A recording studio renaissance is underway in the Scenic City
There is truly no need to go to Nashville, or anywhere else, to record music—the industry is alive and well right here in Chattanooga. Our local studios offer a wide variety of services that can suit the needs of any recording artist, from amateur to professional, and they are all thriving from a bounty of indigenous talent. Usher is the tip of an iceberg of brilliant musicians in the area, and many of them are turning to studios to immortalize their music.
One of the newest studios, Soundscapes opened about a year and half ago. Robbie Bivin spent over two years crafting the space, incorporating some innovative construction.
“Something that we have been working on with our studio is getting the sound right in our environment,” Sound engineer Mitch Wood says, explaining the process of “tuning” a room. “When the construction first started, I did the math, found my standing waves, and designed a diffuser that would tune some of the low mids out of our room.”
A standing wave happens in any rectangular room. This is when a sonic reflection is on the same path as the first path of the frequency. When this happens, a dB boost of that frequency occurs. Soundscape’s diffuser is built into an entire wall of the studio, and is designed to eliminate these unpleasant waveforms, something you may not have when recording in a home studio.
Still in its infancy, the studio is geared to accommodate any kind of musical project. They are a digital studio, running a Behringer X32 mixer into ProTools. They have a Yamaha Recording Custom drum kit and a ‘68 Fender Rhodes electric piano on site, and are able to rent gear from Metrotone Inc.
They have also assembled a formidable team of local session musicians, which are hired guns; professionals who are brought in to play specific parts. Most studios use them, especially in cases when a singer/songwriter or solo musician wants to have a full band perform their songs. These talented artists include Jonathan Wimpee, Marcus White, Jared White, Danimal Pinson, Ivan Garcia, Tyler Reddick, and Yattie Westfield.
Backbeat Sound Design
A studio that works primarily with singer-songwriters to create full radio-ready productions can be found at Backbeat Sound Design. Owner Brent Crowe has worked in music production for over 10 years, and during that time he noticed that many artists are unable to record because of the price.
“The biggest thing that I do is full production of music,” says Crowe. “Part of my business plan is to be entirely digital; you can accomplish everything you need to with digital equipment, at a lower cost.”
Backbeat has a minimalist, simple studio set up. Brent uses just the gear needed to get a quality sound, and nothing extra. But despite all the extras, he spends as long as it takes to get a quality product, for a flat rate. Some artists he has done this for are Scott Anderson, Phil Haymaker, Dylan Ireland, Willie G. Wilson, Melyn Thompson, and Angelina Rahbe.
For a studio geared toward solo artists, Sound Resources is the place, and one of the area’s most long-standing recording operations. The studio’s owners, co-founders of progressive rock band Glass Hammer, have made a business of working with singer-songwriters. They are known for albums with audiophile-quality sound and clear, clean recordings. Their setup is primarily digital, but they can also do analog.
In addition to their recording services, they also offer priceless industry wisdom.
“Artists who are recording with us can rely on our experience,” says owner Steve Babb. “We can guide them through the music business and steer them away from the more negative aspects of it.”
In addition to recording artists like Amber Fults, Sydney Heath, Savannah Fanter, and Bailey McKee, they have also done work for Motorola, Apple Computer, MTV, and Harper Collins.
Breaker 17 Studio
Long-standing professional studio Breaker 17 Studio allows their clients the choice to work with one of two engineers. One specializes in vocally-driven music like pop and rap, and the other in bands. Both have different approaches—for bands, they go primarily analog—for vocal artists, they go digital, mixing everything “in the box.”
Something that strikes their clients is that they feel at home there, the rustic hardwood floors giving the space a comfortable look, with a mural of mountains in the back of the room radiating a feeling of tranquility. Their sound is a warm, rich one that has satisfied a long list of artists, including Adam Dean Mullins, Pack of Wolves, Cody McCarver, and Mary Fletcher.
Red Crow Studios
Breaker 17 isn’t the only studio that regards comfort as a key aspect of the recording process.
“I’m constantly told that people feel more relaxed and comfortable at Red Crow,” says Ross Carlson, a Red Crow affiliate. “By minimizing the stress associated with recording in a high-end studio, an artist’s creativity flows more freely, which results in better performances and ultimately a better finished project.”
Their large recording room is big enough to handle a six-piece band at one time, and has accommodated such artists as Bob Dorough (of Schoolhouse Rock fame), Wayne White of Wayne-O-Rama, the Shaking Ray Levis, and many more, including currently working with singer/songwriter Kelsi Westfall. They also recently recorded Tim Hink’s score for the PBS documentary From Streets to Stage, which won an Emmy just last month.
The microphone cables and headphone cables are all wired overhead and dropped in from the ceiling for a very clean room. Their chief engineer is Tom Johnson, who was the recording engineer for the first three Confederate Railroad albums, and who also recorded Gregg Allman.
Being affiliated with the Shaking Ray Levi Society, Red Crow also has a strong team of session musicians, who include Bob Stagner, Amanda Cagle, Evan Lipson, Ernie Paik and Katina Goad. Their goal is to get the best sounds possible straight from the source with an extensive collection of high end microphones, guitars, vintage synths (Moog, Nord, etc.) and other outboard gear like LA-2A’s, 1176’s, Pultec-style EQ’s, and API/Neve preamps—they also have a huge selection of guitar and other effects pedals.
If their extensive selection isn’t enough, a large array of effects pedals and gear are also available for use in East Ridge at Chattamusic. Since 2009, they have featured such gear as a Hammond B3 organ and a Leslie speaker cabinet, both of which were originally owned by Gregg Allman. They have a seventies Ludwig Drum kit, Pritchard guitar amps, an early Yamaha Keyboard amp with rotating speaker, and about 25 vintage guitar pedals along with several classic guitars.
“It’s kind of a walk down vintage lane when you come into this place to record,” says ChattaMusic owner Dennis Massengale.
For vintage keyboards, look no further than The Soundry—this makes sense, as owner/operator Brett Nolan is an accomplished pianist. Brett has been recording professionally in the area for 15 years, but the Soundry was built more recently in 2013. The studio has helped to sponsor the road to Nightfall competition since its inception, offering studio time to the winner.
Brett designed the Soundry with Eric Parker as a digital/analog hybrid. Only 13 minutes from downtown, in Lookout Valley, the studio has a modern industrial aesthetic that would be at home on Chattanooga’s South Side.
“We’ve done our best to create an environment where people can feel relaxed and creative,” Nolan explains. “The focus is on the musicians’ comfort and the art-form, not the gear and the technicalities.”
A few artists/bands who have recorded at the Soundry are Danimal Pinson, TJ Greever, Ryan Oyer, The Molly Maguires, Lon Eldridge, Drakeford, Courtney Holder, Amber Fults, Stratton Tingle, Soul Mechanic, and too many more to list.
While the professional recording studio experience is the best choice for most musicians, for some it isn’t viable. Such is the case with Strung Like A Horse, a legendary local band who just opened their own private studio. They saved money, invested in gear and space, and just this past month started making music at Daaang Studios.
“We didn’t want any more of the money/time pressure,” explains the band’s front man Clay Masselle. “We wanted to be able to use our own time and equipment, in our own studio, to give ourselves more freedom to experiment, so that’s what we did.”
The Strung Like A Horse crew used local horror surf rockers Genki Genki Panic as their guinea pigs in the new studio. Genki’s newest album, Litanies of Surf, was just released with Nashville speed; just a taste of much great music to come from Chattanooga.
$50/hr for recording, and mixing is around $100 a song.
firstname.lastname@example.org (423) 488-1360
or (423) 504-3467
Standard rate of $65/hr includes production, engineering, tracking, and mastering. Able to work with artists to accommodate any budget.
Backbeat Sound Design
Affordable flat rates
Breaker 17 Studio
Standard rate of $45/hr
Red Crow Studios
Sliding scale, depending on the artist’s financial situation (charitable and philanthropic cases get a reduced rate).
$50/hr flat rate
$50/hr block and day rates available
Awen Audio Design
$75/hr for corporate clients, $50/hr for indie films, $33/min of film for short films. Location sound is from $250 to $500 a day.