A recording studio is a facility for sound recording and mixing. Ideally both the recording and monitoring spaces are specially designed by an acoustician to achieve optimum acoustic properties (acoustic isolation or diffusion or absorption of reflected sound that could otherwise interfere with the sound heard by the listener). Recording studios may be used record musicians, voice over artists for advertisements or dialogue replacement in film, television or animation, foley, or to record their accompanying musical soundtracks. The typical recording studio consists of a room called the "studio" or "live room", where instrumentalists and vocalists perform; and the "control room", which houses the professional audio equipment for either analogue or digital recording, routing and manipulating the sound. Often, there will be smaller rooms called "isolation booths" present to accommodate loud instruments such as drums or electric guitar, to keep these sounds from being audible to the microphones that are capturing the sounds from other instruments, or to provide "drier" rooms for recording vocals or quieter acoustic instruments.
Recording studios generally consist of three rooms: the studio itself, where the sound for the recording is created (often referred to as the "live room"), the control room, where the sound from the studio is recorded and manipulated, and the machine room, where noisier equipment that may interfere with the recording process is kept. Recording studios are carefully designed around the principles of room acoustics to create a set of spaces with the acoustical properties required for recording sound with precision and accuracy. This will consist of both room treatment (through the use of absorption and diffusion materials on the surfaces of the room, and also consideration of the physical dimensions of the room itself in order to make the room respond to sound in a desired way) and soundproofing (to provide sonic isolation between the rooms). A recording studio may include additional rooms, such as a vocal booth - a small room designed for voice recording, as well as one or more extra control rooms.
Equipment found in a recording studio commonly includes:
Equipment may include:
General purpose computers have rapidly assumed a large role in the recording process, being able to replace the mixing consoles, recorders, synthesizers, Samplers and sound effects devices. A computer thus outfitted is called a Digital Audio Workstation, or DAW. Popular audio-recording software includes Apple Logic Pro, Digidesign's Pro Tools— near standard for most professional studios—Cubase and Nuendo both by Steinberg, MOTU Digital Performer—popular for MIDI. Other software applications include Ableton Live, Cakewalk Sonar, ACID Pro, FL Studio, Adobe Audition, Audacity, and Ardour.
Current software applications are more reliant on the audio recording hardware than the computer they are running on, therefore typical high-end computer hardware is less of a priority unless midi is involved. While Apple Macintosh is used for studio work, there is a breadth of software available for Microsoft Windows and Linux. The majority of both commercial and home studios can be seen running PC-based multitrack audio software.
If no mixing console is used and all mixing is done using only a keyboard and mouse, this is referred to as mixing in the box ("ITB"). "OTB" is used when mixing with other hardware not just the PC software.
A small, personal recording studio is sometimes called a project studio or home studio. Such studios often cater to specific needs of an individual artist, or are used as a non-commercial hobby. The first modern project studios came into being during the mid 1980s, with the advent of affordable multitrack recording devices, synthesizers and microphones. The phenomenon has flourished with falling prices of MIDI equipment and accessories, as well as inexpensive direct to disk recording products.
Recording drums and electric guitar in a home studio is challenging, because they are usually the loudest instruments. Conventional drums require sound isolation in this scenario, unlike electronic or sampled drums. Getting an authentic electric guitar amp sound including power-tube distortion requires a power attenuator (either power-soak or power-supply based) or an isolation box or booth. A convenient compromise is amp simulation, whether a modelling amp, preamp/processor, or software-based guitar amp simulator. Sometimes, musicians replace loud, inconvenient instruments such as drums, with keyboards, which today often provide somewhat realistic sampling.
The capability of digital recording introduced by the Alesis ADAT and its comparatively low cost, originally introduced at $3995, were largely responsible for the rise of project studios in the 1990s.
An isolation booth is a standard small room in a recording studio, which is both soundproofed to keep out external sounds and keep in the internal sounds and, like all the other recording rooms in sound industry, it is designed for having a lesser amount of diffused reflections from walls to make a good sounding room. A drummer, vocalist, or guitar speaker cabinet, along with microphones, is acoustically isolated in the room. A professional recording studio has a control room, a large live room, and one or more small isolation booths. All rooms are soundproofed such as with double-layer walls with dead space and insulation in-between the two walls, forming a room-within-a-room.
There are variations of the same concept, including a portable standalone isolation booth, a compact guitar speaker isolation cabinet, or a larger guitar speaker cabinet isolation box.
A gobo panel achieves the same idea to a much more moderate extent; for example, a drum kit that is too loud in the live room or on stage can have acrylic glass see-through gobo panels placed around it to deflect the sound and keep it from bleeding into the other microphones, allowing more independent control of each instrument channel at the mixing board.
All rooms in a recording studio may have a reconfigurable combination of reflective and non-reflective surfaces, to control the amount of reverberation..
In the era of acoustical recordings (prior to the introduction of microphones, electrical recording and amplification), the earliest recording studios were very basic facilities, being essentially soundproof rooms that isolated the performers from outside noise. During this era it was not uncommon for recordings to be made in any available location, such as a local ballroom, using portable acoustic recording equipment.
In this period, master recordings were made using a direct-to-disc cutting process. Performers were typically grouped around a large acoustic horn (an enlarged version of the familiar phonograph horn). The acoustic energy from the voices and/or instruments was channeled through the horn's diaphragm to a mechanical cutting lathe located in the next room, which inscribed the signal as a modulated groove directly onto the surface of the master cylinder or disc.
Following the invention and commercial introduction of the microphone, the electronic amplifier, the mixing desk and the loudspeaker, the recording industry gradually converted to electric recording, and by 1925 this technology had replaced mechanical acoustic recording methods for such major labels as RCA Victor and Columbia, and by 1933 acoustic recording was completely disused.
Electrical recording was common by the early 1930s, and mastering lathes were now electrically powered, but master recordings still had to be cut direct-to-disc. In line with the prevailing musical trends, studios in this period were primarily designed for the live recording of symphony orchestras and other large instrumental ensembles. Engineers soon found that large, reverberant spaces like concert halls created a vibrant acoustic signature that greatly enhanced the sound of the recording, and in this period large, acoustically "live" halls were favored, rather than the acoustically "dead" booths and studio rooms that became common after the 1960s.
Because of the limits of the recording technology, studios of the mid-20th century were designed around the concept of grouping musicians and singers, rather than separating them, and placing the performers and the microphones strategically to capture the complex acoustic and harmonic interplay that emerged during the performance. Modern sound stages still sometimes use this approach for large film scoring projects today.
Because of their superb acoustics, many of the larger studios were converted churches. Examples include George Martin's AIR Studios in London, the famed Columbia Records 30th Street Studio in New York City (a converted Armenian church, with a ceiling over 100 feet high), and the equally famous Decca Records Pythian Temple studio in New York (where artists like Louis Jordan, Bill Haley and Buddy Holly were recorded) which was also a large converted church that featured a high, domed ceiling in the center of the hall.
Facilities like the Columbia Records 30th Street Studio in New York and EMI's Abbey Road Studio in London were renowned for their 'trademark' sound—which was (and still is) easily identifiable by audio professionals—and for the skill of their staff engineers.
In New York City, Columbia Records had some of the most highly respected sound recording studios, including the Columbia 30th Street Studio at 207 East 30th Street, the CBS Studio Building at 49 East 52nd Street, Liederkranz Hall at 111 East 58th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues (a building built by and formerly belonging to a German cultural and musical society, The Liederkranz Club and Society), and one of their earliest recording studios, "Studio A" at 799 Seventh Avenue.
Electric recording studios in the mid-20th century often lacked isolation booths, baffles, and sometimes even speakers, and it was not until the 1960s, with the introduction of the high-fidelity headphones that it became common practice for performers to use headsets to monitor their performance during recording and listen to playbacks.
It was difficult to isolate all the performers—a major reason that this practice was not used was simply because recordings were usually made as live ensemble 'takes' and all the performers needed to be able to see each other and the ensemble leader while playing. The recording engineers who trained in this period learned to take advantage of the complex acoustic effects that could be created through "leakage" between different microphones and groups of instruments, and these technicians became extremely skilled at capturing the unique acoustic properties of their studios and the musicians in performance.
The use of different kinds of microphones and their placement around the studio was a crucial part of the recording process, and particular brands of microphone were used by engineers for their specific audio characteristics. The smooth-toned ribbon microphones developed by the RCA company in the 1930s were crucial to the 'crooning' style perfected by Bing Crosby, and the famous Neumann U47 condenser microphone was one of the most widely used from the 1950s. This model is still widely regarded by audio professionals as one of the best microphones of its type ever made.
Learning the correct placement of microphones was a major part of the training of young engineers, and many became extremely skilled in this craft. Well into the 1960s, in the classical field it was not uncommon for engineers to make high-quality orchestral recordings using only one or two microphones suspended above the orchestra.
In the 1960s, engineers began experimenting with placing microphones much closer to instruments than had previously been the norm. The distinctive rasping tone of the horn sections on the Beatles recordings "Good Morning Good Morning" and "Lady Madonna" were achieved by having the saxophone players position their instruments so that microphones were virtually inside the mouth of the horn.
The unique sonic characteristics of the major studios imparted a special character to many of the most famous popular recordings of the 1950s and 1960s, and the recording companies jealously guarded these facilities. According to sound historian David Simons, after Columbia took over the 30th Street Studios in the late 1940s and A&R manager Mitch Miller had tweaked it to perfection, Miller issued a standing order that the drapes and other fittings were not to be touched, and the cleaners had specific orders never to mop the bare wooden floor for fear it might alter the acoustic properties of the hall.
There were several other features of studios in this period that contributed to their unique "sonic signatures". As well as the inherent sound of the large recording rooms, many of the best studios incorporated specially-designed echo chambers, purpose-built rooms which were often built beneath the main studio.
These were typically long, low rectangular spaces constructed from hard, sound-reflective materials like concrete, fitted with a loudspeaker at one end and one or more microphones at the other. During a recording session, a signal from one or more of the microphones in the studio could be routed to the loudspeaker in the echo chamber; the sound from the speaker reverberated through the chamber and the enhanced signal was picked up by the microphone at the other end. This echo-enhanced signal—which was often used to 'sweeten' the sound of vocals—could then be blended in with the primary signal from the microphone in the studio and mixed into the track as the master recording was being made.
Special equipment was another notable feature of the "classic" recording studio. The biggest studios were owned and operated by large media companies like RCA, Columbia and EMI, who typically had their own electronics research and development divisions that designed and built custom-made recording equipment and mixing consoles for their studios.
Likewise, the smaller independent studios were often owned by skilled electronics engineers who designed and built their own desks and other equipment. A good example of this is the famous Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles, the site of many famous American pop recordings of the 1960s. Co-owner David S. Gold built the studio's main mixing desk and many additional pieces of equipment and he also designed the studio's unique trapezoidal echo chambers.
During the 1950s and 1960s the sound of pop recordings was further defined by the introduction of proprietary sound processing devices such as equalizers and compressors, which were manufactured by specialist electronics companies. One of the best known of these was the famous Pultec equalizer, which was used by almost all the major commercial studios of the time.
With the introduction of multi-track recording, it became possible to record instruments and singers separately and at different times on different tracks on tape, although it was not until the 1970s that the large recording companies began to adopt this practice widely, and throughout the Sixties many "pop" classics were still recorded live in a single take.
After the Sixties the emphasis shifted to isolation and sound-proofing, with treatments like echo and reverberation added separately during the mixing process, rather than being blended in during the recording. One regrettable outcome of this trend, which coincided with rising inner-city property values, was that many of the largest studios were either demolished or redeveloped for other uses.
In the mid 20th century, recordings were analog, made on ¼-inch or ½-inch magnetic tape, with multitrack recording reaching 8 tracks in the 1950s, 16 in 1968, and 32 in the 1970s. The commonest such tape is the 2-inch analog, capable of containing up to 24 individual tracks. Generally, after an audio mix is set up on a 24-track tape machine, the signal is played back and sent to a different machine, which records the combined signals (called printing) to a ½-inch 2-track stereo tape, called a master.
Before digital recording, the total number of available tracks onto which one could record was measured in multiples of 24, based on the number of 24-track tape machines being used. Most recording studios now use digital recording equipment, which limits the number of available tracks only on the basis of the mixing console's or computer hardware interface's capacity and the ability of the hardware to cope with processing demands.
Analog tape machines are still well sought, for some purists label digitally recorded audio as sounding too harsh, and the scarcity and age of analog tape machines greatly increases their value, as does the fact that many audio engineers still insist on recording only to analog tape. This harshness is incorrectly attributed by some of them[who?] to the belief that digital recording will sample a sound wave many times per second allowing an illusion of solid sound waves to be created, where in contrast analog tape captures a sound wave in its entirety.
However, others[who?] simply argue that the lack of high frequency noise and the higher fidelity of the digital medium make the recorded higher frequencies more prominent, which results in such perceived harshness in contrast to analog recording. Still others[who?] point to problems of early digital recordings caused by the inexperience of sound engineers with the new medium as the cause for critics to the digital systems. Finally, another possibly relevant effect derives from the fact that, since CD-quality audio uses a sampling rate of 44.1 kHz, no frequencies above the Nyquist frequency of 22050 Hz are acceptable for recording (otherwise, aliasing occurs). Because of that, very steep low-pass filters are used on frequencies above 20 kHz (the theoretical limit of human hearing) that may introduce slight distortions into the audible-range signal. This is one of the several reasons for the push on high-end equipment towards higher sampling rates, such as 48 kHz (used in video production), 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz and even 192 kHz.
Radio studios are very similar to recording studios, particularly in the case of production studios which are not normally used on-air. This type of studio would normally have all of the same equipment that any other audio recording studio would have, particularly if it is at a large station, or at a combined facility that houses a station group, but is designed for groups of people to work collaboratively in a live to air situation (see Ahern, S, Making Radio).
Broadcast studios also use many of the same principles such as sound isolation, with adaptations suited to the live on-air nature of their use. Such equipment would commonly include a telephone hybrid for putting telephone calls on the air, a POTS codec for receiving remote broadcasts, a dead air alarm for detecting unexpected silence, and a broadcast delay for dropping anything from coughs to profanity. In the U.S., stations licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also must have an Emergency Alert System decoder (typically in the studio), and in the case of full-power stations, an encoder that can interrupt programming on all channels which a station transmits in order to broadcast urgent warnings.
Computers are also used for playing ads, jingles, bumpers, soundbites, phone calls, sound effects, traffic and weather reports, and now full broadcast automation when nobody is around. For talk shows, a producer and/or assistant in a control room runs the show, including screening calls and entering the callers' names and subject into a queue, which the show's host can see and make a proper introduction with. Radio contest winners can also be edited on the fly and put on the air within a minute or two after they have been recorded accepting their prize.
Additionally, digital mixing consoles can be interconnected via audio over Ethernet, or split into two parts, with inputs and outputs wired to a rackmount audio engine, and one or more control surfaces (mixing boards) and/or computers connected via serial port, allowing the producer or the talent to control the show from either point. With Ethernet and audio over IP (live) or FTP (recorded), this also allows remote access, so that DJs can do shows from a home studio via ISDN or the Internet. Additional outside audio connections are required for the studio/transmitter link for over-the-air stations, satellite dishes for sending and receiving shows, and for webcasting or podcasting.
The use of recording studios as a distinct musical instrument or compositional tool began in the early to mid 20th-century, as composers started exploiting the newfound potentials of multitrack recording. Before the late 1940s, musical recordings were created with the idea of presenting a faithful rendition of a real-life performance. Following the advent of three-track tape in the mid 1950s, recording spaces became more accustomed for in-studio composition, and by the early 1970s, the "additive approach to recording" would be very common in rock music. The practice is sometimes described as "playing the studio". As of the 2010s, the idea remains ubiquitous in genres such as hip-hop, electronic music, and pop.
Before the late 1940s, musical recordings were created with the idea of presenting a faithful rendition of a real-life performance. Initially, the practice of "studio as compositional tool" was evident mainly in the realms of pop music, as only a minuscule number of classical composers took to this form of music-making. Popular recording conventions changed profoundly in the mid 1950s as new possibilities were opened by three-track tape, and by the early 1960s, it was common for producers, songwriters, and engineers to freely experiment with musical form, orchestration, unnatural reverb, and other sound effects. Some of the best known examples are Phil Spector's Wall of Sound and Joe Meek's use of homemade electronic sound effects for acts like the Tornados. In this time, a "gulf" would exist between experimental composers and "out-there" pop musicians, partly due to the role of the recording studio. Regarding this, composer Robert Ashley is quoted in 1966; "We can't be popular musicians, where the fairly exciting things happen. ... The one thing I like about popular music is that they record it. They record it, record it, record it, record it! The astute producer cuts out the magic from the different tapes (laughter) and puts them in a certain order and gets a whole piece. It's very beautiful, because it's really aural magic. ... We have to invent social situations to allow that magic to happen."
Pioneers from the 1940s include Bill Putnam, Les Paul, and Tom Dowd, who each contributed to the development of common recording practices like reverb, tape delay, and overdubbing. Putnam was one of the first to recognize echo and reverb as elements to enhance a recording, rather than as natural byproducts of the recording space. He engineered the Harmonicats' 1947 novelty song "Peg o' My Heart", which not only was a huge hit, but also became the first popular recording to use artificial reverb for artistic effect. Around the same time, French composers Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry were developing musique concrete, a method of composition in which pieces of tape are rearranged and spliced together, and thus originated sampling. Meanwhile in England, Daphne Oram experimented heavily with electronic instruments during her tenure as a balancing engineer for the BBC. Written in 1949, Still Point is a 30-minute piece that combined pre-recorded acoustic orchestration with live electronic manipulation—one of the first ever to do so. However, Ophram's tape experiments were mostly unheard at the time. In 1957, she said recorded sounds were "a sort of modern magic. We think there’s something in it. Some musicians believe it may become an art form in its own right."
English producer Joe Meek is considered one of the most influential engineers of all time, being one of the first to exploit the use of recording studios as instruments, and one of the first producers to assert an individual identity as an artist. He got his start in 1955 at IBC Studio in London. One of Meek's signature techniques was to overload a signal with dynamic range compression, which was unorthodox at the time. Several of his "radical" techniques (such as close-miking instruments) later became part of normal recording practice.[nb 1] Phil Spector, his American counterpart, is also considered "important as the first star producer of popular music and its first 'auteur' ... Spector changed pop music from a performing art ... to an art which could sometimes exist only in the recording studio". His original production formula (dubbed the "Wall of Sound") called for large ensembles (including some instruments not generally used for ensemble playing, such as electric and acoustic guitars), with multiple instruments doubling and even tripling many of the parts to create a fuller, richer sound.[nb 2]
The Beatles' producer George Martin and the Beach Boys' leader Brian Wilson are generally credited with helping to popularize the idea of the recording studio as a musical instrument which could then be used to aid the process of composition, and music producers after the mid 1960s increasingly drew from their work.[nb 3] Wilson, who was mentored by Spector, was another early auteur of popular music, as well as the first rock producer to use the studio as a discrete instrument.[nb 4] "Good Vibrations", which he produced for the Beach Boys in 1966, is credited as a milestone in the development of rock music and a prime proponent in revolutionizing rock from live concert performances into studio productions which could only exist on record.[nb 5] Musicologist Charlie Gillett called it "one of the first records to flaunt studio production as a quality in its own right, rather than as a means of presenting a performance". while rock critic Gene Sculatti called it the "ultimate in-studio production trip", adding that its influence was apparent in songs such as "A Day in the Life" from the Beatles' 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. According to author Olivier Julien, Sgt. Pepper represents the "epitome of the transformation of the recording studio into a compositional tool", marking the moment when "popular music entered the era of phonographic composition." Its lasting commercial success and critical impact are largely due to Martin and his engineers' creative use of studio equipment while originating new processes.[nb 6]
Brian Eno, who launched his career in the 1970s as synthesizer player for Roxy Music, is frequently referred to as one of popular music's most influential artists. Critic Jason Ankeny at AllMusic argues that Eno "forever altered the ways in which music is approached, composed, performed, and perceived, and everything from punk to techno to new age bears his unmistakable influence." His production style has proven influential in several general respects: "his recording techniques have helped change the way that modern musicians – particularly electronic musicians – view the studio. No longer is it just a passive medium through which they communicate their ideas but itself a new instrument with seemingly endless possibilities."[nb 7]
Regardless of whether you’re a total newbie…
Or you’ve had a decent home studio for a while now…
The same question always lingers somewhere in the back of your mind:
What’s the next step?
Because when you see all those incredible images of pro studios on the internet…
And you compare that to where you are right now…
It’s only natural to want that one piece of the puzzle which gets you a step closer to where you someday want to be.
Which is why for today’s post, the goal is to help you find that next step.
Which we will accomplish by covering a list of 33 items you can eventually add to your studio…from beginner to advanced.
But first…let’s determine exactly what level you’re at right now…
Starting from day one…
Studios go through 4 KEY stages in their evolution:
Up next, I’ll show you exactly what’s required in each of these 4 stages.
If you’re new to this website, go through them in order, so you don’t miss anything.
If you’ve already made it through the first 5 chapters of the site, STAGES 1 & 2 will be refresher content…
So if you want, CLICK HERE to skip straight to STAGE 3.
If you’re still here, let’s continue…
While beginners always have that natural desire to want to learn everything, right away…
The truth is…you really only need a few items to get started.
And anything more will probably just confuse you.
So if you don’t have a studio yet, a simple bedroom studio is the first milestone to aim for.
And for a setup like this, you need the following 9 items:
Now let’s look at each one in more detail…
These days, since recording studios are almost ALL digital…
The first thing you obviously need is a computer.
And while you can just use any old computer, at-first…
You should eventually invest in the best one you can afford.
Because today’s DAW’s can be EXTREMELY hard on processing resources.
And making full-use of its features requires a blazing-fast computer. So when you’re ready to upgrade, here’s what I recommend:
The digital audio workstation is the primary software used to record, edit, and mix music on your computer.
Originally designed to mimic look-and-feel of analog mixing boards from the pre-digital era…
Their visual design has remained basically the same ever since.
Pro Tools, which has long-been the most famous DAW, great for studios of all levels…but it is by no means the only option.
Depending on your budget and style of music, the best one for you could be any one of around 10 possible options.
To learn more about each one, check out this article:
Once you’ve got the software, the next thing you’ll need is an audio interface…
Which has the primary purpose of providing all the necessary connections to send your music:
Originally, this was pretty much all they did…
But today’s modern interfaces have evolved into incorporate many other features as well. Those include:
In pro studios, each of these items normally exist as high-end stand-alone units, organized within a rack.
In home studios though, these “all-in-one” budget interfaces can be a great way to save money, and still get exactly what you need.
To see which ones I recommend, check out this article:
The oldest item on this list by far…
Microphones have been around since long before recording studios ever existed.
Yet ironically, in all those years, very little about them has changed.
And many of the top models from a half-century ago are still among the industry standards of today.
That’s not to say that microphones are a simple topic, because it’s actually quite the opposite.
Recording studios typically carry several-dozen mics or more…each one used to achieve:
And in the following post, I give you the complete run-down on everything you should know about the topic:
Unlike most studio gear, headphones are one item that we’re all thoroughly familiar with.
At least…that’s what most people assume.
But truth is, while you may own a great pair of “consumer” headphones…
For pro audio, there are 2 special types of studio headphones intended for 2 very specific tasks:
And in this post, I reveal what they are, what they do, and which ones I recommend:
In the pro audio world, we call them either studio monitors, or nearfield monitors.
And while they might look similar to plain old speakers…THEY’RE NOT.
Compared to consumer speakers, which typically accentuate certain frequency bands in order to improve the listening experience for certain audiences…
Studio monitors are designed with the opposite goal of providing a perfectly FLAT frequency response, so engineers can hear a mix as it truly is, flaws and all…so they can adjust accordingly.
In pro studios, these monitors can often cost 10 grand or more.
But luckily for the rest of us, there are plenty of great affordable options as well. To see which ones I recommend, check out this article:
In a typical pro studio, you’re likely to find hundreds of cables…
With dozens of connectors that you’ve probably never even heard of.
And the time will come when you own more cables than you can count.
The good news is…in the beginning, all you need is 3:
For help finding these, check out this article:
And to learn more about the other types of studio cables as well, check out this article:
The same concept applies with microphone stands as with studio cables.
Eventually you’ll have many.
But for now, all you need is 1 or 2.
And while you might assume that all stands are pretty much the same…
They actually come in many shapes and sizes, each designed for specific tasks.
To learn more about each type and what they’re for, check out this article:
Despite the fact that pop filters are in no way “essential” to a bedroom studio…
For some strange reason, all newbies seem to want one.
And most probably don’t even know what they’re for.
So let me explain…
One peculiar fact about your mouth is that it expels a strong burst of air whenever you pronounce “p” or “b” sounds.
In normal conversation, you don’t even notice it.
But when singing into a microphone, that blast of air is heard as a low frequency “thump” known as popping, which is both unpleasant to the ears, and unacceptable on a recording.
Pop filters are designed to solve this problem by catching the blast of air before it hits the diaphragm of the mic.
If you’re interested in trying one out, here are the ones I recommend:
Now at this point, we’ve concluded STAGE 1. Once you’ve got everything we just covered, you should be fully equipped to record audio in your little bedroom studio.
And while many people will be more than satisfied to remain at this stage…some of you will want something better at some point.
In which case, it’s time to graduate to…
After recording music in a simple bedroom studio for a few months…
You’ll probably start to notice a few things that bug the crap out of you.
Besides the fact that your workspace is extremely cramped…
Your biggest problem is probably that all your music sounds like it was recorded…well…in a bedroom!
And after doing some research to figure out what’s going wrong…
You will undoubtedly come to the conclusion that you now need a dedicated room for your studio…
Where you can cultivate both a creative environment that will improve your workflow, and an acoustic environment that will allow your recordings to at least sound semi-decent.
So when that time comes, here are the 8 KEY items you need:
Now let’s take a closer look at each one…
In virtually any home studio, regardless of size or purpose…
The centerpiece of the room will undoubtedly be the desk.
So it makes sense then, that it be the very first item you add to your new room.
But don’t go overboard here. Because in the beginning, any desk you already have in your house can work just fine.
So you don’t have to spend a fortune on a custom mixing desk if you don’t want to.
The truth is, at some point, you will want something better. And if that day is today, check out this post to see which ones I recommend:
Just like with your desk…a high-end studio chair, while nice to have, is not a necessity.
Truthfully, a folding chair works just fine.
For a while…
But home studios having a curious way of consuming your entire life…
And it’s quite possible that at some point, you will spend more hours in that chair than you do in your bed.
In which case, a little bit of comfort and back support may not be a bad idea.
So to see which ones I recommend, check out this post:
The fact is…that without some acoustic treatment in your room…
Chances are slim-to-none that you will have any chance at recording decent sound.
And the first type of acoustic treatment to add is…bass traps.
The reason they come first is because unlike other types of acoustic foam…
Bass traps offer broadband absorption across the entire frequency spectrum, and are particularly good at absorbing lower frequencies…which cause the majority of problems in any studio, especially in smaller rooms.
And since it’s the most-important item, it makes sense to check it off your list first.
To learn more about bass traps, and see which ones I recommend, check out this post:
While they don’t absorb bass frequencies very well…
Acoustic panels are great at absorbing frequencies in the low-mid to high range.
More importantly though…
They are particularly good at taming standing waves…
Which have a tendency to cause major acoustic problems in rooms with parallel walls, where sound reflections bounce back-and-forth in the same spot.
In typical home studios, where the room is likely to be cubical, standing waves are especially problematic, which is why acoustic panels are a must-have.
To see which ones I recommend, and how to put them up, check out this post:
The final item to add to add to your room is…diffusers.
In pro studios, with big budgets and big rooms…
Diffusion is an important element of their acoustic treatment plan because creates a nice natural ambience without removing too much of the “liveliness” from the room.
Diffusers do this by scattering whatever sound energy exists in the room…
Allowing all frequencies to disperse randomly, rather than build up unnaturally in certain spots.
Common wisdom states though, that diffusion is significantly less effective in smaller rooms.
And since diffusers can get quite expensive, most home studios will elect to not use them. However, the choice is completely up to you.
While “real” acoustic treatment will always be ideal…
Often times, it’s simply too expensive for a small project studio.
In which case, reflection filters offer a workable alternative.
Intended mainly for vocal recording, this device allows you to skip the hassle of treating your entire studio…
By instead capturing sound reflections before they ever enter the room.
While noticeably less effective than “proper” acoustic treatment, they’re still way better than nothing-at-all…
And they can even be ideal for simple bedroom studios that only do vocals.
To see which ones I recommend, check out this post:
Once you’ve gotten the acoustic treatment part out of the way…
You can still improve your sound one step further with monitor isolation pads.
You see…by placing your studio monitors directly on the desk, sound vibrations transfer through the surface of the desk…
Which decreases the accuracy of the monitors themselves, and can even create new and unpredictable resonances from any other objects receiving those vibrations.
Monitor isolations pads solve this problem by creating a buffer of acoustic isolation between your monitors and desk, preventing any vibration from transferring.
Plus, some models even provide added options for positioning your monitors, by allowing you to tilt them at various angles.
To see which ones I recommend, check out this article:
To take monitor positioning one step further…
A better option might be to use studio monitor stands instead.
Because rather than limit your positioning to the surface of your desk…
With stands…distance, height, and angle are fully adjustable, so you can move them wherever you like.
And they’re a big help, because to get the most accurate sound from your monitors, they need to be in very specific locations in relation to your ears.
To see a list of the top stands I recommend, check out this article:
So that concludes STAGE 2.
With the items we just covered, you should have a pretty awesome home studio by now.
And if you only plan on working by yourself in your studio, this may be all you ever need.
But when the day comes when you want to want to record other people, and possibly even charge them for your services, it’s time to graduate to…
The biggest problem with the studio we just set up…
Is that it only offers a limited number of input channels.
What this means is…it will be very difficult to record more than one person at a time…
And you certainly can’t record acoustic drums, which can easily require 8 or more mics depending on the size of the kit.
A studio of this caliber is fine for yourself and maybe one other person, but anything more and you’ll need some new gear.
The other issue with our current studio is speed/efficiency…
If you’re recording a lot, or you expect to charge clients by the hour…you should be able to work a relatively time-efficient manner. Which is harder to do without certain tools.
So if you’re ready…let’s begin with this new round of equipment:
Now let’s look at each one in more detail…
The final “BIG milestone” in the evolution of your home studio…
Is the inevitable addition of your first rack-mounted setup.
Because prior to this step, the simple desktop gear you’ve been using can only record a small number of simultaneous tracks.
And if you want to record bands (which most people eventually do) you need more channels.
The beauty of the “rack system” is…it allows you to mix-n-match your equipment, so you can customize your routing and signal flow however you like.
That way it can always do exactly what you need it to.
Of course, the first step in building any rack to buy the case itself. So check out this article to see which ones I recommend:
Classic Example: Raxxess Economy Rack
While every person’s rack setup will be entirely unique…
The one item common to virtually every rack is a power conditioner.
Because rather than having a half-dozen power cables sticking out the back of your rack from each unit…
A power conditioner consolidates power for the entire rack down to a single cable.
And as a HUGE side-benefit, it also filters the power using various technologies such as:
Which extends the life of your gear, and allows it to always perform at its best.
To see which ones I recommend, check out this post:
Now that the rack and the power is taken care of…
You’re finally ready for those extra input channels we’ve been talking about…
Which you will get by adding a multi-channel microphone preamp to your setup.
Another common variety of this device is the high-end single-channel mic preamp, which studios often use on vocals or any other particularly important track in a mix.
To see which models I recommend for both single and multi-channel preamps, check out this article:
NOTE: Whenever buying a multi-channel preamp, you must also make sure that you audio interface has enough line inputs to accommodate the extra channels.
If yours doesn’t…check out the audio interface post again to find one that does.
Once you have plenty of input channels to work with…
The next thing you’ll need is a few more OUTPUT channels.
First, so that when you work with multiple musicians…
Each person can monitor themselves as they perform.
Since most audio interfaces have only 1-2 headphone outputs…you’ll need a headphone amp if you want more.
Typical headphone amps offer stereo outs for anywhere from 4-8 sets of headphones.
Advanced headphone amps…can send multiple tracks of audio to personal mixers for each musician, allowing them to individually control exactly what they want to hear, without affecting what is heard by everyone else.
And in studios that can afford one, this added functionality can make the entire recording process much easier for everyone involved.
To see which ones I recommend, check out this article:
Now that you’ve got plenty of output channels for headphones…
The next thing you may want to add is some extra outputs for multiple studio monitors.
And here’s why:
Sometimes in advanced studios, engineers need to compare how their mixes sound over a variety of playback devices.
That way, when their work is heard through cheaper “consumer” speakers…
They can be confident that it sounds just as awesome as it does in the studio.
To accomplish this task, a tool known as a monitor management system is used…
Which allows engineers to switch back and forth between different speakers with the push of a button.
If and when you ever need this in your studio, check out this article to see which ones I recommend:
If you record mainly by yourself…
Then you already know how difficult it can be to play the part of “multi-instrumentalist“.
Not only do you have to be at least semi-proficient at a bunch of different instruments…
You need to actually OWN each of those instruments as well.
Which for many of us, is simply not possible. Home recording is expensive enough without having to buy a dozens of instruments as well.
The solution to this common problem is of course…virtual instruments.
With a single software bundle, you get access to hundreds of instrument sounds for less than the price of a single “real” instrument.
And while they can’t replicate every instrument (like guitar), they can sound surprisingly realistic on certain instruments (such as piano and drums).
Which is why for most people, what I recommend for starters is:
And using just those two, you can accomplish a hell-of-a-lot.
The biggest problem with virtual instruments is…
It SUCKS to play them on a computer keyboard and mouse. Not only is it no-fun…
Because to truly add your own expressive touch, you need an actual “physical” instrument to control your “virtual” instrument.
And that’s where MIDI controllers come in…
While they aren’t perfect, they allow for at least some degree of expression, by giving you something real to touch with your hands.
To see which ones I recommend, check out this article:
While virtual instrument drums might be good enough for some…
For drummers, probably not.
The problem is…while acoustic drums might be ideal, they simply aren’t practical for 99% of home studios.
But there’s good news…
Because electronic drum kits provide an excellent compromise between the “real” and the “virtual“.
Now if you haven’t played one in a few years, you may have a negative opinion of them based off the ones you might remember back in the 80’s.
However, in the 20-30 years since, they’ve gotten MUCH better.
Today, they can sound almost as good, and in some cases even better than a real acoustic kit. And for the home recording musician, that’s wonderful news.
If you’re interested, check out this article to see which ones I recommend:
The stereotypical fantasy which initially sucks us into the world of recording is…
Crafting your latest masterpiece on the massive analog mixing board of your million dollar studio.
Of course, it doesn’t take long to discover that the actual world of home recording is far less glamourous.
Because in this reality, mixing is usually done on a computer keyboard and mouse. Which to be honest…kinda sucks.
And not only does it look lame…
More importantly, it slows down your workflow, and makes it much harder to perform some of the more advanced mixing techniques, such as automation.
The solution to this problem is of course, a control surface, which is essentially a MIDI controller designed to mimic the look and feel of the analog boards from decades-past.
Only…in a much smaller package.
And while they aren’t a must-have item, they’re still pretty awesome. To see which ones I recommend, check out this post:
These days, virtually all DAW’s offer a bundle of free software plugins as part of their package.
And most of them aren’t half bad.
However, the fact is that top engineers will spend thousands of dollars on premium plugins…
Which are somehow better than the free ones.
And while beginners often make the mistake of believing that these premium plugins are a “magic pill” that will solve all their problems…
The truth is…that if your skills aren’t up to par, then no plugin in the world is gonna help.
If you do have some skills, they can make a BIG difference. And I won’t even have to explain how…
Because you will hear it yourself.
To learn more about the different categories of software plugins available, check out this post:
At this stage in the game, with the gear you now own…
It’s quite likely that your studio is looking pretty cluttered.
Well once you reach this point, the standard solution to turn to is a snake cable like the one shown in the picture.
By combining several individual cables into one, snake cables allow you to dramatically clean up the look of your studio, and more importantly…
They keep your cables permanently organized, so never-again will you need to trace-back an entire length of cable through a tangled web just to find out where it leads.
The only problem is…most snakes are designed for much larger rigs than a typical home studio, and it can be difficult for beginners to find the right one for their purpose.
So for more info on this topic, check out this article:
Classic Example: Hosa Little Bro
Do you know what can happen during a recording session when the power goes out?
If your studio uses a desktop computer (instead of a laptop, which has batteries), and the computer SHUTS OFF improperly…
All of your work can potentially be LOST.
Which is why anytime a computer holds important data, it makes sense to use an uninturruptible power supply (UPS).
Essentially functioning as a back-up battery, a UPS gives you several minutes of power to shut down your computer safely in the event of a blackout.
Now unlike every other item on this list, which should be added in sequence…a UPS is one of those items you can add at virtually any time.
Some people get them early-on. Others never get them at all.
But here’s when I suggest you get one:
Once you’re at a point where you’re creating work you’re actually proud of, and that you’d be devastated if you’d lost…
It makes sense to buy a little “insurance” so you’re protected.
To learn more about UPS’s, check out this post:
Classic Example: APC BR700G
In the studio, where cables sometimes extend as long as a hundred feet to reach their destinations…
Guitar cables are especially susceptible to excessive signal noise.
And direct boxes solve this problem by taking an (unbalanced) instrument level signal, and converting it to a (balanced) mic level signal…
Which can then be sent for several hundreds of feet if necessary, while gathering virtually no noise at all.
Because of the fact that most audio interfaces and microphone preamps have at least 1 or 2 direct box channels built-in…
It’s possible you may never need a direct box.
However, if you need more DI inputs, or…if would like to add a guitar jack to a new location in your room…a stand-alone DI box could be exactly what you’re looking for.
To see which ones I recommend and why, check out this post:
So we’ve finally reached the end of STAGE 3. At this point with the new additions we just covered, your studio should be good enough to record bands and possibly even charge clients for your services.
If you aspire to actually turn your hobby into something resembling a full-time career, there’s still one more set of upgrades that remain…
For 99.9% of us, STAGE 3 will have been the final level of our journey.
Because the truth is…it’s extremely tough to be successful in the pro audio business.
And most of us aren’t really looking to be professionals anyway.
But since many of you are at least curious about it, I might as well give you a few examples of how pro studios differ from amateur ones.
So if you’re ready, here’s the final list of equipment for STAGE 4:
And here’s more about each one…
Hidden within your audio interface, and many other devices in your studio…
Is a device known as a digital converter, that has 2 simple jobs:
The reason you may not have heard of it is…in 99% of cases, digital converters exist as a side-feature within some other device.
In pro studios with big budgets, it’s common to find high-end stand-alone digital converters costing several thousand dollars each…
Which have no other function than to deliver the absolute best digital conversion money can buy.
Will it be the difference between a good mix and a bad one? Probably not.
But for professionals, every little advantage counts.
Another little-known device hidden within virtually every digital recording device is…
The master clock (aka word clock, aka digital clock).
Whenever you connect digital signals from two or more devices…
The individual digital “samples” must align perfectly in sync.
Otherwise the resulting audio will be filled with annoying “clicks” and “pops” from the misaligned samples.
In most setups, the audio interface clock defaults as the master, and the others as slaves. Meaning one clock leads, and the others follow.
However with more complex systems, it’s much easier to use a stand-alone digital master clock to lead the entire system.
And while there’s much debate about their impact on sound quality, some sources will tell you that a high-end master clock makes a noticeable difference.
Long before the days when mixing was done with software plugins…
Common tools like EQ and compression existed only as stand-alone hardware in a rack.
These days many of those units cost several thousand dollars each, and offer only 1 or 2 channels.
Now you might be wondering…
So wouldn’t I need dozens of those things just to mix a song?
Well the answer is…yes you would.
Luckily for us, we now live in an age where the modeled “digital versions” of these tools make our jobs both cheaper and easier…
Many of the world’s top studios still rely mainly on these ancient tools to get the job done. Because according to many of the best ears in the business…analog gear still sounds better than any plugin.
As such, many of us “normal” guys blow absurd amounts of cash on a single purchase that may (but probably won’t) be that one missing ingredient we’ve been searching for.
Would I recommend it in most cases? Not really. But I promise I won’t judge you if you buy one anyway. 🙂
Now obviously, there’s way more to a pro studio than just these 3 additional items.
In fact, much of what makes a recording studio “professional” has more to do with the rooms themselves than the actual gear.
But all that stuff is pretty far outside the scope of both this article and this website.
So for now at least, that will conclude this insanely long post. Hope you enjoyed it. 🙂
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The term studio recording means any recording made in a studio, as opposed to a live recording, which is usually made in a concert venue or a theatre, with an audience attending the performance.
In the case of Broadway musicals, the term studio cast recording applies to a recording of the show which does not feature the cast of either a stage production or film version of the show.
The practice has existed since before the advent of Broadway cast albums in 1943. That year the songs from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!, performed by the show's cast, were released on a multi-record 78-RPM album by American Decca. (London original cast albums have existed since the early days of recording, however, and there are recordings in existence of excerpts from such shows as The Desert Song, Sunny, and Show Boat, all performed by their original London stage casts.)
Before 1943, musicals were recorded in the U.S. with what might be termed studio casts, although in many cases, such as those of Walter Huston from Knickerbocker Holiday and Helen Morgan from Show Boat, singer-actors from a musical did make recordings of songs from the shows they appeared in. Another such example is Ethel Merman, who recorded virtually all of the songs that she made famous, even when there was no original Broadway cast album of a smash hit that she had starred in, as is the case with Girl Crazy, Panama Hattie, and Anything Goes. Paul Robeson, who appeared in several productions of Show Boat (though not the original Broadway production), made many recordings of the song Ol' Man River from the show.
However, early "studio cast" albums were very different from those made today, or even those made from 1950 onward. Many of them were simply a collection of songs from a show, and made no attempt to recreate what a performance of the show was actually like. (In the liner notes for the new studio cast recording of Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1947 semi-flop Allegro, former Columbia Records president Goddard Lieberson is given credit for virtually inventing the idea of a studio cast recording.) David Hummel, the author of “The Collector’s Guide to the American Musical Theatre” (Scarecrow Press, 1984) was the first person to come up with the term “studio cast” in lists he was making of Broadway recordings. In these lists, which date back to the 1950s, he documented Original Cast (OC), Soundtrack (ST) and when the Goddard Lieberson cast recordings came out he wasn’t sure how to catalog them so the term “studio cast” (SC) came into being. Author Stanley Green even wrote to Mr. Hummel asking if he could use the term. Mr. Hummel responded that he didn’t own the term; it was just something he came up with for his lists so the recordings could be catalogued.
Beginning in 1943, then-current revivals of musicals began to be recorded with their stage casts, a custom that persists today. Therefore, we have recordings of the 1943 cast of Rodgers and Hart's A Connecticut Yankee, the 1946 cast of Kern and Hammerstein's Show Boat and the 1951 cast of George and Ira Gershwin's Of Thee I Sing, all of them pre-1943 musicals. But there are no actual original Broadway cast albums of any of these shows.
Studio cast recordings have become especially useful in the era of compact discs after being overshadowed for years by original cast albums - in nearly all cases, moderate to large amounts of songs (or instrumental music) were left out of original cast albums of older shows because there was simply no room for all of them on a single LP, even one that lasted 50 minutes. The extended length of a typical CD makes it possible to include all the songs and music from one show on one or more discs, and studio casts have had to be the ones to record new albums of older shows, since, in many cases, original cast members are either long retired or have died.
In the past, studio cast albums have almost invariably used different orchestrations and vocal arrangements from those heard in the show, but with interest growing in the way shows from the past first sounded on Broadway, these albums are now nearly always recorded using the original orchestral and vocal arrangements of the shows in question, especially after the 1982 discovery in a Secaucus, New Jersey Warner Bros. warehouse of the original manuscripts of many classic Broadway shows in their original orchestrations. One such example is the aforementioned Of Thee I Sing, which was recorded on CD with its original orchestrations and vocal arrangements for the first time in 1987, featuring a cast headed by Larry Kert and Maureen McGovern.
Occasionally, film scores were recorded with studio casts, especially in the days before soundtrack albums. One such example is Decca's 1939 album of songs from The Wizard of Oz, which featured Judy Garland singing Over the Rainbow and the deleted song The Jitterbug, but the Ken Darby Singers singing the rest of the score.
Click tracks, metronome recordings at a certain tempo, are often used to keep the musicians in perfect time; these can be played in musicians' ears through headphones, and so will not be picked up by the microphones, and will be silent on the final track.
In bands, different groups have different orders of recording instruments. Some record the entire group at the same time, as would be played in a live performance, though this can cause some instruments to be picked up on the microphones of others, which can complicate mixing: partition screens are available to counter this. Others choose to add tracks one by one. For example, a group may choose to have the drum and bass guitar record first, so that the following instruments keep in time, and can play to a better 'feel' of the song. Vocals are usually added last, only followed by backing vocals or solos, which may change or be complicated, meaning that multiple attempts could be useful before deciding on a final.
Scratch tracks are tracks that are played through roughly at first, so other musicians have something to work with, and can play to support the other parts. However, it is not final, and once the other musicians have recorded their parts, it will be rerecorded, when the musician will be able to play against the strengths of the parts already recorded, and have a better grasp of the feel of the music. In the previous example, the bass guitar part that was recorded first might just be a scratch track, to help the drummer get a feel of where emphasis and space in the song is.
Manhttan Center Studios is one of FM Design’s oldest customers. We designed the original refit of Studio 7’s control room in 1993. When MCS chose to upgrade the Studio 7 Control Room it only made sense to contact FM Design once again. We took the room down to the shell and fit an all new floating floor system, new full room acoustic treatments and an entire new front-end to accommodate the Lawo mc2-56 Console and the free-standing ATC-SCM110 L-C-R monitors. This full surround room is fit to record and mix large orchestral sound tracks and scores as it is attached to the Grand Ballroom,one of the most renowned rooms in NYC for acoustic recording of large orchestral ensembles. FM Design is proud to continue our relationship with Manhattan Center and present the newly re-opened Manhattan Center Studio 7 Control Room.
Engineer producer David Snyder asked Francis Manzella to join the design team for his new “Dream Studio” located on his farm in rural Vermont. The ground up project includes many “Green” aspects such as extensive use of LED Lighting, ground water heat pumps (for HVAC) and solar power collection. The studio will run off the grid providing a personal recording experience on par with that of the largest world class studios. The spacious live room is ringed by four acoustically unique iso booths ranging from absorptive to ‘medium’ to diffuse. Equipped with an API Legacy, Neve sidecar and Griffin G1A main monitors, the large control room is a great working environment. Guilford Sound was nominated for the TEC award for Studio Design in 2010.
“When Man Made had the opportunity to build a new home from the floating concrete floors up, we knew we needed to think about our space differently than the creative and digital media companies whose offices we all lust over. We needed to think about the space between. For a music company, it is not about the walls, desks, and couches, but the space between them, through which the sound and music moves, that is most important.” FM Design in collaboration with reMade conceived this TEC Award Nominated stunning multi-use creative space for Man Made which opened in Dec 2015. Extensive use of DMX controlled LED lighting and a 20 channel sound system in the common areas allow audio/visual cues to fill the work environment with an immersive “User Experience” demonstrating the Audio Branding that Man Made is known for.
Francis Manzella was contacted by old friend and co-worker (Skyline Studios) Dave Lichtenstein about a new retro analog-based recording studio in Oakland, CA. Located in a converted British auto repair garage in Oakland, Lichtenstein was clear about wanting a large live room, several iso booths, and a spacious control room. The studio features a 64 input API Vision with full surround capabilities, ATC surround monitoring, and more analog processing than one drummer should be allowed to own. Seasoned studio builder Dennis Stearns and his team did a fantastic job realizing Manzella’s design and assisting in locating many unique materials used in the execution of the studio.
The Palms Casino Resort is home to a multi-room World Class Recording Studio. The Studio at The Palms provides a unparalleled level of technical sophistication and client comfort. The 2006 TEC Award winning facility includes a large tracking and mixing room (Studio X) boasting a Neve VRP-72 and full 5.1 Griffin G1A Main monitors. A second suite (Studio Y) features an acoustically identical control room and a mid sized overdub booth. This room is equipped with an SSL XL 9080K console and Griffin G1A Surround monitors. The studio offers client amenities that are not available at any other destination studio. The Palms offers luxury suites ‘wired’ to the studio for the convenience of recording clients as well as portable DAW based recording stations that can be brought to a guest’s room.
Scott Barber (owner) of the Barber Shop has a business sense that can be summed up in one word: determination. His vision was to build a world class recording studio in a historic stone church built in 1900’s which had become Lake Hopatcong’s most revered landmark. Scott’s plan was to offer a place for artists to get away from the city and record in a creative environment. On the ground level of the 2005 TEC Award nominated studios you’ll find reception, lounge and a surround sound protools suite. Upstairs includes a producer’s lounge, the Main Control Room equipped with an SSL 9K, Griffin Main Monitors, and G2 Surround System. The Control Room is accompanied by 3 iso booths and a 2 story live room.
FM Design was commissioned by The Orchard, a pioneering music, film and video distribution company headquartered in NYC, to create this in-house music recording studio. Managed by The Orchard’s co-founder Richard Gottehrer & accomplished engineer Alonzo Vargas, The Orchard will use the facility to create recordings and mix tracks for its label and artist clients. The studio features an SSL AWS console, Genelec 1038A monitors and a selection of analog processing to compliment the ProTools HD recording system. The Orchard is nominated for the TEC Studio Design award in 2014.
Francis Manzella was engaged to redesign the control room of the flagship Caesar Studio in this three-studio complex just outside of Rome. Acoustical renovations included adding extensive tuned low-frequency trapping, and new reflection-control and rear-wall diffusor treatments. The rooms are finished with a new fabric skin, woodwork and a complete new RGBW LED Lighting system. Equipment includes a 72-input Neve 88R console, Studer A820 machine, Genelec 1035B mains, and a range of analog and digital processing.
KMA Music – The Writers Studio, is the brain child of Michael Kissel. Mike envisioned a cooperative arrangement with young writer/producers who could realize their creative projects within a world class stimulating environment. KMA is located in the Brill Building with amazing views of Times Square (the “Center of the Universe”). KMA offers a brilliant recording experience for every genre and includes a beautiful live room, Yamaha grand piano and the first installation of the Griffin G1.5 main monitors augmented with an LFE18 subwoofer.
Greg Talenfeld, had outgrown his old studio, Waterworks (NYC) where he had worked with seminal indie-rock icons Beck, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Pavement. In 2007 he began planning renovations on a 1912 brick warehouse in his hometown of Nyack, NY. FM Design was charged with designing an elegant, stylistically sensitive and cost effective facility where Greg could record live bands and generally ‘get the vibe’ of the funky building onto his records. Isolation was a concern with a local firehouse ½ block away. A complete floating solution was presented that incorporated many visual elements of the original building. The acoustic finishes include brick, exposed wood beams and concrete to create a unique blend of rugged industrial and modern Hi-Tech.
When Kaleidoscope Studios owner Randy Crafton knew it was time to expand his two room NJ based operation, he once again contacted FM Design. Working in a building adjacent to Randy’s existing studios that was in a a state of disrepair, FM Design crafted a new control room, live room with two iso’s and a client lounge area. The entire project was completed in an ambitious time frame with strict budget restraints. This Icon based 5.1 room provides Kaleidoscope with new opportunities to expand their clientele without ‘competing’ with their existing operations. The Patio was nominated for the TEC award for Studio Design in 2013.
Great City Productions in New York City is owned by Engineer/Producer Britt Myers. Great City contacted FM Design in 2008 for the design of a new Studio A suite including a surround capable control room and a comfortable live room. Their existing facilities were limited to voice over sized booths only. The new fully floated studio A suite is connected (physically) to studio B so that the live room may be shared when necessary. The SSL Duality equipped control room features K&H surround monitoring, ProTools HD and visual connections to the live room and two isolation areas. Foley pits and a Grand Piano are included in the new live room along with Video playback. The project was nominated for the TEC Studio Design award in 2009.
John Kilgore Sound Studios, located in the heart of New York’s Theater District, is the primary resource for sound designers working on Broadway. The studio is owned and operated by veteran recording engineer and theater sound designer John Kilgore. The studio counts among its regular customers some of the most discriminating and demanding clients in the world of theater, dance, music, special events and post production. Client comfort, acoustic accuracy and facility wide versatility were the primary design goals given to FM Design. The main “A” suite offers a mid-sized, configurable Live Room and plenty of client space in the Control Room. This 5.1 control room provides Mr. Kilgore with the comfortable acoustics and project versatility he requires.
Composer, Engineer, Producer Marc Webster contacted FM Design to assist in realizing his vision of a dream studio. Located in an addition to his Rochester, NY home, the studio was a life long dream. Working slowly and carefully, Webster executed the construction with a talented local builder over the course of several years. The studio has been widely acclaimed by the local recording community and Marc has completed a significant project on a tight budget. The rooms look wonderful and the sound of the studio gets rave reviews!
Egan Media Productions, owned by producer/engineer Joe Egan, is a three room audio video production facility located in northern Vermont. The facility includes the “A” Music suite, pictured here, along with a second smaller audio suite as well as an offline video editing & production suite. Located in a converted turn of the century army barracks in Colchester VT, Egan and video associate Scott Esmond provide a range of services to the local Television, radio and music recording market. The studio was featured on the February 2002 cover of Mix Magazine.
Randy Crafton, owner of Kaleidoscope Sound contacted FM Design in 2009 when it was time for an acoustic and aesthetic renovation for it’s two busy, Union City, NJ based music studios. They were on a limited budget and had a very tight time frame in which to complete the renovations. Francis Manzella designed a complete new interior acoustic fit out for the main Control Room A to compliment the new API Legacy console. Additionally the studio B Control Room was re-oriented and the ceiling dropped slightly to create better acoustic room proportions. Both rooms have enjoyed wide acceptance since the renovation were completed.
Blue Jay Recording in Carlisle, MA is a well known and respected operation that has been in business for over 25 years. New ownership commissioned FM Design to design a complete interior renovation for this perpetually popular studio. The new main music recording and mixing suite at Blue Jay is centered around a custom Mad Labs / Neve VR72 Console. The Control Room was completely renovated from wiring troughs to lighting fixtures. The room was rebuilt from the concrete shell inward including all wall and ceiling treatments, wood and fabric finishes, isolation detailing on doors and windows and a complete new technical power installation designed by John Klett of Technical Audio and FM Design.
Trillium Lane is a dual purpose facility owned by Jared Vogt, a local software entrepreneur and musician. The facility is placed in a purpose built structure on a private stretch of wooded property offering solitude, peace and an extremely relaxed creative environment. The 3500 SF building interior houses the control room, iso booths, great room, kitchen as well as the upstairs edit room, offices and support spaces. The recording and mixing room at Trillium Lane is built around a large ProTools HD system including a fully loaded ProControl. The 5.1 monitor system is Genelec 1031A’s with 1094 subwoofers. The room is optimized for stereo and surround mixing with a generous Reflection Free Zone and exceptional imaging at the mix position.
Born and raised in Oklahoma City, recording engineer and drummer Ted Curtis has 30 years of music beating through his heart. Driven by the passion to record music and produce a first-rate product in today’s Christian music scene, he took a year of his life to build a God-given vision. The end result is a state-of-the-art, private, recording studio featuring some of the best gear, ranging from the vintage classics to the latest technology, set in a friendly and creative environment. The studio was featured on the March 2004 cover of Mix Magazine.
Francis Manzella Design was commissioned by studio owners James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins), Adam Schlesinger (Fountain of Wayne) and Andy Chase (Ivy), to design a combination commercial and private use facility for these busy musicians and producers. The studio was to be World Class sonically and technically as well as providing a comfortable atmosphere that would invite clients to kick back and relax. Stratosphere features Reflection Free Zone acoustics in the control room. Generous sight lines to both the main live room and the adjacent isolation booth are implemented without introducing any unwanted early reflections. The control room feels quite large and comfortable while providing a “no compromise” critical listening experience.
Sound Station 7 is a state of the art recording studio in Providence Rhode Island. Built in a firehouse that dates back to 1871, featuring a blend of contemporary design features together with architectural elements inspired by the original building construction. These include exposed wood beam ceiling and brick veneer finishes. This Studio was Featured on the cover of Mix Magazine September 2000 issue.
Few studios in New York play equally strong roles in preserving the city’s media history and in propelling its media future. Manhattan Center Studios is one of those special few. Francis Manzella Design was commissioned to design the Studio 7 control room and vocal booth connected to the elegant sounding Ballroom transforming it into the versatile tracking room it is today and creating an accurate mix environment for the thriving multiroom facility. Studio 7 and a simply awesome, gigantic 94×98-foot music room with a 60×80-foot stage have become a world renowned scoring studio.
Mirror Image Recorders of New York has grown since its inception in 1978 to become three state of the art 48 track recording studios plus one midi / production suite. The studio has been involved in dozens and dozens of RIAA gold and platinum hit records for a widely diverse clientele.
Deeper Rekords is a NYC based independent label and production company run by Producer/DJ Jonathan Peters. There busy two room music production studio was designed by FM Design and features custom in wall main monitors designed by Joe Lodi. The MIDI Programming station and console both have access to the extensive ProTools based recording system.
House of Sound is a three room complex owned by Producer/Artist Robert Clivilles of C&C Music Factory. In addition to the large Studio A suite pictured here, the facility includes a second SSL equipped control room with a Custom Tannoy/Hot House main monitoring system as well as an audio Edit room in the basement below. Full kitchen, offices, shop and lounge are located in the basement as well. FM Design handled the base studio floor plan, all Isolation design (floating systems, wall and ceiling construction details), and all acoustic finish design in the music rooms.
City Sound Productions was conceived as a combination project studio and commercial recording room. All aspects of the studio were designed for world class performance. This project was an excellent study in “doing it right” on a smaller scale. From HVAC and structural isolation to the monitoring environment and quality of finishes, owner Bob Kirschner did not want to compromise. Although small in size, City Sound represents how professional acoustic design can truly benefit the sound and feel of production rooms. The same level of care and detail went into this project as goes into all our studio design.
Originally designed in the 1960’s for the recording of local Salsa and Latin music in the thriving San Juan community, Ochoa studios was handed down from father to son. In 1994, FM Design was commissioned by Tony Ochoa to redesign their premier music studio (A). The renovation was a full refurbishing pulling all construction out to concrete slabs and cinder block. New isolation walls and all acoustic finishes were specified and installed. Extensive equipment installation happened simultaneously handled by John Klett of Technical Audio. Custom main monitors were installed by Klett and Francis Manzella. The studio’s grand Live Room was updated for a more modern sound with a Live Side/Diffuse Center/Dead Side installation.
Building a home recording studio is a HUGE project…isn’t it?
It takes months of planning, research, and preparation…doesn’t it?
Well most people think so, but the truth is…
Getting started is far easier than you might imagine.
Because REALLY… all you need is a few basic essentials.
And in today’s post, I’ll show you exactly what they are…
As I walk you step-by-step through the entire process of building a basic home recording studio from scratch.
So let’s get to it. First up…
The fact is, not only is it possible to start off with just a simple studio…it’s actually preferable.
Because just like with any hobby, by attempting too much too soon:
And all the time and money you invest is wasted.
So to avoid this fate, just keep it simple. But you might be wondering…
Since home recording can be expensive…musicians often search for the cheapest possible solutions to recording their music.
And that’s fine, except…there is such a thing as “too cheap“.
While it is technically possible to build a working studio for as little as $400-$500…
There are low limits to what can be accomplished in such a studio…and I really wouldn’t recommend it to anyone truly serious about recording their music.
Instead…here’s what I do recommend:
With the following 9 items:
What you have is a simple working studio, perfect for anyone just starting out with home recording.
And here’s why:
Now let’s talk more about each item on the list…
When starting a studio from scratch, the computer is the biggest expenditure by far.
Because as common wisdom states:
Ideally, you want the fastest one you can afford.
But these days, virtually everyone already has a computer of some sort. And virtually all computers are fast enough to at least get you started.
So in the beginning, regardless of your budget, I recommend using what you have for now.
If and when you want to upgrade later on, here’s what I recommend:
If you don’t already know…
The DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is the software used to record, edit, and mix music on your computer…
And the Audio Interface is the hardware used to connect your computer with the rest of your gear.
These two items can either be bought separately, OR as a combo. But your first studio…I highly recommend the combo.
Plus, the two companies that offer these combos are among the best in the business: Presonus and Avid.
Presonus offers a free copy of their Studio One Artist DAW with the following popular interfaces:
Avid offers a free copy of their Pro Tools 12 DAW with the following interfaces:
Personally, I’d recommend the Pro Tools option to those willing to spend that much. But for most people, the Presonus options are priced a bit more reasonably for first-timers.
Having said that, if you don’t mind purchasing your DAW and interface separately…
There are still tons more options to explore, and I cover them all in the following two articles:
As your studio matures over time…
You will eventually amass a collection of dozens of different microphones, each for different purposes.
For now though, all your really need is 1 or 2 to get started.
And the ones you choose will depend on the instruments you plan to record.
Since most people start out just recording vocals, the “classic” large diaphragm condenser vocal mic I recommend is the:
For any “high-frequency-rich” instruments such as acoustic guitar, piano, or cymbals…the small diaphragm condenser mic I recommend for starters is the:
For drums, percussion, and electric guitar amps, the best mic to start with is undoubtedly the:
For bass guitar, kick drums, and other low frequency instruments, a great mic to start with is the:
If you want to get started ASAP, the 4 mics I’ve just shown you are perfect.
However, as you’ll eventually discover, the topic of studio microphones is a pretty huge subject. Which is why I’ve actually dedicated an entire chapter of this website to just that. Here it is:
When you’re just starting out, most of your time is spent recording by yourself.
Which is why in the beginning, all you really need is one pair of headphones.
For studio purposes, there are 2 very specific designs considered standard:
While open back headphones are considered more of a luxury…for your first studio, closed back headphones are a necessity.
And in this post I reveal the best options for both:
As a supplement to your headphones, I also recommend an extension cable…since standard headphone cables are always too short.
A word of caution though: With THIS cable especially, I highly advise getting the best one you can afford, as cheaper ones have horrible signal problems from the constant movement.
Personally, I like this one: Mogami Headphone Extension 25′ – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF)
Despite the fact that many home studios now do the majority of their mixing on open back headphones…
Traditionally, mixing has always been done on speakers…
Or as they are commonly known in pro audio: studio monitors, or nearfield monitors.
Compared to consumer speakers, which are designed with various tonal “enhancements”…
Studio monitors have a much flatter frequency response, which provides a more neutral, uncolored sound to objectively judge your mix.
And while they can get pricey…there are still plenty of affordable options for beginners as well.
These are the top ones I recommend:
One day, your studio will have a TONS of different cables…
But for now, you only need 3:
For a standard project studio in a small 10×10 room, these are the EXACT ones I recommend:
But before you buy those monitor cables, double-check that the stereo output of your audio interface has XLR connectors.
Sometimes they use TRS, in which case, you’ll need these instead:
As you can see, good mic cables can get fairly expensive, so if you’re looking for something in a different price range, or you just want to learn more about mic cables in general…check out this post:
While many beginners assume that all mic stands are the same…
The truth is…a solid mic stand is one of the most worthwhile investments a new home studio can make.
However, since mic stands can get pricey, and most beginners are on tight budgets…
A cheap reliable stand is more than adequate when you’re first starting out.
But if you’re looking for something specific, check out in this post to learn more:
You know that “cliche” scene from the movies…
Where a young beautiful pop star is in the studio…
Recording her vocals through some mysterious mesh screen covering her microphone?
Well that, my friend…is a pop filter.
And its purpose (besides looking cool) is to filter-out an unpleasant vocal artifact known as “popping“…
Which is a low frequency blast of air caused by the pronunciation of “P” and “B” sounds.
Is it a “must-have“ item for your studio? Absolutely not.
But they’re pretty cheap, and they do help. And for some strange reason, many beginners still feel they must have one, which is why I’ve included it on this list anyway.
To see which ones I recommend, check out this post:
On a typical list of “home recording essentials” that you’d find on the internet…
Ear training software is definitely NOT one of the items normally included.
Because the truth is…you don’t technically need it. Not now, not ever.
But here’s why I’ve included it on my list:
More than any piece of gear you might buy for your studio…the ONE THING that will make the biggest difference in the outcome of your recordings is your EARS.
And while you might believe your ears are pretty good already…
Having a good “musician’s ear” is not at all the same as having a good “sound engineer’s ear“.
As musicians, we learn to recognize notes, intervals, and chords. But as sound engineers, we learn to recognize bands of frequencies.
And until your ears develop a basic grasp of this skill, you won’t really know if things are sounding good or not.
Which is why I believe that if you start training your ears from DAY ONE, the speed at which you improve will skyrocket.
For more detail on this topic, check out this post:
As you can see…the topic of home recording is HUGE, and you can’t possibly learn it all in just one day.
But if you’ve enjoyed reading this post, and you want to learn more, here’s what I have for you:
On this website, is the most detailed and comprehensive content on building a home recording studio that exists on the internet…period.
And it’s organized in 6 easy-to-read chapters from start to finish.
Loving the content so far?
The term studio recording means any recording made in a studio, as opposed to a live recording, which is usually made in a concert venue or a theatre, with an audience attending the performance.
In the case of Broadway musicals, the term studio cast recording applies to a recording of the show which does not feature the cast of either a stage production or film version of the show.
The practice has existed since before the advent of Broadway cast albums in 1943, when the songs from Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!", performed by the show's cast, were released on a multi-record 78-RPM album by American Decca. (London original cast albums have existed since the early days of recording, however, and there are recordings in existence of excerpts from such shows as "The Desert Song", "Sunny", and "Show Boat", all performed by their original London stage casts.)
Before 1943, musicals were recorded in the U.S. with studio casts, although in many cases, such as those of Walter Huston from "Knickerbocker Holiday" and Helen Morgan from "Show Boat", singer-actors from a musical "did" make recordings of songs from the shows they appeared in. Another such example is Ethel Merman, who recorded virtually all of the songs that she made famous, even when there was no original Broadway cast album of a smash hit that she had starred in, as is the case with "Anything Goes". Paul Robeson, who appeared in several productions of "Show Boat" (though not the original Broadway production), made many recordings of the song "Ol' Man River" from the show.
Also beginning in 1943, current revivals of musicals began to be recorded with "their" original casts, a custom that persists today. Therefore, we have recordings of the 1943 cast of Rodgers and Hart's "A Connecticut Yankee", the 1946 cast of Kern and Hammerstein's "Show Boat" and the 1951 cast of George and Ira Gershwin's "Of Thee I Sing", all of them pre-1943 musicals.
Studio cast recordings have become especially useful in the era of compact discs after being overshadowed for years by original cast albums - in nearly all cases, moderate to large amounts of songs (or instrumental music) were left out of original cast albums of older shows because there was simply no room for all of them on a single LP, even one that lasted 50 minutes. The extended length of a typical CD makes it possible to include all the songs and music from one show on one or more discs, and studio casts have had to be the ones to record new albums of older shows, since, in many cases, original cast members are either long retired or have passed away.
In the past, studio cast albums have almost invariably used different orchestrations and vocal arrangements from those heard in the show, but with interest growing in the way shows from the past first sounded on Broadway, these albums are now nearly always recorded using the original orchestral and vocal arrangements of the shows in question, especially after the 1982 discovery in a Secaucus, New JerseyWarner Bros. warehouse of the original manuscripts of many classic Broadway shows in their original orchestrations. One such example is the aforementioned "Of Thee I Sing", which was recorded on CD with its original orchestrations and vocal arrangements for the first time in 1987, featuring a cast headed by Larry Kert and Maureen McGovern.
Click tracks, metronome recordings at a certain tempo, are often used to keep the musicians in perfect time; these can be played in musicians ear through headphones, and so will not be picked up by the microphones, and will be silent on the final track.
In bands, different groups have different orders of recording instruments. Some record the entire group at the same time, as would be played in a live performance, though this can cause some instruments to be picked up on the microphones of others, which can complicate mixing: partition screen are available to counter this. [For example, see [http://www.clearsonic.com/csp.htm ClearSonic panels] ] Others choose to add tracks one by one. For example, a group may choose to have the drum and bass guitar record first, so that the following instruments keep in time, and can play to a better 'feel' of the song. Vocals are usually added last, only followed by backing vocals or solos, which may change or be complicated, meaning that multiple attempts could be useful before deciding on a final. [cite web |url=http://www.pearldrummersforum.com/showthread.php?t=161949&page=1&pp=12 |title=Default click tracks?????? |accessdate=2008-03-21 |date=December 2006 |publisher=Pearl Drummers Forum |pages=p1 ]
Scratch tracks are tracks that are played through roughly at first, so other musicians have something to work with, and can play to support the other parts. However, it is not final, and once the other musicians have recorded their parts, it will be rerecorded, when the musician will be able to play against the strengths of the parts already recorded, and have a better grasp of the feel of the music. In the previous example, the bass guitar part that was recorded first might just be a scratch track, to help the drummer get a feel of where emphasis and space in the song is. [cite web |url=http://www.pearldrummersforum.com/showthread.php?p=305585 |title=Metronome/Click Track |accessdate=2008-03-21 |author=Praetor70 |date=2003-08-18 |publisher=Pearl Drummers Forum]
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