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Why Do-It-Yourself Recording Isn't Always Your Best Bet

Jun 13, 2008
In a world where recording capabilities are moving more and more into the hands of the consumer, what incentive is there for independent artist to go into an expensive studio? The technology today allows the everyday musician to be the everyday recording engineer as well. The big record companies are scrambling to make up for lost CD sales, while music downloading is bigger than ever. So, does it make any sense at all to fork over your hard earned dough on a fancy studio? Couldn't you just buy some software and do it yourself at home?

The answer is a resounding "sure". It is truly amazing what you can do with a laptop computer these days, there's no denying that. And, especially with electronic music, you can get really high quality recordings out of relatively simple software packages. But you may notice that no matter how you wrangle that amazing piece of software, it never seems to sound quite like the stuff that's on the radio. What is it that's missing?

The truth of the matter is that software alone cannot take the place of much of the equipment that is still being used in professional recording studios. High quality microphones, preamps, maximizers, professional mixers; the list goes on and on. And to get that professional sound out of your software you need those extra little bits that can end up costing you a fortune if you're doing it yourself.

This is where the project studio can come to your rescue! Project studios are often times home based studios where some poor schlep has forked out his life savings on all the best prosumer equipment that money can buy, taken more than half his house and dedicated it to his love of music, and then spends much of his time recording, mixing and mastering in his comfortable, home-based studio.

A project studio is a great way to get a highly professional sound for a lot less than the cost of the equipment itself. However, the best part about hiring a project studio is that the engineer is going to be far more comfortable with the equipment than your average musician, and, most importantly, he or she will bring a fresh ear to your music project.

It's this great advantage that separates the pros from to amateurs. Having someone, independent from your music, to engineer and produce your music gives you an edge that many indie bands just don't have. A good engineer will help you take your music beyond what you may be capable of doing on your own. Plus, they'll have the equipment in place to make that software (or hardware) obey your every command.

Now, if you have the money, professional studios will most likely be the way to go. You'll end up spending anywhere from $1000 to $20,000 for recording, but you are almost always guaranteed a great recording. Albeit, even an expensive studio isn't necessarily going to get you the sound you want. More often than not high end studios hire high end engineers, which means that whatever your project is it will be top notch. However, just because a studio has the best equipment or the best engineer, doesn't mean that it will be the right fit for your sound.

An engineer is, in many respects, a temporary member of the band. Finding an engineer, either high end professional, or project studio professional, that works well with your particular sound is vitally important to a great recording. This is probably the trickiest part to finding a good studio. It's like finding a great drummer for your samba band; you wouldn't hire Tommy Lee over a professional samba drummer like Luiz Santos. Nothing against Tommy Lee, it just wouldn't be a good fit. Same thing with an engineer. One way to get a feel for your engineer's sound is simply to check out previous recordings. How does he or she mix? How do they effect certain instruments? What does the recording sound like in different players? And most importantly, do you like the sound?

Whether you choose a high end studio or a project studio is somewhat irrelevant to the talents of the person behind the board. A great engineer in a project studio will sound better than a lousy engineer in a high end studio any day. This is why, with a little research, a project studio can be far more cost effective than a high end, high dollar studio, or getting a not-so-great recording out of your laptop and your cheap-ass radio shack microphone. If you are serious about music recording find yourself an engineer you can trust! It will make all the difference in the world!
About the Author
Adam Benson is the CEO and head engineer of Trampled Fruit Records . Trampled Fruit is a high end Project Studio in Phoenix, AZ. To learn more check them out at http://www.trampledfruitrecords.com
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