Monday, September 1, 2008

Home Studios and Commercial Studios PART2

Working on some vocals for the Christmas album today. But I wanted to stop and blog cause I’ve gotten some comments and emails from a lot of musicians out there who are also fighting their way through the industry and are dealing with decisions on home studio recordings vs. commercial recordings. Before getting into this, I wanted to stress the most important element in this whole recording thing.

An album doesn’t come from a studio. It doesn’t come from ProTools or tape. It doesn’t come from the mics or the preamps or the kinds of cables used on the mics. The sound comes from the people making it. It comes from the musicians and their great sounding instruments. In the end, it comes from the producer who is making millions of decisions on how the music is captured and interpreted. Take a producer, a few musicians, a Mackie 24 channel board, some SM57’s, and a computer with recording software (or tape machine), and put them in a room. An amazing album will emerge. Do the same thing, minus the producer, on a $300,000 dollar console with the best mics and best rooms in LA or Nashville and you will often come out with crap. It might be a clean sounding crap-- but still crap. Yes, the little tech things CAN make a difference, but not nearly as big a difference as the people who are creating.

Usually bands are great at being bands, but not so great at understanding how to translate that into a disc. Something may rock on stage, but a band doesn’t typically understand how severe changes need to be made in order to capture that. You can’t just turn the amps up.

I am the rare example of what not to do because I am currently self-producing my latest material. I’ve been producing for about 10 years now. And I’ve had the chance to learn from some great producers from LA and Nashville over the years of NOT producing my own albums. Yet, even in producing the current material, I still have a ton of help and feedback from producers and musicians around me.

If you have raised $20,000 for your next album, spend it on a producer. I’m not just saying this so us producers get more work. But think about it. $20,000 will get 20 days in an amazing studio. 5 to 10 of those days, you will need for mixing. So that leaves you with 10 to 15 days to cram in recording time with equipment you don’t know how to use. Typically, bands hire some tech guy that knows how to use the equipment, but he is not trained to do much more than record. An engineer is vastly different than a producer. Great records are so much more than well-recorded songs. Great records are about a creative synergy that happens between the artist and the producer. In my recording experience, there is nothing more important than this. It is what separates “good sounding” records from records that move the soul.

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