Students have pushed 'play' on Recording Lab

The largest space in the Recording Lab, the Purple Room, is ideal for podcasts with more than one person.

Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau

Once upon a time, books were the best way to learn more about the world. The people who wrote them simply needed paper and pen and a quiet place to write.

Today, podcasts are all the rage, and producing them in the comfort of your home isn’t quite so simple. You need equipment. Good equipment. You need space. Most of all, you need a place that’s not just quiet, it’s soundproof.

Rooms in the Recording Lab come in four sizes, from small to extra large.

Grand Canyon University students, staff and alumni have found just such a place to create podcasts and so much more: the GCU Recording Lab, located on the fourth floor of the Technology Building next to the Recording Studio. One of the newest Lopes Live Labs, built last summer, has opened this academic year to loudly proclaimed praise.

From 10 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, users can reserve one of four rooms.

The Blue and Burgundy rooms and the larger Orange Room are just $5 per hour and $18 for a four-hour session. The cost of the largest unit, the Purple Room, is $10 per hour, under the supposition that it usually will be occupied by at least two people who can split the cost. There also are special rates for a month and even a semester.

The result has been a new culture in which about a dozen students have created new podcasts, and work done in the lab is regularly shared on its Instagram page.

Recording Lab coordinator Joseph Vaught (left) gives a tour Monday.

“It’s been cool to see all these students start new projects because the resource exists,” said the lab’s coordinator, Joseph Vaught, responsible for creating the scheduling process and protocols.

The typical student sentiment, in his view:

“Now I can go to this space that’s so much better than my bedroom, where there’s an AC unit and there are noisy roommates.”

So why are podcasts suddenly the talk of the media industry?

“It’s the new radio. It’s the new voice of the world,” said Eric Johnson, who manages the Recording Studio and Recording Lab. “We don’t have time to read, but we have time to listen. I don’t read books anymore, but I listen to audiobooks.”

Will Christian, a Worship Arts major who regularly uses the lab, sees it this way:

“If you’re in a car and you’re bored, it’s just what you do sometimes if you’re tired of listening to music. It’s become way more popular the last two years. I think it’s partially the pandemic because people were stuck in their houses all day. You couldn’t meet up and work on music, but what you could do was sit down on Zoom and record yourself talking.”

Will Christian strums his guitar in the Orange Room.

Christian, in fact, has spent the last five years creating his own home studio.

“Next to that, this is the most comfortable space I've been in,” he said, sitting in the Orange Room. “Normally, I get writer’s block when I’m in other spaces.

“I write songs, arrange songs for people, create sheet music. Sometimes it will be editing podcasts and mixing and mastering. I love these rooms.”

He loves them so much, he uses them two to three times a week, for two hours at a time. He is that serious about making a career out of this: Like Johnson, he graduated from the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Gilbert, and he hopes to become a songwriter and studio technician.

But he also keeps his faith front and center by sharing.

“I try not to be in here too much because I want to let other students use the rooms,” he said.

Vaught was giving tours Monday at the open house. First up were the Blue and Burgundy rooms, each with space for one person. There’s no computer, just an interface, headphones and access to all of the lab’s microphones.

The Burgundy Room is one of the spaces that accommodate one person.

“The most common use is a one-person podcast or singing vocal,” Vaught said. “They can set down their computer, open up their project and start recording within a minute or two.”

The microphones are critical. Users can choose a mic when they make a reservation online, and the certification process outlines the types of microphones, what they’re good for and how to use the recording software.

“They’re not going in completely blind,” Vaught said.

The Orange Room features various types of recording software – GarageBand, Logic Pro, Pro-Tools and Ableton Live, plus Final Cut Pro for video. It’s a great place for a one-person podcast.

“If a student has a certain background and a certain software, for the most part we’ll have any of them,” Vaught said.

The Purple Room has a rectangular table – perfect for a two- or four-person podcast – in addition to the computer console. It has the same software as the Orange Room, but in a bigger space. Users are free to unplug the computers and use their own devices.

There also is space outside the recording rooms to work or just relax.

Tables and cushy chairs are set up outside the recording rooms for collaboration, if needed, or just as a nice place to wait for a room.

The list of lab projects goes far beyond podcasts. The most frequent usage, not surprisingly considering it’s GCU, is related to faith. But there are others, such as a group of students from the College of Fine Arts and Production who are scheduled to do a recording of “Little Women.”

Johnson said Vaught has done such a good job of creating a new culture in the lab, one student wants to start a new club – the Recording Club. A kickoff meeting for a new Songwriters Guild drew 30 attendees.

“The nature of the projects that are being done is pretty telling and very encouraging,” Johnson said.

So the word is getting out to the rest of the campus, judging from the daily usage figures. This is the place to go for any recording needs – and especially if you want to start your own podcast.

Voice of the world, indeed.

“It’s just a way to get more intimate about your art and your craft and share that with people,” Christian said.

How ironic that students, staff and alumni can book a recording room. The world has turned the page on communication, and it’s an audible change.

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].


Related content:

GCU Magazine: GCU's new Recording Lab ready to go live this fall

GCU Magazine: Creative sparks fly in hands-on Lopes Live Labs


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