Advice about home vs. professional studio to record one's album?

Discussion in 'Recording In Progress' started by RoscoeElegante, Jul 13, 2019.

  1. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    Quick background: A (now-former) friend recorded two of his own albums with a lot of skill. The second one he did in the studio that he set up in my house, on my dime and with my gear (mics, drums, plug-ins, even the cowbell)--on the promise that he'd "get to" my music "right after" he'd finished his. I was glad to help, and (here's the dumb part) I believed him.

    Four+ years later, I finally had enough of being back-burnered. Especially when last week he suddenly found room in his "super-busy" schedule to record himself again, with my equipment, and left a good chunk of it unattended overnight in an unlocked place that's right beside my house--and prone to prowlers, as I'd told him--despite promises not to do exactly that, because setting up the mics just right had taken him so long. (Luckily, he'd left a light on in there, so when I went over to turn it off, I saw and fetched home my stuff.)

    So as I try to turn being fed up into being productive, here are my options as I see 'em.

    I can do the guitar, bass, piano, and organ parts myself. I also have the cello, fiddle, and French horn players I'll need available. There's a very talented professional drummer (who drummed on my former friend's stuff) I can probably hire. No mandolin player is on hand, but I might be able to track one down, or learn it myself (I do own one). So that's all to the good, home-recording-wise.

    BUT I've got a (very) middle-aged-person's Teflon tundra where braincells should be when it comes to using even relatively simple programs such as Logic. Seriously--it takes me weeks what it takes most people to learn in 10 minutes. My mind wanders like a scorched butterfly even when the reward of concentrating is satisfying music. So that's a big bad for home-recording. I can see myself accidentally dialing in the Bay City Rollers' lint just where I thought I had shaken Percy Sledge's hand.

    Another good, though, is that I know exactly what all my songs should sound like when finished. If I could learn Logic, etc., it would just be a matter of doing the right clicks and dials to get what I want. And since my sound is more Americana than spacey or experimental, all those sounds and settings are already there, in the live playing and the hard- and software I have to capture/create it.

    So do I hire a producer/engineer to come over to my place, familiarize himself with the gear and what I want, and we go from there? If so, how so? I don't want another phony-promise experience, or someone who knows out-of-state pawn shops too well.

    Or do I scoop out some of my kids' spry brain cells and lay off snorting "Live PD" re-runs and force myself to learn Logic, and be my own producer and engineer? My most complex/textured song is still relatively simple: a nicely spacious Lucinda Williams sound, or a Dylan's "Desire" sound + a U2ish flourish/outro; a rockabilly song here and a four-piece hard-rock one there, etc. So would it be possible for an e-handicapped newbie to achieve this?

    OR do I go to the recording studio that's a few towns away, one that's used and recommended by the area's better musicians, and put it all in their hands, having first sent them each song's demo so they can get their drummer(s) on drum-requiring songs, and us building from there?

    In both cases, I'd have to co-ordinate getting the other musicians rehearsed and available, as I don't want to go the all-plug-ins route, which would make home recording a lot easier and a LOT less expensive.

    So is doing it at home the best route, or is that just setting myself up for frustrations that much-pricier professional producing would avoid? Home w/ producer, home all on me, what?

    Which brings us to costs. How much would someone producing 12 songs in someone's home cost me, versus the same if I were to use a professional studio?

    And the drummer. What's a fair wage to offer a professional drummer to drive from about 175 miles away (I can put him up in my house or a hotel) and lay down drum tracks for, say, 8 songs? I can send him the demos first, and he's a quick study. And what kind of time are we talking here, for even a quick-study, professional drummer? I like really sharp and slightly reverbed, quick, and expressive drumming, ala Howie Wyeth's on Dylan's "Desire," Charlie Watts, Kenny Aronoff, etc. Stuff that sounds really simple but takes a lot of precise skill. Is that particularly time-consuming to get and record just right, or is that just too variable to say?

    Thanks for your feedback! It feels better, disappointment-processing-wise, just to lay all this out.
     
  2. rangercaster

    rangercaster Friend of Leo's

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    My take on it FWIW ... Pay others who are qualified so you can concentrate on what you need to do ... If you can afford it ... If I'm recording my performance , i want someone else with a great ear pushing buttons and adjusting levels ... And I would hire Kenny Aronoff or Steve Gadd ...
     
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  3. drumtime

    drumtime Tele-Meister

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    + 1 on the above.

    Learning to record, mix, and master is no simple task. It's a skill set like any other, and takes lots of study and experience to do it well.

    So, before you get your songs recorded and out there, you'd have to learn how to record, mix and master at at least a semi-pro level. That would be cool and all, but you would be "back-burnering" yourself once again.

    You might be able to record raw tracks at home and take them to the studio to be assembled and finished. Maybe. Even that is kind of a crap shoot if you haven't done a lot of it.

    You want to get your music recorded. Talk to a couple of studios. Ask around among your musical friends. See what is available to you and what it would cost. I think it would be worth a lot to get a high-quality CD finished in short order.
     
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  4. EsquireBoy

    EsquireBoy Tele-Meister

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    I’m totally unable to give you an idea about the rates, but I am pretty sure that having an engineer come record at your studio should be less expensive than renting a pro studio.
    There are a lot of young engineers, students for instance, who may not have a lot of experience but are handy with DAWs and would be more than happy to help you.

    I would add that, in my opinion, home recording would provide a far less stressful environment. Feeling more confortable could lead you to play better, experiment some ideas and let your creativity flow easily.

    And since you seem to have good gear at home, I would go this way.
     
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  5. woodman

    woodman Grand Wazoo @ The Woodshed Gold Supporter

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    It will probably take at least one year for you to get competent and confident with your own recording approach, and that's working hard at it consistently, not just once or twice a week.

    But you will then be freed from a lot of complications and expenses as years go by.

    The big question is this: are you willing to invest this time in yourself, or would your time be better spent earning the money to pay others to interpret your musical vision for you?

    Either one is a gamble, and it could also be said that the recording game in itself is a crapshoot! :D

    Just keep thinking about it from all angles and don't rush into anything rash. At some point, the answer will feel obvious to you.
     
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  6. Middleman

    Middleman Friend of Leo's

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    I would evaluate several things.

    Is my recording gear as good as the recording studios?
    Are my skills as an engineer good enough to move quickly so the artist side of me doesn't lose inspiration?
    Are the engineers at the studio that good? There are a lot of bad engineers out there. Evaluate some work they have already done.
    Is my music that good, written and arranged well?

    I played music on the road, took me about 10 years to get really good.
    I've been recording myself and others to learn about engineering over the last 10 years. I'm just now getting really good at it.

    Look if you want to record some demos, just do it at home. If you want something closer to a commercial recording find a studio that has produced commercial level stuff.

    Dump your friend.
     
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  7. LKB3rd

    LKB3rd Friend of Leo's

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    The idea of hiring an engineer is what came to mind for me too. Find someone who can quickly "drive" your DAW and equipment, and you become the producer.
     
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  8. suthol

    suthol Friend of Leo's

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    We record for about 2 hours every Thursday, we are together for 4 hours but spend time rearranging and more often talking BS.

    Once we are tracked I try to spend at least 1 hour per day working on the raw product, that is mainly editing and adding the instruments and vocals that I have to do, mixing and beyond takes forever.

    There some very wise owls here who must be listened to otherwise you will forever walk in the dark
     
  9. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    .

    There are numerous stories of famous bands and famous records recorded entirely at some house, a stairway in a house, or the bathroom of a house because of the natural reverb or lack of whatnot. There are pro recording studios that had 'the sound of a lorry' that made it into the final recording because they didn't catch it until after publication. Ratty amps, amps where the guitarist slit the speaker cone with a razor blade, and so on. Look up the youtube channel 'Darryl's House', obviously pro players with top end equipment and pro studio guys but essentially inside Darryl's House/Barn. I watched an interview of the recording engineer on Aerosmith's Walk This Way and Sweet Emotion and he told how they tracked the bass guitar and then had the drummer bang on a marimba to match the bass guitar notes and timing so it gave a really unique bass fill.

    Get familiar with Audacity (https://www.audacityteam.org/) as that is easier than any DAW and will give you multi-track capabilities, plus plugins you can edit with (add reverb, remove noise, etc).

    A singing booth can be a 'walk-in' closet packed with racks of clothes as sound deadeners. There are some youtube channels on how to sound proof your studio or hang noise traps made out of 1x3s and insulation with burlap over them, or a wall of irregularly packed second hand books for mass and sound scatter.

    Buy a couple of the famous and not so famous (ie cheap) mics and set them up on stands by the speaker. More mics to record more than you need but then you'll have them and can mix later. Rick Beato reviewed a new combo mic stand that looks really promising and easy to use (I didn't look up it's cost but the time savings seems likely to pay for it).




    .
     
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  10. ricknbaker

    ricknbaker Tele-Afflicted

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    I respectfully disagree. Sometimes the stress pushes you to new limits that you didn't know you had.

    Anyway, if money was no object, I'd get the band properly rehearsed and then find a pro studio with engineers who know what they're doing. Getting a producer is more tricky. Do you know anyone with a good ear who would do it for you? Or are you going to pay a stranger who might not be on your wavelength? Or do you want to self produce? I think that last option is the least good.
     
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  11. EsquireBoy

    EsquireBoy Tele-Meister

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    I agree. But it can depend on the pro you work with (some can sometimes be condescending with amateurs), on the level of experience you already have recording your own music and on your character. I am a teacher and I know that what works superbly with one student can be another one’s nightmare.
     
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  12. Mark the Moose

    Mark the Moose Tele-Meister

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    Time vs. money, and where your interests lie. If you are interested in learning some engineering skills, you could get some decent enough tracks down. Mixing, however, takes a ton of practice and might be worth hiring a pro. Mastering should always be done by a pro with proper mastering tools.
     
  13. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks very much for the thoughtful perspectives and advice, all.

    Could you costs-ballpark some of this?

    Scenario 1) Hiring someone to do the engineering/producing part of it in my house for 12 songs.

    2) Hiring the drummer whom I have in mind to drive here from 175 miles away to lay down tracks for the 8 of 12 songs that need drums. I could put him up in my house, or rent him a hotel room, so there's that, too.

    3) Having a professional studio mix and master tracks that I've completed with an engineer/producer coming to my home.

    4) Ditto but taking tracks to the professional studio just to be mastered, the tracks having been recorded and mixed at home.

    5) Doing it all in a professional studio. Four tracks of just me + guitar + vocal, 8 of various other arrangements, with most of those of the three-to-four piece sort.

    Thanks!
     
  14. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

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    Think of it this way- audio engineering is a skill, just like playing an instrument. You can go to Banjo Mart and buy a Strat, Fuzz Face and a Marshall stack, but you won't sound like Jimi Hendrix unless you can play. Same goes for recording gear- having a few mics, an interface and some plugins doesn't make you George Martin.

    If you're genuinely interested in putting in the time to learn to record music the way you would learn to play an instrument, investing in some equipment to do your own recordings is a great idea. If you just want to learn enough to get by, you'll be able to make passable sounding demos but you'll never be able to do really pro quality work. In that case if you want pro level results, hire a pro. Remember though, there are a lot of clowns out there who don't know their butt from their elbow- ask around, get referrals, find some projects recorded locally that sound good to you and find out who did them. It's a serious drag to walk out of a studio having blown your recording budget and having recordings you don't like because the engineer was a moron or didn't get what you were trying to do.
     
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  15. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

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    The answer is simple- "it depends."

    Pricing for all this stuff is going to depend on the going rates in your area, which varies wildly depending on what your local music scene is like. The only person who can really answer this is you- send some emails and see what comes back. A drummer who doesn't do much studio work may work cheap to build their resume, or they may want a lot because they don't like leaving home. Or they may have just had a huge car repair bill and are desperate for some extra cash, you never know.

    Don't be afraid to negotiate, either- at work I have a "card rate" that I quote for jobs, but if somebody asks for a discount and I'm not busy I'll usually come down on it a little to get some cash flowing.
     
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  16. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Lotta variables and I have to wonder about the thinking that went into concluding you need a ten piece band to record an album of five styles of music.

    I'd consider making it more simple at first.

    The chasm between hearing how it should sound in your head and getting a bunch of guys you just met to produce that sound you hear is the work that makes an ordinary person into a highly paid producer/ engineer.

    And the cost of pulling all that together goes up exponentially as the experience of the guy in charge (you) goes down.

    Maybe try recording your more simple four piece Rock tunes with the gear you have.
    Then see how your skills progress.

    Later if that all goes well and you learn to use that gear you have, you can bring in the French horn and cello, plus learn to play mandolin. Depending on your specific mando needs you might pull a Tommy Tedesco and tune the mando like a guitar.
    Tommy was a great multi instrumentalist, but he knew his limitations.

    Learning to actually do the stuff you plan to do is where you will get your best answers WRT "how should I go about making this all happen?".

    NY recording Crazy Horse claims he had to work the band all day and into the night before they were tired enough to follow his instructions, as opposed to playing what they thought was right.
    So I'd suggest herding a small number of cats for a while first, rather than importing lots of cats all at the same time!
     
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  17. strat a various

    strat a various Friend of Leo's

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    I have several friends who put out "records" that sell well and make them a lot of money ... and some of them record at home (or in a buddy's barn). Now, these guys could afford to record at any studio, and have access to a major recording studio in the L.A. area, but they prefer to be in a more relaxed environment. They do hire a recording engineer, and have the mix mastered by an expert.

    If you act as your own engineer, you are learning a new skill ... how well you progress has to do with how much talent you have as an engineer. If you are considering learning the craft of recording, I'd do a tune with your equipment and then invest in a pro studio, and record the same tune. Have both professionally mastered (or not, but it's a tough job for a beginner). Rest you ears for a few days and compare the results. If you and your friends/partners think your recording skills are on a similar level with the pro, you can save a ton doing a whole "album". (I've never seen that happen, but I haven't seen everything.)
     
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  18. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    telemnemonics: I MUCH appreciate your feedback and candor, as always. But geez, I'm a little wounded! Mostly, though, just gonna use your response to state where all the fine feedback here is leading me.

    Although my music is roughly over five styles, ya gotta admit, those styles can easily include lots of instruments. Even Mr. Barebones/One-Take Dylan used a police whistle on "Highway 61"! Plus, I've got all those players on hand, or can do those parts myself. So it's not like I'm gonna lush up a hillbilly song with the Appalachian Philharmonic, State Trooper Sireens conducting.

    Plus, beyond guitar, bass, and drums, many of the parts are very much parts--10 seconds of French horn on an outro, the new/old family pump organ on a 30-second bridge, etc. I'm such a resonant textures nut that, with a few wall-of-sound exceptions, I can't stand over-crowded production. I need to hear each instrument, so "rich minimalism" is my oxymoron of the day.

    Coalescing everyone's advice with my gear, intentions, inexperience level, etc., I'm thinking I'll:

    1) Record and engineer the guitar + vocals-only songs myself, to see if the polished demo form I can get them into is what I want. Given those songs' inherent simplicity, the adequacy of my gear and dead room as proven by my ex-pal's fine record made here, etc., I'm thinking this would be fine. Playing these simple songs 10, 20, 30 times each until I've got takes I'm satisfied with would get tedious but be doable. Adding in the needed bit/type of reverb or echo, etc., trying different mics at different angles and positions, etc., would be fun.

    2) Make demos of the songs requiring more instrumentation and send them to the drummer, with brief notes about the drumming each should have. With a few follow-up chats of what I have in mind and how he'd get us there. He might even be able to record his contributions from his own home, and send them to me. He's heard some of my songs already and plain picks up on people's styles and intentions very quickly. He, there, and I, here, will record his drums dry and clean. As I learn Logic, I can add reverb, adjust tempo, have parts repeat, etc. These would serve as the metronome for the other players adding their parts, and me re-doing my vocals and guitar up to actual-take levels. If I find myself overwhelmed, I can then canvas around the area (the good part of being in a yowling college town is that we do have a hungry Music Dept., and lots of audiophile engineers around here) to find a professional or semi-professional dude to take it from there. If I find myself learning better than I anticipate, I can keep going with the engineering/producing role myself.

    3) When I feel I/we are "done," I can take it to the professional studio a few towns away to have it better mixed and properly mastered.

    Sound doable?
     
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  19. Tonetele

    Tonetele Poster Extraordinaire

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    I agree
     
  20. Middleman

    Middleman Friend of Leo's

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    That's a plan. Probably the best to get from point A to point B.
     
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