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

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

  1. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    My wounding slashes are aimed at myself!

    Like you, I have trouble with digital gear, and also have trouble focusing on the music when focusing on the recording gear.
    So more than suggesting you not build boats for the sake of sailing, I was suggesting you build a small boat first, then move up to building the bigger boats, or choose to have a pro build it for you if your small boat isn't what you'd hoped for.

    Also trying to separate boat building (producer/ engineer) from sailing (playing music).
    FWIW I used to build boats quite well but was never much of a sailor.
    They really are different things, and we see three kinds of people in those processes:
    Those who are great at one, the other, and rarer; both.

    I was early on inspired by Steve Tibbetts who made his name recording with a Sony Pro Walkman cassette machine.
    I bought one and that was my recording gear for the '90s.
    Hard to run two mics into those 1/8" input jacks!

    Here's Steve now, I had not followed his work since way back.
    Interesting to follow his path of learning and developing skills recording, playing, hiring, collaborating and orchestrating.

     
  2. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    Really useful stuff, and I really appreciate it.

    I did find it impossible to use a ticking metronome and headphones, but playing along to actual drums/a good drum track helps things fall into place. So on the guitar + vocal songs, if I need a drum track to keep my rhythm right, I can call up a pre-made one at the right tempo and play it audibly enough in one ear, the other ear unheadphoned (ensuring there's no bleed), and go from there. And I'm getting used to feeling comfortable at a mic and forgetting all the techno stuff smelling like plastic and blinking like NASA until I'm done with the song/take. Then I can fiddle with effects/plug-ins, or re-take the song with a different mic placement, etc. So I'm okay at getting down uneffected tracks and going from there--once I learn how to go from there, without accidentally deleting my boat license.

    Sounds like a few hundred Logic tutorials await me next....

    Thanks again, telemnemonics and everyone else. This stuff matters more to me than my job, and just below family, friends, and dog. I think I've let how much it matters worsen how much it also intimidates me. Learn By Blundering, and Death to All Leaf Blowers, will be my new mottos.
     
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  3. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire

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    For years I tried to get some recording done at home. Various equipment, $1000's spent, tons of issues and no results. The only way I finally got it done was to go to a small studio and get er done at $25-30 an hour. You will actually save a ton of money that way, can focus on performance, and there are many many small studios by musicians out there nowdays.
     
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  4. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    I'll definitely be ready to go that route if I find my own efforts aren't worth the time and frustration. But having already spent the $1,000's, and with a good set-up here, I do want to try my hand at it first. While saving the $ to maybe go the studio route. I'm glad that the hourly rates may be that low, as the drummer and fiddler/violinist will be expensive to hire.

    Can you give me heads-up about home-effort issues you encountered, beyond the standard ones of bleed control, mic choice and placement, noise reduction/elimination, etc.? Any easily overlooked newbie watch-outs? Thanks!
     
  5. rangercaster

    rangercaster Friend of Leo's

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    Recording music is like capturing lightning in a bottle ... How much faith do you have in your material and money to back that faith ??? If money is no object, hire the best producer, engineer, studio, and players available ... If money is limited (reality) do your best with what you have ...
     
  6. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire

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    It's been too long for me to provide details, but the biggest issue is probably not being a digital genius! Every step of the way I had to research what I wanted to do. Then would forget the details in my next session. etc.
     
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  7. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    The "friend" that used your gear and space in exchange for helping you engineer your own recording project really sucks.
    Sorry to hear that.
    There has to be others out there who have some tech ability and would ;love to exchange some labor for use of your rig.
    If you could find someone or even a few people like that you could get the best of both worlds.

    I actually used to play with a friend at his rehearsal space/ recording studio, and he took in a share with another recording musician, then the first guy bought a house and vacated, so I talked with the new tenant and we agreed that I would rent 1/3 of the space, could arrange to record with his gear, and would play some fiddle on some of his tracks.
    Unfortunately it never quite worked out with our schedules, and the space was in another town so not easy to fit my time into his time and the space. It was a short notice agreement and I had never met the other tenant before.
    More of a risk to him giving me the keys but he had the reference of the prior tenant.

    Shop around for human resources, lot of us in similar situations.
     
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  8. strat a various

    strat a various Friend of Leo's

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    In Nashville, there are some studios that specialize in Mastering tracks. You can look them up on the internet, read revues. I'd send my work to someone like that, who does pretty much Mastering 8 hours a day. Unless your local studio is really top class. Those Nashville studios don't charge that much. Be advised, if the stuff is poorly recorded or mixed wrong, Mastering won't help. The good thing about really expert Mastering is ... if tracks are poorly mastered, the listener gets ear fatigue. Almost no one in the industry takes any recording seriously if it's Mastered wrong. Get a digital signature or digital UPC code, or whatever they call it nowadays.
     
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  9. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks again, telemnemonics & all.

    Yeah, well, the friend.... A fine dude and pal in many ways, or at least enough to keep me trusting the promises. I don't think he was deliberately using me so much as, in his mind, keeping his word somehow by chatting about music periodically, & replacing old promises w/ new ones. Let's hope I can read Logic screens better than I can "friends'" reliability.
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2019
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  10. woodman

    woodman Grand Wazoo @ The Woodshed Gold Supporter

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    I've been hangin' at this *recording* forum since it started in 2007, and this is the first thread of its type where a sizable majority is saying, "Don't waste your effort learning recording skills! Pay for somebody else to do it!"
    :eek::rolleyes::lol:
    Have I been transported to an alternate universe??? The Twilight Zone? Bizarro World?
    ****************
    Just having some fun here, guys. Carry on.
     
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  11. Steve 78

    Steve 78 Friend of Leo's

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    My advice is, if you are confident you have the gear and skills (mike placement, etc) to capture a pro sound at home then record all the tracks at home then take them to a professional studio with engineer for the mixing and post-production work.

    I would probably do it like this.
    - make sure I have a really good idea of the arrangements.
    - record demo versions of the songs, guitar and vocals, preferably to a metronome.
    - record the drums.
    - re-record the guitars and vocals to the drum tracks.
    - record all the other instruments.
    - make sure all the files are well organised and labelled. Include silence at the start of every track so everything lines up perfectly.
    - find a studio and engineer that you know does good work. Take it there and have them mix it.

    You'll need to have a rudimentary idea of how to work a DAW to do this but that isn't hard.

    A bit about me to understand where I'm coming from: I've never been a pro musician or recording engineer but have played lots of shows and played on lots of albums. I have recorded/engineered a few of my own, and friends band's albums which have been ok but not pro level. I have done pretty much exactly what I set out for you above (recordings myself, mixing by pro engineer) and it turned out very well - the mix was much better than I could have achieved. I have also recorded albums in studios where I have brought along overdubs that I recorded at home and added them to the mix and that has worked very well too.
     
  12. Steve 78

    Steve 78 Friend of Leo's

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    Sorry to ramble but here's some more info that may be relevant. In my experience a good engineer can mix a full album in a day with fairly simple arrangements. For more complicated arrangements I would guess 1.5 - 2 days.

    For my next album (different band) I am planning on recording as much as possible at home then using the studio time for post-production and mixing. I won't record any final vocals or live drums at home though - that's beyond my skill level. I will record all guitars with a split to capture just the dry signal so we can re-amp or use digital amps in the studio.
     
  13. Geoff738

    Geoff738 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Hoookay.

    Wearing the artist, engineer and producer hats at the same time is really tough at the best of times. You’d think being the artist would make the other two easier but that has not necessarily been the case in my experience. Not that it can’t work.

    I’d say if you’re confident in your engineering skills and you have a decent space that allows enough separation and sounds good, maybe do the basics at home. Maybe.

    For tracking I’d probably suggest doing a couple days in a local studio to get drums and bass at a minimum, plus guide vocals and rhythm guitars. And then taking that home and working at your own pace on the keeper guitars, vocals keys, whatever isn’t a keeper track from the studio. You don’t have to worry as much about making sure there isn’t too much spill between instruments, assuming you have good headphone mix equipment, if that’s the way you want to do it.

    And then mix? Again, maybe you do it. Why not give it a shot. Nothing to lose but time. Give someone local and respected a shot at a tune. Beats your mix? Maybe they get todo the rest.

    There’s no right or wrong on this stuff, but I suspect it would be faster and you’ll retain more of your hair if you did the basic tracks in a pro studio. But you also miss out on the learning experience that trying to do this at home yourself would provide.

    I dunno. Let us know what you end up deciding.

    Cheers,
    Geoff
     
  14. kelnet

    kelnet Telefied Ad Free Member

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    What's the end goal for this project? Record label deal? Selling CDs at gigs? Giving them out to friends and family?

    Is there a point where the costs really outweigh the benefits, or is that even in consideration?
     
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  15. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    I'd settle for a return of my young ankles and a modest harem of groupies, of course. But creating the best possible versions of my songs--capturing how I hear 'em in me noggin--is the goal. Which probably means that the CD's end up as coasters under strangers' drinks when my kids auction off their crazy, broke dad's duds to pay off his debts.

    I teach logic for a living, but that doesn't mean my job is my life!

    Thanks again for the feedback, gents. A lot to think about & learn from, and the cautions and critiques are duly noted.
     
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  16. strat a various

    strat a various Friend of Leo's

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    That's actually a good point. If the goal is to learn to record and have fun, go nuts, learn the best you can. If the immediate goal is to get signed, or to get good gigs, or even sell downloads that don't sound amateurish, then at least consider subcontracting some of the vital parts of the project out to professionals.
     
  17. studio

    studio Poster Extraordinaire

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    Okay, okay, okay........

    Just for the record, Roscoe has some issues I have forgotten about as a beginning recordist.

    Here's my suggestions:

    Record at home, and stop calling it your home. It is now your studio or studio space!

    If "friends" aren't contributing to your project, cut them loose for a good spell till you're done.

    Limit your tracks to 12 so you can focus on tight song structure. Focus is the key word here.

    Read this book: Organizing for the Creative Person by Dorothy Lehmkuhl and Dolores Lamping.
    It will help you develop your passion for having many irons in the fire at the same time.

    Record your tracks without the click track. Trust your own internal clock. We are all rhythm designed
    within this giant universal clock mechanism. There's no escaping it, your individual time space.

    you've already invested in your equipment. The hard part is out of the way.

    My God, have some fun with this! I haven't heard the word fun in this entire thread!

    Be the musician. Be the engineer. Be the producer. You know you want it. Work at it till you succeed!
     
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  18. rogb

    rogb Tele-Afflicted

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    Very good point. A couple of years back, I did some recording in a friend's pro studio. I paid for the sessions and for him to mix them plus add some top pro drums at a very reasonable cost. The tracks turned out great but it was expensive and I wanted to make small changes here and there.

    So when I went back to record some more, I bought Cubase 9 (what he used) and thought I would tweak the earlier tracks and mix the new ones. I mean, how hard can it be?

    I came up against exactly what you mentioned. It was difficult to concentrate as I was learning at the same time. In the end, the tracks remain unmixed and the old ones untweaked. So.... £600 in software and hardware interface sit unused.... I wish I could get to it but I just prefer playing and learning new material.

    I thought it would be my thing, but it wasn't.
     
  19. T Prior

    T Prior Poster Extraordinaire

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    The other issue not mentioned, just because someone else did it in simplicity with minimal gear etc, does not mean WE can do it and get the same results. I'm reading that your friend did it at your place with your gear 4 years ago ? 4 years has gone by ?

    Going to a local retail studio is a wonderful thing but it doesn't mean " perfect results" . There is a totally different stress going on, called "hourly rate" and a "not quite up to snuff " performance . A small budget can get blown away really fast and in many cases folks end up "settling" on whats been tracked. You end up with a quality recording of a less than stellar performance.

    My first inclination is to call your friend and hold him to the fire. Its time to call him out and to deliver. Heck, if your gear and location is good enough for HIM to complete a project then certainly it is good enough for you. Plus he OWES you. Don't be afraid to remind him of this.

    Mentioned above is the purpose and goal of the recording, which is always the first thing to consider. If this is not a RETAIL release for regional distribution then why are you going to spend $$ you don't need to spend ? Even a professional retail recording is not any guarantee to land gigs. You can do that with a $29 Radio Shack recorder at a live gig.

    Use your system, write down a production plan ( outline) , stick to it. Keep the tracking simple. Learn how to use YOUR system. Take notes, wrote stuff down. This is how we have ALL DONE this. Over and over again. Start with your own HOME STUDIO for your purpose. If indeed after many attempts you are struggling, bring someone to YOU. IF for nothing else, you can learn from whoever comes to your studio. Take notes, write stuff down. When folks track, we don't start from scratch each time out, there is a process, the same process each time we press the red button.

    Getting a performance on tape ( hard drive) is the same process at a full blown retail studio as it is at our own small home studio . Exactly the same. The differences are what happens AFTER the performance has been captured. Of course the outboard gear may vary but that has nothing to do with the process. One of the local studios near me, they produce multiple CD's each year for local artists , they are still using Pro Tools 8 on WIN XP. The outboard gear is really not a lot different than what I own and use ,but they are very good at the process. VERY GOOD.

    I say, if your so called friend is going to blow you off, sit with your guitar and track something over and over again, until you get it right, process and performance. Both are equal in importance. Once you get the process for ONE track down, you are more than half way there. Now you just repeat what you did for additional tracks, instruments. Don't worry about POST production, get the tracks down first. POST production comes AFTER you are done tracking . A different world. Separate them.


    Oh yeah, did you ever listen to someones recordings that they did in a fine local studio and walk away saying to yourself " yikes, not so good"...well a local so called Professional Studio is not any guarantee that you will like the end result.
     
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  20. kiwi blue

    kiwi blue Tele-Afflicted

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    It doesn't sound like you are cut out for full on mixing etc and you perhaps under-estimate the learning curve involved (as I did). I would aim for decent demo level recording skills and leave the mixing and mastering to others. Definitely concentrate on recording/capture skills. If you get that right, others can polish it. If you don't, it will always suck.

    Concentrate on your music. That is where your heart is I'm sure.

    Drums should definitely be recorded by some-one with experience, preferably in a good sounding room.

    Here's a strategy that might work for you.

    • Record a demo
    • Listen to it and think about structure, instrumentation, dynamics etc (in other words, pre-production)
    • Once you have that where you want it, go to a pro studio (or pay some-one to do it at your house) and record drums and bass live. You also play and sing live but these are only guide tracks, so if you make a stuff-up you just sail on through it, so long as the drums and bass are tight
    • Once you have the rhythm tracks, record your own tracks at home, at your leisure, in the spirit of learning rather than self-castigation, ie, if I make a mistake I have learnt something, and that enables me to do it better
    • Record the other instruments at home, if your skills have come along well enough
    • Pay some-one else to mix and master (or do a deal)

    Good luck. I'm sure your music is worth all the hard work!
     
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