A recurring theme in my discussions with artists and bands is how they have attempted to record their music at a friend’s house or attempted to record it themselves. They do this to save money on the recording. With the advent of many low-cost recording software products, this seems like a good idea at first. The common problem these artists report to me is that they never get the music to sound like they want it to sound. It was missing something. So what was missing?
The answer to that question is really the actual answer to the question ‘why use a recording studio?’ To dig deeper into the question, we need to establish an understanding of some things that make up a good recording of any song. Basically, there are three areas that cover what goes into a recording. The three areas are equipment, environment, and people. These basic areas are the same in many disciplines, some of which, many of us are familiar.
When my wife and I discovered our water was not filtering properly, I decided to fix the problem myself. I decided to install a new filter in line with our main water pipe in our basement. I proudly bought a new filter system, and then began the process of learning how to cut the pipe, weld the correct attachments to the pipe, and then connect the water filter. As most of you that have experience in this area are now thinking, I had problems from the start. I got the wrong parts, miss welded pieces, had to buy new parts, buy a welding torch, and after spending a full day working on the project, finally had to bring in someone who knew what they were doing. This story still brings chills to me when I think about it. I wasted a lot of time and materials, and still did not get what I wanted.
So let’s dig into the 3 areas of recording that are necessary for a quality outcome.
- Equipment – It really does matter what equipment is used. The quality and purpose of the microphone can make big difference in sound that is recorded. For example, using a high-end vocal microphone for vocals can radically enhance the subtle nuisances of a singer’s voice. Knowing what microphone to use or even where to place it can improve the sound. Using outboard analog gear, including compressors, EQ’s, and pre-amps to warm up the signal and bring out the sounds you are looking for is also very important. The use of this equipment to its fullest extent requires a lot of experience and well trained ears to get the intended results.
- Environment – The rooms used to make the recording need to be acoustically adjusted to dampen the sound within the room and prevent sound from occurring from outside the room. This requires knowledge of acoustics, sound reflection, sound proofing, and room size requirements. The room where the mixing is done must also be acoustically correct, including using the right kind of speakers to produce the sound while mixing. Even the placement of the sound monitors can affect how the engineer hears the different layers of a song.
- People – There can be no substitution in this area. It may be easy to actually set up the signal flow and record a song into multiple tracks using easy to learn software, but that is the least important part of the process. Experience has shown that by having someone other than the artist involved in producing the final recorded song adds many attributes that would likely be missed. This person, let’s call them a producer, can bring ideas to the table to improve the overall sound of the song. Sometimes simply changing a tone on an electric guitar, the mic placement, knowing which gear to use, or layering additional tracks not covered by other instruments can dramatically improve a final recording. Also the engineer doing the mixing and recording needs to know how to use the equipment to get the results the artist wants from their music, which requires a lot of experience and proven track record. I hate to sound redundant, but experience (and lots of it) in a producer and engineer is crucial for getting a professional sound.
I suspect most of us know this already, so why do we want to go the ‘Do-It-Yourself’ route? The answer is almost always cost. We believe we can do it cheaper and get away with it. The evidence is not in our favor. If we start off doing it ourselves, we will ultimately invest more than would have if we had gone the professional route. And in the end, we are unlikely to be satisfied with the quality.
The key is to find a recording studio that has reasonable rates, but provides the quality we are looking for. Most people do not realize there are recording studios available that offer quality for a lower cost. As an example of one, I recommend you check out RCR Recording Studios.
So what is the answer to ‘what is missing’? Evidence suggests a professional recording studio.
Rob Crichlow, CEO
RCR Recording Studios