are damaged. You can also add ground leads to patch cables to reduce noise.

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A lot of acoustic treatment companies charge you a premium for wrapping a large pillow case over Owens Corning 703 rigid insulation.

The stuff is so cheap, you can just order it online or special order it from Home Depot and mount it on your walls. It is the industry standard sound absorption material.

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The key thing to remember is that your studio needs to be balanced.

For example, there is no point in having Neumann microphones if your preamps are buzzy!

So the first thing I would recommend is to build a minimal studio and move on from that. In practice one could start with a computer and a 2 line soundcard, together with a cheap microphone. That's all that is needed to have a minimal studio setup.

From there, you would basically fix issues as they arise:

  • find a separate sound room
  • get good earphones

Then expand your set up and fix again:

  • get a multichannel card when you need it
  • get cheap and decent dynamic or condenser mics if you need them (but try to borrow them if you can)
  • get cheap and decent monitors

From that stage you can start considering to buy a good "strip", like a good preamp-compressor combo so that for important tracks you get better quality - like vocals.

If you need soundproofing, do get that in place before doing this investment though. What kinds of sound do you need to dampen? Only spend money to fix real problems: not all rooms have bad sounding reverbs, not all kinds of studios need to record loud instruments, etc. In particular, before aiming to have a dead monitor room, I would make sure that my monitors are precise enough to tell the difference :-)

Another key thing to keep in mind is that many tools trade time for money. This only makes real sense if you are running a business. Do you really need to buy a hardware autotune if you can simply repeat the take? Do you really need to have a good sounding hardware compressor to avoid clips in recording? In many cases, it's a trade off between the money you are prepared to spend and the time you are prepared to spend on something.

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A closet with clothes in it can be a great vocal recording booth.

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Great sounding, but not great to use ;-) –  Sklivvz Dec 19 '10 at 10:52
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My band lined a 18'x10' garage with (free, reclaimed, clean) mattresses (two deep, walls and ceiling) that fitted behind a rudimentary inner wall (not that expensive - chipboard with a decent frame will do).

We shoved two mattresses in the door cavity and jammed another piece of chipboard over it (stuffing a few bits of rag into the remaining gap above the mattresses) and the room was VERY well soundproofed.

That setup dampened the noise of two 100W 4 x 12 Marshall guitar cabs, a 300W Trace Elliot bass cab, a full drum kit and a 200W PA (three vocalists) to an extent that we could play rather loud (all wearing expensive earplugs, deafening without) till 11pm at night in a quiet residential area without complaint.

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Why not turn it down? Seems that it would be a lot easier... –  Brad Dec 20 '10 at 16:55
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@Brad Can't turn down a drummer, especially one with a double pedal. He wasn't receptive to brushes either. –  Andy Dec 30 '10 at 16:52
    
good point. :-D –  Brad Dec 30 '10 at 17:49
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  • We used to have a studio shaker made of a cheap pack of rice. Remove half the amount of rice from it, and just use tape to close it again. There's your shaker.
  • Egg cartons as acoustic treatment of your room, they take away reflections
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It really depends what type of sound you are trying to record. If you just need to reduce the natural echo of a room, hang blankets on the walls, and drape sheets from the ceiling. I used this method, plus a couple large pillows in the corner where I was recording a person speaking, and had the person face the corner. This worked very well for a clear and consistent recording, but of course you will need a different solution if you are recording, for instance, a guitarist, drums, flute, etc.

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