21 Best Items for Creating a Home Music Room

One result of the pandemic is that you’re spending a lot more time at home. And you might as well embrace the new normal and think of ways to make it more functional, comfortable, and stylish.

Some homeowners are focusing on improving the home’s curb appeal, while others are creating the perfect game room. However, if you’re a musician – or an inspiring musician  – you might want to think about creating a place in your home where you can rehearse, record, and maybe even perform in front of a few socially-distanced, face mask-wearing fans.

These are some of the best items you’ll need to create a home music room, along with tips and advice from a few musicians.

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When creating the perfect home music room, there are several factors you should keep in mind, including usage, lighting, acoustics, and storage.

Determining usage

“When creating a music space, I think it’s really important to consider what the primary use will be,” says NYC-based musician Joshua Hinck. “Are you a singer who will be singing along to tracks or with a live instrument, an audio engineer sitting at a desk editing mixes, or a composer that writes in the evening or early morning?” Your answer will determine your next steps.  

Belinda Stohner, violinist and co-founder of Musical Fairytales based in Miami, FL, agrees. “How you design your music room depends largely on how you will use the space most of the time.” She says you should decide if it is for recording or rehearsals or both, and if you will need enough space for just one or two people, or space for a group of musicians.

For a truly creative space, Jacob Everett Wallace, singer and songwriter in Sisters, OR, says it must have two things. “First, it has to be a space where you can feel 100% comfortable being vulnerable and fearlessly creative.” Wallace says there’s nothing worse than a space where you can’t let your guard down and focus on creating.

“I've written songs in million-dollar studios and cheap apartments with thin walls and terrible acoustics,” Wallace says. “The biggest difference was not the thousands of dollars in amazing gear and room treatment, but in how I, as the creator, could feel comfortable enough in allowing my creativity to take over.” So even if you have a fancy music room with all of the bells and whistles, he says it won’t matter if you don’t feel good creating in that space.

“Secondly, the space must be dedicated solely to music creativity and have a simple room organization and gear flow that works when you need it,” Wallace says.  “Nothing kills creativity like having to mess with gear or rearrange furniture before you can start.”

Choosing a location in your home

If you plan on having a piano in your room, Eric Salazar, a clarinetist and composer based in Indianapolis, advises having it on the first floor, because it’s so hard to transport a piano. “If a piano isn't in your budget, then I would tend to suggest having your room in a basement or on the 2nd floor, so the music-making won't interrupt other members of the household,” he says.

And there are other location-related factors that you should consider. You might think a room with a lot of windows would provide a great view, but according to Toronto-based Gary LaBarr, a musician in Walker's Cay, that’s a bad idea. “Can you say traffic, trains, people, or airplanes? The quieter the room, the better it is for recording, especially if you use very high quality studio mics.”

If it’s a large room with high ceilings, LaBarr says that’s great, because those types of rooms provide a fantastic natural ambient reverb sound. “But with a smaller room, you can always add all of the ‘trickery’ of reverb to your songs via plugins and outboard effects.”

LaBarr also recommends having a room size that is conducive to the equipment you’ll be using. “If you are using just a bunch of computers and plug in software, a bathroom will do just fine, but if you want to bring in that favorite Marshall amplifier, you’ll need a bit more room,” he says. “A great quality recording is always the product of how well you hear the recorded tracks, and the mix afterwards, so always try to have a clean ‘sterile’ environment regarding sound application.” 

The basics

Hinck is a singer working in both concert and theatrical settings. “I have a simple amp and mic set up, with a mic stand so when I practice I can have as close to the environment and feedback as a live performance,” he says. And his amp also has a headphone jack that he can use if he’s worried about volume. “When I’m preparing for a show or when I was prepping music for my recent album, this was a huge help,” Hinck explains. “For singers, having a set up where you can easily record yourself and play or watch back is a great tool.”

According to Stohner, “If you are doing your own editing, an ergonomical chair and desk with room for a large screen and space for consoles/gear are clutch.” Stohner says it’s also important to have cool or fun things to decorate your music room to inspire creativity and make it an inviting space.

However, Wallace warns that you need to keep instruments easily accessible, and free from cases, cords and clutter. “Also, don't choose chairs or couches with tall arm rests, as they inhibit movement – adjustable, rolling, swiveling stools are best.”

Salazar is also a fan of a minimalist approach if the space is more of a practice space than a performance space. “Having plain furniture and bare walls may seem weird, but it makes the room less distracting - which helps you stay focused when you are practicing,” he explains.

“Just a plain desk with some drawers, and maybe a dresser or bookshelf is all you need to store your music supplies. In terms of decor, it's up to your own taste, but depending on what kind of music you make, you can adorn the room with the aesthetic of any particular genre,” Salazar says.  

Stohner has dedicated bookcase for all of her music books and spare supplies, and her stand stays assembled in the corner for easy access. “In my experience, the easier it is to get set up quickly, the more likely and often you will practice,” she says. “That might mean leaving your drum kit set up, mounting your guitars on the wall, or having a dedicated chair in the room so you don't have to go moving furniture every time you want to rehearse.”

Craig Smith, a Sanford, FL-based guitarist, author, and creator of Lifein12Keys, believes that organization is important. “If you’re in a smaller space like me, you’ll want to get those guitars, keyboards, ukuleles, and other instruments off of your valuable floor real-estate,” he says.  “I invested in some wall mounted instrument hangars, and in matter of about 20 minutes I was able to mount 5 guitars, ukuleles and basses, and get them off of the floor.”

And he has a few more suggestions for how to ensure your space remains functional. “I’d also recommend a few adjustable music stands and utility stands for keyboards, mixers, or other things that can take up valuable floor space; most stands nowadays can be folded up and moved aside when not in use.”

Hinck says he loves sheet music, and surrounds himself with books of music. “I couple physical music with an iPad that stores my digital library,” Hinck says. “It’s a great way to pull up any song I want to work on and currently, I have 3 bookshelves full of music.

Acoustics

A few years ago, Smith built his music room, and the first thing he did was get rid of the carpet. “A carpeted music room destroys any natural resonance and dampens acoustics in a negative manner,” he says. “The best studios typically use some type of hardwood flooring and often times, in a high-end facility, you’ll see the same wood on the walls and ceilings.”

If you’re on a budget, he says a maple or bamboo laminate plank would work – but warns against plastic or vinyl flooring. “Using a wood laminate, you’ll save some money and get a beautiful natural acoustic sound that is well-suited to piano, guitar, drums, and most other acoustic instruments.”

Smith says there are ways to control unwanted frequencies or unpleasant reverb that can occur in medium to larger sized music rooms. “Acoustic foam panels are inexpensive and highly effective in controlling volume as well as softening the blow of loud performances in your space.” 

However, he recommends foam panels that can be added or removed, depending on what you’re doing. “For example, when I’m teaching guitar lessons, I prefer a louder room suitable for speaking, but if I’m playing with a trio or full band, I prefer more dampening to absorb some of that excess volume,” Smith says.

Jimi Kendrix, CEO of Producers Academy in New York, NY, uses bass traps in different areas.  “Traps can be used in all areas from the floors to the walls, and they are positioned in a way to bounce off each other to create those sweet spots within the room.”

He also likes to use sound diffusers. “These little magical things receive the sound and translate it back, depending on where you want to feel it,” Kendrix explains. “I like to use the diffusers and dense carpet, and I know that sounds a little different, but this really gives me a sound that will resonate to my core.”

On the other hand, Salazar warns that having a lot of cloth, carpet, curtains, etc., in a room will turn it into a “dead” room, meaning the sound won’t ring as much. “Alternatively, if the room is all hard surfaces - hardwood floor, no curtains, minimal furniture - then the space is going to be what's called a ‘live’ room, which means the sound will ring out a lot.”

If you aren't a professional with specific ideas about how dead or live the space is, Salazar recommends a happy medium, “having a combination of hard and soft surfaces in the room so that you get a little bit of ring, but not too much,” he explains. “If you're finding your space is too ringy, then try heavier curtains or a floor rug to make the room more dead.”

Lighting

Salazar recommends at least one highly portable desk lamp – and ideally, a floor lamp as well.  “Make sure the lamps have a way for the light to be directed, as in able to point the light like a spotlight.” So why is this important? “Sometimes, looking at sheet music or your gear can be hard to see if it's too dark, which can make practicing or performing very frustrating,” he explains. “You want to have the option to direct light onto your focus point, just in case your nighttime music activities make it hard to see.”

Wallace recommends choosing lighting that inspires you. “I personally like amber lighting, such as Edison bulbs,” he says.  

Live performances

Since there are no live events, Ian Wheeler, the founder of Partisan Records and the multimedia platform, Talkhouse, says he’s watched numerous musicians performing from their homes over the past few month, and provides some tips for creating the best music room for quarantine livestreams.

“I much prefer great and abundant natural light-- especially lately. Watching someone perform from a dark space reinforces what we're actually living through, which may or may not be a desired outcome-- just something to consider.” On the other hand, he says that abundant natural light may not always be conducive to a great acoustic environment. “Big, bright open spaces can also create a lot of echo and other sonic issues that could make for an unfavorable soundtrack,” Wheeler says. “Also, natural light will change throughout the day, with the weather, and will, of course, make evening performances impossible.”

While artificial light is controllable, he says the cost can easily add up. “There are a number of new products that have hit the market since the start of the recent Zoom Era, including quite a few under $100 - a lot of people seem to like the light rings.”

“As far as more nuanced considerations go, I really like sparse rooms with character-- not too much clutter to distract, but a few inanimate objects to make a space feel three dimensional and unique.”

Wheeler admits that one of his pet peeves is a livestream scenario that looks like someone is setting at the desk in their office. “If I'm tuning in for a performance, I'd much prefer to watch someone sit by a window next to a plant than to see what they look like when they're doing their taxes.” He says that livestreaming from the place you write and record may not produce the most interesting and engaging performance and visual.   

See also:

Best Items to Increase Your Curb Appeal

Best Laundry Hampers and Other Laundry Items

Best Items for People Who Hate Housework/Chores

Best Items to Create the Perfect Game Room


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