Choosing a Recording Studio & Producer | What to Look for in a Recording Studio
When starting as a musician, you need to make sure you have well-recorded and well-produced music to release to your audience. Choosing the right recording studios and producer is the best way to do this.
Recording Studios and Producers. Good recording studios can provide you with the means to create amazing-sounding recordings that your fan base will love. Producers will be the people that will help you achieve that sound that you’re going for.
If you don’t know how to make a professional standard recording for Spotify, you’re going to struggle to compete in the music industry. Here are some pointers on how to go about getting the best studio and producer for you.
Choosing the right recording studio and producer
What is a professional studio?
A professional recording studio is a specialised facility for sound recording, mixing, and audio production. This can be for instrumental, vocal, spoken word, or any other form of recording.
Proper recording studios are different from home studios. Typically home studios are only able to record instruments simply, usually with one being recorded at a time.
Often professional studios are large buildings, with spaces for multiple musicians, bands or even a full orchestra of 100 or more musicians. Ideally, studios are equipped with both recording and monitoring (listening and mixing) spaces.
These spaces are specially designed by an acoustician or audio engineer to achieve optimum acoustic properties (to reduce sound echoes that could otherwise interfere with the sound heard by the listener).
Who works at a recording studio?
The recording engineer is one of the most important roles found in the studio when it comes to building a team to create and produce music.
Other jobs can include record producer, mix engineer, and other assistants. You may have to take on some of these jobs at different times when you’re creating your music.
If you’re working with a small team, you need to work out who will fulfill each of the jobs, such as setting up the microphones in the right positions.
How are recording studios designed?
Recording studios are carefully designed around the principles of room acoustics to create a set of ‘spaces’ for the sounds in your songs. These spaces have the acoustical properties required for recording sound with precision and accuracy.
The way this is achieved is by room treatment and soundproofing (also to provide sonic isolation between the rooms) to prevent sound from leaving the property.
A recording studio has to be soundproofed on its outer shell as well, to prevent noises from the surrounding streets and roads from being picked up by microphones.
Rooms in a recording studio
A recording studio may include additional rooms, such as a vocal booth—a small room designed for voice recording. One or more extra isolation booths are also found for loud guitar stacks and extra control rooms.
Even though sound isolation is a key goal, the musicians, singers, audio engineers, and record producers still need to be able to see (or hear) each other, to see cue gestures and conducting by a bandleader.
As such, the “live room”, isolation booths, vocal booths, and control room typically have windows.
How do I find a good record producer?
You’ve spent huge amounts of time and effort writing your material, so when it comes to laying down your tracks choosing a recording studio and producer that will share your musical vision is crucial.
They can offer much better quality than most home studios and give you a professional record. Here are our tips on finding the right recording studio and producer for you:
- Try and pick a producer with recording experience in your chosen genre.
- Research the producer thoroughly – check out the music they have produced recently before booking studio time.
- Before approaching them, make sure you are clear about what you want to achieve, and know what you want your sound to be. Perhaps prepare a mood board to take with you that includes genre/similar artists etc.
- Ask the producer to send through samples of their work that is most relevant to your music.
- Ask yourself ‘are they easy to deal with, and is their communication clear?’
- Get advice from fellow musicians to find out who produced their recordings and get a first–hand view on what the producer was like to work with.
- Try and choose a producer within a reasonable location to save money, unless the producer has an impressive portfolio. It also makes editing the recording easier further down the line.
- It is important you are confident with the producer you choose and allow him to work his magic to get the most out of your recording.
At the studio; recording tips
So you have finally chosen a studio. This is when the real hard work begins, so make sure that you show some recording studio etiquette.
Act professionally and listen to the producer. The quicker you respond and deliver what the producer needs, the more you will get from your session. If you are difficult to work with, a bad word could get around. If you impress the producer they may be happy to pass your demo on to his contacts in the industry.
Ask questions: At the end of the session make sure you understand the next steps and when you will get the finished product.
After your recording session, remember to back up all your work and test that you can recover it. There’s nothing worse than having to go back to square one and having all that valuable studio time go to waste.
If you made it through all of our tips on preparing for the studio then you should be armed and ready for the recording studio.
How do you become a professional producer?
If you want to become a producer yourself, it’s going to take a lot of hard work. Anyone can produce their songs, but if you want to do it professionally, there are a few more things that you’ll need to consider.
- Overseeing the audio mixing. Whether it’s an old-school record scratch or the blending of a midi sample, digital producers often have to remix sound. Balancing levels and sending sound between speakers (i.e. spanning) can make or break a song. Make the instrument and sound balance perfect for each song through expert mixing.
- Selecting excellent gear (e.g. microphones, studio monitors) that make the music sound as clear as possible.
- Choose a location that is good acoustically. A perfect place for this is a studio. Tailor the room to amplify the sound ability.
- Finding the best performance is critical. Work through the songs to weed out the bad takes and highlight the good takes.
- Learn how to master. There are a ton of details to the mastering process, such as equalising volume between tracks and keeping a consistent volume. It’s not all about simply putting the tracks in the right order. Clean up any other oddities or deficiencies, like feedback or clicks in your mix.
What software do professional recording studios use?
Every recording studio is different, so we have the top 3 Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) that are found in most professional recording studios.
#1 Pro Tools
If you’re going to learn any DAW, you want to try learning this one. Pro Tools is the current industry standard in modern recording studios. It packs all the functions of recording, editing, and signal processing and mixing into one highly versatile computer program.
In the vast majority of recording studios, you won’t be able to find your way around the workflow without having a good understanding of this powerful tool.
#2 Logic Pro
Designed exclusively for Mac users, this powerful DAW is rapidly becoming a competitor for the other major DAWs. It has, not only the same basic capabilities as competitors such as Pro Tools, but it also integrates a huge (and expandable) library of virtual instruments and plug-ins for composing and producing.
Logic Pro is highly popular with electronic musicians, sound designers, and self-producing composers and songwriters. Recording studios that lean toward these disciplines are more likely to have a version of Logic Pro, or if the studio has a preference for using Macs.
#3 Ableton Live
This DAW caters especially to the electronic musician and performer, great recording, mixing and signal processing. It also has an impressive array of onboard synths, samplers and drum machines.
Ableton’s particular advantage is that it gives the producer, engineer or musician the chance to arrange, beat-match, mix and edit in real-time through its session view mode.
This makes it not only powerful for quick mixing, looping, and arranging, but also live performance. You’re most likely to see this software in recording studios that are frequently inhabited by electronic music producers and club DJs.
Which software is best for recording vocals?
All of the aforementioned software are brilliant for recording vocals – there’s no real frontrunner. A brilliant free software to download if you’re starting, though, is a program called Audacity.
This free open-source software was first introduced in 2000 and has since then climbed the ladder to become one of the best audio recorder software.
Audacity has an easy to use and simple interface which allows users to record and edit audios. The layout of the software is very basic yet has tools like navigation, tracking, and mixing.
Despite being all free software, Audacity offers a wide range of editing tools, which is what makes it one of the top favourites. It is compatible both with Mac and Windows.
Which recording studio is best?
Deciding the best recording studio for you depends entirely on what you’re looking for. Always consider these things when picking the best place for you to record:
- Do you want to work with a local studio?
- Have you had any personal recommendations?
- How many instruments are you looking to record?
- Do you have a producer or are you looking to find one?
- How much budget do you have?
- How long do you want to record for?
- Are your recordings part of an overall project (like an album or E.P.)?
Best recording studios in London
There are hundreds of places that you can record in London – it’s such a huge place, and many of the best producers in the world flock there.
A particular example of a brilliant studio there is the Sarm West, Notting Hill, London. Throughout of its history, it’s played host to bands such as Led Zeppelin (where they recorded parts of Led Zeppelin IV) and Bob Marley & the Wailers for the Exodus’ sessions.
It’s also been the home of Band Aid’s charity smash hit “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
Best recording studio in the UK
Objectively, there is no best studio in the UK, however, there is arguably a most famous one.
Abbey Road Studios (formerly known as EMI Recording Studios) is a recording studio at 3 Abbey Road, St John’s Wood, City of Westminster, London, England.
It was established in November 1931 by the Gramophone Company, a predecessor of British music company EMI, which owned it until Universal Music took control of part of EMI in 2013.
Abbey Road Studios is most notable as being the 1960s’ venue for innovative recording techniques adopted by The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Hollies, among hundreds of others.
One of its earliest world-famous-artist clients was Paul Robeson, who recorded there in December 1931.
Largest recording studio in the UK
History and chart-topping hits line these walls. Studio one is also the world’s largest purpose-built recording studios out there. It’s been the home to some very famous recordings, including the very avant-garde song entitled ‘A Day in the Life’ by The Beatles.
The orchestral part for this song was recorded on 10 February 1967 in Studio one. The Beatles’ manager George Martin, and member, Paul McCartney, conducted a 40-piece orchestra!
The recording session was completed at a total cost of £367 (equivalent to £6,543 in 2018) but at the time, money was virtually no object for The Beatles – they were the biggest band in the world at the time.
What city has the most recording studios?
According to data released by the United States Census Bureau, Los Angeles has the highest number of recording studios
The city of Los Angeles is famed for its artistic history and being the cradle of the film industry. The proximity of Hollywood makes several movie production companies set up recording studios in the city.
The history of the commercial music industry can be traced to the early 20th century where the local African-American musicians including Buddy Collette, Charles Mingus, and Gerald Wilson entertained many.
The city’s music popularity spiked in the 21st century with the advent of rap and hip hop career artists such as Dr. Dre, Tupac Shakur, Ice Cube, and Snoop Dogg who paid homage to the city.
The total numbers of studios in the city is around 366!
What should you expect in a recording studio? Take a look at this article here:
Cheap recording studios
If you’re looking to get your music professionally, you probably aren’t looking for the dirt-cheap studios. You could do a better job yourself than a studio that only costs £5 per hour!
What you’re probably looking for is the best value studio out there.
How much does it cost to record a song in a recording studio?
Every studio has its rates, and it’s good to shop around, but usually, rates for a full 8 hour day is around £300.
River Studios in Southampton is a great option, with very competitive rates. They also have dedicated producers who will push your music to the next level, creating a recording for you that is as good as the best in the industry.
If you know any other brilliant studios or ways to find producers, let us know in the comments below!