43rd Post: Recording Studios

ENSURING HIGH QUALITY SOUND RECORDINGS

Abby Road Recording Studio – London
Studio 3’s Control Room
With it’s SSL J-Series desk
Photo credit: soundonsound.com

After carefully listening to 100s of recordings of all types of music, it has become relatively easy for me to distinguish high quality from low quality.

You will find, in brackets, a rating for each recording immediately after it’s web link. The best possible score is a 10+ (the lowest is a 1). An example would be: (RQ 10). RQ is short for Recording Quality. This is my attempt to identify professionally well done recordings vs others. Scores less than 9 will tend to be a bit subjective although they do represent recording “grades” that are less than excellent or even good. The numbers will not align to how good of a song it is. This is particularly true when the video was done during a live performance. I have included many live performances as I think it really adds to fully appreciating the song when you place the singers faces, etc with their voices. If you listen with ear buds or head phones, it makes the quality “jump out at you.” All of the 9’s and 10’s are simply unbelievable!

Reviewing the history of recording techniques and methods made my head spin a bit. You can segment the technology recording history into four primary era categories by decades:

Acoustic 1877-1925

Electrical 1925-1945

Magnetic 1945-1975

Digital 1975-Present

We have come a long way from the: “Edison phonograph, the Scott phonautograph, the Cros photo engraver, the Berliner metal recorder, the pantograph, the UK gramophone, the Vicktrola, the BBC magnetic tape recorder, the AEG stereo tape recorder, and the Brush-Ampex-3M commercial recorders.”

The well known names of Les Paul and Bing Crosby jump started our use of recording music. This was followed up by Phil Spector’s use of 3-track recording devices during the Motown years. And, Tom Doud, of Atlantic Records was using multi-track systems in the 1950s. In London, *Abby Road Studios (https://www.abbeyroad.com/about-us) worked with The Beatles and Rolling Stones using their 4-track recording systems.

After the trendy compact audio cassettes and 8-tracks recorders faded, digital methods replaced all of the analogue technology in the 1980s.  Plus, Dolby Labs introduced technology aimed at dividing the frequency spectrum into several bands.  Ultimately this increased the dynamic range signal-to-noise ratios. 

Since then, almost everywhere pros and individual enthusiasts turned to hard-disc based systems.  The has allowed young emerging talented singers to interface with YouTube, Spotify and others to establish a name for themselves.

As you listen to the recordings within my blog, it is a good thing to appreciate what it takes to produce a good recording.  Several factors are involved.  For example:

Archiving documentation properly

Balancing the kick fader (the foundation of backbeat)

Cleaning up audacity

Controlling dB level of the beat

Digitizing analogue recordings

Expert user of Ableton and ProTool software (or similar)

Keeping your live and control rooms separated

Locating a comfortable range for your peaks

Proper pre-amp utilization

Properly setup input gain to avoid clipping

Separation of melodies and then recording

Setting up your recording suite (including midi keyboards)

The proper use of LED bulbs

Twenty Four Bit Audio Recording

Uncompressed Wave Formatting

Understanding high gain in relationship to distortion

Understanding the effects of pulse-code modulation

Use of echo chambers

Using compressors to maintain the ratio of a limiter

Using condenser, cardioid, omni and figure 8 microphones

Using effective noise reduction processes

Using proper output levels

When to blast live room with cold air to help keep room quiet

*Note: there are at least seven top of line studios besides Abby Road in London:

Capital Studios (Hollywood, CA) https://www.capitolstudios.com/studios/

Air Studios (London) https://www.airstudios.com/

Metropolis Studios (London) https://www.thisismetropolis.com/

Platinum Studios (Los Angeles, CA). Comic book mixed media. https://www.platinumstudios.com/

SOL Studios (Fort Smith, Arkansas – about 150 miles SE of Tulsa, OK). https://solstudios.com/

Hansa Studios (Berlin, Germany). https://hansastudios.de/en/home/

Our Vertict Studios (Wildomar, CA – 150 miles SE of Anaheim) (verdictgamestudio.com)

In case you want to learn how to record for yourself, here is some information that will be helpful:

From: Graham Cochrane of RecordingRevolution

RecordingRevolution.com

RecordingRevolution Plans for 2021: https://youtu.be/YQQnQlHe9Jg

How to record and mix a song:

Graham Cockrane, owner of Recording Revolution, created two mini-courses that will walk you through step-by-step how to record and mix a song from scratch.

The two video courses are completely free and will get you recording and mixing if you’re just starting out. 

You get to watch as I record and mix a real song from scratch using the cheapest equipment and a free DAW!

MINI-COURSE 1: How to RECORD a Song from Scratch

  • Watch me record an entire song from scratch
  • How to Setup your Gear and Equipment for Recording
  • Using Drum Loops to Create a Beat
  • Laying down Bass Guitar
  • Recording Acoustic and Electric Guitars
  • Recording Virtual Instruments using a Midi Keyboard
  • Capturing Stunning Vocals

MINI-COURSE 2: How to MIX a Song from Scratch

  • Watch me mix the song I recorded from scratch
  • How to do a Static Mix
  • Mix Buss Processing