Home recording or book a professional studio?

TMAS-Home-recording-or-book-a-professional-studio

Home recording or booking a recording studio?

The new song idea is ready and now the whole thing has to be recorded. Home recording or booking a professional recording studio? Here are some questions, that you as a musician should ask yourself. 

Do I look for a recording studio or do I do the recordings by myself at home?

There are different approaches and opinions. You could first ask yourself what should happen with the finished song. Is this intended for yourself, as a kind of “demo” or should the song be published, possibly also generate money in a streaming or sales portal.

And then it often revolves primarily around the same factors: Budget, time, quality and one’s own abilities or willingness to learn.

“What is the budget” for the production or in this particular case, for the recording. This often goes hand in hand with time. Do I have the budget to record in a professional and possibly renowned recording studio?

Often this is related to time, because studio time costs money. Whether the service of an audio engineer is already included, should be disregarded here.

What you should definitely get in a recording studio

The quality of premises

The locations should be acoustically optimized. No noise from the outside and just be aligned to the requirements. If you want a big airy analog drum sound with a proper “real room” and in the studio you have a drum set in a small chamber that sounds “dead” to the last end, then it is not the right studio for you. The recordings should also be able to be judged reasonably, so the monitoring situation in the recording room and especially in the control room is also important. An audio engineer should know his working environment and how to judge the sound. If you have confidence in this audio engineer, then the monitoring in the control room is not quite so decisive for you as a musician.

Die Gewährleistung für das technische Equipment

Hierbei ist es nicht so entscheidend, ob da ein 100.000 Dollar-Mischpult steht oder die High-End-Preamps vorhanden sind, sondern ob die vorhandenen Geräte funktionstüchtig sind und ihren Sinn und Zweck erfüllen, ohne Kompromisse in Aufnahmeverlauf in Kauf nehmen zu müssen. Du bezahlst Geld dafür, dass der Ablauf funktioniert und nicht durch technische Mängel gestört wird. Ein gutes Studio hat einen „Backup-Plan” oder ausreichend vergleichbares Equipment ggf. sogar andere Räumlichkeiten, sollte etwas während der Aufnahme kaputtgehen oder ausfallen.

The feeling and the special moment effect!

A recroding session in a studio has to be something special and the feeling inside the studio plays a big role. If you want to have daylight, a studio in the basement would be a bad choice. If you need it rustic and with a certain rock’n’roll character, you should also look for a studio that can offer you this kind of atmosphere.

The recording, whether alone or as a band, in an external recording studio is an adventure that is not every day on the program. This can have a very intense effect on the mood and feeling that can influence the recording or own musical performance. Such moments will be difficult to create within your own walls. A studio session also has a positive side effect if you use this for your own promotion. If necessary keep a diary about it or organize video recordings that you can present to your fans. A professional recording studio simply looks better.

The service or „luxury”

You don’t have to set up anything, you don’t have to break down anything, you don’t have to clean up, your well-being is taken care of, you can take relaxed breaks – very important aspects when choosing a studio.

In your own environment

If, on the other hand, you take over everything yourself, provided you have the premises such as your own band room or a converted living room available, the time factor is no longer so relevant. The quality could well be limited.

You probably don’t have the same acoustic conditions for the recording itself and a certain knowledge of recording and use of hardware and software should be available. Rarely do you also have the extensive equipment of a recording studio at your disposal. However, this could be partially compensated with the necessary budget and in addition to the own purchase certainly borrow some for the time of recording.

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Quality factor

So what makes a good recording?

  • Musical performance of the artist – without question, this is the first and most crucial point.
  • A prepared and warmed up voice or a functioning and tuned instrument.
  • Depending on the type of recording, the room and the quality of the microphone is crucial
  • The monitoring situation is often underestimated, because if you can’t judge the recording signal, the most expensive equipment in the recording chain won’t do you much good
  • The quality of the digital/analog converters, which reproduce the acoustic signal as faithfully as possible in digital form.
  • Then you can spend endless time thinking about various preamps, compressors, EQs and effects units.

However, one should not take this list too narrowly. Of course, you don’t have to have the best of the best in every priority point before you worry about the following point. But it doesn’t make any sense to record with a 3,000 Euro preamp with a 50 Euro microphone on a budget practice guitar amp in your basement at home and hope to achieve studio quality like in one of the TOP studios. Nevertheless, you can achieve wonderful and usable recordings with today’s means and a small budget. Who does not manage this yet, must practice with the available, if necessary adapt its own environment, exchange some parts from the recording chain or book nevertheless times a recording studio. There you can take a lot of experience and impressions during the recordings and also learn important basics practically.

 

Time factor

Do you have more of a limited time available for recording:

  • it can quickly become stressful under certain situations
  • requires above all good planning and even better preparation,
  • among other things, you have to make quick decisions, but this can have a very positive effect on production

More flexible with the time:

  • In any case, it is more relaxed for you, 
  • you can spontaneously shoot more than planned
  • but you can also get bogged down in tiny details that make little or no difference in the end
  • you will “never” finish the recording

If you have more time available, you can record much more. But then you also have to sift through more material and the editing time increases enormously. Are ten musical pieces, which can be summarized with the paraphrase “okay”, really better than five songs which are “the ultimate songs”? 

Is it worth putting more energy into the realization of the recordings in one’s own location (set-up, dismantling, rebuilding) or do you go to a prepared recording environment in which everything is already optimally available?

In any case, a good schedule makes sense – no matter where and how you record. You should also prioritize the recording process. At the beginning of my own audio engineering days, I worked with a band in a rented studio where time was “limited”. There were countless solo variations recorded, which took a lot of time. The vocals were not to be recorded until all the instruments were in the can. 

At the end of the session, the singer hardly had time to sing two/three additional passages for a voice doubling, because too much energy and time was put into a solo – of which, by the way, the very first and rehearsed variation was chosen in the end. For me it was “teaching money”, because it was not only stressful for me, but also caused tension in the band and this tension in the studio or in recording should be avoided as much as possible.

Also “never finishing” sounds rather unlikely at the moment. But I know musicians who tell me themselves that they have been working on a song for what feels like an eternity and keep changing something – “the song could become even better as a result”. On the contrary – it never gets finished! So set yourself a deadline, even if you have an “infinite” amount of time available for recording.

Budget factor

Do you have a certain possibly even a lush budget available then:

  • you can afford the necessary equipment
  • you can afford the studio you want
  • you can buy the necessary know-how in the form of an experienced technician
  • you can afford more time in the studio

But so can you:

  • waste a lot of money in the wrong place
  • and not focus on where the money is well spent.

So you should definitely weigh what you can get for your budget!

Should you save the cost of an audio engineer?
Often at least one member of the band takes over the coordination of the recording and makes himself or is already familiar with the technical operation. The project can benefit from this, but it can also suffer.

  • this member is more involved in the whole process and has more to do
  • this member is then no longer “just” a musician and has to take care of several things and points of view at the same time
  • this member may be held responsible for “not so great” recordings
  • this member probably focuses more on the recording process as a technician (because this is rather unknown) and less on the part as a musician

So the consideration of organizing a non-involved technician for certain recording situations should definitely be taken into account.
Especially if you are planning a group recording in which everyone is playing and recording together at the same time. This way, an outside engineer can take care of the recording and monitoring, and each musician can focus fully on their musical performance. And until everyone is satisfied with their sound for the recording, a lot of time can pass.

I myself have experienced both variants intensively as a musician. I recorded my own band and also worked as a musician with a sound engineer in the studio. It brought me to my own recording, because I was also disappointed and annoyed with the cooperation of one of the first sound engineers. So I took this later passion for sound engineering into my own hands at a very early stage.
From this experience, however, I can also tell you that do-it-yourself is not necessarily the only solution. You should definitely sit down with the sound engineer in advance, see on what basis you can work together and whether he can meet the needs and musical and sound requirements of the band.

Later, when I was “only” the audio engineer for other artists’ recordings, it helped me a lot to concentrate fully on the technical aspects. I was able to guide the musicians through the recording process and they were able to concentrate on their artistic performance.

TIP: When you go to a studio, arrange a get-to-know-you meeting with the audio engineer in advance. Don’t blindly book a recording day. Listen to what others have to say about the engineer and studio, but also form your own opinion. If a pre-recording meeting goes well, book ONE song or hold a recording day and see how the entire recording goes as well as the “before” and the “after”. Then you can always think about a longer collaboration.

Conclusion

As so often in such questions, the answer to the initial situation is – “it depends”!

It is important to set up and clarify the requirements and your own possibilities. It probably makes sense to “outsource” some parts of a recording, such as recording the drums in a studio and recording the rest of the instrumental and vocal parts on your own premises.

Personally, I think it’s very important that as a musician (whether as a solo artist or in a band) you get to grips with the subject of “recording” yourself and know what’s important. On the one hand, you learn to understand the work of an audio engineer better, know how to prepare yourself for what’s going to happen, and thus get much more involved in the whole process.
And for another, recording is already very much a part of the songwriting process. A demo recording can suddenly turn into an official production that is more than just a recording of an idea.

So you should definitely consider the topic “Do-It-Yourself-Recording”, at least for your demo recordings. Larger projects or individual recordings can be commissioned afterwards or additionally in a recording studio. When working with an audio engineer, you will also gain important on-site experience of how a recording session works.

 

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Questions for you

What experience have you already had in your own recording?
For what reasons did you decide to record in a studio or DIY?

Are you as an artist unsure if and how you can realize your recordings?
I will be happy to support you in finding a solution. Simply contact me directly via the following contact form.

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