The Curse Of The Silent Studio

Home studios have been popping up everywhere over the last decade. This is largely because computers became powerful enough to run sophisticated sequencer software, and the hardware required for a DAW also became affordable for hobbyists. One of the requirements of a professional studio is that it be perfectly soundproof and acoustically treated; however, it may not be either reasonable nor beneficial to attempt to achieve this at home…

Recordings Of Rooms

When audio recording was in its infancy, engineers strove to accurately reproduce the sound of a musical performance. Great care was taken to select the correct microphones, and even greater care was taken in positioning them. The rooms themselves were also designed with acoustics in mind.

However, as recording techniques developed, people started to push the boundaries and began moving away from the notion that absolute fidelity was the one true path. One of the first mainstream uses of guitar distortion is in the Kinks’ ‘You Really Got Me’, where they apparently inserted razor blades into the guitar amp to get that raw buzzy sound.

For The Beatles album ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’, a whole host of revolutionary production techniques were employed, creating soundscapes that sounded nothing like what could be achieved through performing on traditional instruments alone. Multiple overdubs, reversed audio, pitch-shifting – all common today, but unheard of in commercial records at that time (although several electronic experimentalists had been doing even weirder stuff prior to this).

Music In Its Place

Although modern recording studios do have extremely good instrument isolation facilites, there is no real need to obsess over achieving such sonic sterility in a project studio.

One could spend months trying to fit a room with acoustic foam, but first you should ask – do I really need to take the room out of the recording anyway?

The ambient sonic details of every space are unique, and can lend colour, character and depth to a record – particularly if you’re making music that doesn’t lean too heavily on post-production. If your space has a signature sound, then let that be your signature sound – don’t try and fight something that can be turned to your advantage.

Of course, you do need to have some sort of quiet – it’s not a good idea for all your songs to have the sound of trucks roaring past obscuring your lyrics (unless you write a lot of songs about trucks).

What Does Your Studio Sound Like?

Brian Eno is a firm believer in preserving the sound of a space; in this interview he points out the irony of recording in a neutral space, only to spend endless hours of work trying to get it to sound like it’s been recorded in an actual room with post-production reverbs, mixing and so forth.

His ideal studio is portable; so if he wants the sound of a small attic, he can bring the studio there and record the actual space. If he wants a canyon, he can record that too. One thing he does like to have is big space – enough of it to fit all the musicians together, so they can perform and respond to each other and the environment as one cohesive musical entity.

big room studio

Tim Prebble has an interesting post about studio design, and he too values space in the studio. He also provides examples of some of his favourite studio designs (including Peter Gabriel’s Big Room, shown above), which are well worth checking out…


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