Teacher Hub

Building a recording studio – Equipment

Written by William Thompson17/08/23

Whether seen as a necessary part of the assessment process, or a facility that will help entice and keep students in the department, schools are increasingly investing in some sort of recording facility in their music departments.

While some excellent recording can be done with a laptop and interface, or a handheld digital recorder, a recording studio offers a number of different advantages:

  • It normally allows the recording and mixing to happen in a separate space from the performance, therefore giving a more accurate result
  • Equipment can be left set up permanently
  • A studio is usually a separate, lockable space, thus protecting expensive equipment
  • It can become a space in which individual – usually senior – pupils can work, away from the busyness of the department

By ‘recording studio’ we are really referring to the space that becomes a Control Room: that is, the room in which the recording equipment is housed, and which is usually separate from the rooms in which the performers are located.

If you are planning a studio from scratch, as you can imagine there are thousands of options in terms of specific products. What I’ll list here are the key types of equipment that you should consider. Of course, the budget will determine what is feasible, but this will hopefully give you a starting point for building your wish list.


While in the past standalone recording units were available (does anyone apart from me remember the Portastudio?), almost all studios today are built around a computer. For a variety of reasons this is normally an Apple Macintosh. We’ve assumed you will be using a computer for the basis of this article. The computer then will need to have:


A computer with audio recording software is often known as a DAW – a Digital Audio Workstation. Sometimes the term is used simply for the software. Options here include Logic (only for Macs), Cubase, Ableton, Studio One, Pro Tools and several others.


This is where it can get a little complicated. The minimum option here is to have an audio interface with a number of inputs into which microphones or instruments can be connected. These can have as few as 1 or 2 inputs (e.g. the Presonus AudioBox Go), or as many as (usually) 8 (e.g. Roland Octa-Capture). Additional sets of inputs can sometimes be added to the master interface to allow even more channels to be simultaneously recorded. However, most schools find that recording 8 channels at once is usually sufficient. Why this has become more complicated is because several manufacturers now offer the function of an audio interface, but in a digital mixer. These can have many more than 8 inputs, and also provide very useful additional functions in a format that is easily understood and controlled. The PreSonus range of StudioLive desks are an example of this, though excellent models are also available from Allen & Heath, Midas, Yamaha and others.


These speakers, which normally have their own amplifiers built in, provide the sound for the person who is recording or mixing. They tend to be quite different from speakers used for either classroom listening or those used as part of a PA system, as the sound they produce is designed to be tonally ‘flat’ – so that what is being mixed is as accurate as possible. Good options here are those manufactured by Yamaha (HS7), Mackie and Genelec.


Obviously in order to record ‘live’ sounds, such as voice or acoustic instruments, some microphones are required. A range of different types will probably be necessary. As a suggested minimum - some for drums (e.g. AKG Drum Session 1), one for solo vocal recording (e.g. Sontronics STC3X), and a pair of condenser microphones (e.g. Rode M5 matched pair) for recording ensembles in stereo.

Cables and Stands

These shouldn’t be forgotten about, and shouldn’t be scrimped on either. Good quality cables will ensure the best sound quality from your microphone gets into the computer. And better mic stands will last longer in the school environment.

Acoustic treatment

Even a little attention given to the acoustics in the Control Room can have a major impact on how pleasant it is to work in that space, and more importantly can help ensure that the final mixes are as accurate as possible. If you are mixing in a room that resonates with low frequencies, you will tend to reduce these in the mix – only to find that when that mix is played elsewhere, it sounds thin and lacks good, foundational bass tones.

Finally, you may also need some specialist audio cabling in order to connect the Control Room to the performance area (which will hopefully be in a different, but adjacent, room). While this used to be in the form of audio multicore cabling, nowadays most recording signals can be sent via network cable – though it is recommended that the cables used are not actually part of your school computer network, but installed separately and only for the recording system.

In separate articles we’ll example some of these things in more detail, such as acoustics and microphone choice.

If you’d like some specific advice on a project for your school, please do get in contact with me (william.thompson@chamberlainmusic.com) or our sales team. We’d love to help you find the most appropriate solution for your school.