Artist Review: KSR by Kiwanda Sound Recordings

"Please explain to me how Fine, Fine recorded an EP for under a grand and the quality of these mixes is better than anything I've ever been part of and spent MULTIPLE thousands on before? 
Ladies and gentlemen, if you EVER need to record for cheap with amazing quality, visit Kiwanda Sound Recordings. You will NOT be disappointed."

- Will Green of Fine, Fine

Electrical Install by Kiwanda Sound Recordings

The home stretch. According to local building code, all conduit must be run at least 2' down in the ground. Not sure why, that's the code, so I dug a 35' long trench along the side of our space. Half the length was sand, the other half was large rocks and mud. Go figure. I believe we ran 4, 6, and 8 gauge wire between the exterior 200 amp breaker and the interior one, but don't quote me on that. I know all of the outlets were run on 12/2, with independent circuits for each except 2 in the live room. The lights were run separately on 14/2, CR and booth sharing a circuit, live room on its own. I had a couple friends with expertise help with terminating the connections, but all the grunt wire runs were performed by yours truly.
The lights in the CR are in two separate groups, 3 white, 2 blue, with their own respective dimmer switches. A three way switch controls the booth, with a dimmer inside. We also installed an exterior light and outlet.

Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient

Construction, Walls Pt. 2 by Kiwanda Sound Recordings

At this point in the process, we became forced to have to redo some things. As it turned out, mostly due to my lack of experience, that we'd have do everything twice. But, if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right.
We had sized the window openings for the glass, without accounting for the frame. So, we pulled them down, reinforced the header and footer of the windows, and changed the lengths of the top to attach properly.

I added 2x6 boards to increase density in the corners as well. The frames were connected to the concrete with 5/8" wedge anchors and gaps were filled with the acoustical sealant. We had to push the tops of the frames over to make them as plumb as possible considering they were on a sloped floor.
I also had to fur out framing around the bathroom pipes, which is where the breaker box and master audio wall plates would be attached. The decoupling clips are also visible.

Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient

Construction, Windows by Kiwanda Sound Recordings

Everything in our studio has been custom built. There are no pre-fab pieces. We even modified the fire doors. These windows were a project my dad and I worked on while he was out on vacation.

The general idea came from a diagram in the book "Home Recording Studio: Build it like the Pros" by Rod Gervais. According to him, the best window construction has an inward slope as to cut down on glare, saving eye fatigue and making it look awesome. It's purely aesthetic.

We built 4 windows, 2 per wall. We used 24" x 36" pieces of 5/8" and 3/4" glass, 2 of each. The frame was made out of 5/4 cedar board, 1x4 pine and 1x1 square trim boards (I can't recall what type of wood, probably fir). To seal in the glass, we used 1 1/4" closed cell adhesive-back foam, with Green Glue Acoustical Sealant.

We had to cut it to size for the stops on either side, but the top and bottom were set in so the foam curved up like a U.

The top and bottom were put together the same, a piece of 1x1 on the front and 1x4 on the back, the bottom installed first.

We then cut the 1x1 stops at a 5° angle on either side, cut the foam to fit, attached them to the frame, and slid in the glass.

A bead of sealant was added before the other stop, then we dropped on the lid. Once installed in the wall, they create a V shape.

Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient

Small Business Saturday! by Kiwanda Sound Recordings

Help celebrate your local small businesses today! We really appreciate all of the support we've received in our first year as a business, so we are offering 25% off all 2013 bookings. Book your time and put in your down payment by the end of the year, and you will receive 25% off your whole session!

Email kiwandasound [at] me (dot) com to schedule your session!

Construction, Walls Pt. 1 by Kiwanda Sound Recordings

At this point, I should let you know that besides a handful of small projects (building a bed in a van and an outdoor kitchen at Sturgis) I have zero construction experience. This build has been a challenge for even the most seasoned construction people, and I went into it with blind ambition. 

We jumped into the ceiling first, hanging the joists on top of the south wall framing, attaching it to joist hangers on the other side. Surprisingly, they came out relatively level despite not using one instrument to check it.

Transient
Transient

Then, we discovered what would turn out to be a major issue with the space. The floor was not level at all. Intentionally so. They used to drain the boat that was house backed there on the sloped floor. We noticed the slope when trying to build the first booth wall. We built it square, but had to shim it in to keep it up. Notice how the top of the wall touches the joist on the right, but needs a 2x4 block to stay attached on the left.

Instead of taking them down and leveling the floor, we just went with it. Turned out that every measurement would not match on any corners anywhere. It was also complicated by the fact that we built staggered, double stud walls for maximum sound isolation. We decided to build these walls square, shim them in and attach them to the concrete below. This allowed us some wiggle room to make the walls line up at the appropriate 1" spacing before nailing them in.

Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient

Demolition & Design by Kiwanda Sound Recordings

The first step we had to take in this process was to remove two rooms and disassemble the workshop currently built into our space. The rooms were constructed without much attention to detail. Aluminum stud walls, single sheets of 1/2" drywall, drop ceilings and some hollow core doors were used, making demolition fairly easy. Mario and I took about two weeks and filled two 15 yard dumpsters full of material. 

We discovered that the concrete pad had been poured at a slight slope, and considering it was formerly storage for a boat, this seemed to be for drainage purposes. We made the decision to not level off the floors, somewhat due to cost, but also lack of expertise. We wouldn't know how much this would affect us until much later in the process. 

We moved the water heater back and built a utility closet under the structural beam of the original house (this space is all an addition built some years ago, along with extra rooms and common space). Simple wooden stud frames, R-11 insulation and 1/2" drywall enclosed the closet. 

At this point, we went back to NYC for the rest of the summer. I returned in September, but the space remained raw until we landed a gig with Farmers Insurance, allowing us to form the business and seriously focus on design. I threw together a line drawing in Keynote, and my friend Emily rendered me a CAD drawing as reference.

We decided to put a booth on the side in a trapezoid to allow view into both rooms, and an air lock in between the two rooms, which I picked up from a visit to Sonora Recorders in LA. I heard that was where The Fray worked. 

How to escape before they catch you. by Kiwanda Sound Recordings

This whole project began in late spring of 2011. My very good friend Mario and I had been on a self imposed exile from NYC when I had gotten the OK to begin demolishing the rooms in what would become KSR HQ. The next step was to get my gear from one coast to the other, so I purchased a big white 2000 Ford E-350 Super Duty XL van with a conversion that allowed it run on waste vegetable oil. The attached video shows the beginnings of an epic road trip, which I will continuing releasing footage from. It was highly enjoyable.

However, these posts are about not about that road trip, at least not yet. These will be about the how this studio came to be, how it was designed, funded, built and worked in over the last year and a half. I will be chronologically telling the story, along with DIY guides on how I constructed the windows and walls. I am hoping you can enjoy the process and have an insight into what it really takes to build a quality studio independently for the first time. 

But first, enjoy this video. It details a few of the DIY filters we tried on the van. They didn't work so well. Mario and I cover ourselves in hot fryer oil a few times, which is always sexy.