How to Design a Home Fit for a Musician
Jeff SeehorschJuly 08, 2019
Music makes life better. At a concert, in your car, walking to work with your earbuds in – it’s easier to be in a good mood when you’re listening to good music. But for many musicians, there’s more to it than listening. From playing an instrument to collecting band t-shirts you’ll never, ever get rid of, what you see, feel and experience through music often becomes a big part of who you are.
Weaving music into your home is a way to bring who you are to the surface. Plus, like hearing a favorite song, it can put you at ease the moment you walk in the door. In this guide, we’ll give you some ideas to fine-tune the look and sound of your home so you feel more calm, cool and creative on a daily basis.
Ever slide an instrument under your bed when you aren’t playing it? Maybe you lean it against a wall? Usually, the goal is keeping it safely out of the way yet easy to grab when you need it. So why not achieve that goal and stylize your home at the same time? Here are four ways to showcase your instruments and show them some more love in the process.
Instruments aren’t just tools of the trade. In most cases, they’re as pretty to look at as any artwork you’d hang on a wall. Mounting instruments is an easy way to enjoy your instrument’s good looks and save space while you’re at it. Plus, it doesn’t take much effort or expense. Wall hangers typically range from $10-$100 at most music stores and can handle solo or multi-instrument arrangements. They’re simple to install. They make instruments readily accessible. They let you transform the look of any room without breaking a sweat. Win win win.
Shelves are great for small woodwind, brass and string instruments. One of the cleanest ways to display instruments is with an adjustable shelf cabinet. Configure the space just right and you can show off a guitar, a trumpet, a banjo and a few amps in the corner of any room. Only have one instrument? It can make a great accent piece whether music is part of your interior design or not. Keep in mind, many instruments (especially brass) are vulnerable to dust and moisture. So long as you plan on playing the instrument, get in the habit of taking it off the shelf and giving it some TLC as needed.
If you’re in the habit of leaning your instrument against a wall, chair, dresser or disinterested pet, it’s worth it to buy a stand. For one thing, you’ll lower the odds of an instrument falling over so you don’t have to freak out and check if anything snapped or cracked. As a bonus, using a stand is kind of like turning your instrument into an exhibit at a museum. It’s a great conversation piece to build a room’s interior design around or complement what you already have going. Stands for most instruments can be picked up for $50 or less.
Larger instruments like pianos and drum kits can overwhelm a space no matter where you put them. Sometimes, the best solution is sectioning off a “music corner” and designing that space around the instrument, rather than forcing the instrument into the overall look of your home. Choosing an inner corner away from windows can also improve sound quality. Hang some tapestries that play well with the color and shape of your outsized instrument and you’ll help eliminate reverb, so your music corner looks and sounds great.
Create A Home Music Theatre
Home theatres are practically standard these days. Hook up a big-screen TV or projector, set up surround-sound speakers, add a few fluffy sofas. Done.
Creating a home music theatre is a bit different. To make your ears shudder with delight, you’ll need to consider the shape and size of a room along with the materials used in the floor, ceiling and walls. Here’s a general blueprint to guide you.
You might be tempted to turn a garage or basement into your private music venue. You could use these spaces, but concrete floors and cinder blocks are acoustic killers. Plus, unstable temperatures won’t do any favors for instruments or equipment. Your best bet is a climate-controlled, enclosed room, meaning walls all around (not a room that opens into another room) and a door that closes. In other words – a bedroom.
To keep unwanted sound out – and the sound you want in – you’ll need to do some soundproofing. If you want a space on par with professional recording studios, you may need to invest some serious time and money to the project. According to HomeAdvisor, hiring out the work to soundproof a room costs about $1,742 on average. That could involve new windows, textured floor panels and wall paint, foam panels, soundproof drywall, so on and so forth. If you’re on a shoestring budget, try these tips instead:
- Use a commercial-grade door sweep to plug the open space under your door. If sound still makes it through, use foam weatherstripping along the sides and top of the door
- To seal the space around fixtures and windows, apply acoustic sealant along the edges
- If you have hardwood or tile flooring, cover the floor with rugs or blankets to minimize sound travel
- Hang heavy drapes over windows and – if you don’t mind hanging heavy quilts along your walls – hang heavy quilts along your walls to reduce an echo effect
It’s natural to associate pristine audio with surround sound: five or six speakers spread out along the perimeter of a room and a listening position right in the center. However, when you’re listening to music, there doesn’t need to be a distinction between voices, music, explosions and raptor shrieks. Simply put, there shouldn’t be any sound coming from behind you. Many audiophiles recommend using a 2-channel system instead, which means all you need are two high-quality speakers to create a virtual sound stage.
Once you have your two speakers, position them parallel to each other at about head-level. They should be no more than 3 feet away from the side walls and back wall (and make sure that each speaker is exactly the same distance away from each wall). Next, measure the distance between the two speakers. Whatever that distance is, your listening position should be the same distance from each speaker. This will create an equilateral triangle of blissful listening enjoyment.
Like creating a home music theatre, turning a room into a recording studio starts with eliminating as much background noise as possible. So, if you apply some of the soundproofing tips included in the section above, you already have a suitable space to get the ball rolling.
The next step is outfitting your theatre/studio with the proper gear. Home recording equipment has advanced by leaps and bounds over the last ten years, so you can put together a strong set-up without breaking the bank. Assuming you already have a half-way decent computer or laptop, here are the essentials.
This is software you’ll use to record, edit and produce audio files. There are many, many DAW options. Some are free, but if you’re just starting out, it’s worth it to make a small investment for reliable software.
You’ll need a nice mic to produce crisp, clean sound. Sometimes refining your environment and equipment is necessary for the exact sound you want, but as a starting point, there are several high-quality mics to choose from in the $200 range.
If you plan on recording vocals, you need a pop filter between you and the mic. When you talk or sing, certain words – especially words that start with a “P” or a “B” – cause an extra blast of air to hit the mic. As you’ve probably heard at some point in your life, this causes annoying popping sounds that make you want to run away and hide. A pop filter shields your mic to prevent them. You can usually spend under $20 to pick up a pop filter designed for the microphone you have.
The concept of a microphone stand seems simple –attach your microphone to it and adjust the height as needed. Yet, there are six types of mic stands and you can scroll for days looking at options within each category. Unless you’re going to use your stand for playing gigs – or if you’re over 6’4’’ in height – you can probably spend less than $20 and get all the mic-standing you require.
This is the thing you plug everything else into: your computer or laptop, mics, instruments, etc. The audio interface upgrades the sound going into your computer and the sound that comes out. Before you decide on one, make sure it’s compatible with your digital audio workstation and that it has enough mic inputs for what you need. If you’re a solo musician, two to four inputs should suffice because you don’t need multiple mics to record multiple instruments at the same time. You’ll also need to consider the cable connection. Again, if you’re a solo artist starting out, a USB connection should get it done, and there are plenty of high-quality options under $150.
Usually, a cable is a cable. You need a certain type of cable to connect one thing to another thing, so you buy the cable that connects the things. But there’s more to consider with an XLR cable, which is used to connect a microphone to an audio interface. An audio signal is vulnerable to electrical interference, and that means the quality of cable you use can affect the sound quality of a recording. To eliminate any chance of distortion, professional studios often invest serious money into the XLR cables they use. That doesn’t mean you need to, but you may want to avoid the cheapest and least reliable options out there. Start by looking at silver cables in the $20-$30 range for a dependable mic-interface connection.
You don’t need speakers or studio monitors to play back your recordings and mix them. You can simply use studio headphones, which are designed for flat frequency response and pinpoint accuracy. Pro-level studio headphones can get pricey, but as with most items on this list, these days you can find models that are right on par with the big boys for under $100.
If you already listen to music and play an instrument at home, designing a space to do both makes perfect sense. When you see and hear the difference, you’ll look forward to putting on your favorite songs and creating your own music more than you ever thought possible.