We often think of the artists that shaped the music we listened to throughout history, though not many people pay respect to the places that music was made.
A great recording studio is far more than just slabs of concrete and expensive recording equipment. The unique characteristics and atmosphere of a great recording studio can have a major impact on the success of an album.
From the Beatles at Abbey Road to Lynyrd Skynyrd at Muscle Shoals, these studios have become just as legendary as the variety of artists that have walked through their doors.
Many of the recording studios that were built in throughout the early and mid-20th century are still highly used today. In this article, we want to shed a little light on some of these legendary studios and let you in on what it is that makes them true landmarks in music history!
1. Abbey Road, London
Iconic Album: Abbey Road, The Beatles
If you’re walking around Northwestern London, you might not even notice the small, apartment-like building that is Abbey Road, as it blends in quite well. What you’ll likely see are the crowds of tourists lining up to take the famous Beatles album photo.
Opened in 1931 as “EMI Studios”, it would soon become famous for recording most of the Beatles’ Albums from 1962-1970, including Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Beyond the Beatles, Pink Floyd also recorded their 1973 album Dark Side of The Moon here, and more current artists such as Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga, and Radiohead have come here to record as well.
2. Sun Studios, Memphis
Iconic Album: Elvis (1956) - Elvis Presley
Sun Studios is often referred to as the “Birthplace of Rock n’ Roll”, as it was the catalyst behind many major artists of the 1950s such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash. It is also quite famous for the many blues artists that recorded there including B.B. King.
Sun Records closed in the early 1970s and then opened its gates back up in 1987, ten years after Elvis Presley died. It functions today not as a recording studio, but a tourist attraction for lovers of old rock n’ roll and rhythm & blues to come see the place where a good deal of classic American music was made.
3. Capitol Studios, Hollywood
Iconic Album: Surfin’ USA, The Beach Boys
Capitol Studios was completed and opened in 1956. Since then, it has recorded some of the most influential artists of our time included Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys, and Nat King Cole. Listen to any record that was recorded here, and you’ll likely hear the use of their legendary echo chambers that were built in their basement.
Over 60 years later and this legendary recording studio is still functioning with a few refurbishments and equipment upgrades. With that said, it still holds the same magic it did years ago, and makes our list due to the vast number of artists that have been through its doors.
4. Sunset Sound, Hollywood
Iconic Album: Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin
Sunset Sound is located on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. Originally opened over 50 years ago to record music for many of the famous Disney movies such as Mary Poppins, it went on to record some of the most iconic rock n’ roll albums of our day.
Classic rock bands such as Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, and the Rolling Stones have rotated through the doors, as well as more modern artists such as M83, Jason Mraz, and the Black Keys.
This is all thanks to the customized consoles and vintage equipment that give it unparalleled magic of its own.
5. Hitsville USA, Detroit
Iconic Album: Marvin Gaye, Marvin Gaye
Motown is the sound that changed American music forever. There is no doubt about it. That change was thanks to Berry Gordy who opened up the doors oh Hitsville USA in 1959 to pave way for some of the most influential artists of all time including the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and so many more.
Motown has had one of the biggest influences on popular music both stylistically and culturally. While the actual studio is not functioning today, you can still visit the building, as it’s been transformed into a museum to allow tourist from all over the world to come stand within the rooms that shaped the artists we’ve come to know and love.
6. Trident Studios, London
Iconic Album: Night At the Opera, Queen
Trident Studios was an old British recording studio constructed in 1967 by Norman Sheffield, the former drummer of the Hunters. During the late 60s and 70s, many influential artists walked through the doors, including Queen, David Bowie, the Beatles, and many more.
They were also one of the very first to use then-modern technology like Dolby Noise Reduction and eight-track reel to reel, which completely changed the way music was recorded.
Unfortunately, it was shut down in the early 80s after a buyout.
7. Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, Alabama
Iconic Album: Boz Scaggs, Boz Scaggs
Muscle Shoals was opened in 1969 by the rhythm section of Muscle Shoals, better known as The Swampers. This was one of the only studios owned and operated by session musicians at the time.
One of the very first albums released by the studio was Cher’s debut album, 3614 Jackson Highway. From 1969-1978, they played on and recorded over 200 albums with artists such as Bob Dylan, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Duane Allman, and many more.
If there were a home base for southern rock n’ roll, it’d be Muscle Shoals.
8. Sound City Studios, Los Angeles
Iconic Album: Nevermind, Nirvana
Sound City Studios was opened in 1969 and since then has recorded for iconic artists from Diana Ross to Fall Out Boy. Many people know about Sound City thanks to the film directed by Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, who actually purchased the million dollar Neve console that was used to record Fleetwood Mac back in the day.
It is known for shaping many hits of the 70s and 80s, as well as the grunge and rock of the 90s. The studio is still family-owned and operated today with clients continuing to come through the doors and record.
9. Air Studios, London
Iconic Album: Brothers In Arms, Dire Straits
Air studios in London was opened by George Martin (engineer for the Beatles) back in 1969. It is known to this day for the wild acoustic properties that are unique and stand-out in many ways.
If you’re into film scores or classical music, you should know that this is easily one of the highest profile recording spaces in that realm. That’s also because there aren’t many studios in the world with the ability to hold these many musicians, as well as capture a quality sound.
Beyond the studio’s work in film, many major label artists such as Coldplay and Kate Bush have recorded here.
10. Electric Lady Studios, Greenwich Village, NY
Iconic Album: Combat Rock, The Clash
Any Jimi Hendrix fans out there? This recording studio was founded by Jimi Hendrix in 1970. Unfortunately, he only got about a month of use out of it before he died that same September.
The cool thing is, the studio was still used by many artists after and is still up and running to this day! Bands such as Led Zeppelin and Weezer, as well as artists such as Billy Idol and Patti Smith, have all recorded albums at this one-of-a-kind space.
The aesthetic is truly what makes the place unique, as it still holds true to the psychedelic look of the late 60s.
A Home Away From Home
A recording studio is much more than a place where artists just go to record. It becomes a creative sanctuary where artists spend a large amount of time writing, hanging out, and getting inspired.
From the sizes of the rooms to the decor, to the vintage equipment, every little piece of a studio has a major impact on what an album ends up sounding like.
More and more studios are popping up every day. We can’t wait to see what eccentric and unusual place becomes the next legendary recording studio 50 years from now!
Miguel Gonzalez says
Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia
It’s “Mussel Shoals”.
Rodney Hall says
No it’s Muscle Shoals Sound Studio… which was a spinoff of FAME Studios which has been in business straight through 60 years.. and recently recorded Demi Lovato, Steven Tyler and Gregg Allman’s final album. As well as Aretha, Etta,Wilson, Duane, Otis and Little Richard to name a few.. Ridiculous it’s not on the list behind studios that have been shuttered for decades!
Dan also says
No, that’s the one in California. My bad
Alwyn The Mix Engineer says
Very sad. I had to close Ireland’s most historic studio – Westland Studios, Dublin.
They tried to double my rent.
42 years of history. Gone.
Life goes on.
Now I mix.
Danny Crew says
Criteria Studios, North Miami
Projects included James Brown’s “I Feel Good”, Aretha Franklin’s “Young, Gifted and Black”, Derek & the Dominoes “Layla” and Brook Benton’s “Rainy Night in Georgia.”
Singles such as ‘Layla’ by Derek & the Dominoes, Bob Marley’s ‘Could You be Loved?’, ‘Hotel California’ by the Eagles and The Bee Gees’ ‘Stayin’ Alive’ and ‘How Deep Is Your Love,” were all made at Criteria as were classic albums such as Eric Clapton’s “461 Ocean Blvd., Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors”, Black Sabbath’s “Heaven & Hell” and the Bee Gee’s “Saturday Night Fever.”
1. The Record Plant in Sausalito CA
Huey Lewis and the News
2 Caribou Ranch Colorado
Earth, Wind and Fire
Thanks Ron. Those are Great Additions!
Rolling Stones (Their Satanic Majesties Request, Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers)
The Who (Who’s Next)
The Beatles (Baby You’re A Rich Man)
and too many others to mention.
Rick McMillen says
Indigo Ranch in the hills of Malibu. Jeff Lorber, Kenny G, Korn and a buncha others.
Alex Rainger says
Yes, Olympic Studios in Barnes, London, should obviously be here. Easily as historic as any British recording studio including Abbey Road, but still often vastly under-noticed because EMI couldn’t market the word “Olympic” without legal issues.
Alex Rainger says
Needless to say not only Hendrix but probably the Stones too recorded most of their output there.
Big star says
What about Ardent studios ? Big star recorded all their albums there
mike glossip says
Don’t forget Norman Petty’s studio in Clovis, New Mexico.