We received an interesting question recently here at Audio Masterclass Towers…
A Audio Masterclass visitor asked quite simply why do people record at home when a pro studio would do a better job?
Hm, that really is a good question. If you are already a good musician then surely booking a pro studio would be far easier than spending months and years learning how to operate a home studio properly. Why waste all of this time?
And consider the money… you could spend a whole day in a world-class studio for less than it would cost you to set up even a halfway decent home studio. You could come out with a demo that you could use to get a deal, or license it to a smaller label as a master. Your career would be off to a head start.
It all sounds very tempting. But, there is a 'but'…
I can tell this story from my own experience of many, many years ago when I had a little bit of skill with music (which somehow seems to have receded over the years!) and at that point zero experience of recording, other than with my simple tape recorder at home.
I booked a studio that, for its period in time, had good equipment that was certainly capable of producing professional recordings.
The studio's owners worked as engineers and since they worked practically every day they had massive experience of recording all kinds of music.
So I was pretty sure that the equation, my music + good equipment + good engineer would equal a good recording.
I was wrong…
It was a fantastic day, I have no doubt about that. It really does stick in my memory. And there was no problem with the music, none with the equipment and none with the engineer.
So why did the recording turn out rather lackluster and why did I put it in a cupboard, never to see the light of day again?
The answer is in the interface between musician and engineer.
It's difficult to explain. I knew what I wanted musically, but I didn't then have the knowledge of recording techniques to communicate effectively with the engineer. The engineer on the other hand was trying to interpret my music through the experience he had of countless other musicians and bands.
And somehow we didn't make a connection. With the glorious 20/20 vision that hindsight provides I can see what a massive gap in understanding this is, and why we have people called 'record producers' whose job it is to bridge the gap between music and recording.
And I have heard the same tale so many times from other musicians that I know that it is true – you can go into a pro studio with great music and great musicianship, the engineer can do a professional piece of work, but you come out with a recording that just doesn't cut it.
So what can you do?
There are two answers… One is to view your first day in a pro studio as the first day of a learning experience that is going to take many visits to the studio to perfect. And until you have mastered the difficult art of self-production in a pro studio, and communicating exactly what you want to the engineer, you will not be satisfied with the results.
The other answer is to set up your own home recording studio and learn the recording process for yourself!
So that, in a nutshell, is why we have home studios. It is actually very difficult to get a good result in a pro studio, unless you really know what you are doing. It is possibly as difficult as learning how to make decent recordings yourself at home.
We would love to hear of your pro studio stories from the early days of your career, successful and otherwise. And if you run a studio for hire yourself, how would you advise an aspiring musician or band to prepare themselves for that special first day in a pro recording studio?