Even Frank Sinatra Recorded In Awkward Places

2013 Sep 13, 2013

I think many home studio owners get caught up in the fact that they have to record and mix in a non ideal space. They believe that it is a huge limitation, whether they admit it or not. I can understand the thinking. When compared to a million dollar commercial facility your spare bedroom isn’t designed for the same purpose.

But take it from someone who has recorded in a wide range of random places both in and out of studios, you’re not as limited as you think.


Via Randy OHC Flickr

The Awkward Capitol Studios

One of my TRR readers recently reminded me of a great article in Sound On Sound magazine last December featuring the behind the scenes look at the tracking of Frank Sinatra’s ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ with engineer John Palladino. One section in the middle of the article is particularly relevant to many of us. Listen to the words Palladino uses and see if it doesn’t sound like what we deal with on a daily basis.

Studio A was a very awkward place to record. The stage didn’t provide us with enough space for a lot of our setups, but we eventually learned how to use it, taking advantage of the size of the rest of the room to get the right sound.

In those days, it was pretty hard for someone to design a studio and be sure he’d done it right, so the record companies would often just find a hall, a church or some other big old place that they’d then try to adapt to their needs. That happened a lot on the East Coast, and in this case it also happened in LA. – John Palladino (Engineer)

Adaptability Is Paramount

We can take a lot away from Palladino’s statement above. The biggest thing would be the importance of adaptability in any recording environment. Just like with a home or project studio, in the 1950s engineers and producers still had to work with what they had in terms of recording space and “learn how to use it.”

It’s far too easy of an excuse to blame your unsatisfactory recordings on your tracking space. If you instead put your energy and focus on how to get the most out of your “awkward” space or how to find a temporary better room, then you’ll get farther.

Simply Solving Puzzles

So much in life is about perspective. There is great freedom in the home studio the moment you stop looking at all the “disadvantages” you have and instead consider them simply puzzles that need solving. If you have this mindset then no tracking or mixing session will every catch you off guard. You’ll expect to show up and have new puzzles to solve and you’ll be chomping at the bit to solve them.

For many of us, one big puzzle is the recording space. I’ve written before about how to best maximize even the worst tracking space (like my first project studio next to the highway). Stop looking at your room as a drawback and instead see it as a challenge. How can you get the most out of it? How can you learn it better?

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