Why Are Music Studios Dark?

You may notice that all studios share a similar trait, and whether you realize it subconsciously or not, it definitely is a common occurrence. Virtually every studio I have been in has any sort of lava lamp, glowing crystal, or some sort of antique or novelty lighting. I keep a red light bulb in my studio for when the mood is necessary.

Why Are Music Studios Dark? Music studios are dark because the dim lighting creates a more comfortable environment for the artist so they can deliver their best performance possible. The darkness can also help to reduce eyesight strain and has proven psychological benefits of increasing creativity.

The common thread here is that a lot of studio owners tend to keep their spaces dark and enhance them with specific mood lighting to create a particularly familiar luminescent environment that is shared by most studios. Below I will go further into detail on the benefits of having a darker studio space that I mentioned above.

What Are The Benefits of a Darker Studio?

There are three main benefits of a darker studio.

1. A darker studio can help calm and relax the artist, which in terms helps increase their creativity. Many artists find that the more relaxed they are, the more creative they are.

2. The second benefit of keeping the lights dimmed is that it can help minimize the risk of eye strain and headaches.

3. The last main benefit is that it can help an artist self-consciously. A studio with very bright lighting may cause the performer to feel more self-conscious if there are other people in the room watching, while a darker room would quell some of this anxiety they may be feeling.

In the rest of the article, we will dive deeper and explore the psychological and practical effects of keeping the lights dimmed.

The Psychological Effect

There’s numerous of psychological effects that come with a darker studio and is one of the main benefits of using dimmed lighting.

Since it is possible to control the lighting inside a music studio, it is possible to measure the effects that different lighting has on a musicians creativity.

In 2013 two psychologists, Anna Steidel and Lioba Werth tested the impact on how different lighting effects somebody’s creativity.

What they found out from this experiment was that “darkness triggers a chain of interrelated processes, including a cognitive processing style, which is beneficial to creativity”.

Experiment #1:

In the first experiment, they divided a group of 114 study participants into three cubicle office style settings.

The first group set with a desk lamp of 500 lux, which is the standard for office environments.

The second group sat with a 1500 lux lamp, which is a very bright light that is often used in TV studios.

The third group sat with a desk lamp of 150 lux, which is a very dim light and is a similar amount of light from a cloudy day.

The participants were given the same four classic problems to work out at their desktop.

The study found that the participants in the dim lighting setting solved significantly more problems than those participants under the brighter lighting.

Steidel and Werth used this information along with other tests they performed to theorize that dim lighting sends a visual message that allows our brains to enter a more exploratory and uninhibited space of freedom, which then leads to using more creative and imaginative parts of our mind.

Experiment #2:

In the second experiment, the studies participants were also divided into 4 groups and put into cubicle offices with three different types of lights.

They were all given four logically problems that required more analytical thinking rather than out-of-the-box style thinking.

The results from this test found that the participants performed much better in bright lighting compared to the participants in dim lighting.

The results from this test found that the participants in bright lighting performed much better than those in dim lighting, concluding that bright lighting allows for more careful thinking.

Steidel then suggested that the best working environment would accommodate for the ability to provide many different types of lighting conditions based on what style of thinking is needed.

This holds true for studios as well, since there are situations that may call for a more organized or analytical thinking approach and brighter lighting may help in those situations.

The Practical Benefit

There are many practical benefits to a music studio that uses dimmed lighting.

One of these is that it eliminates any lighting that could come into conflict with other sources of lighting, such as your computer monitor or mixing board. This could cause unnecessary strain on the eyes.

LED lights that are often located on music recording equipment such as synths, re-arms, and mixing consoles will also be easier to see in a dark environment.

However, this doesn’t mean that the ideal environment would be to have the lighting in the room as dark as possible.. as you may have trouble seeing your recording equipment.

Low-level lighting can also reduce the risk of headaches. The last thing you want to experience in the studio is a headache. It will affect your overall focus and creativity. If you’re experiencing headaches in your music studio, it well could be the lighting that’s causing this.

Try changing the lighting or using lighting that isn’t as bright. It could also be the color of the lighting. Some lighting is brighter and some are warmer. Generally, a warmer, less powerful light would be a good light for a music studio. Sometimes brighter lights can be too bright and this then runs the risk of badly impacting your imagination and creativity.

In the psychological effect section of this page, the experiment from the first experiment tested out how bright lighting (1500 lux) affects how imaginative and creative you are. The results concluded that dim lighting sends a visual message that allows our brains to enter a more exploratory space which leads to the user using their creative and imaginative part of their mind more.

If you experience a headache make sure you’re drinking lots of fluids as that can also cause headaches. In most countries, you can buy aspirin, paracetamol, ibuprofen and other painkillers that can help stop your headaches.

The Artists Benefits

This section could also go under psychological effects, but I felt like it was more suitable to have its own section.

There are also many artist benefits to having dimmed low-level lighting in a music recording studio.

If the artist or the performer is very relaxed and as comfortable as possible, then they are more likely to perform at their optimal performance ability, which will hopefully result in better recordings and a more impressive final output.

Another way that helps tremendously with artist comfort in a dark room is by having a dim room with controllable mood lighting. Such as a lava lamp or glowing crystals. You can also get LED strip mood lighting that you can change to virtually any color you would like.

Having those types of lightings in a music studio is a proven method to help put your mind at ease.

A studio with very bright lighting may cause the performer to feel more self-conscious if there are other people in the room watching, as they are more visible.

However, with a darker room may reduce some of this anxiety that the artist is feeling.

The lighting of your own studio will probably need to change as different circumstances may call for different lighting conditions.

As I mentioned earlier, brighter lighting may be needed in your studio to aid in the development of more analytical thinking to solve a problem.

Also, some artists may perceive fear or fright from a room that feels too dark, as this is a common association with dark rooms or spaces.

This should never be a problem as long as you find a balance between spaces that need visibility from good lighting and the room lighting that may not require as much illumination.

As such, having dimmer switches is something you will generally see in most studios to provide control for any lighting situation you may require.

Related Questions:

What lighting should I use for my music recording studio? There’s plenty of options you can choose from. LED lights are great for home music studios as they are very energy efficient and operate at a very low heat range compared to other types of lightings. This means they aren’t so much of a fire hazard or will cause the room to get too hot.

How important is studio lights? This can depend on the artist’s personal preference. Some artists perform to perform in a room with little light as it can help increase their creativity. Whereas other artists may prefer a brighter room. At the end of the day, your music studio should be visible and not too bright that it may cause eye strain or headaches.

How can I make my studio more therapeutic? One way to make your studio more therapeutic is by introducing colored mood lighting. Red light lamps are a great example of this. They can psychologically make the musicians feel more relaxed and that can then help their creativity.