Recording in a home studio can be great, but we’re all aware of its shortcomings. If we are lucky, we have a dedicated room to record in. However, we have to use that room as both a control room and a tracking room. Simply put, if you are recording a musician, that musician is in the same room that you are recording in.

That’s not always a problem, and it can be a lot of fun. When I recorded my buddy Kevin‘s vocals for his album, he stayed in the room with me while recording. We had a lot of fun together and made fun of each other. It was great. 🙂

But sometimes it’s nice to have some separation.

The problem.

The problem with recording in the same room as your computer is, obviously, there is going to be a lot of noise. Computers are loud, hard drives are loud, and sometimes even pieces of gear are loud. If you’re using a fairly sensitive microphone, then all those noises are going to get picked up in the recording.

Sometimes this is okay. Sometimes it’s not.

The second problem is it can be fairly crowded. The room I currently use as my studio in my house is a fairly small room. Once I add a desk for my computer, a separate desk for my rack gear, and space for guitars, there’s not much room left.

I had a session recently where I was recording upright bass and there was also a producer in the room. That’s three people in a small, little room. Needless to say, it got crowded.

The third problem with recording in your control room is that it can get hot. I’ve mentioned before some ways to make it more comfortable in the studio.

While recording, it’s a good idea to have all fans and air conditioning off, obviously. The problem then becomes how long can you record before it gets too hot in that room? If you have multiple people in the room, along with multiple pieces of gear, that’s a recipe for a nice, toasty recording experience.

Again, none of these things are deal-breakers, but they are inconvenient, and there are some ways to avoid them.

Drill away!

Luckily for me, the closet in my studio is adjacent to the closet in the bedroom next door. Those two closets share an inside wall. This is perfect for expanding my recording setup.

Here’s what I did. I took a power drill and got the largest drill bit I could find. Then I drilled a hole through the wall inside the closet into the next closet. This was perfect because it wasn’t changing the actual walls of the house, and  I wasn’t leaving any visible holes in the walls. The holes were in the closet, which wasn’t a big deal.

I then ran cable through the hole, into the next room, and (voilá!) I’ve got a separate tracking room. This is especially great for guitar amps because I can have the guitarist in the room with me, but the loud amp is in the next room.

It’s also great because now because the microphone is only picking up what’s in that room, and not this room, all the noise that my computer produces is no longer an issue.

Not great for everything

While this is a great solution, I doubt many people can acoustically treat two rooms in their house. Our wives are nice enough to let us treat our rooms. It’s probably asking a lot to treat two bedrooms. 😉

That leaves us with a microphone in an untreated space. For loud things like trumpet and guitar amps, this isn’t really a problem. For vocals, it might not be very good. As I’ve mentioned before, acoustic treatment is what helps you capture a nice, tight, dry sound. If you are recording in an untreated room, that becomes an issue.

A second problem with having a second tracking room is it becomes almost impossible for me to record myself in another room. I won’t be able to see the computer or do anything on the screen while I’m recording, and I would end up just wasting time while I run back and forth between the rooms.

Comment time!

Leave a comment below and let me know what you do to get some separation between yourself and the musicians.

  • jaewarheart

    Why not separate the noisy gear into the untreated room and as a machine room and keep rec and tracking together. just need a USB/PS2 extender and monitor cables that are long enough (assuming you have mic and instrument cables of correct size)

    • That would be a nice option, except like a lot of home studio folks, I use an iMac. Can’t put that in another room. 🙂

      • jaewarheart

        ahh, yes I too use an iMac in my studio but i dont use any mics at this point. i would like to say an extra monitor plus cables but that would easily expand to over $1k more for no real reason.
        is the iMac too loud to be in the live room by itself? (as i said i done use mics and am used to my untreated room )

        • I think the point of this was to simply give people options. Sometimes it’s nice to record a loud instrument in another room.

          • jaewarheart

            i kinda feel like a dick. sorry.

            i do agree with that though more options is always a good thing

  • Steven Talley

    I haven’t tried this yet, but here’s an idea:   How much do you actually need to have physical access to your computer during recording?    Why not isolate the equipment, running long lines for display and control?   I mean, I know you can’t do that for everything, but I still think there’s something to this.

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  • felipenoris

    If you have an Iphone or something similar , you can try using LogMeIn or any remote control application to help record yourself.
    I use 1 room for everything. My computer´s fan is the loudest noise. I think that´s something that we´ll get over in a couple years. The industry is aware about computer noise and now we have water cooling systems, acoustic treatment and isolation for computer tower cases and solid state hard drives. It´s just a matter of time!

  • ::Raises glass to awesome wives.::

  • Absolutely. There are some iPad apps out there I may try out at some point.

  • I do the guerilla two room approach and it’s worked out really well.  I run the cables under my door to the adjacent room.  I’ve worked like this for a few months and I plan to make some tweaks to make it work out even better. 

    When I record electric guitar I keep my pedal board in my control room and run a 25 foot unbalanced cable to my amp.  I can tweak my tone on my pedal board while manning the computer and checking things through my monitors. I’ve run into some interference problems with the long cable run, but I plan to get a hi-z -> balanced converter like the Little Labs STD. 

    When I record vocals or acoustic and actually have to be in the “live room” I unfortunately have to run back and forth.  I just downloaded a DAW controller app for my phone (android) and plan on trying it out.  The app only requires you to run a program on your computer that acts as a midi host.  It’d be a huge help to have my basic daw controls on my phone so hopefully it works.

    Finally, for acoustic treatment I unfortunately don’t have enough for the two rooms.  I hope to remedy this, but for now I move my diy broadband absorbers around depending on where they’re needed most.  Not ideal, but it’s the best compromise until I save up for more traps.

    EDIT – fyi I mostly record myself. When I work with others I usually play on their stuff as well so all of this applies in those situations as well.

  • Anonymous

    Problem with separation? Separation anxiety.