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How would a pro guitarist design their own home studio?

guitar studio May 05, 2022

Steve Newbrough and Daniel Seriff


5/4/22

How would a pro guitarist design their own home studio?

Daniel Seriff has recently converted a building on his property to be an amazing studio for all of his professional production needs.

1) Make sure the natural/bad reverb and echo of the room is decreased or cancelled out by using fiberglass acoustic panelling. Tall purpose built curtains can be used to mitigate room noise as well. Remember to treat the ceiling as well since this is the first point of reflection.

2) Find a way to bring natural light into the studio. Spending hours upon hours in a room without natural light can be emotionally draining.

3) Purchase the furniture that will support your equipment and your comfort. For instance, a desk that will hold all of your rack gear, computers, and monitors while leaving extra space for your ipad or notebook. Also, purchase a chair that that is comfortable enough to use for hours.

 

The following includes a partial transcript of an interview from April of 2022. This interview was completed just hours before Daniel Seriff's studio was completed. 


Steve Newbrough: We are sitting out here in Daniel's studio that is under construction.

Daniel: So close! It's almost done! 

Steve: On Daniel's (YouTube) channel. You can see video of this when it was in the very early stages.

How long have you been working on this again?

Daniel: I moved in to the house last May. The actual project got started in December...  and now it's April...

Steve: Man.... I bet you're ready for that to be done?

Daniel: So it really feels like it's been like 11 months almost since I've really had a studio space, and I've never had anything this good. So when I was buying a house here, it was a big part of it was like looking for a building and a space that I could convert for studio work for video guitar glossary, work, demo work all this stuff, right?
I'm so excited to film out here because this is the first space is like purpose built for that.

Before work on the studio began it looked a little like this:

Steve: Full disclosure, I know very little about recording. I've been in many studios, but they're always complete. There are cords everywhere and I just sit down and play and it's good but seeing it kind of form over the past several months has been very cool, but I don't really understand what you're doing.

I'm really curious about this black back wall. Why would you even have a black wall?

Daniel: There are two rooms in the studio. One is a smaller isolation room, and then a bigger room, and they're both rectangular and or square. And so, what happens with sound when you have parallel walls, is you get all this reverberation and the frequencies hit these points and cause all this negative sound impact. That just causes yucky EQ, bad reverb, bad echo, bad echo flutter echo, etc.

So we want to mitigate that by putting up acoustic treatment. So there's lots of stuff like when I first got into this, I did a lot of research and I was like, Oh, I'm gonna buy a bunch of acoustic foam. Got into it on the internet. It's like oh, well foam is actually doesn't work.

Steve: Ah, man?! (sarcastically)


Daniel: So basically, if you didn't know guys, foam absorbs mostly just the highs and the high mids. The real problem spots in studios are the lows. Lows have the most reverb and the longest wave form and so they cause the biggest problems.

So, many iterations later of my studio and oh my gosh, I mean, every house I've been in, I've had a studio. I'm probably seven or eight studios deep, including when I moved to New Orleans to do grad school.

So anyway, this was the one that's most purposed. And I was like, okay, cool. I want it to be the best possible and so I started checking out YouTube videos and Andrew masters has a great channel if you haven't checked it out, I highly recommend it. And he does all the studio builds. One of the things he did was create a kind of absorptive wall, which essentially this wall has two by fours and that like framed out and space to where we put rock wool inside, which is a very absorptive material and then framed it in so that kind of holds in there. Then put a fabric called Guilford of Maine fabric over it.

Steve: (sarcastically) I want to get a jacket made of Guilford of Maine...

Daniel: Pretty stylin' right? So I've had a lot of panels over the years that are made up of Owens Corning rigid fiberglass. They come in these panels and I'll pan around the room and show you those they're all black and they're on the ceiling and they're in the corners and everything, trapping some of the sound and making it less reverberant but essentially I wanted to not have to post so many panels and take up all the wall space. I wanted to hang guitars I wanted to do all that good stuff.

And so, I was like, well cool. I have these two big walls that might as well have one behind the mixing space and then I have one on the opposite wall in the live room. So it's it's quite dead in here.

Also, I'm going to experiment a little bit. I'm going to send some audio out, do some scans with a microphone and see where in the frequency spectrum do I have my clumps and things like that? Do I have a little bit problem or do I have too many panels up and suck up all the lows or all the highs. I'll just tweak it out to where it's really kind of nice and dialed in.

Steve: You're not going to go halfway. No half measures, you're going to do everything to make the sound in this room exactly how you want it.

Daniel: I want to make it as good as possible!

Also, I don't want to work in a cave. I do not like fake lights. So it was really important for me to put a lot of windows in the space. I have curtains to cover the windows. So when it's time to record something that has a live microphone, that I really need to make sure that there aren't weird reflections coming off the windows I can close those. But you know, for a lot of work I want to keep the windows uncovered so that I can feel like I'm not a vampire.

Steve: I was thinking that the curtains probably had something to do with the sound too because they're pretty tall and we'll zoom in or window in a bit.

Daniel: Yeah, they're pretty robust. Right?

Steve: And are the curtains made for that?

Daniel: Yeah, they call them "soundproofing curtains" or "sound deadening." And yeah, I bought them a few years ago because I had a studio that had some tall windows.

The sound is the ultimate importance for me but I'm trying to balance that with my need to feel like a human. I know there are amazing engineers in the world that are willing to work in the dark all the time or with fake light. I'm just not willing. Right? Sun light is really important to me.

 

Steve: Absolutely. So tell me about your desk.

Daniel: The desk is pretty cool. I got this during COVID I had moved back from New Orleans and it's seen better days than needs a little bit of cleaning. But overall, it's great. I got it through musician's friend, and I got a great deal. I had this guy there who's just hooking me up. He disappeared during COVID Unfortunately, but I think I only paid about 350 for it. Hey, so it's about 550 $600 desk. 

This desk has been sitting here actually for 11 months. So the previous owners let me move this desk into this building before I started the project. They were so incredibly gracious and really sweet and easy to work with.

Steve: That is unusual.

Daniel: Yes, they were awesome. They let me actually live in a cabin that they owned while they were finishing the house up some stuff in here then when I finally got in the house in August. They still actually owned it for a few weeks and then finally we closed on the deal and then started starting to work on this project. 

Hopefully today I'll get the power on in here. We're actually recording this sans power. We just have one little extension cord that's running off of the old power. And hopefully the electricians are going to show up.

Steve: So the other thing that I'm noticing is you've even put stuff on the ceiling.


Daniel: Yeah, so that's an important aspect because the ceiling is actually the first point of reflection. That's the first place that it hits and it has no absorption or diffusion. It will cause kind of chaos in the frequency spectrum. 


At our school, The University of North Carolina School the Arts, for classical music it's really wonderful. However, if you go and you put a drummer in there it sounds like garbage. It just can't be deadened enough.

Steve: For classical guitar, it is spectacular. 


Daniel: In post production I'm typically going to use a plug in that sounds like an amazing studio, like in Nashville or LA. Or I'm gonna put some really nice plate reverb. So it's like, I'm going to create the space inside the computer.

Steve: So what's the first project that you do out here aside from video guitar glossary?

Daniel: So I'm trying to wrap up this album. I've been working on for way too long... When I say, "working on," that means it's been sitting on my computer since 2015. So that's probably the first project and then I have a couple clients. And then I'm shooting these demos for Midwood Guitars regularly.

Steve: Shout out to Midwood!

Daniel: They're awesome people. They always take good care of me. 
 


Thanks for reading this article about Daniel Seriff's guitar studio! Check out Daniel Seriff's youtube channel to hear sound samples and demos. You can also hear sounds from this studio on video guitar glossary's youtube channel and on the VVG website!

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