One-room studios
Old 25th March 2013
  #1
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Ethan Winer's Avatar
 

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Lightbulb One-room studios

People often ask how best to divide a small space into a separate live room and control room, and the usual advice from the experts here is to leave the room as it is. My own opinion is that it's better to have one large room versus two rooms that are too small to sound good. After hearing this the OP usually replies "But I really want two rooms," which leads to yet more of the same explanations repeated again and again. I usually point out that these days with DAWs and unlimited tracks, you can just put everything onto its own track and sort out the balances later. Versus the old days with 16 or 24 tracks, where it was common to pre-mix eight or more drum mics down to only four tracks. In that case you really do need good isolation to do a proper sub-mix. But in a home setting you'll never have enough isolation to get an accurate balance, even with a dividing wall.

My point is not to start the same discussion again, but rather to show people that you can get excellent results in a one-room studio. I was reminded of this when I remembered seeing these two videos showing George Massenburg recording entire bands in the control room of Studio C at Blackbird Studios:

Mother's Child - Dawn - YouTube
Running From Home :: Stepper - YouTube

Yes, everyone has to wear earphones. So what? I've been recording this way in my one-room studio for years, and I never had a problem and no musicians ever objected.

--Ethan
Old 26th March 2013
  #2
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Hard to disagree as larger rooms, for the most part just sounds better and you can get a better result. IMO if having a studio was more of a "part time" gig or I mostly did softer instruments a one room would be fine. If I was was doing LOUD bands 8 hours a day, every day I might rethink it. Ear plugs are great and nice most do, I just would not want to sit in the same room with a drummer "a lot" of the time, if a full time gig.

Just to add to your point though that trying to iso 2 rooms is not cheap and that money you spend, could be used to making the one room sound that much better.
Old 26th March 2013
  #3
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Lightbulb

Quote:
Originally Posted by Glenn Kuras View Post
I just would not want to sit in the same room as a drummer "a lot" of the time if a full time gig.
You need to record classier clientele.

Seriously, the second video I linked above has a "drummer" (horrors), and GM didn't seem to mind. Again, if the choice is use good solid headphones in one large room, or compromise the acoustics by having two lousy small rooms, I know which I'd chose.

--Ethan
Old 26th March 2013
  #4
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I do as well........

I would always opt for one larger multipurpose room over 2 small spaces...

I would focus (in this case) on optimizing the space for mixing - and live with what I had (when all was said and done) when it came to tracking.....

Rod
Old 26th March 2013
  #5
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One room studio. Recording finger picked dulcimer. Engineer or producer coughs. Oops. Start over.
Old 26th March 2013
  #6
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we have a one room studio here in Warsaw - Poland...originally intended as a mixing only studio, soon has proved to be very popular with recordings too. I have to say that I find work much more natural, direct and time saving having the band in the same room...



Old 26th March 2013
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick Sutton View Post
One room studio. Recording finger picked dulcimer. Engineer or producer coughs. Oops. Start over.
Full studio - 5 rooms - finger picked dulcimer - performer coughs. Oops. Start over........ shit happens Rick......

I figure we have to keep the focus here on the fact that we are talking about either small boutique type studios, or home studios, here - I can't imagine anyone who's walking into that scene picturing totally pro settings and is prepared for setbacks....

Rod
Old 27th March 2013
  #8
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I don't normally think of a one room studio being advantageous for recording more than one performer. But a strong point is when recording quiet things, the monitoring is dead simple with headphones. There are some other benefits but one just has to be creative.
Old 27th March 2013
  #9
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Quote:
I usually point out that these days with DAWs and unlimited tracks, you can just put everything onto its own track and sort out the balances later.
Herein lies the problem with the de facto recording approach these days. Fix it in the mix. Not saying that it can't or won't work - I'm just not happy that 95% of people are approaching recording in this manner. A three track recorder and half a dozen mics were enough to record Kind of Blue. I have no issue with people choosing to work one way or another - but wheres that sound?

I am all for one room studios where appropriate. In the jingle production work we do there are frequently 5-6 persons from the client's side in the control room. Some of them are passing critical or negative comments about the talent being recorded. They have the right to, they are paying for it. Some of them can't shut up. (Not everybody is a classy expert.) Some of them are coughing or having a bad stomach day. Some of them are expecting critical work related phone calls. I do this for a living. I chose to have two small rooms rather than one bigger one, no regrets. I look for serious clients who do real work and pay up on time. I don't look for classy clients. I myself am no classy guy and an expert on absolutely nothing. So, as a guy with no class and no expertise to fall back on, I decided to compromise acoustics for what is practical.

If you are a musician recording yourself and/or a few friends, sure, one room is probably a better way to go. If you are Daniel Lanois or Bill Bottrell or George Massenburg - sure - a one room studio will work for you - because you can control everything that happens in the room. But in my line of work - no it will not be optimal. Horses for courses.
Old 27th March 2013
  #10
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Dan Carey has made some of my favourite records of recent years in a one room studio that really looks like it shouldn't work:
Studio |

I guess the light show would have to be toned down for the dulcimer player.
Old 27th March 2013
  #11
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Quote:
You need to record classier clientele.
Too bad in this day and age people really don't get to pick there clients. There clients pick them. But like I said I do agree but see both sides of the coin. I would simply point out the good and bad to a client and let them decide. It is there room that they have to work in.
With all due respect your comment back seems a bit condescending. I think the Who is and was a pretty classy band and LOUD!
Old 27th March 2013
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
.........."But I really want two rooms," ...........
... and with soundproofed window between them, too....

I successfully convince one of my customers to leave idea of two rooms and to keep all functions in one room. This will be actually a some sort of well acoustically treated workshop, for a band, possibly not real studio... but they can practice, record and mix in the same (bigger) room, and this may be a real advantage when band is pretty big (as it is in this particular case).


Room is not finished yet, setup is just temporary, before any loudspeaker positioning, but I hope visitors can see the point.







For the last argument in favor of all-in-one (larger) rooms I will include this clip (already known to many gs visitors):



(yes, this is again George Massenburg in Blackbird Studio C)

Old 27th March 2013
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by salkin red View Post
Dan Carey has made some of my favourite records of recent years in a one room studio that really looks like it shouldn't work:
Studio |

I guess the light show would have to be toned down for the dulcimer player.
I have hardly ever seen a place with more vibe. Screw the acoustics, vibe makes the music! I like this in particular, from their fantastic ten-point plan:

Quote:
3. Recording of all records will be done in one day and finish before midnight. The recordings will be a snapshot of the day. Mixing will be done the day following the recording, also in one day only. This will prevent over-cooking and ‘faff’.
Way to go

Quote:
I successfully convince one of my customers to leave idea of two rooms and to keep all functions in one room.
That place looks fantastic. Congratulations, Boggy! One day I will get to figuring out your MLS sequences...
Old 27th March 2013
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boggy View Post
... and with soundproofed window between them, too....

I successfully convince one of my customers to leave idea of two rooms and to keep all functions in one room. This will be actually a some sort of well acoustically treated workshop, for a band, possibly not real studio... but they can practice, record and mix in the same (bigger) room, and this may be a real advantage when band is pretty big (as it is in this particular case).


Room is not finished yet, setup is just temporary, before any loudspeaker positioning, but I hope visitors can see the point.









Nicely done.
Old 27th March 2013
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by audiothings View Post
I have hardly ever seen a place with more vibe. Screw the acoustics, vibe makes the music! I like this in particular, from their fantastic ten-point plan:



Way to go



That place looks fantastic. Congratulations, Boggy! One day I will get to figuring out your MLS sequences...
I believe Andy Munro designed Dan Carey's place so it's not like the room has bad acoustics by any means. It's just much more creative to be in one room with all the instruments ready to go.

I regularly record in one room. I have my mix setup at one end and amps and drums at the other. It works well for me. The booth doesn't get much action these days.
Old 27th March 2013
  #16
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Quote:
I believe Andy Munro designed Dan Carey's place so it's not like the room has bad acoustics by any means.
I have been in a couple of Munro designed rooms. Worked for two years in one (if you can call a hall a "room"). I am not seeing a pattern, though I am often wrong. I'd be grateful if you could validate your suggestion. The website does not offer information on the acoustics or the designer, while we can agree that "Munro" is a big enough name to throw around...

On another note, the acoustics of a place populated with as many pieces of equipment as this, is bound to be unpredictable... Andy Munro or not. The place works because of the talent and the people.
Old 27th March 2013
  #17
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Lightbulb

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick Sutton View Post
One room studio. Recording finger picked dulcimer. Engineer or producer coughs. Oops. Start over.
Sure, but that's no different than having two rooms when someone coughs in the same room as the dulcimer and mics.

--Ethan
Old 27th March 2013
  #18
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Wow

Beautiful work boggy, I wonder why did they let Cyprus into the EU and not your country? Soon I hope.

The key to any of this is reasonably similar levels and screening.
The Massenburg vid shows a very quiet drummer who has that amazing skill of sounding powerful but barely moving. Plus a strong vocalist singing right into a U67 blocked off in corner with what looks like a glass gobo etc.

It's pretty simple and logical, spill management. But ultimately this can only work when musos and singer are very highly skilled.

I have 5 rooms wired for recording. In a domestic house.
Nobody can see anyone else but with a great headphone system.....
As one muso said, most of us close our eyes, who wants to be looking at those guys....

DD
Old 27th March 2013
  #19
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Quote:
The Massenburg vid shows a very quiet drummer who has that amazing skill of sounding powerful but barely moving.
I could not make out that level of detail, possibly because I was listening on my old macbook and not wearing my spectacles , or because I am deaf and stupid. Or maybe the song did not need loud drumming? Did we forget that the song is the most important thing and no drummer should be forced to change his style for the engineer's requirement? Do you think Bonham was a quiet drummer? Is he classy enough for the experts in this room? If so, how many mics did he need to capture his quiet and classy drumming? How many tracks? How many submixes?
Old 27th March 2013
  #20
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Drummers

Hi audio, I was listening on my iMac which is remarkably decent for the size of the speakers. More importantly I play drums so I could tell from the few shots of the drummer, particularly when he did the snare fill.
Bonham was always a monster player, in every good way that is. Big guy, big appetites, big personality, big drums, huge sound.
BUT, I was watching him on UTube a while back. There were some close ups.
If you look at his hands and the way the sticks move and bounce, the overall impression is actually quite petite. Dainty even. Odd eh?
Drums sound very roundy when played at low level. Just enough hit balances this with the right amount of smack, i.e. HF. More muscle than that and we get a thin cracking plasticy sound.


DD
Old 27th March 2013
  #21
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Quote:
Drums sound very roundy when played at low level.
I also play drums. I do not know the word "roundy". Every dynamic level has a different tone. Horses for courses.

Both of us can play drums (I assume), and I assert that Bonham's tone is not obtained through petite/dainty drumming. There is balance and control, but I will not describe them as petite or dainty. But then again, english is not my first language...
Old 27th March 2013
  #22
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This thread is perfect timing for what I'm researching. Just curious on what size you would consider a "small studio." I'm in the beginning stages of building a detached unit in my backyard that will be about 20x20 when all is said is done. You would obviously want to allocate more room for the tracking than the mixing room if you were doing two rooms but would you sacrifice some acoustical advantages in the mixing/control realm if you were to do one big room?
Old 27th March 2013
  #23
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Quote:
This thread is perfect timing for what I'm researching. Just curious on what size you would consider a "small studio." I'm in the beginning stages of building a detached unit in my backyard that will be about 20x20 when all is said is done. You would obviously want to allocate more room for the tracking than the mixing room if you were doing two rooms but would you sacrifice some acoustical advantages in the mixing/control realm if you were to do one big room?
What do YOU want to do in the room? Record yourself and friends? If so, make a single larger room...
Old 27th March 2013
  #24
As much as I think that recording (from Blackbird C) is amazing and shows how much you can do with a one room studio, the vocalist is in a booth right?

Doesn't that sort of go contrary to a lot of the advice in this forum about not using booths? I guess that's just not an option for sensitive condenser mics on live vocals. I'm a real newbie, but this is a subject that is dear to my heart so I would love for someone to explain this to me.

Thanks.
Old 27th March 2013
  #25
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Dainty

audio, by roundy I meant to suggest a 'round' sound. A lot of fundamental tone.
e.g. when a Kick drum is played quietly it has a subby boom, but when hit hard, a very sharp clear crack. Makes them hard to mix.
Take a look at John in action here. Particularly during the song. Note how little the cymbals swing. Then the close ups of his hands during the solo. Quite a dainty grip to my eye, and I don't see sweat.
John Bonham Moby Dick - YouTube


DD
Old 27th March 2013
  #26
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Dandan, if not for my slow internet connection at home at this time, I would check out your link... but it would probably still be redundant. Are you saying that soft drummers are better than loud ones? That would make punk and ska and metal and a host of drummers operating in other genres inferior. Some things are loud. Some things are soft. Can you see that there is the possibility of beauty being created through any/all/none of these?
Old 27th March 2013
  #27
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Glenn Kuras's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Grovestand View Post
As much as I think that recording (from Blackbird C) is amazing and shows how much you can do with a one room studio, the vocalist is in a booth right?

Doesn't that sort of go contrary to a lot of the advice in this forum about not using booths? I guess that's just not an option for sensitive condenser mics on live vocals. I'm a real newbie, but this is a subject that is dear to my heart so I would love for someone to explain this to me.

Thanks.
I saw that myself but I believe that is a gobo. For all we know it is just scratch tracks being done and all the "good" stuff is laid over it.
Old 27th March 2013
  #28
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Quote:
For all we know it is just scratch tracks being done and all the "good" stuff is laid over it.
This is what I read about cynicism:

Quote:
Cynicism is the intellectual cripple's substitute for intelligence.
Since I agree with you here, I must be an intellectual cripple However I have participated in many live recordings where the video is shot immediately after the real live audio recording, only the cameras now have the flexibility to move around and make noise, and the mics can be placed in pretty places, and the artistis can mime without any fear of going off pitch or anything... I don't think that in this case the video and audio were recorded at the same time, but I want to think that the audio was recorded completely live.
Old 27th March 2013
  #29
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Odd

Quote:
Are you saying that soft drummers are better than loud ones?
Not at all audio. My first album as a kid was Led Zep 1 played on a record player I built myself. Bonham remains my favourite.

I am just pointing out the oddness of the reality. i.e. Huge sounding drummer holds the sticks eleganty, doesn't sweat, and when you see the tom hits at least at the start of the solo, well, you will get what I am talking about. He's not violently loud.

Now consider Larry Mullen, a phenomenally loud hitter. Quite a thin sound.
Ditto Dave Grohl and Stewart Copeland hard hitters but thin sound.
All great to brilliant drummers though.

DD
Old 27th March 2013
  #30
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The vocalist is clearly not in a booth.......

I find it hard to believe that was just a scratch track....... pay real close attention to the fingering in the lead - it is note for note spot on........... nobody is going to duplicate that lead that perfectly....... the same goes for the vocals....... the timing of the vocals on the recording perfectly matches those in the room

You simply have to pay very close attention to what is physically taking place in the room compared with with what you're hearing.

I've seen the other (staged performances for the purpose of a video) on more than a few occasions - and you can always spot at least something that's different - but not in this case.

Nope - this was def in the room unless someone sees something I missed.

Rod
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