CENTRAL BROOKLYN, NY: We New Yorkers are proud of our ability to squeeze into tight corners of this big city. But sometimes, even the most die-hard pack rats among us yearn for a little space to stretch their legs.
Come join us in exploring four Central Brooklyn studios that offer a refreshing amount of breathing room at an affordable rate in this latest installment of our NYC Studio Tour.
VINEGAR HILL SOUND
Room Rates: $450/day; $650/day with engineer
Guitarist and studio owner Justin King has developed a minor fetish for Telefunken-Elektroakustik’s remakes of classic German condenser microphones, recently purchasing pairs of ELA M 251’s, 260’s, and AK-47s along with “a host of M80’s”.
Despite these boutique tastes, King says he’s priced Vinegar Hill Sound with up-and-coming indies in mind: “Considering the classic analog gear, the instruments/amps we offer, and the size of the main room (over 600 square feet with 16 foot ceilings) Vinegar Hill Sound has an unbeatable 10-hour lockout rate for a studio of its quality.”
King named his studio after the small slice of Brooklyn it occupies. Vinegar Hill is a concealed enclave of old brownstones, cobblestone streets and charming brick townhouses that stood in quiet resistance through the construction of the BQE in the mid 20th century, and the building boom of the early aughts that re-shaped much of the surrounding area.
“It’s a pleasure to work in the area,” says King of this small neighborhood, which sports a name that sounds unfamiliar even to many long-time New Yorkers. “It’s located a couple blocks off the water near the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. There are great restaurants, bars, coffee shops, galleries and Fulton Ferry Park all within a three-block-radius of the studio.”
This owner/operator took pains to make the studio friendly to outside producer/engineers as well: A clearly-labeled patchbay system serves as a well-organized life-line between the 24-in/40-out Pro Tools HD system and a 32-channel Toft ATB console.
Interesting in-house instruments include an antique pump organ, vintage harpsichord and a “massive, Bonham-esque” Gretsch drum-kit.
“The studio is extremely well suited for recording strings, drums, vocals – anything acoustic really,” King continues. “I think we’re capable of elevating any kind of music. It’s a serious studio at a silly price.”
Park Slope/Downtown Brooklyn
Room Rates: $450/day for Studio A, room only; $600/day for Studio A, with house engineer
GodelString Studio is an enterprise of many faces. After moving on from his prior studio, Brooklyn Broadcast, Joel Hamburger built a suite of three new, distinct rooms to cater to his team’s diverse clientele.
Studio regulars include producer/composers such as Jay Braun (Norah Jones, Jon Spencer, Cat Power), William Berlind (Burning Spear, Colin McGrath), and Sanford Livingston (Scores for Jesus Camp, and the award-winning “Underwear”) as well as Latin producer/engineer Rafael Lazaro.
“We’ve each got our own little niche, so there’s not a lot of stepping on toes,” says studio manager and engineer Dan Rosato, who plays guitar and sings in the rootsy, rollicking, indie-rock outfit Your 33 Black Angels.
Their studio is as central as Central Brooklyn gets: Built on a shady stretch of 5th Avenue near Atlantic, GodelString is sandwiched between the disparate worlds of quiet Park Slope and bustling Downtown Brooklyn. A flagship A-room hosts an Audient console that feeds a Pro Tools HD system, and features a large live room with three conjoined iso booths and a Steinway grand.
Ample B and C rooms serve as day-to-day production suites, while an expansive tech shop keeps the whole facility humming. It’s an impressive amount of space for the neighborhood, not to mention, the price-point.
Park Slope/Sunset Park
Room Rates: $500/day in Studio A (includes engineer); $400/day in Studio B (includes engineer)
A set of heavy drapes opens in Seaside Lounge’s deep hued, wood-floored live room to reveal a hidden wall of reflective cement. “We don’t have one set, static way of doing things,” says part-owner Josh Clark. “If it’s possible and not particularly dangerous, we’ll give it a shot.“
Operated by a handful of house engineers, both studios A and B feature Sony/MCI consoles, Pro Tools HD, and an assortment of vintage tape machines from 3M, Otari and Ampex. “We just want to capture music in the most realistic and honest way possible,” Clark continues, “So the clients we appeal to most are musicians who want to create an honest recording in a really relaxed, open environment. “
Like the other institutions that make up in today’s tour, Seaside offers a lot of space for the money. Clark tells us that as their studio grew from a single room to its current form, “we designed [the] rooms to be open and live-sounding to help reinforce [that way of working].”
And it’s paid off: A stream of distinctive and offbeat artists keeps the studio running, and keeps Seaside’s motto, “Vibe for days,” making plenty of sense.
Room Rates: $350/day; $450/day with house engineer
Nestled just south of Prospect Park in Brooklyn’s Kensington neighborhood, we found Shady Bear, the personal studio of Anthony Robustelli.
Despite an enviable John Hardy-modified MCI console and matching tape deck, Robustelli’s clients aren’t coming with just gear in mind. More than just an engineer, Robustelli bills himself as the studio’s “creative director,” an in-house player and producer who’s comfortable working songwriters through new arrangements whether they’re recording jazz, pop, or electronic music.
Whether he’s asked to play all the instruments on a session or hire top session players at friendly rates, Robustelli adds only $250 per song to the bill.
In addition to his production chops, Robustelli is proud of this Brooklyn facility’s sister studio, Shady Bear North, where he entertains artists eager to escape the city for de-compressed sessions on a quiet 30-acre plot in the Catskills mountains.