Inside Capitol Studios

pianist lisa hilton wearing a hat in front of a piano

The first time I went to Capitol Studios I was so excited to work such an iconic building, and it’s still exciting twelve years later: it is absolutely impressive and fabulously cool. The architecture itself is an integral part of the Hollywood myth and seeing it’s record shaped design always lifts my spirit when I spot it from the freeway, (something I need after morning traffic!) The mid-century landmark was finished in 1956 and Wikipedia states: “The building’s design is based on the graduate school drawings of Lou Naidorf who, as the primary architect, designed the first circular office building when he was 24 years old.” Inside classic black and white photos line the halls showing Frank, Nat, Tony and others.

The building is immaculate, so walking into the studios it’s easy to imagine the many top recording artists working there throughout it’s long history. Every year is a different experience for me – one year trumpeter Chris Botti and singer/actor Eric Benet both popped in the studio at the same time. Another year a male voice commented “Who is that playing the piano?” I turned around and recognized the singer John Mayer, (he’s very tall). One year there was opera in Studio A and the Rockettes blasting Christmas carols out of Studio B, the hallways awash with wacky song mashups! This year, of course it’s different, because Capitol is still officially closed – the friendly hellos, waves and hugs are missed, but we were thankful to be back at work in the studio again.

I use three studios for my albums: one to record the music, (this year at The Village Studios), and I then use Capitol to mix the music. (To finish the album I use Lurssen Mastering). The mix engineers, Al Schmitt and Chandler Harrod, combine, or mix, the already recorded sound into the most pleasing audio. For example, as the producer I told them that I was concerned about the cymbals overpowering on some tracks, so Chandler toned them down. In other spots, Al adjusted the bass so we can hear Luques Curtis’s cool solo better, or the very last detail on Rudy Royston’s delicate drum end. This is done by adjusting the controls on the console, and of course decades of audio experience.

Mixing with Al is actually the easiest job I have as a producer – when someone has 23 Grammys I know I’m in the best of hands, right? For the last and final step, the mastering engineers will balance the overall audio of the entire album so that one track is not louder than another for example and puts the correct spacing between tracks.

Soon the new music will be ready to send out to with the world. I’m always very happy that the work is mostly done, and I can hardly wait for to share with everyone!

Enjoy your day,



photos of lisa hilton at capitol studios