The Basement’s Alive with the Sound of Music (Part 2)

It’s Ricky again. Here to finish up this post on my studio updates since we’ve been in our house. Last time I showed where everything started from, how I upgraded my computer monitors, and found a sweet new desk on Craigslist. But that desk wasn’t quite the way I wanted it. The monitors didn’t really fit across the top unless I used a shelf to kind of bridge the gap.

So I decided to modify the desk so it would work better for me. My thinking was that I could cut a piece of plywood and attach it to bridge that gap across the top of the desk. And since I needed to get some plywood anyway, I decided to get a full sheet and build an audio equipment rack out of it too! (An audio equipment rack is “a standardized frame or enclosure for mounting multiple equipment modules.”) So I drew up a page with all my dimensions/cuts and headed to Lowe’s.

I highly recommend planning cuts like this before you purchase lumber. That way you can really tell how much you’re going to need to buy. Plus, since I only have a mid-size sedan, I was going to need them to cut down the full sheet so I could fit it in my car. Lowe’s (and Home Depot) will cut down lumber for you right there in the store. At Lowe’s, the first two cuts were free, and they charge a little bit for each cut after that.

I found a nice piece of birch plywood after going through a few in the stack. It was nice and flat and didn’t have any major scuffs. So I loaded it up and made my way to the saw. I was originally going to have them make all my cuts for me, but the guy working the saw said that it’s not entirely accurate. He said it would be close, but he had seen it be off by as much as a quarter of an inch before! I did NOT have that much room for error, so I decided to make most of the cuts myself. But he got it cut down enough for me to load up the plywood and get it home!

So it was time to break out the circular saw! After getting everything together, and donning some safety glasses and hearing protection (safety first!) I got to work!

Once I had the shelf piece cut out, I sanded the edges to smooth them out a bit, dusted off all the sawdust, (changed clothes,) and got to spray painting! I had picked out some black Rustoleum spray paint in a special Hammered finish because it matched the laminate surface on the current black sections of the desk the best. It’s black, but it gives the wood almost a speckled shininess. It doesn’t show up too well in the pictures, but here’s the can of paint. You can kinda of see the effect on the lid.

To paint the shelf, I did about 3 light coats on each side so the shelf never got too sticky. I let it dry for about 10-15 minutes between coats. Always keep the can moving so it gets nice and even.

After the shelf was painted I left it in my work/storage shed (I’ll take you on a tour down there sometime…) for 48 hours to dry and get most of the emissions out.

I got some 2 1/2″ x 1 3/8″ mending braces and screwed them into the bottom of the desktop with 3/4″ plywood screws in the four corners where the shelf was going.

Then placed the shelf in its place and screwed it to the braces.

It works great! Now my monitors fit on the top of the desk and I got that shelf back! (You can see the shelf I was using well in this picture. It’s the brown area behind the lower black area.)

Oh, and that extra plywood…

It’s a RACK! Well, the top half is going to be. I designed it so I could put an 8 space rack on the top part and use the rest for storage. I cut the pieces and used 1 1/2” plywood screws to put them together. I was originally thinking I would have to use some wood glue also, but I knew there would be a shelf in the middle to add stability to the box, and I decided to use some 1/2” corner brackets (again for stability) at the bottom, top, and under the shelf, so I decided it would be fine. Maybe it would have been better with some wood glue. I don’t know. (If you’re a master builder and you’re reading this, let me know what you would have done.) But it seems plenty sturdy to me!

I’m still trying to decide whether to paint this or stain it. Let me know what you think I should do. But I was so excited, I wanted to add rack rails and load some stuff into this puppy!

I mentioned last week that I had some items in my Sweetwater cart that were rack-mountable. Well, this week I saw that they had a demo version of the mic pre that was sitting in my wish list. I’d been saving up for it, and it was $50 cheaper with the same warranty and everything! So I pulled the trigger and ordered it along with a power conditioner (something else I have been in need of). So those went right in the top of the rack. in the bottom half, I realized once I got the rack in the studio, that my computer fit in that space PERFECTLY. (My computer, for those of you wondering, is a custom build Hackintosh that I built myself. Maybe I’ll do a post on that one day…. We’ll see…) I added a couple mic cases beside it and called it done.

Now for the last item on my list of big issues… acoustic treatment.

Actually… I haven’t done a proper job of this yet.

But I did have a very DIY band-aid for the problem! When I had my stuff set up at our old place, I was in a super reverberant room. I was on the lookout for anything to soak up some of that sound. So we came up with the idea of using some carpet scraps we had gotten (for free), and some picture frames (again, free), attaching the carpet to the frame and hang it around the room. And it definitely helped soak up some of that reverb.

So I decided to go ahead and hang two of those on either side of my mixing position. It’s not perfect, but it does help a little bit. I’ve got a little bit of foam that I intend on putting behind my speakers, but I need to figure out how I want to do that… We also moved a bookcase into the studio on the back wall (behind me if I’m facing the computer) and that helped a bit too.

But for now, with all of these improvements, we’ve gone from this…

…to this!

This is such a huge improvement for me! I feel excited to do work in this space now! Here’s the area by the door.

Here’s the other side.

And here’s the area outside the studio.

DRUMS! And a bass amp (which belongs to a friend who is storing it here right now and I don’t mind holding onto at all). But I can leave my drums set up (and even miked up) all the time. It wonderful having this space to work in and I’m really looking forward to doing lots of projects down here.

My next task is doing a proper acoustic treatment in the studio and the family room (where the drums are). I’m sure I’ll be back once I do that. But for now, I hope you enjoyed reading about my little studio space. If you’ve got any audio jobs you need done, let me know!

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