When my roommate moved out of his portion of our 3-bedroom Harlem apartment, I packed up my stuff and moved too…. into the other two rooms while giving my old room to a new roommate. One of my new rooms is slowly turning into a studio. A real space where I can write, record and produce my music. Of all the upgrades I need (the list includes a new computer, printer, audio interface, cables), I chose to start with the room itself. As the corner room of my apartment building, the room is quiet, but full of echos when empty. I reserved one corner of the room for vocal recording, then decided to treat the big wall above the couch as a reflective surface- the spot where sound would be bouncing most directly from my speakers. I wanted to spice up the vibe of the room as well as make any decorations acoustically useful. Thus began my project.

I decided to make ten 1’x1′ panels out of wood frames, foam and cool fabric. I found some wood in my dad’s basement and cut a whole bunch of 1″x1″x12″ pieces. If you don’t have access to free wood, Home Depot sells a whole bunch, and if you’re looking to cover 10′ squared you can do it by buying about $27 of wood and have it cut to 1″x1″x12″ pieces. After my chopping session, I laid out the wood to fit together and nailed the pieces together. (This was easiest by overlapping each piece.)

Next was getting a twin size foam mattress pad. Target had them for $15. Cut it up to fit in the frames, leaving a little room on one side. With that little extra room, I used a staple gun to secure the foam to the frame. Next, I hit up fabric store Michaels as well as Target and Bed Bath and Beyond to find my perfect panel fabric. Window curtains got me the most material for my buck. I got two 84″ panels for $8 each (one in black, one in lime green) and for a splash of pattern, I spent $10 on a heavier pillow sham.

After cutting up the fabric into squares with 3-5 inches around the frame, I used a staple gun to secure the fabric to the back of the frames, making sure the foam was secure inside. Note: staple evenly on one side and pull tightly on the other before folding the corners in, almost like wrapping a gift. I’m terrible at gift wrapping (see left), so the fact that I could do it should give you a bit of hope.

Finally, I arranged my new panels on my wall, mounting them the same way I do pictures- send some nails into the wall and rest the frame on top. High tech, obviously. Another $4 for a box of nails. And voila. Studio acoustic treatment for under $75.

Now that my wall paneling is up, I decided to buy a 4’x6′ lightweight rug and apply it to the corner wall with the hopes of making a comfortable corner for recording vocals. I can totally hear the dampened difference on the side of the room that is treated versus the side that is not. Now it’s back to the drawing board to make more panels to even out some irregular spots, echos and bass traps. But it’s a start. What do you think?

UPDATE:

When I bought a house with my husband, I had to make some design decisions for the next version of musc studio and wrote about it here. THEN you can read what I wrote about Clearing The Energy, and Why You Need An Emma here when I continued to work on this space. These sound treatments have come with me to every version of my studio! And lastly, 7 years after this first article was written, I’ve got a new update you can read here.