Monday, May 8, 2017


by Mark King for

This article is intended to give recording artists an overview of the recording studio process. These steps are common in any recording studio.


This is the time we spend placing the artists and their equipment in the studio. We need to get instrument amplifiers in position and put microphones in front of them. After all the equipment is in position we need to route the microphones into the multitrack recorder and set the proper levels with the artists playing together. 

Proworkshop minimizes set up time by using a digital mixing console that is capable of taking a snapshot of every parameter and storing it for recall. We have several “presets” we’ve created that help reduce set up time, these are stored in the digital mixer and are recallable instantly.


At Proworkshop we like to isolate everything as much as possible. This gives us the broadest opportunity to capture, correct and shape the details of each recording and make them sound the best they possibly can. We have two isolation rooms for keyboard and guitar amps. 

Our studio drum set is in a room of its own, far away from the guitar and keyboard amplifier rooms. The drum room has been treated with acoustic treatment to enhance the natural sound of the drum set. 

The sound of the drums are picked up by a collection of custom built large diaphragm condenser microphones which have been carefully placed to minimize phase cancellation and maximize tone.

To hear all these isolated remote sounds we use a headphone system that lets each musician easily adjust all the volumes they're hearing. Things like drums, bass, guitars and vocals can all be easily balanced together in each musicians headphones so it sounds and feels like you're playing together live. This is really important in getting a good "feel" recorded.


The Proworkshop studio provides a 16-channel headphone system that allows each musician to fine-tune their own headphone mix to listen to while recording. The artist can select individual tracks and raise or lower the volume in their personal headphone mix. This is one of the best things about modern recording equipment, it gives artists absolute creative control on a personal level. 


The first step in any recording is to capture the basic tracks for a song in to the multitrack recorder. This varies by the artist and group size but invariably “Tracking” is the first step. 

If the band has a live drummer his parts will be recorded in the first tracking sessions. The drums must be right, if they don’t groove or sound correct from the start of the recording process then none of the other tracks will sound right either. 

It’s rare that a drummer can replace drum tracks with the right feel, this is why they must be captured correctly in the first tracking session, everybody else will play along with these tracks when their parts get recorded. 

Even Stewert Copeland, arguably one of the world’s best studio drummers says “I will have to live with the drum track I lay down at the beginning of the process, it’s got to be right”.

Well rehearsed bands may track everything at once, drums, bass, guitars, keyboards and vocals, you can certainly lay it all down at once if you want to. In the Proworkshop studio we can record 32-individual tracks simultaneously and have an unlimited number of tracks available for overdubs and mixdown. 

Depending on the group you might consider laying down the drums, bass and guitar as basic tracks, then come back and record vocals and lead solos in separate passes called overdubs. This process gives you the most opportunity to capture the very best solo performances.


After the basic tracks have been recorded it’s common practice to record lead instruments and lead vocals in separate recordings called “takes” or “Overdubs”. 

The recording artist may listen through headphones or we can put the backing tracks up on the big speakers in the control room and you can record along with them without headphones. Having the guitar and keyboard amps isolated in the back rooms of the studio means the sound you’re hearing in the main studio won’t bleed over to the microphones and get recorded on your lead track. 


After all the artist’s tracks have been captured and recorded it is time to combine all these elements together to make a stereo mix, not surprisingly this stage of the process is referred to as “Mixing”. 

Mixing is the step where the magic happens. Reverberation, echo and modulation effects can be blended and added to the artist’s tracks to enhance the overall performance. Compressors are used to bring soft sounds up and hold loud things down. Tone is adjusted using equalizers. Drum tracks get adjusted so they are not too loud or too soft.

Special monitor speakers are used to listen to the various tracks, these are extremely accurate so the engineer can place all the tracks in the right place volume wise. Mixing takes years of experience to achieve truly smooth and professional outcomes. 


Mastering is one of the final steps in making a finished recording, whether it is a single song or an album of songs. The “Master” is used to make duplicates on CD or files created to place on Internet playback sites. This can be done as a completely separate step, done as we mix your master’s or you can take your tracks to a third party professional mastering house. 


These are two names for the same thing, making CD copies; but they’re accomplished using completely different processes. 

Duplication is the process used to make larger orders of commercial CD copies. These are stamped out with special machines in clean-rooms, this process is typically used for CD runs of 1000 discs or more. 

Replication is the process of using recordable CD blank material to make copies. These look and feel like regular commercial compact discs. Replication is typically used for smaller CD runs of 5-100 (and more) discs. 

Replication and Duplication result in the same thing, a 16-bit/44.1k compact disc that plays in any standard CD player. 

Up until the last five years Duplication was capable of creating more reliable performing CD’s with fewer errors. These discs played back more reliably in older CD players. 

In more recent times CD replication has become much better and can match the performance of duplicated CDs provided high-quality recordable media is used in the process. 


“Reamping” is a process that allows an electric guitar track to be enhanced or completely replaced after the recording session with the group has ended. 

During the “tracking” process a very special high quality direct box is inserted in the guitar cord between the artist’s guitar and amplifier. The amplifier is just there for the artist to hear his or her performance, the actual guitar performance is recorded directly from the D.I. box into the recorder, completely dry and pristine, no distortion or effects are recorded at this time.

After the recording session is over the engineer plays the guitar performance track data through a small box called “Reamp”, this box converts the line level recorded data track into a guitar signal which can be run through one or multiple guitar amplifiers and recorded on one or more tracks. In this way completely new guitar tracks can be fabricated. Guitar can be reamped through several different amplifiers to achieve different effects ranging from clean to distortion. Putting an electric guitar through the Leslie 147 rotating speaker can add unique movement and sound that can’t be achieved any other way. 

A single guitar track may be reamped on to two tracks (or more), then panned left and right, this helps get the guitar out of the center of the mix and makes more room for the lead vocal to shine through. By using slightly different guitar amps and settings, doubled guitar sounds can be created that have greater punch and phase coherence than trying to play the exact same part twice. Reamping can create very powerful sounding rhythm tracks. 

Reamping allows the recording engineer to focus on capturing your best musical performance during the tracking phase, and then focus on creating the best guitar tone after the tracking step. 


Over the last 30 years many recording and mixing options have become available to studios, the biggest of which are the invention and adoption of computers to replace tape recorders. 

In smaller studios it is common to use ITB (In The Box) mixing (Box refers to the PC hosting the recording software). This process uses a computer running recording software to record the tracks and then mix them using an on-screen virtual mixer and software signal processors called plugins. This style of mixing requires much less equipment and wiring and is generally much lower cost to implement than the traditional style of studio mixing using a large mixing console, patchbay and effects hardware. 

The Proworkshop studio uses a hybrid approach, we record with a digital mixer and mix through a custom built mixing console using Soundcraft and Neve components. This style of OTB (Outside The Box) mixing requires a lot of wiring and hardware but is capable of much better sound. Great results can be achieved much faster because hardware processors can remain plugged in to standard locations. 

The OTB hybrid approach gives us excellent EQ on every mixer channel; premium hardware signal processing may be inserted on to any track and the eight-aux sends quickly allow effects to be blended with the recorded tracks. The Proworkshop patch bay has over 1400 points so we can quickly build up custom hardware processing for any track. 

"Outside The Box" offers all the same options as ITB but adds all the versatility of a hardware mixing console with EQ on every channel and classic studio hardware signal processors. 


Not every listener is hearing through a $20,000 stereo system so at Proworkshop we utilize several different sets of speakers to test your mix on. This is important and gives you a good sonic overview of how your recording will sound on a variety of consumer stereos and playback mediums. Getting the balance of tones just right will have your recording sounding as good as it can on the widest variety of playback systems. We check your mix on six different playback systems, three different headphone systems and playback from smartphone to be sure you sound the best possible through all these mediums.


Protools is a brand of software made by a company called Avid. Avid bought Protools when it was known as Protools by Digidesign. Since then Avid and Protools have had many ups and downs, development of Protools has moved out of California to India. 

Proworkshop was an early adopter of Digidesign studio products in the late 90's but experience led us to explore other hardware and software options to achieve much better sound quality and more creative options. 

Logic is a multitrack software package that Apple Computers acquired from a German company called Emagic. Logic allowed the use of digital audio converters which were much better sounding than the hardware offered by Digidesign. 

After jettisoning Protools and Digidesign hardware we switched to Apogee hardware, this resulted in greatly improved quality. Avid and Protools were dragged kicking and screaming to provide compatibility with industry standard hardware. Prior to that policy shift around 2009 Digidesign software was only compatible with Digidesign hardware which was inferior sounding to offerings by Apogee and Antelope. Today it is common practice for DAW recording software to work all across various brands of hardware. Avid, the company has been unable to recapture the innovation they once owned and this has resulted in the company melting away to about 10% of its former self.

It does not matter sound-wise what platform you record on or mix on. We like Logic because of the sound, features and integration with Apogee audio hardware and Apple computers. Tracks you record at Proworkshop can be taken to any studio running any software, the digital audio files are universal. 

Proworkshop can output audio recordings that will work on any multitrack DAW including Protools, Sonar, Cubase, Traction, Studio One, Mixbus, Reaper and Nuendo (and others) on Mac or PC. We use international standards which work across all digital audio platforms so it really depends on what format you want to work in.  


At Proworkshop our focus is recording and mixing the finest audio we possibly can. We don't offer equipment rental, concert sound, video production services, graphic arts, free web sites or other sidelines or gimmicks to distract us away from our core competency and hardware driven approach. Experience has taught us that just like being a good musician requires specialization, so does producing the best sounding recordings. 

We have chosen to specialize in creating the finest audio possible utilizing equipment and techniques that smaller, lessor equipped studios can't match with software only solutions. We've got over 50 years of experience and a client list that includes Fortune 50 clients as well as hundreds of bands from all skill levels. We love the work we're doing and the people we're working with.


If you still have questions before your recording date at Proworkshop you can contact us and discuss it with our recording engineer. He will be happy to answer your questions and explain things in more detail. 

You can find our contact information and a lot more information about our studio at

Good music and happy recording to you!