3 Reasons Why Studio Recordings Sound different from Live Music Recordings

Have you ever wondered why most songs recorded in the studio and those on live events sound so different?

I have… so many times and it always gave me some cause for concern

Take for example, rock and pop music when recorded live sounds a whole lot different than when it is recorded in a home studio

So i decided to do some research and see why

In this article, I will be reporting back on my recent findings on why music recorded in the studio sounds so much different than those recorded live

Alright so here are some of my findings

1. The size of the recording room

Why Studio Recordings Sound different from Live Music Recordings

Firstly recording studios usually have a very large recording room, separate isolated rooms and then a separate room for the recording engineer and sound equipment

So what does this mean?

These rooms are well designed and treated with acoustics in mind\

These acoustics help to reduce all external sounds and causes the sounds to be free from any external distractions

So any audio issues are usually dealt with by these walls

Once these rooms are closed off and recording is going on, you will not be able to hear any sounds coming from outside

As a result the sounds are much cleaner and crisp than when recording live that has lots of background noise and interference

This is what is known as recording in a controlled environment

These controlled environment allows for easier mixing, editing and overdubbing

By recording in a controlled environment, you won’t get any coughing, foot noise, street car noise or bird chirps bleeding into your tracks

But when you listen to live recordings, most times you hear a lot of background noises

One time, while listening to a song recorded live, we heard drilling noise from construction work across the street

So all these background noises all contribute in making music from live recording not as clean and clear as studio recording sounds

2. The recording process

The next major factor that affects the way live music and recorded music sounds is in the recording process

When it comes to studio recording, the musicians usually have and use state of the art equipment

Recorded music is massively edited, tweaked and perfected in various ways. Studio engineers spend hours and hours mixing the individual tracks to make sure it comes out fine

Also the band may not have even had the opportunity to play together, but when they come to the studio, each person can individually record his own tracks and then the entire thing is mixed and joined together to make a full track

One way to think about it is comparing theater and films

Actors on stage perform the entire piece from beginning to end, day after day. They know their lines like the back of their hands

Film actors on the other hand do scenes that might run a few minutes. Most films are usually shot out of sequence in different locations and just come together during the editing phase.

Also during the mixing stage, there is a lot of digital adjustments taking place

Like I said earlier, studio engineers take hours to completely mix a track.

During this process there is a lot of external tweaking and perfection that goes into trying to make the audio sound clean

So what you are hearing with live songs is rarely the “true” sound of the musicians

But when listening to live recording, that has really not been touched like the others, you get to hear the true live sound of the musicians

Live performances can be augmented with samples and pitch corrected auto tune vocals.

The rhythm section might have a needed click clack in their ears so they stay on track and on the right tempo

Still you hear a complete beginning to end performance at the concert. Most times the song might not be great or even perfect, but there is this connection between the band and the audience

It’s one thing to listen to an audio raw as it is from the musician and it’s a completely different thing to listen to an audio file that has been tweaked and fine tuned almost to a fault

How Live Sound can learn from studio sounds

Finally I want to say that the audience today have come to expect clean and better sounding music

And unfortunately live sound is lacking in that area

There are so many important things that are being done in the studio that helps make the sound better and richer

So here are some tips to help musicians move from the live sound to recording in the studio

1. Warm up properly

These days studio charge by the hour and it can be very expensive

So its best to make sure you warm up properly before getting into the studio. Because once you get in, your time starts to count

Also make sure you are prepared on how you are going to approach the song

What this boils down to is that you want to have rehearsed the song so many times that it’s second nature to you

What remains is to enter the booth and deliver a stellar performance

2. Record, record and record some more

One mistake I see most artists, especially those that have been used to recording live is that they drop one take and they are done

What you want to do is to record as many takes as possible

Try and capture everything as much as you can

Leave it all for the audio engineer to rearrange and remove those he does not need

You have no idea which take might sound better to you after a while

Another thing is you want to keep cool and have fun

If you find out you are getting frustrated or emotional because you are not hitting the right notes or your voice is sounding flat, then take a break

Take some time to clear your head and come back fresh

This will ensure that your creativity is still on point. And not just you recording because you have to finish a session.

3. Learn to be emotional

One thing most artists that record live do very well is that they know how to bring that energy and use it to work the crowd

But when it comes to recording in the studio, that energy suddenly disappears

This can be due to the lack of atmosphere, people and confined space

So to avoid your lyrics coming across as bland and without any life you want to add some emotions into your lyrics

4. Finally you want to manage the microphone

Singers with experience behind a mic know how to handle one

They know where and how to move their head to create different sounds and volumes

So for instance, they know that moving closer to the mic creates a softer sound and as they move farther away they can manipulate the volume of their vocals.

Doing so reduces the amount of compression and EQing needed in the mixing stage later

Also singing into a mic during recording in the studio and on a live stage is quite different

So you have to know the positioning, the distance and the angle of the mic to get the right sound

Written by Uche Ibe

Uche Ibe is a passionate Singer, Studio Engineer and Blogger. I enjoy teaching people how to sing and helping them become better singers. When I am not singing, you can catch me at the Tennis court.

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