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Recording Studios

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boom mic stand There are many types and sizes of recording studio which have different uses.  The home studio is usually a small set up that anyone can achieve in their spare room.

Many amateur and professional musicians, engineers and producers use a small home studio to record demos and professional mixes but most bands require space (and soundproofing!).

A professional recording studio provides all standards and styles with the opportunity of recording their chosen material with a dedicated sound engineer/producer which leaves the musicians free to concentrate on playing the music!

It is important for all band members to know the material extremely well before using a professional studio as recording and mixing down the instruments/vocals always takes far longer than you think. Setting up the microphones and getting a good sound level on the drum kit alone can take up to an hour whilst mixing the instruments, vocals and effects into a finished product can take several hours depending on the amount of instruments and songs recorded.

As a general rule expect to record and mix 2 to 5 songs in one 8 hour day, although you will need to be pretty precise in your playing and a band would need to play 'live' instead of 'layering' each individual track to fit 5 songs in!! It is possible to achieve more, but that depends entirely on the professionalism of the musicians and sound engineer.

For those aiming to record a full album at least 4 to 14 days studio time should be catered for in the budget. The mix down can take up half of this time and many artists have spent months in the studio perfecting their songs. Unless you have unlimited funds or a backer paying for the studio time it is essential that you waste as little time as possible by getting the structure, arrangements and musicianship as perfect as possible.

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UK Recording Studios

The Recording Studio

Scarlet Recording Control Room - Picture used with permission A typical professional recording studio is made up from different sections.  The control room is the heart of the recording studio containing the mixing desk, effects, recorders, computers and monitors essential for producing a finished master tape recording.

This room is soundproofed so that there is no external noise interferance.  A vocal booth is sometimes provided which is a small soundproofed room sectioned off from the 'live' room. Larger studios also provide a drum room, some of which have the mic's permanently set up for ease of use.

Scarlet Recording Live Room - Picture used with permission The 'Live Room' is soundproofed and large enough to allow a full band to play in comfort. The microphones are attached to plugboards inside the room that feed the sound to the control room.  There is usually a thick 'window' between the two rooms so the band and engineer can see each other.

The 'Chill Out' room, .....somewhere to sit & take a break, some provide refreshments, tv, stereo, larger studios have pool rooms, kitchens or bars offering refreshments (all extra!!).

Prices range considerably and rates can be set in different ways.  Hourly charges can range from 5 to 200+ although many recording studios offer a daily rate for a specified amount of hours, this can range from 50 to 1000+ and depends on whether you require the studio at peak or off peak times. This usually includes the sound engineers services, but a producer is often charged as a seperate expense as are the master tapes (average cost ranges between 10 - 50+ depending on tape size and make).

Some studios will also hire drum kits and other musical instruments or arrange for session musicians to perform on specific tracks if required.

Despite popular belief, the price a studio charges for its services is not an indication to its competance or suitability for your style of music, so before choosing a studio take time to do some research.

  • small micAre they specialists in the type of music you perform?
    A good engineer should be competant at producing all types of music, however a studio that specialises in the style of music you play is more likely to be in tune with the sound and feel you are looking for.

  • small micDo they have a good reputation with other musicians?
    Personal recommendations from people who have used the studios services are essential and listening to their recordings will allow you to gain an insight to their competance and feel for the music.

  • small micIs the studios equipment suitable for your requirements?
    The type of sound you intend to achieve may rest on the equipment available.  For instance, a studio specialising in recording live rock bands may not have the effects required for a dance/hip hop artist or the equipment could be old causing crackles, hiss and drop outs.

  • small micIs the sound engineer and/or producer also a musician?
    Whilst there are some excellent engineers who are not players, a musician may have more understanding and an instinctive feel for what you are trying to achieve.

  • small micWill they allow you to sit in on the final mix?
    Regardless of how good an engineer or producer may be, it is your music and if you are the one paying for it to be produced then it is your responsibility to ensure you are happy with the finished product.  If you have the master tape then you can always remix the tracks, however this means spending more time and money.

Most reputable studios will be happy to allow you to look round the studio and listen to some of their productions by appointment which is a great way to get a feel for the place and people.  If you have the opportunity, sit in on a friends recording session, this will give you a far better insight to the actual time and effort that goes into recording.

reel to reelStudio pictures are courtesy of our good friends Liz, Wan & Aine at Scarlet Recording.  A friendly and helpful bunch of working musicians, their rates are reasonable, sound quality excellent and they are experienced in engineering and producing a wide range of musical styles. The studio has an excellent reputation and several club members bands have recorded both demos and albums for release. The studio has now moved and is currently being upgraded.

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studio A sound engineers most important requirement is a good 'ear' for music followed swiftly by the ability to adjust the mix according to the music and venues requirements.

The latter takes practice on many different types of equipment and for many years engineers learnt their trade by working on reception or as a gopher in return for watching the recording sessions and getting hands on tuition by the house engineer.

This method is still popular and many studios train and recruit their staff from local music lovers wanting to get into the recording business.  It also offers the opportunity for recording your own material during off peak hours free or for reduced rates.

Schools of Recording, Production and Sound Engineering provide complete beginners with courses designed to teach everything from tape operation to equipment maintenance and there are several well established courses available in the UK.   For those who are interested in learning the art, there is further information and links in the sound engineering courses section.

Sound Engineering Schools need bands and artists for their students to practice their recording techniques which can be a godsend to penniless musicians requiring a demo!  The recording and students time is free although most bands using this service will have to be prepared to go into the studio at short notice during unsociable hours, all master tapes are usually retained by the school and there is little or no opportunity to sit in on the final mix but where else would you get a demo Free!

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