What is a Studio?

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“I have a studio now!” is the common cry from most folks after purchasing their recording set-up from the local Banjo Mart. Well, do you really have a studio?

For song writing demos, band demos for bookings, etc., your home set-up may be just fine. But when it comes to commercial releases, you may need some help. The marketplace today is very crowded and it takes an extraordinary record to stand out. Except for the abundantly equipped project studio, a professional studio offers the extra effort most projects need.

A couple of definitions first. A computer with a sound card is not a studio. A ‘studio’ is a ‘system’ that incorporates acoustical spaces with audio recording equipment and all the support mechanisms that allow complicated systems to work together effortlessly with the musician(s). Does this describe your space accurately? If so, you have an enormous investment in both time and money! The fact is, when digital workstation technology was in it’s early stages, the allure to many was the dream of not needing a large studio anymore. That meant less space to lease, less investment for equipment and a lot more accuracy in both editing and recording. You could compete against “the big guys” with a lot less investment. I know because that’s how I started. You can do incredible work “in the box” given adequate support gear, talent and, drum roll please cause this is the big one, “time”.

But… the big records are still being made in real studios.

A real studio…

  • has been designed by a recognized studio designer
  • doesn’t let the noise you’re making out nor the outside noise in
  • you can record and mix with the air conditioning running and not hear it or record it
  • contains more gear than you need, all working and accessible
  • all gear is properly installed, grounded and balanced
  • usually has a large format console and extensive monitoring capability
  • the monitoring system costs way more than the DAW system
  • has a knowledgeable staff in many musical forms
  • a legal, licensed, tax paying business entity.


A project studio is…

  • a studio where the gear set-up is not flexible and usually permanently patched to accommodate one person’s style
  • the only acoustic treatment is surface mounted, off-the-shelf solutions, usually devised and implemented by the owner
  • no expense has been made to quiet the HVAC system, sometimes requiring a shut-down when recording with open mics
  • never quite has the gear you need
  • the owner is usually knowledgeable in one musical genre
  • “We don’t need no stinkin’ console”
  • the DAW is the most expensive system in the place
  • a mix of pro and semi-pro gear and usually a mix of pro and semi-pro levels
  • usually a sole proprietorship flying below the legal radar.

So, when deciding to book a “studio” to start or complete your project, analyze your needs carefully and book the appropriate space.

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