Music Studio Lighting: Cheap, Cool and Effective

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Sean McCauley
January 19, 2021

Music studio light makes a huge impact on the mood of the space. Doesn't take an interior designer to know artists work differently depending on their mood. Are they feeling energetic and up? Or subdued and mellow? Qualities, quantities and different kinds of light can give your recording space the atmosphere of a party, a graveyard, or a battlefield, so the least a producer can do is think a little about their music studio lighting.

We’ve collected the best info, facts, and products the net has to offer, so let’s not waste any time. Come on in!

This is how most rookie producers light their studio, but it may not be best.

Music Studio Light: Is It That Important?

Music studio light is just as important as the rest of the light in your life. How important is that? Pretty important, actually.

Light in the morning can make you think quicker and sharper. It can treat depression, and not getting enough of it can leave you feeling down. It’s even used in some cities to calm the entire populace and keep it crime-free.

A bright yellow-orange light improves alertness and brain function. Scientists say flatly,

“These findings argue for the use and design of lighting systems to optimize cognitive performance.”

LED manufacturer TCP says, too:

“Some studies have shown that brighter light can intensify emotions, while low light doesn’t remove emotions, but keeps them steady. This can lead to people having the ability to make more rational decisions in low light and find it easier to agree with others in negotiation.”

In Tokyo they installed blue lights in subways and cut suicide by 75 percent!

So obviously light is really, really important in general. But imagine the effect it can have in a music studio! Music studio light can work for you or against you, so let’s look at options and figure out how to make it happen.

[And if you are setting up your home studio altogether, here’s our in-depth article on how to do it right!]

Use as much natural light as possible to keep artists on their game.

Music Studio Lighting for Focus, Energy, and More

Music studio lighting can do all sorts of things, too much to list here. But here are some of the main tricks backed by real science.

  1. Red light speeds up the heart
  2. Red also intensifies emotions
  3. Blue light slows the heart down
  4. and Blue steadies emotions
  5. Orange sharpens thinking
  6. Natural light makes us happier and more productive
  7. Lack of light makes us sad

Beyond that, there are also cultural and psychological effects we could talk about for days. You’ll find a handy list of those in the image below. So how can we use music studio lighting to get better recordings? Let’s get some suggestions together.

Lots of this isn't scientific, but it can still affect artists as if it were.

Music Studio Lighting for Better Recordings

Music studio lights can pump us up, pull us down, keep us sharp, or steady our hands. All of those things can directly influence artists — and producers — in the music studio. Let’s look at some scenarios.

Let’s say you’re recording a band and one of them can’t get the take right. Everyone’s tense. Take the crew outside for a breath of air and some sunshine. The natural light will make everyone happier. Go in before the artists and change your LED lighting to blue to steady nerves and calm respiration. When they’re ready to try again, both the sunlight and the blue studio lights will work in your favor. Chances are, they’ll like the change in mood lighting, too.

That’s some expert-level psychology at work. Other uses are even more intuitive:

  1. Red studio light for aggressive, energetic music
  2. Blue studio lights for mellow grooves
  3. Orange for concentration or for complex music (improvised, experimental, etc.)
  4. Sunlight for happy tones!
  5. Subdued light for sad, angsty, withdrawn music (blues, goth, grunge, etc.)

But of course if you’re using LED RGB music studio lights, which we’ll get into in a minute, you can simply hand the remote to the artists and let them choose the light themselves! Happy artists, happy engineer, right? Right.

So let’s look at music studio light options. We’ll try to keep the cost down, too.

[Are we helping? You should see us distro music. You can put your single in stores for just 9 USD now].

Healthy balance between natural and colored mood lighting.

Music Studio Lighting: How and Where to Light Your Space

Music studio lighting will force you to place lamps around the studio, of course. So where should you put it?

“Something that draws one’s attention within the scene should turn out to be an important object or boundary…If what draws one’s attention and what is worth looking at turn out to be different properties, then the scene lacks coherence.” – Kaplan and Kaplan, 1988

What can be more important than your artist? Definitely make a bright light available to whoever is in the booth. If you can direct real sunlight onto the spot they’re performing, that can change everything. If you’re real serious about providing the best environment you can, you can get something like Solatube, or simply install a skylight. But just having a single window can be enough.

If you want more natural light but don’t have many windows, you can use mirrors, glossy paint, and all sorts of other things to maximize what you do have.

Danish Grammy nominee Holger Lagerfeldt writes at Gearslutz:

"Natural light, very important for my well being. If you can't have natural light make sure you use high quality bulbs with a full frequency range, so avoid the supermarket stuff and absolutely avoid fluorescent light."

It makes sense to have a bright, preferably natural light on your computer and engineering area, too. Use it when the attention is on the mix. Dim it when the talent is playing.

And when we say bright, we mean bright like the noonday sun. Any full-spectrum lamp rated at 5000 lumens or higher will do the job. 'The spectrum' means frequencies of light. They affect your brain and you want access to all of them.

Lagerfeldt's studio. Note the central window for natural light.

Lights for Music Studios: LED, RGB, Do-Re-Mi

Lighting for music studios in the 21st century is all about LED. Incandescent bulbs give a warmer, more natural feeling light, but they’re very wasteful and going away in most countries, anyhow, so we’re ignoring those even though many professionals insist on them. (Not to mention, you can’t change their colors, and that’s a huge detriment).

Amazon has all kinds of LED lighting available, and you can spend a whole weekend going through your options. What you want, though, are RGB LED bulbs connected to a hub you can control with a remote, or even through your phone. RGB means red-green-blue, from which colors we derive the rest of the visible spectrum.

One popular, excellent solution runs about 175 USD, the Philips Hue Starter Kit. You can see how it basically works out in this computer gamer’s video. It’s easy to see how a setup like that could revolutionize a music studio if the lights were placed around the booth, lounge, and engineering board.

The Philips Hue system offers 16 million color possibilities throughout the range of color temperatures, and you can even set it to react in time to music (!). Very fun when the time is right.

Once you have the hub and basic bulbs set up, you can add to it piecemeal with twenty-dollar LED strips and additional bulbs whenever you like. Possibilities are endless.

Here are just a few.

Decent build blending central natural lighting with ambient LED mood lighting

Music Studio LED Light: Examples

Music studio LED lighting examples are all over the web, so we’re not going to offer too many.

C-Net has a bunch on their “Complete Guide to Philips HUE.”

Producer Hive has lots of ideas, too. You can check those out here.

These ideas at DeaVita show a healthy blend of natural and effect lighting.

Finally, if you’re thirsty for even more music studio lighting ideas and examples, never underestimate the power of the Reddit community.

Welp, that about wraps it up for music studio lights and LED lighting. Thanks for reading! Happy lighting, and even happier recording!