Why location recording? The importance of space.

by Nikolay Georgiev on October 8, 2010

Why location recording?

The importance of space

The tracking space often has an immense sonic impact on the sound of the performed instrument. Check out the hand clap samples below on this page. The main difference between those is the room in which they have been recorded.

Obviously if you are after a recording of your concert this question is irrelevant – location recording is the only way for you to do it. But what if you just want to record your classical, jazz or acoustic performance? And what about modern productions which rely mostly on electronic or amplified electric instruments?

Classical and all acoustic music

There is a very simple reason why classical music recorded in the typical low or mid-budget commercial studio wouldn’t excel sonically and musically. Among the many other essentials which such studios usually lack, they almost never have a spacious, well sounding and adequately reverberant live room. Such halls are not cheap to build and require huge amounts of studio space. Superior studios which can offer great acoustics – and all other musts for a superior recording – are most often very expensive. These are usually used for film music or big orchestra recordings, but are rarely affordable for an independent artist.

The importance of space

So let’s assume for a moment that the mid-budget studio which you have chosen has a knowledgeable and experienced engineer and he will take all the best decisions required and record your music with the best for the purpose equipment. In such case the final result will without a doubt be a good one. Still, you will never have that amazing sound which you have heard on your favourite records.

Do you know why?

Every acoustic instrument as a whole needs some space to develop naturally its sound. Those who have performed in a proper concert hall know very well how the natural reverberation of the place, and it’s unique character, become an undivided part of the musical performance. The room changes the natural sustain of the instrument, its timbre and colour, dynamics, the performer’s expression and interpretation. The instrument and the room are one.

Here are 16 samples of myself clapping with hands in a variety of spaces. Notice how different those are not only in terms of reverberation length. The room changes the clap timbre too. All those hand clap samples and more are available for Free Download as 24bit WAV files. Please visit the Free Download Page.

Hand Clap Spaces

From top to bottom: 1) Sample N5 - Huge Empty Hall (carpeted on the photo), 2) Sample N1 - The Crypt of St Mary, 3) Sample N3 - The Cave-Tunnel Near Erma River, Bulgaria

In the Crypt of St Mary Church – London

Very Narrow Corridor

The Stone Tunnel – Cave near Erma River – Bulgaria

Inside a Washing Machine

A Huge Empty Hall with a Wooden Floor

Duke’s Hall – Royal Academy of Music – London

Under a Bring along Regents Canal in Camden Town

Sofia – Bulgaria – Borisovata Gradina Park – Among Trees

Regents Park – London – Open Field


The disadvantages of the budget studio.

The Flutter Echo Stairway - Listen to The Hand Clap Samples AboveMany people try to solve this problem by simply recording their music in an acoustically dead room. Later in an attempt to fix the problem, they use tons of artificial reverberation. Apart from the inevitable sonic compromise of substituting the endless richness of a real space with artificial, this method introduces many other problems.

• Inappropriate recording atmosphere and worse performance. Imagine yourself performing in the dead room of a studio where the sound of your instrument dies at the very moment it was born. For pop or rock music this could be fine, but for the classical performer this could turn into a real nightmare. Well, you can hear that artificial reverb “in the cans”: simply put on the headphones and forget about the real thing!

• Room on room sound. No matter how acoustically dead the studio is, unless the engineer have placed the microphones very close to the instruments, they have surly picked up the general character of the room. In this case the result will surly lack the wholeness of the instrument and you will be left only with a fraction of it. In the other, by putting artificial verb on your instrument, you are placing it in not one but two rooms at the same time! Despite the fact that for pop productions this is the most commonly used method, just how natural and convincing would it be applied to an orchestra?

Furthermore, most often such studios lack the appropriate for the task equipment and their engineers are rarely well prepared. Yes, they might be good at recording material for a typical pop or rock production, but classical music is something else.

The alternative and the benefits of a good space.

I can give to your project something special: a real space and liveliness to your music.

• Better sounding more natural and musical results than any studio recording. No reverb can simulate the sound of a real room.

• Much better quality of production to price ratio. I can help you to get that amazing sound on affordable price in contrast to any good for the purpose studio.

• Better atmosphere means better performance.

Space and modern productions.

Classical music is not the only one which would benefit from capturing the acoustics of a good real space. Just think of all the sonically excellent high budget productions of the past. Most of those have been tracked in some of the greatest studios around the world. Almost all said above is equally valid for any kind of recording. This indeed is one of the main limitations nowadays of the typical project studio – even if it has access to high quality affordable gear, acoustically it often sounds small and cheap. Instruments like drums, percussion, piano, even electric guitar or vocals – they will always sound best if are surrounded by the magical aura of good acoustics.

• Hear samples of such recordings

• Read my articles on re-amping.

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