Recording has come a long way over the years. Not too long ago, the only way you could create a high quality EP was by booking time in a studio. Now, with the advances in technology, recording at home has become a respected option for both professional and non-professional musicians.
Do you know how all of your favorite records were made? You probably assumed they were all recorded at Abbey Road or some other high end studio, but you might be surprised if you did some research. Great records like ‘Odelay’ – Beck, ‘Nebraska’ by Bruce Springsteen, ‘White Ladder’ – David Gray, ‘Of June’ – Owl City, ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ – Bon Iver and ‘Wasting Light’ – Foo Fighters are a few examples of some amazing home studio recordings.
The real question is should you be doing your next recording at home or with a professional company? Here are a few things to consider: Will the recording be used to market a professional project? If you’re just doing it for fun (and you’re not rich) then save your money and invest in some basic home recording gear. Learning to properly use it can be just as fun as making the music when you’re just starting out. Now if you’re trying to be the next platinum selling artist (which should never be your goal to be honest) then you’ll have to be more careful. You don’t necessarily need to go to a 3rd party to record but you will need to be realistic about your business plan. If your band or solo project is pumping out basement recordings that you feel are your full potential then keep doin’ what you’re doin’. If you honestly think that you’re compromising your sound because of the fear of large studio bills then address the issue.
Not every studio is expensive and not every part of your record has to be done in the professional studio. It’s about finding the right balance between your creativity and the professional opinions of the company you choose to work with. A good idea is to record as much as you can on your own and then have a chat with a studio about the areas you feel that are lacking due to your limited knowledge and or equipment. For example: having someone produce your drum tracks can completely change the sound of what would otherwise be a full home recording. High quality vocals can sometimes be a challenge to produce from home so using a 3rd party for those tracks alone can transform your record. The important thing is to not compromise the quality of your album by biting off more than you can chew. Recording 3 bad EPs can actually be more expensive than recording 1 good one.
The next thing to consider is investing in the best software the industry has to offer. This allows you to have a limited amount of hardware and still be able to create professional grade material. Companies like Waves, Universal Audio, Slate Digital and Native Instruments have made it possible for the little guys to hang with the big guys. They’ve created emulators for some of the most expensive recording hardware on the planet and for a small fraction of the cost! Now don’t get me wrong, that small fraction adds up to be a hefty fee after a while but it certainly makes it possible to slowly build an amazing studio in your computer!
Of course these scientific miracles are great tools…if you know how to use them. Producing, Mixing and Mastering are all professional services that require years of experience to execute well. Deciding you can do any of these things on a whim or simply giving it a shot can definitely get a certain level of results but rarely lead to quality audio.
Do what you know you can, be patient and learn the things you don’t know, and don’t be afraid to get help for the things that are outside your area of expertise. Good luck!