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Hey guys!

Quick question for y'all. (That's southern for "Yous Guys" or "You All" or "You.")

I'm still trying to build my new facility, but I'm trying to figure out the minimum dimensions for a tracking room capable of recording a standard symphony sized orchestra. Does anyone have any advice with good back-up?

And, before anyone launches into - "You can't get a good recording of an orchestra in a studio...blah, blah, blah..." I understand the potential limitations and am willing to work within them since most of the halls within 50 miles of me suck A$$.




anonymous Tue, 06/21/2005 - 06:28

Hi Jeremy,

First, I'm of opinion, you can make a fantastic recording of orchestra
in studio. Check out soundtracks of Gladiator (H. Zimmer) and Lord
of the Ring (H. Shore). I think, the quality of production is quite
The LOTR sountrack was made in Abbey Road stidios in London .
If you check out additional material on one of DVDs (can't
remember which one), you'll have an exelent idea of tracking
room size and more beside.


FifthCircle Tue, 06/21/2005 - 07:24


Part of what makes an orchestra sound like an orchestra is the ability to fill a space. I would say probably no smaller than 35 by 50 feet. Even then, something of that size would only fit a small to moderate sized orchestra. The Acoustical considerations are also important so you'd be talking a big chunk of change to get it right.

Even with film scores where you have large quantities of microphones out, unless the room is first rate, the orchestra just doesn't sound right. The big scores are recorded in HUGE rooms that are very good acoustically. Here in LA, it means rooms where the building budget was in the millions. Add to that a great orchestra and great gear and you get that big lush "hollywood" sound.


Cucco Tue, 06/21/2005 - 08:00

Hey Ben.

I'm glad to hear you throw out numbers like that. I was thinking on the magnitude of roughly 35 by 50 to begin with (I had a private chat regarding this with Costy the other day. It's funny, you threw out the exact number we were discussing.) The price won't change much by me adding a few feet in one direction if I need to.

The stuff that I'm working around in my head are-

*18 foot or higher ceilings with 2' x 4' custom curved wood panels suspended at various heights (specific locations too.)
*12 foot high curved wood panels surrounding the back and side walls. Each panel on a track that allows 18 inches of front to back movement thus being able to tune the room
* Appropriate levels of absorption on the front wall. Most likely working with the material -> cavity -> wall approach maximizing the absorption of the foam and really tackling some of the low-end problems inherint in many of these rooms.
*Hardwood floor built on a 2x4 subfloor using U-boats underneath to assist in floor-bound vibrations.

The room would not be perfectly rectagular - it would likely have the back corners made into storage closets for chairs, stands, etc. And of course, the exterior of the "closets" would be treated with alternating absorption and diffusion.

My main goals are:
* Be able to get a great sound with a 35 piece chamber orchestra
* Get a decent sound with a full orchestra or concert band
* Get a great sound with 50 piece or larger chorus
*Get an excellent piano sound
* Be able to track all types of different groups ranging from baroque chamber to modern punk.

I'm just drawing up the plans as we speak so that I can get them to the builder for pricing and blue-prints.



ptr Tue, 06/21/2005 - 09:02


35X50' would make a pretty good sice for a up to 35 person unit, for anything bigger quite to small : 50' by 75' like Abby Road would be more serious if its within Your budget. The only problem I forsee is that I think You're underestimating the ceiling hight.

I discussed the theory of a slightly smaller room with a local Acoustician and in his experience the biggest problem he encountered when beeing hired to redo studio rooms, was the fact that people had given appropriate ceiling hight to little thought.

His estimation was that You should alow for a hight never less than 2/3'rds of the room width. If it was myself building, I'd alow for a height of atleast 40' -- I belive that curved ceiling panels would be esential, why not plan for a type that are height adjustable.. (Hey, I'm dreaming!!)..

I also agree that You should avoid a completely square (rectangular) room, I'd probably make end slightly (6-8') narower and slightly lower ceiling height..

One last thought; if I was to build a large studio like this I'd allow for a the possibility of beeing able to use the room for concerts (Have You polled the local concert market for the need of a good chamber room?)

some ramblings..


0VU Tue, 06/21/2005 - 09:58

There's a room in London that's used quite a bit for chamber music recording, upto about 30 players or so which might be along the lines you're thinking of. It's the home of the London Festival Orchestra; some info can be found at Sadly, there are no really helpful pics on the site but if anyone's interested I could look out some that I took on past sessions there.
The main room is about 60x30x30, wood floor, three plaster walls, the other (left hand side) has tall triple glazed windows in it virtually floor to ceiling and a shallow balcony/walkway (about 8') about 12-15' up, from the rear to about 15-20ft from the front wall. Ceiling is an apex with skylights and huge exposed pine beams. They've added a load (about 30%wall coverage) of RPG Abffuser type panels and several (four or six, I can't remember) RPG Skyline panels (each about 12x8) flown at about 25'ish. There's also a bunch of mobile screens (?gobos) about 4x8 and 6x12 with absorbers on one side and diffusers on the other. Ventilation is via silent extractor fans in the roof and full aircon which is just about quiet enough to record with - though it depends upon how noisy the music is.

My impression of the room on sessions there is that it's just about big enough for a small chamber orchestra. I had to do a load of sessions there on a chamber orchestra of about 36 players and it could be hard work to get a sound that didn't have the room's signature stamped all over it, particularly if there was any percussion in the orchestra. (I turned down the "opportunity" to record Carmina Burana, Messiah, and Faure Requiem in there!) String quartets and voice/piano are much easier. However, even with the acoustic treatment, the large flat, hardish surfaces are inclined to give a rather strong colouration via reflections that can only partly be fixed with the screens on any reasonably ambient micing. Omni mics don't help matters!. The sound also tends toward brightness but not unacceptably so. I find it quite hard work to get a smooth sound on choral music, especially anything more than about 20 voices, without it sounding too close or too live (with early reflections rather than reverberation).

The ceiling height, (about 20'odd at the eves and 30 at the peak) is imo only just about enough for smaller ensembles. Before they fitted the Skyline diffusers, the reflection patterns were rather too close and simple, causing colouration on anything other than quite close micing. Since the diffusers went in there's a bit more freedom of movement. and a more even and denser reverb decay on smaller ensembles. Some kind of acoustic tree as you're discussing would probably be a big help in there!

I'd say that for a full sized symphony orchestra, of say about 65+ players, a room about two and a half to three or more times the volume of the Warehouse is a good starting place. Some of my favourite venues for Symphonic work are BBC Maida Vale Studio 1 (756m sq), Henry Wood Hall (660m sq), and Watford Coliseum (905m sq). Any of these is much bigger in area than Shabbey Road 1, and none has a ceiling height of less than 10m (Watford is probably about 20m!). That extra volume of air makes a huge difference. I haven't yet recorded anything large in the new LSO space at [[url=http://[/URL]="…"]St Lukes[/]="…"]St Lukes[/] but it's about 400m sq and sounds fantastic on a 30 piece orchestra!

Anyway, good luck with your room, it's great to hear that someone is actually doing something positive in the classical industry at the moment. Things generally are a bit quiet/down in the UK recording market.

Cucco Tue, 06/21/2005 - 10:29

Hey guys - thanks for the input!

Yeah, I don't imagine I'll get great sounds from larger orchestras in that size of studio - but, in this area, there aren't "great" orchestras. The truly great ones (National Symphony, Baltimore Symphony) and the really good ones (Alexandria Symphony, National Philharmonic, Richmond Symphony, Fairfax Symphony) all have their own concert halls and thus a studio to supercede those halls would be silly. That's why I'm looking at staying on the small side.

I would be willing to record Brass/Woodwind quintets, the small chamber orchestra of which I'm a member and some choral stuff. Of course, solo piano and small accompanied solo literature would be on the billet too.

I also want to get back into recording small rock groups, jazz bands/combos, acoustic stuff and so on. Not that I got into this biz for the money, but there's more money to be made doing all that plus classical rather than just classical.

Oh, and PTR, a couple things. Yeah, the intent is to have the ceiling panels moveable. All it takes is a pully system that will set me back all of around $800 or so. Also, yes I've very seriously considering concerts in the venue. Of course, they would be more "intimate" concerts, but I would have bands (or small ensembles) perform and charge a nominal admission fee of which the ensemble keeps some and I keep some. It's just another way to keep money flowing in.

Don't worry, I've already taken into consideration all of the angles of the concert thing - rowdy attendees, insurance, problems with broken gear, etc.



ptr Tue, 06/21/2005 - 12:15

Costy wrote:

I belive that curved ceiling panels would be esential, why not plan for a type that are height adjustable.. (Hey, I'm dreaming!!).. - ptr

Wake up, it's called acoustic tree and it's quite real thing. Some
modern studios have it.

I'd say that My dreams are more of a finacial then a technological art.. I rearly work in studios, but stiil several of the concert halls I work reglarly in have such devices, amply called what ever..

One of the acuatically best halls locally have a system that is hand crancked, and it's a bitch to work..


ptr Tue, 06/21/2005 - 12:21

Cucco wrote: Don't worry, I've already taken into consideration all of the angles of the concert thing - rowdy attendees, insurance, problems with broken gear, etc.

That's good.. I'm certainly impressed that someone would take a plunge into a big thing like this..

I for one will be very interested to follow this venture!


Cucco Wed, 06/22/2005 - 10:04

FifthCircle wrote: Sorry to be getting back in late, but I would tend to agree with the posts saying that 12 feet is way too low of a ceilng. Even for a drum room, it is borderline. For acoustic stuff, I'd want at least 20 feet tall and for larger groups, more...


12 Feet?? I never said 12 foot ceilings. At a minimum, I'll be using 18 feet, but more likely 24 foot ceilings. There are code restrictions in the area that I'll be building that prohibit much higher than that. (close to a municipal airport).

The tuning panels on the outside of the room will be 12 feet in height, perhaps that's where 12 feet came from??



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