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Space II: Environment

Okay, let’s recap. You have your equipment: your entire audio chain. Your room was treated to sound as good as it can be (to a microphone), and you understand why that matters. Are we ready to hit record yet? Almost, but not quite.

A space that sounds nice is the first step. But you also want a space that is nice to work in. One that feels warm and productive, one that is practical and supports your workflow.

Never forget that we’re capturing performances. Performances. You’ll never get a good recording if you (or the singer) feels trapped and uncomfortable in that space. If the room looks dead. Or it’s a mess nobody can work with.

I honestly believe that designing a good recording environment is more important then everything that will follow in later chapters.


First of all, you want to be comfortable. Make sure you have enough space to sit or stand, to walk around if needed. Make sure you have a comfy chair.

I struggled with this. As explained earlier, I had a cramped space and very impractical setup. I had no chair for the longest time, but the ceiling of my bedroom was too low for me to stand upright :p I had to run a long cable to a mouse, on top of my audio interface, just to click start / stop for every take.

This was endlessly demotivating. It drains energy. It makes you frustrated, taking away the joy of making music, taking away the emotion from your performances. (Or, well, it turns all emotion into frustration.)

The biggest improvement to my recordings was simply getting myself more comfortable. I got a comfy chair. I created more space. I got an extension cord so I could run my headphones all the way to the audio interface without messing with my other cables.

Now I could just …

  • Sit down
  • Place the microphones how I wanted (within a minute)
  • Put on the headphones (which are already nearby and plugged in)
  • And start

It means you keep a positive mindset and can focus on a good performance. It also means you don’t get bad habits, ignoring things you “should really do”, because it just takes too much energy to actually do them.


Secondly, you want to be inspired. Nobody will produce great performances while sitting inside a tiny blanket booth, worried about acoustics and everything.

Design your recording room to be “all about music”. When you step in there, you switch to the mindset of “let’s make some great music”.

There are quotes or posters on the wall. Maybe you have something on hand to quickly play music from your favorite playlist. Your instruments all are there, easy to grab and play with in an instant.

Remove any busywork or annoying hurdles from the room and your workflow. It really pays off to spend time on this. It’s better to invest in some cheap tool that will fix a practical issue, than to buy expensive equipment that will only marginally improve your audio quality.

Isolated (enough)

Obviously, you want no (outside) noises. Make sure you’re far away from the biggest generators of noise, be it the road next to your house, or your kid yelling while playing a video game.

Close the windows and curtains, if needed. Add extra isolation around window or door frames, to prevent both noise and (cold) wind leaking through.

Remove yourself from appliances or electrical outlets. They produce buzzing and magnetic fields that can mess with your equipment and sound quality.


I have a long story about this, but here’s the short version. One of my microphones produced high beeping, like Morse code. I thought it was broken—it wasn’t. The area where I recorded my music, somehow, had rubbish power lines and added the beeps. This mic wasn’t shielded as well as the others, so it recorded that. After weeks of frustration and experimentation, I asked somebody to take the mic with them and record it in their house. There was no beeping at all. I finally heard what a good mic it actually was.

But also leave other distractions, such as your phone, outside the door.

Music is a “right brain” activity. Similar to drawing, you forget time and doubts when you’re in that “musical flow”. When you’re in the “zone”.

Anything that distracts you, anything that drags you back to your “left brain”, is bad.

But don’t isolate yourself to an extreme. You obviously still need to keep track of time, or be around in case you are needed. (Your kid yells because they hurt themselves, not because they lost their game.) It can inspire to hear other sounds, like chirping birds, a few sentences from someone else, etcetera.

It’s like that writer’s adage.

Write your first draft with the door closed. Write your second draft with the door open.

When laying down a first sketch or idea, be focused and isolated. Get the best possible audio quality. Play around, experiment, get the work done.

When that’s done, you can lift some of that isolation. Let random daily events inspire or motivate you. Listen to your recordings mixed with everyday noise, to see if they still hold up.

Audio recording can be lonely. Because you literally can’t have others near you, as they’ll just make noise that messes with your microphones. So don’t isolate yourself too much.


It all comes down to an environment that encourages a mindset. One where you’re allowed to …

  • Make mistakes
  • Try new ideas as they come to you
  • Do ten, twenty, fifty takes without worrying. Eventually, you’ll get a good one.
  • And just focus on sound, microphone placement, and performance—without distractions or noise

As usual, I struggled with this. My recording space was right next to my bed. Sometimes I didn’t feel like working: my head thought “hey, that’s my bedroom, guess it’s time for sleep”. Other times I was too self-conscious. I didn’t want to bother anybody else in the house, I didn’t want to “waste time”, so everything had to be perfect in one go.

Those mindsets never work. Just do stuff—record a lot, try different setups—and after a while pick the best one you have.

We live in a time of fast computers and abundant storage. Don’t worry about those fifty takes. You have the time, space and computing power to deal with them.

Foster an environment where you’re comfortable with that—and where it’s all about the music.

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