Welcome to Day 6 of 31 Days to Better Recordings.

As you’re evaluating your rig, you may find yourself neck-deep in a Sweetwater catalog. With thousands of items vying for your attention, it’s easy to develop tunnel vision.

You need to occasionally break free and think outside the box. There are so many creative ways to add on to your studio, but sometimes you’ve got to look for them.

Here are a few places to start.


Do you know about IKEA? I thought it was a household name, but then I recently met several people who hadn’t heard of it.

Basically, IKEA is this huge warehouse store. They produce anything and everything you could want to decorate your home. Furniture, lighting, all sorts of stuff.

The great thing is that they produce everything in bulk, and it’s all really inexpensive.

It may not seem immediately obvious, but a lot of the items sold at IKEA can be easily converted for studio use. For example, if you watch my latest studio tour, you’ll see that I used their $15 Rast nightstand to make an 8-space wooden equipment rack.

Jon over at Audio Geek Zine is actually the first person to turn me on to a lot of IKEA studio “hacks.” Check out his article on how IKEA makes great studio furniture. (The article may be missing pictures. Jon’s site recently fell victim to a server crash…bummer.)

2. Cinder Block Monitor Stands

Here’s an odd one I came across over on velvetron.com.

So you’ve got your studio monitors, but you’re running out of room on your studio desk. Or perhaps you want your monitors to be a little bit higher, more ear-level.

There are lots of monitor stands out there (I own these On-Stage stands), but they can be a bit expensive, starting at around $100 for a pair. When you’re using $300 studio monitors, that math simply doesn’t add up.

But you still need something, so why not use four cinder blocks as monitor stands?

I was surprised at how well they seemed to work. Something to consider…

3. Guitar Pedals

Looking for effects for your mixes? Not convinced you want to buy a rack-mount reverb or effects unit? That’s understandable. Those can get fairly pricey. But what about guitar pedals?

Do a quick search for guitar pedals on Craigslist, and you’ll quickly find a whole host of cheap, used guitar pedals. Not a guitarist? No problem, you can run any sort of signal through a guitar pedal, and this can be a great way to change things up in the studio and capture new, exciting sounds.

Listen to this podcast I did on using hardware inserts in Pro Tools. I talk about how I used the delay pedal in my guitar pedalboard to add a nice slap-back delay to a lead vocal on a song I mixed.

4. Toys and more…

The guys over at the Home Recording Show podcast know all about thinking outside the box. They always give me great ideas for cool ways to get new sounds. For example, check out Show #75 – Homemade Effects and Demos.

Jon also has created a sample library of sounds he recorded while breaking a bunch of toys. It’s called Toys Breaking.

Day 6 Challenge

In the comments below, share with us something new you’re going to try in your studio that you’ve never done before.

22 Responses to “Day 6 – Think Outside the Box [31DBR]”

  1. Carlos

    My studio Rack was made by me with plywood and covered with wood imitating adhesive paper to match my furniture. Then bought the rack rails from Thomman

  2. Joe R.

    My Studio is down in the Man Cave (basement) I was working in the Studio one day straining to see my small monitor. I looked to the left at the 42″ LCD TV sitting 3 feet away…. I removed the VGA cable from the back of the monitor and plugged it into the 42″ LCD… Oh Ya, life is good…. Of corse my Son gets frustrated when he has to re-plug in his Xbox 360

  3. Matt

    I have a cabinet that my Grandmother used as her spice cabinet. It must be 90 years old. It has a number of pull-out drawers with dividers in each drawer and, at the bottom half, a bunch of cubbyholes. I am hoping to refinish it and put some foam padding in the drawers and use it as my “mic locker”. I would also be able to use the cubbyholes for mic accessories such as mic clips, wind screens, et cetera. The mics would fit perfectly in it and it would protect the mics well. As it is tall and thin, it would fit really well into my studio space and, as it has HUGE sentimental value, it will be very welcome in my studio.

  4. Mark Hewitt

    Thanks Joe for the great links… I’m always up for trying new things. Going to check out the SFX’s link right now. Might just have to buy some blankets to help isolate some reflections in my studio. I just found this site on twitter and seems like they have some decent acoustically products http://www.audimutesoundproofing.com/

  5. Larry Couch

    Great ideas for studio furniture.

    I think what I’m really looking forward to trying out is running a vocal through a guitar amp to get some character out of it. Maybe mix in a little of that to spice up the sound. Not necessarily the speakers, but the preamp section and direct to the board.

  6. Preshan

    I’m doing some audio post production soon, so that will be new and very exciting for me. I have to add sound effects, ambience etc. to a 30-40sec film clip. I’m looking forward to it! Foley and film sfx have always fascinated me 🙂

  7. Jon Rohland

    Cinder blocks… genius. Wish I knew that back in the day and could have saved $130.

    I have some Ikea modular metal shelving in my studio closet and I left enough space “unshelved” at the bottom to be able to slide guitar cases in underneath. I still get 3 shelves worth of storage above the cases, and it solved the problem of where the heck to store all my guitars.

    As for trying something new, maybe I’ll try using some of my guitar pedals for non-guitar tracks and see what happens.

  8. ~Jon~

    Those cinder block stands look great. I would have done them a bit different but painting them never would have occurred to me.
    I’m going to get a brick for each of my speaker stands to make them denser and more stable.

    Joe already linked to most of the things I’ve said on the subject already.

    Here’s my new ikea studio desk

  9. rick

    I’m thinking I’m going to buy a bunch more gear because that will make me sound better.


    I’m going to try tracking vocals (the only real acoustic/mic’d thing I track) using some treatment (probably try some blankets to begin with).

    I also want to become the next great YouTube sensation.

  10. Scott

    I don’t think I’m really in need of anything experimental at the moment. I will be doing some of the IKEA hacks when I upgrade my interface and get an 8-channel preamp.

  11. Will

    I’m going to try recording my acoustic guitar in mono instead of stereo… never done that before!

  12. Jens

    Right now I’m not ready to try something totally crazy in my studio, because I must still take care of the basic equipment and continue to work on my songs.

  13. Arjun Ramesh

    I might try some new mic’ing techniques that I have never tried before, but have been wanting to. I have not tried ORTF before on acoustic guitar and I’ll give that a shot. As an engineer, I get used to certain habits and they become staples. For example, I have been able to get some great results using XY on my acoustic guitar in the iso booth, but I will try to experiment more and see what kind of sounds I can come up with.

  14. christopher [chrisw92]

    IKEA is great plus its only a 10 min drive from my house.

    you can do everything from http://ikeahacker.blogspot.com/2007/09/hack-bedside-tables-into-music-studio.html (what joe mentioned) to http://blog.modernica.net/?p=11497

    I was thinking of recording some old toys in the back of the cupboard ever since I heard that podcast episode, I also have loads of old cheap speakers (from hi-fi’s etc) that I plan to use someday by turning them up full bast so the sound distorts and give a real “grungy” sound.

  15. Bob Sorace

    I’ve got two cinder blocks with two shelves for my two M-Audio BX5a’s. It works great, and doesn’t look to bad either. I’m the king when it comes to low cost solutions like this, being on a budget really gets your brain to “think outside the box”.

    I work right down the road from IKEA and my kids rooms have all been furnished from there. The next time I go I’ll be looking to see what I can use.

    Great tips Joe!

  16. MGJR73

    I just got an oxygen 8 midi keyboard for $20 from a yard sale so I’ll try adding some instrument plug ins aside from my guitars. I also dug up my old zoom 505 and my unused Korg AX10G effects and use those instead of plug ins.

  17. David S.

    Great post, Joe! IKEA is the holy grail of inexpensive but very utilitarian studio furniture. Great stuff there. One thing that caught my eye, however, was the cinder block stands. I made my stands (after realizing how grossly over priced they are everywhere), by using some dowels and planks of wood, paint and a saw. The total cost was no more than $15 (assuming you already own a saw) and a little elbow grease. They look great and everyone asks where I bought them, only to be astonished that regular people can make these too. lol.
    So, from now on when the need for something arises, I think to myself “can I just make that?”.
    Oh, and I’m by no means a carpenter or a woodsmith. So, anyone can do it!


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