8

What is a Recording Studio? – A Creative Laboratory!

Do you know where your favourite artists go to record their masterpieces? Well, I’m sure you at least have a vague idea of this place. But do you know what exactly goes on in there, and what makes it such a special place to many musicians? If you are really curious to find out, then the right question should be – What is a Recording Studio?

If you are a music enthusiast, you’ll definitely love the experience of sitting in a recording environment even if you are not involved in the recording session. Believe me, I’ve been there many times. However, many do not know about the equipment, people, and also the processes that happens there. Well, that’s what we’ll be discussing for today!

Recording Studio – Must be Fun!

A facility that is properly equipped for sound recording and mixing is called a recording studio. Professional recording and monitoring spaces are carefully designed by experienced acousticians to achieve the best acoustic properties possible (acoustic isolation or diffusion or absorption of reflected sound may interfere with the sound heard by the listener).

Control Room

Recording studio control room / Photo by JacoTen / CC BY-SA 3.0

Other than musicians, voice-over and foley artists also utilise recording studios. A typical studio consists of a “live room” (where musicians and vocalists perform), and a “control room” (where sound engineers or producers operate professional mixing consoles or computers). There is often a software suite used to facilitate the process of analog or digital recording.

Apart from the main rooms, there are also smaller rooms called “isolation booths” that are designed to accommodate loud instruments such as acoustic drums or electric guitar. This helps to either keep the sounds from “leaking” into the microphones that are capturing sounds from other sources, or to provide “drier” rooms for vocal recordings and quieter acoustic instruments.

Here are the topics that we’ll be looking into:

  • Design and equipment
  • Digital Audio Workstation
  • Isolation booths

Design and Equipment

We already know that recording studios generally have two rooms which are the “live room” (where the actual sound for the recording is produced) and “control room” (where the recorded sound is being manipulated using consoles and computers). But there is also one more space called “machine room”, where noisier equipment that may interfere with the recording process is kept.

Live recording rooms

A view of smaller live rooms from a larger live room / Photo by JacoTen / CC BY-SA 3.0

Professional acousticians will carefully consider the principles of room acoustics when designing a recording studio. This is to ensure that a set of spaces will be created with the right acoustical properties required for the highest sound recording quality possible. This will often include room treatment by installing absorption and diffusion panels on the surfaces of the rooms.

Another factor that an acoustician will take into account, is the physical dimensions of the room itself. This is important in order to make the room respond to sound in a desirable way. It will also help when implementing soundproofing methods to provide sonic isolation between the rooms (to prevent sound from leaking out and environmental sounds from leaking in).

Here are the list of equipment commonly found in recording studios:

  • Mixing console
  • Multitrack recorder
  • Microphones
  • Reference monitors (loudspeakers with a flat frequency response)
  • Keyboard
  • Acoustic drum kit
  • Digital audio workstation
  • Music workstation
  • Outboard effects (such as compressors, reverbs, and equalizers)

Digital Audio Workstation

In the world of digital recording today, computers have become a huge part of most, if not all, recording processes. It is now able to replace conventional analog mixing consoles, recorders, synthesizers, samplers and sound effects processors. Hence, a computer that is used to carry out various audio production processes is called a digital audio workstation (DAW).

DAW recording software

DAW software (shown on the computer monitor) used in a recording studio / Photo by Jeena Paradies / CC BY 2.0

Although DAW may actually be a system of audio processing devices that are controlled by a central computer, it is typically known by most practitioners to be just a stand-alone audio editing software. Some popular examples of audio editing software includes Apple Logic Pro, Digidesign’s Pro Tools, Cubase and Nuendo (both by Steinberg), and Ableton Live.

Audio software programs usually rely more on the audio recording hardware than the computer that’s running them. Therefore, you generally do not need high-end computer hardware components, unless you are using a lot of MIDI devices. Although Apple Macintosh is commonly used for studio work, there are still plenty of software available for Microsoft Windows and Linux.

Isolation Booths

Another important aspect of recording studios is the use of isolation booths. These small rooms are soundproofed in order to keep internal sounds from leaking out, and to also prevent unwanted external noises from coming in. Similar to other professional recording rooms, it is designed to have minimal diffused reflections from walls to make a good sounding room.

Isolation Booth

An isolation booth (on the right) in a recording studio / Photo by Metalworks Studios / CC BY-SA 3.0

Any performer, together with microphones, will be acoustically isolated in the room. Actually, every room in a recording studio is soundproofed using double-layered walls with dead space and insulation in-between the two walls, forming a “room-within-a-room”. A combination of reflective and non-reflective surfaces may also be used to control the reverberation intensity.

Often times, you can also see gobo panels being used in the studio. These panels are often placed at the front or around an acoustic drum kit. Gobo panels have the same function as isolation booths but to a limited extent. It helps to deflect the sound produced by the drum kit, and prevents it from “bleeding” into other microphones during the recording session.

We have come to the end of this article. I hope you’ve picked up a thing or two about recording studios, especially on how they facilitate professional audio productions!

Don’t forget to leave comments below, and share this article with your music loving friends!

button

Farhan

When I'm not rocking out to great music, I'd prefer to be sleeping on a field on a windy day =)

8 Comments

  1. Hey Farhan,

    I am a music producer, or rather I have been attempting to become one for the greater part of the last 10 years. I must say, that visiting Patchwerk recording studios in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the most inspiring times of my life.

    I have to agree with you in saying that a studio is a creative laboratory. But with the advancement of technology, we can turn space within our homes into recording studios, which is what I have done.

    Do you produce? Have you ever recorded in a real studio? That would be a dream come true for me!

    • Hello Christian!

      I can’t say I have recorded in the best studios around town, but I do have some experience in studio recording nonetheless. Professional recording studios aren’t cheap, especially for most musicians who are on a budget. Well thanks to technology, most of us are able to produce decent quality recordings right at home!

      Thanks for dropping by!

  2. Thanks for the great explanation.
    Being an amateur musician myself I’ve been t several recording studios but t be honest I haven’t seen an isolation booth .That’s pretty interesting.
    When I am looking for a studio to go jamming in, my most important criteria is the ambiance- if the studio is at 100% equipped but the atmosphere is not good I use the door immediately 🙂
    Thanks for the nice review

    • Hi Asen!

      Yeah, the overall “feel” of being in the studio has to be very inspiring. This will often help musicians to perform at the best of their ability. You realise that most major recording studios do not only have the best acoustics and equipment, but they also look really comfortable and cosy.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

  3. wow, just saw this post and i am bummed out. i am a musician and i know how the importance of having recording studios. i’ve been in many and i still get the chills anytime i am oppurtuned to visit any again. your article really explained alot and its quite educative for people who are not all that into music out there. Nice

    • Hey there!

      Really appreciate your kind comments. I’m really happy to know that my article has been very educational for you!

      Thanks a lot!

  4. I’m a musician and I’m trying to start writing original music and recording but it gets really loud in my apartment. Is there a good way to sound proof? I looked up some basic materials and stuff but do you know any inexpensive equipment I can use. I don’t think I have the money yet to start working in a professional studio but I think I have the basic tools necessary to get started.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*