I’ve built a Studio…. Am I mad? Absolutely!!!

The term ‘studio’ is a fairly common word in the musical world. Most working musicians will have some form of ‘studio’ or rehearsal space at their house. There are fantastic products widely available to buy with great results. Ranging from simple foam, through to diaphragmatic bass traps and full-room acoustic solutions. With a small budget and a bit of imagination, you can turn small spaces in to great functioning rooms that allow a good environment to hear your music. The complications come when you decide to scale up and build a space for commercial use. Trust me when I say that this is not for the faint hearted.

A common misconception is that all you need to do is build 2 walls (the room within a room idea), chuck a load of Rockwall in the cavities, bish bash bosh you have a studio, this is most certainly a misconception. I realised this and decided to use a studio design and build company through recommendation. Their website looked impressive, and when they came for the first site visit they were armed with professional brochures and pictures of rooms they had worked on, but that is as far as their expertise went. The realisation that they didn’t have the expected expertise came once the studio was complete. Without going into detail, the result of this build was watching a JCB smash its way through the back wall of my studio and take me back to where I was 12 months earlier with an open space and no studio. OUCH! All major businesses like these will carry insurance right? WRONG!!

The logical solution would be to walk away Right? I guess not. Not wanting my dream to end because of someone else’s incompetence fuelled me to go for it a 2nd time and really make sure that we could create something truly special. A big concern was the pressure it would put on my other business and also the general pressure of a legal process running in the background against the initial designers. Some may call me mad for trying again, but the 2nd attempt went a lot smoother and I can assure you that this one actually works, really works!!!! One lesson I did learn however is to do due diligence before embarking on such a project.

With a background in the form of a classically trained Percussionist, I have spent most of my adult life working right in the heart of the UK Music Industry. With this career comes a collection of percussion instruments that has grown exponentially over the years resulting in the need for a bigger and bigger space to store my instruments. Self-Storage companies are a great way of finding space to keep instruments but when you start looking for space north of 1000 sq. foot, this suddenly becomes fairly uneconomical. I needed a commercial space in London but with real estate being like gold dust in the city, there was no way I could ever afford something that would be practical let alone available. What already existed was hugely expensive, and massively limited by size restrictions, noise limitations, lack of parking, congestion charge and in a few months a beautiful thing called ULEZ.

I found my little haven on the outskirts of south London in a town called Redhill, a 13 x 13 metre space with 8 metres of height unlike a lot of commercial studios in London which have to fit into pre existing spaces. Its always good to have something different so our control room has a comfy wrap-around feel to it and makes use of slate on our monitor walls and also on the back wall of our 5 metre high live room; bringing the outside in. One of our quirkier rooms however disguises itself as a spiral staircase which leads to our kitchen and lounge. This 6 meter stairwell however happens to have tie-lines at the top and bottom of the stairs, and has been rigged as a Reverb Chamber on the majority of projects so far.

At a time when studios are closing left right and centre, why on earth would I build a studio? the clues in the title. The disasters of the first studio allowed a fresh head to really think about what I wanted to get out of the space. Yes it needs to function and have all the right gear and acoustics, but above all it needs to be a space that allows for true creativity and for the artist to be at one with their music. A space that feels truly special yet completely timeless.

For us it’s the little things that help to build credibility with an artist. With limited budgets, sessions can often feel rushed and the artist under pressure to be creative. Spending time with clients at the start of the day over a freshly brewed coffee and talking about their favourite music and inspirations helps build confidence so they feel safe and comfortable enough to experiment without feeling self conscious. When the artist feels as if they are in their own home, they will try out new things and that is when the magic happens and you get a great performance. And don’t think for a second that it’s not appreciated by the artist! Going that extra mile is a simple way to stand out when studios are competing in this closely knit industry. But, don’t forget to sort the business first. Get process and contracts sorted before the session so everyone knows where they stand, this will make the whole project more relaxed.

Obviously we are trying to take a slice of the same cake that everyone else is going after when trying to make a studio work in the current climate, but when we do have ‘down time’ we are far from quiet. It’s important to be adaptable for example several albums for major library companies have already been written and recorded at the studio and we also spend a lot of time creating our own ‘original’ music. We find our clientele are mainly drums and rock and roll, this is probably because the sound of drums in our live room is truly special.

So, if your planning to build your own studio perhaps don’t start out as I did and ensure that the people you hire do actually have the expertise, experience and completely understand what you are trying to do. Obviously there are elements that you can do yourself and if it goes wrong then you only have yourself to blame but to make it work in the industry its important to provide a creative space that offers flexibility and a great place to play.

Edward Scull
Rosewood Music www.rosewoodmusic.co.uk