Starting a recording studio from the ground up is a ton of work and for many engineers and producers; it takes a lifetime to achieve their vision. From humble beginnings to extravagant studios, there are plenty of stages and milestones along the way.
Here are the key stages of growth for many studio owners. Where do you fall on the scale?
Bedroom studios are by far the most common studio spaces today. As gear becomes more and more affordable, musicians are starting to get into the mindset of DIY recording and building studios right in their bedrooms. Bedroom studios exist across all age groups and experience levels, but the most common bedroom studios have relatively simple set ups. Your bedroom studio only needs the absolute essentials for making music.
As streamlined as bedroom studios are, that’s usually out of necessity. Since these studios are shared spaces where you’re sleeping and possibly doing some other work too, your recording rig HAS to be small enough to fit in the space.
This usually means small monitors (or headphones only), a simple interface, and maybe a microphone if you’re not a strictly in-the-box producer. The acoustics are going to be the biggest challenge in a bedroom studio since the position of your desk and room treatment isn’t as easily achieved.
Bedroom studios are great for those who just don’t have the space and can still be extremely nice setups. They’re budget-friendly options for those new to recording and really help you put your money where it matters most in terms of upgrades.
Yes, technically a bedroom studio is a home studio too. For the sake of this conversation though, we’re going to break them out into two categories.
A home studio, in this case, is a DEDICATED room for recording and mixing your music. While it could be a great room to hang out in too, its main purpose is music creation.
Usually, the home studio is what happens when you outgrow your bedroom studio space. When things get cramped to the point where it’s hard to move around – you’ll know for sure that it’s time to make the jump.
The benefits of a home studio go well beyond space though. Having a room dedicated to your craft can help you mentally, as you’re no longer forced to share the place you sleep with the place you work. You can detach the two concepts and when you go into your studio, you know it’s time to work.
Your clients will begin to appreciate the upgrade as well and working with new clients becomes easier. Clients today understand that home studios are the norm, and many musicians will have small setups of their own. Your differentiator here is that while you’re a home studio, you’re taking your craft seriously enough to give it it’s own space in your home.
After a while, even the home studio can start to feel a bit claustrophobic or not quite what you’re looking for. For many engineers and mixers, home studios are built into a space that wasn’t designed acoustically – it was designed practically as another bedroom or office.
The next jump tends to fork off in two directions as engineers grow. They either build out their own space that does have acoustics and recording in mind or they move into a mixed use space – sometimes with other producers and engineers and other times in buildings with other companies.
Both of these approaches have their pros and cons. While building out an acoustically designed space seems ideal, it’s rarely affordable. Acoustic design is expensive and very detailed work. In order to avoid standing waves, flutter echoes, and other studio hazards, studio builds need to take every angle into account as they’re built. Even a small studio can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to build.
This expense pushes many engineers in the mixed-use direction instead. Mixed-use studios are essentially just suites to run your business out of commercially. What you do with the space is up to you, but it’s generally cheaper, at least short term, as you’re simply leasing a facility and using it for production.
There are some really cool mixed-use studio concepts out there, so definitely check out your local area to see what’s available. You could easily become the B, C, or D room at a studio you love if you’ve got the clients to support that next step in your career.
Large, Professional Studios
Of course, this list just wouldn’t be complete without the massive, standalone studios that we all see on the covers of Mix Magazine or in every Mix with the Masters session. These pro studios are becoming fewer and far between as the industry shifts, but walk into one and you feel the power those rooms hold.
I’m hesitant to even classify these as “professional” studios any more as many of the engineers and producers that work out of them get amazing, professional results in smaller spaces too, but…
When the budget is there, these rooms are amazing to work in. You’re not going to get a natural, 40 ft ceiling reverb in any other space. You’re not going to find echo chambers or real plate reverbs in small studios, and you’re not very likely to find such large collections of microphones or outboard gear at smaller studios either.
These large studios continue to hold their legendary status for many in the music industry, because once you’ve gotten to participate in a session in one, you’ll want to keep coming back for more.
Knowing What You’re Doing In ANY Studio
There are certain processes that are the same no matter what studio you’re working in. Your microphones are always going to capture your source, your preamp is always going to power your microphone, and your compressor will always compress – no matter if it’s hardware or software.
With all this in mind, knowing what each processor does and what role it plays in your mix is essential if you want to use any size studio to its full potential. Get started with our eBook, Taking Control of Your Drum Mix for a crash course in studio processors and dynamic control today!