Gino Robair is former editor of EM

Gino’s Big Adventure: Building a Personal Studio, Part 4


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

Tying the rooms together

Things are moving quickly with the renovation, as you can see in the photos at right, and our contractor has been great about keeping his crew busy. For example, when rain held up the delivery and installation of the trusses for the roof, he had them put up siding and install the plumbing. The fast pace is keeping me on my toes.

As I continue to sort out the electrical details for the studio, it’s time to address other issues, such as ordering interior windows and flooring, and coordinating the installation of each element with my contractor. Because the studio is only a portion of the overall remodel (which includes an in-law unit and garage), I have to balance my room’s needs with those of the overall project. Where it gets tricky is in coordinating each major installation, such as the insulation and sheet rock. My room has to be included with the rest of the house in order to keep the project on time and within budget. That means all of the little details that pertain to the studio have to be sorted out ahead of time.


With the exterior walls up and the roof being framed, I am finally getting a sense of the room’s dimensions. The studio is neither square nor rectangular, so it won’t have the typical acoustic anomalies of a bedroom or basement studio. And its vaulted ceiling will give me additional air space to work with if I want to record loud instruments. However, the initial square footage will shrink once we build the room-within-a-room—it’ll add roughly 6 inches to each wall and ceiling surface and about 3 inches to the floor.

For those times when I need extra space for tracking a band, or even just a set of drums, I’ve decided to install tielines from the studio to other rooms in the house.

The inspiration for this came from Guidotoons, the Nashville-based personal studio owned by Joe “Guido? Welsh. I visited his place after a Summer NAMM show a few years back, primarily to check out his analog synth collection. Guido had recently finished the first Thelonious Moog CD, Yes We Didn’t: A Switched-On Tribute to Thelonious Monk (Grownup Records), which remains one of my all-time favorite CDs—and I’m not even going to qualify it as a “synth-project.? It’s a joyous and smartly arranged collection of songs—à la Esquivel and Moog Cookbook—that will immediately put a smile on your face. I have two copies!

Consequently, I was dying to see what his tracking situation was like, because the drum sounds on that CD are big and vintage sounding. Although his upstairs control room is spacious and well designed, he was crafty enough to add tielines to several rooms of the house, including the great room, which is big enough to host a full band as well as a grand piano. It’s this large room and its vaulted ceiling that helped him get that killer drum sound. That night I added tielines to my wish list, if I should ever update my own recording space.

Fast forward to today.

Now that the walls are up and still open, I have the opportunity to see exactly where I want my various cable drops to go. Because the studio is upstairs and located over a portion of a 2-car garage, it’s fairly easy to send a set of cables (eight microphone and two TRS) down into the lower room. I realize the garage won’t be sound proof, but for those times when I want the extra sonic space, I’ll just have to make sure my music is louder than any outside sounds that might creep in.

I also plan to drop a set of cables down the wall that adjoins our living room. The remodel will not only add square footage to that space, but we’ll get a vaulted ceiling out of the deal. Again, I’m shooting for eight microphone and two TRS cables, finished off with a solid panel discretely positioned on the lower part of the wall (possibly hidden within a bookshelf).

Two additional rooms will get tielines: a half-bath and a storage room behind the garage. I hope to use these as reverb chambers, so four mic lines will be sent into each.

At this point, the tieline project seems pretty straightforward because the cable drops don’t bend or curve, and the length of each will be less than 12 feet. The cables will be bundled into snakes that are run through a PVC pipe, so that they’re easy to pull through, and the diameter of each pipe will be wide enough to accommodate additional cable if we want to add some later.

In addition, each set of cables will terminate in off-the-shelf panels (I don’t want to shell out for custom work) that will be solidly attached to the walls, so that they won’t get pulled from the sheet rock over time. The PVC will go in just before we do the insulation and sheet rock, but the cabling will get finished off and the panels mounted once the walls in each room are done.

At least that’s the plan at this point! I’ll post photos once we begin the process.

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