Innovating Music Since 1931Abbey Road Studios is the most famous recording studio in the world and a global music icon. Originally a nine-bedroom house built in 1829, it was purchased by the Gramophone Company in 1928 who went on to build the world’s first purpose-built recording studio. The St John’s Wood address was chosen for its large garden and ideal location – close enough to the performance spaces of the time, but away from the noise and vibrations of the traffic and trains.
The grand opening ceremony on 12 November 1931 included a performance of Land of Hope & Glory in Studio One conducted by Sir Edward Elgar. The Gramophone Company merged with Columbia Graphophone Company to form Electric and Musical Industries (EMI) in 1931, and the studios later became known as EMI Recording Studios. Since EMI engineer Alan Blumlein patented stereo at Abbey Road in 1931, the studios have been famed for innovation in recording technology, largely developed by the Record Engineering Development Department (REDD) who were responding to the needs of the artists and producers using the rooms. Their innovations include the REDD and TG desks, as well as studio techniques such as Artificial Double Tracking (ADT), created by studio technician Ken Townsend, who went on to become the studios’ MD, as well as Vice President of EMI Studios Group.
While initially a venue for classical recordings, the studios’ repertoire soon embraced jazz and big bands, too, as well as the first British rock & roll records of the 1950s, including Sir Cliff Richard’s first single Move It. Abbey Road is of course synonymous with the legendary work of The Beatles, who worked with EMI producer Sir George Martin and recorded 190 of their 210 songs at the studios. But Abbey Road’s unparalleled history spans the wild experiments of Pink Floyd to iconic recordings from Shirley Bassey, Aretha Franklin, The Hollies and many more.Since those exceptional years, artists from Kate Bush, Radiohead, Oasis, Kanye West, Amy Winehouse, Kylie and Muse to Sam Smith, Florence + The Machine, Ed Sheeran, Frank Ocean, Lady Gaga and Adele have made Abbey Road their creative home, producing countless landmark recordings.
As the demand for classical recording spaces declined, Ken Townsend found a new role for the big rooms – movie scores, with the first major film score being Raiders of The Lost Ark in 1981. Since then, Abbey Road has developed into one of the world’s premier destinations for movie scoring. Blockbuster films such as The Lord of The Rings Trilogy, Skyfall, the Harry Potter series and the Oscar-winning Gravity feature scores recorded here, while recent projects include Black Panther, Solo: A Star Wars Story and the multi award winning The Shape of Water.
The studios house a number of state-of-the-art mastering suites, with engineering expertise spanning direct to vinyl and half-speed mastering. Recent projects mastered or re-mastered by Abbey Road’s award-winning engineers include music from The Beatles, Sam Smith, Sade, Abba, Krept & Konan, Graham Coxon, Novelist, Johnny Marr, Roxy Music and The Rolling Stones.
In Spring 2017, in the biggest transformation since first opening, two new contemporary studios were launched - The Gatehouse and The Front Room - making the magic of Abbey Road accessible to a whole new generation of recording artist. They have already hosted artists from James Bay, Jess Glynne, George Ezra and Skrillex to legends like Nile Rodgers plus grime MCs Novelist and Jammer BBK.Symbolic of this new era, in March 2018, Abbey Road appointed multiple Grammy Award winning producer, guitarist, arranger and composer Nile Rodgers (of The CHIC Organization) to the specially created role of Chief Creative Advisor. The role sees Nile establish Abbey Road as his primary creative base in the UK and serve as the studios’ global ambassador within the artist and creative community.
Enhancing the services to film clients, a new Dolby Atmos Premier accredited Mix Stage also opened in 2017, making Abbey Road the only facility in the UK to offer both scoring and film sound post production.
The pioneering spirit of the REDD department’s innovations from the 1950s to 1970s continues with Abbey Road Red – Europe’s first music-focused technology incubator, which supports the endeavours of entrepreneurs, researchers and developers. The programme is now expanding with in-house R&D activities within the music creation space.
Abbey Road was declared an English Heritage Grade II listed site in 2010, but the focus continues to be on the future and helping to spread the expertise and knowledge present within the building to a new generation of musicians, engineers and producers around the world.
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Abbey Road Studios
3 Abbey RoadPlease note that Abbey Road is a working studio and business and as such, is not open to the general public for visits or tours. For information on vacancies and internships in the UK, please visit the Universal Music website.