How to Build a Recording

Studio Considerations

The magic of the recording studio has often mystified even the most seasoned professionals. With all the knobs, switches and buttons on various gear and large format consoles, no wonder confusion sets in to most non-techies. Many people, especially artists, composers, producers, and engineers, will end up putting together their own studio for writing and pre-production, with some eventually deciding to take the plunge and create a full-fledged recording complex that is capable of recording major albums. This article will try to shed some light on the considerations to take into account when making a studio, be it a small home studio or a professional recording studio.

Is size important? Some may say it is so but this is not always the case. The dimensions of the studio are very important. A room too large may become over-reverberant or full of unwanted echoes. A room too small may sound tight and unnatural. It is important that the room size and room sound is relevant to the type of music you are recording. You don’t want to go into a very small tight room to record BIG rock drums. Although, big room sounds can be achieved by adding external reverb effects to simulate rooms at a later time when necessary.

It is best to find the room that suits the sound you are trying to achieve from the beginning of the recording process. The smaller the room, the smaller and tighter the sound will be; this is not necessarily a bad thing. Small tight rooms can be good for vocals, guitars and percussion if you are going for a tight clean sound. Larger rooms have more air for the sound to travel in, so it will be in fact a bigger more open sound. The sound has a longer travel time for the sound wave to move, therefore the reflection from the walls will take longer to bounce back creating a bigger more spacious sound. The decision of size and sound has to be made early on before the recording starts. One advantage that a larger room will have is the ability to be scaled down by closing up the room using modular baffles or gobos (go betweens). Gobos are structures that are partitions, that help to block sound by placing them in between the musicians, instruments, and microphones. Placing the gobos around the microphone at a close distance will help a large room with too much ambiance sound smaller. This will eliminate the reflections coming off of the walls that are further away.

Small rooms can produce big heavy tight sounds with the absence of the decay from the reverb that is caused from big rooms. Sometimes a large room can sound like it’s washed out, or far away. With a good engineer any room can sound amazing with a little adjusting. A poor sounding room can be manipulated to sound good, although it requires much more work and time. Deciding on the proper room size for your needs is critical to the sounds that get re-produced. This will highly dictate the type of sound the microphones will pick up.

Clapping your hands in a room can give a good representation of what a room will sound like. The reflection coming off the walls will be picked up by a simple hand clap. The true test is to try out some instruments or vocals and position them in various sections of the room until reaching the optimum sound quality. If one side of the room sounds bad try a different spot or move around into a corner until the sound is improved.

Experimenting with different sections of the room also keeps the sound fresh when recording many instruments. If the acoustic guitars are recorded in the center of the room, when the time comes to record the electric guitars you may try recording them in a corner of the room for a different room sound. This gives clarity on the final mix creating separation and providing more distinction on various sounds.

If you are starting your own studio, remember that the bigger the studio the higher amount the bills will be. The benefit is that larger studios can charge more for their studio rates.

Getting the Necessities

If you happen to reach that elite 2% and become that million dollar, hit selling, famous producer or artist (or if you just win the lotto), then you might eventually think about buying serious studio gear and setting up your own producer paradise.

Acquiring the proper equipment and labor is key to a great studio and successful recordings. Studio gear is expensive and the knowledge of those who use the gear does not come cheap. Hiring the right people can save money and time in the long run. Studio designers also are specialty breeds that can make or break your studio. Your buddy Joe the carpenter may be able to help build it for less, yet if the studio is not properly isolated for sound it is a great waste of time, energy and finances.

The studio engineer is also the focal point of the sound that is created. Having an experienced engineer involved in the process will make your sound have a character of its own. He is the extra set of ears that gives another dimension to your productions. He is also a critical consulting partner when building or choosing to rent a studio. Let the experts help you with advice, it will create less of a headache in the long run. The experienced engineer can fill you in on all the equipment needed for recording the music that is relevant to your world. He can also give some guidelines on how the studio should be setup before having to consult a designer. There is no room for guessing or assumption on these issues.

Check List: Part 1

When purchasing studio gear it is wise to research only what is absolutely essential for your style of music. If you’re not recording live drums in your studio, there is no need to buy a plethora of microphones for them. By being patient and shopping around for the best prices, a mass amount of money can be saved in the end. When you save $50 to $100 bucks on each piece of gear it really adds up in the end, and there is a ton of gear needed to put a proper studio together.

Below is a basic studio checklist that will be discussed in further detail in later articles. These are the essentials of modern day recordings and the tools that are most commonly used in the best studios around the world.

The Studio Gear Checklist:

Recording / Mixing Console

The engineer or producer operates the console that controls all of the levels for recording, playback and mixing.

This is the big board that has all the buttons, switches, knobs, faders which control the levels and signal routing for each instrument. This could be referred to as a board, console or mixer. The most common consoles in major studios are SSL (Solid State Logic) or Neve. The console is the most important piece of gear in the studio. It controls the overall operations of signal flow and sound manipulation. The console allows for each instrument to be on its own channel on the board. Each channel may then have effects inserted into its signal path to enhance the sound. A signal may also be routed to external gear for further manipulation. Anything that can be imagined, can be done. There are no rules for experimenting with sound. A signal can be sent to reverbs, delays, compressors, guitar amps, speakers in hallways for re-recording

Each channel strip on a decent console will contain: Faders, Preamps, Panning, Equalization, Filters, a Routing Matrix, AUX Sends and Returns, Dynamics, Muting, & Solo.

Other Features Of The Console: Inserts, Outputs, Monitoring, Automation, Fader Grouping, Bussing, Splitting…


Allows the studio to combine interconnectivity with all the equipment by using patch cables. The patchbay can be configured for each studio’s specific equipment requirements. All of the outboard gear, console and recording devices inputs and outputs are hard wired to the patchbay. The Patchbays can be be analog or digital. The most common is the bantam TT cable configurations.

Check List Part 2:

Microphones Microphones pickup the initial sound source. The mic is the first source in the recording process receiving and converting the sound wave into electrical energy to be amplified, transmitted and recorded.

Preamps Amplifies the original signal coming from the mic or instrument. Gives initial control of the recording levels. Preamps are located on the console or as external outboard gear.

DI Boxes The Direct box is used mainly for instruments such as keys and bass to be compatible with mic inputs. The DI box transforms line levels of instruments to mic level for console and preamp inputs.

Compressors Helps to further control levels and dynamics coming from the preamp or console. Usually comes in rack mounted outboard gear or software plugins for DAWs. Compressors keep levels from peaking into distortion levels and help to bring lower levels louder.

FX Processors For special effects like adding space, dimension, pitch and time delays on signals and recorded tracks. Usually comes in rack mounted outboard gear or software plugins for DAWs. Multi-FX processors may have reverb, delay, flangers, EQ, compression and more all in one unit.

Leave a Reply

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