Help Finding a Recording Studio...

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by AlligatorMtn, Feb 20, 2008.

  1. AlligatorMtn

    AlligatorMtn Member

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    ... Hey guys, I usually don't post on the recording board, mainly over in the instrument sections...and now I have an issue I think that can be settled here...So....

    I've tracked 7 songs at a local studio in town, we were planning on taking those tracks and taking them elsewhere to mix and master...this is where I need some advice and suggestions..

    I have some more songs to track that have been written and really want them on the album...the studio where I recorded these other 7 tracks is a private home studio and the guy who 'runs it' is no longer in service at all - its by no means a professional deal. The tracks are good, they work, and with some good mixing and mastering, a couple obvious overdubs it'll be great..the best thing about that studio is it was FREE so we would take our time, not feel rushed, so that was a huge plus....

    I need to track a few songs, have a session player come in on one or two tracks then mix it and master it.

    So the questions...

    1 - Is it going to be bad if I go to a local, lesser quality studio to track these 3 songs. Mainly just to get the drums recorded (traveling with the drummer is NOT an option) and to have the basic tracks, guitar and bass, done - most likely to be overdubbed in a studio prior to mixing.

    2 - Mixing? I'd like to go somewhere like NYC, ATL, or Nashville to mix the songs.
    I'm 20 yearsold, this album is 100% funded by me and is greatly determined on how much $$ i'm making at the time so I don't have unlimited funds. Traveling to any of those 3 places is a easy for me to do. I'll have what I can 'pre-mixed' in town to save as much time as possible.

    3 - Mastering - Do you let whomever mixed the tracks master them, or go elsewhere to do so?

    Sorry for the long post, I tend to ramble. I'm new to this and want to find a way to produce a good album, not with any real intention of 'getting signed' but mainly for self satisfaction and to sell around while gigging. I want to do this in an economical way, and to make it an experience i'll never forget, not just 10 hours a day in a run down studio just trying to get it recorded and be done with it.
     
  2. devinb

    devinb Member

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    1. I don't mean to offend anyone with a home studio...and certainly I've seen some pretty amazing pictures of home studios in this forum...but in my experience, a home studio has a hard time competing with a professional studio in terms of the product they are able to produce.

    The quality of the room can make a huge difference in the drum sounds in particular.

    There are a lot of cool studios out there that aren't outrageously expensive...particularly if you avoid two of the three cities on your list, which brings me to #2.

    2. I'm working on a project right now, my friend who is playing drums is in two pretty big bands, probably plays 120 or so nights a year, maybe 3 trips to Europe, one to Japan/Australia, and the rest in the states...

    He's living in Brooklyn at the moment...we've been trying to work out a very small amount of studio time since Christmas...and it will likely be May or later before it happens because of his schedule, touring now until the beginning of May, and then recording...at any rate, the studio he did his last album in (Rare Book Room) runs $1200 a day. He interned at Stratosphere Sound for a year, and still has friends there, so we're hoping to get in there on the cheap, which is still crazy expensive. New York prices are crazy, and honestly, I'm not sure the product is always worth the expense...there are great engineers everywhere...I'd suggest looking and seeing who engineered albums you really like the sound of, and tracking them down...it would probably be a lot cheaper for you to buy a plane ticket to Chicago and mix there, than mix in NYC...

    3. I would find someone who specializes in mastering...I'm not an engineer, but my feeling is that it's a little bit of a different skill set than tracking and mixing...again, I'd look at your CD collection and start there...you might see some names over and over again (John Golden), and they're probably out of reach, but you may be surprised at the rates of slightly less in demand engineers.

    I like mixing with the engineer that did the initial recording, but mastering is sort of like a fresh set of ears...there are certainly engineers that do it all, and I don't think there's anything that keeps someone from excelling at all parts of the process...but I think you'll find at the high end of the field, it's rare for someone to do both mixing and mastering...

    Something about the idea of another set of ears doing checks and balances appeals to me.

    Good luck, with the album and the experience of making it.
     
  3. Reincaster

    Reincaster Member

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    hey John, its been a while!

    definitely agree with getting someone to solely master your tracks, after spending hours or days mixing, mastering can really be affected, because your ears begin to get biased.

    you also would probably not hear a major difference in a lower quality studio, however , that all depends on the studio itself. A great engineer can work wonders with midrange equipment, while a mediocre engineer might do substandard work with high end equipment.
     
  4. Sunbreak Music

    Sunbreak Music Member

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    Once you have the mixes, have them mastered at a dedicated facility.

    Very, very few studios can do both--much less the same person. If the mix engineer says otherwise, I'd find a different one.
     
  5. AlligatorMtn

    AlligatorMtn Member

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    Thanks for the suggestions. It'll be this summer before I will have any money and time to continue working on the project so I have more then enough time to do LOTS of research.

    The reason I mentioned NYC is because i LOVE that place and I travel there for pleasure 4-5 times a year...and its relatively cheap ($200 round trip) to fly there. ATL is driving distance and very convenient for me - a day trip is easily done. Nashville is a little further but I have places to stay so it's an easy one.

    I will look towards Mastering it somewhere thats' reasonably priced that ONLY does mastering.

    The studio in town charges $55 or $70 for the larger studio - it'd take probably 2 hours TOPS to get the drums down, considering its only 3 songs and the drummer and I will practice a good bit before recording. The cheaper studio has access to the same mics as the more $$ studio, and the room worked well when I recorded there previously..I don't see a difference to be honest...I think with good mixing and the proper adjustments, additions (compressors, etc...) it'll sound good.

    thanks for the tips and by all means keep them coming!!!
     
  6. AlligatorMtn

    AlligatorMtn Member

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    I meant to mention this earlier and forgot.

    What are reasonable prices? I've been places that will do a 'block out day' ranging from 10-12 hours that go anywhere from $500-$2,000. A lot of places say they're willing to change rates depending on what you intend to do. I've seen hour rates from $40-$100.

    I've made the 'executive' decision to do the drums, rhythm guitar, most bass, and other instruments that cannot be done elsewhere for whatever reason here in town at the local studio. The money is going to be spent on the vocals and the overdubbing of guitars and a few bass lines will be done elsewhere because I really want to have access to different (vintage) equipment. This is a one man show - there are no other musicians that will be going with me. I will be playing piano when its needed, I do all the vocals, guitar, and bass - thats why doing what I can at a cheaper rate is a huge deal to me because its going to take a longer time. Overdubbing isn't an issue.

    I was considering going somewhere that has decent tracking facilities and engineers - do the overdub and vocals one place and go elsewhere for mixing, then mastering.

    $15 a minute for mastering seems pricey, no?
     
  7. Sunbreak Music

    Sunbreak Music Member

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    Not necessarily, depending on the demand for the ME. You could find someone fully qualified to do it for less if you have some flexibility w/ your schedule and let them know you're financing it yourself, but it's been mixed professionally. Attended sessions are generally a little more, because they have to be scheduled.

    You don't want to pay too little, though--unfortunately there are a lot of folks who claim to be able to "master" material and don't have a clue, the gear, or the facility. Everyone has a "minimum" they'll work for, but it's more than $100 per CD. ;)

    You're on the right track by starting the search early. Good luck!
     
  8. devinb

    devinb Member

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    I'm working out of both control rooms of this studio right now. The 'A' room runs $65 an hour, the 'B' room $30.

    The tracking room was built in the 1940's for live radio broadcasts of big bands, it sounds great...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The 'B' room, for the record:

    [​IMG]

    The actual amp room is much more impressive, this is just stuff for quick access:

    [​IMG]

    They have a Steinway Grand, a B3, a Fender Rhodes, a Leslie Cabinet, a great mic closet and so on...all available to the you no matter which control room you're using...

    Honestly, I don't know how they stay so cheap...

    If you shop around, there are decent rates out there...the next step for my project is going to take place in Chicago, the studio there that I'm using is $45 an hour...I can't link from their website, or I'd show pictures of it...

    Honestly, I've seen people with very limited basement set-ups and no training as an engineer thinking their place/time is worth $30 an hour...

    One more tip on rates, if you're working locally, sometimes it's possible to get in a little cheaper if you are on a cancellation list, and you just take time that they're looking to fill last minute...

    As far as mastering, I'd just send the project to someone reputable and let them do their work...do your research though...I've seen craigslist posts for mastering, and after a little questioning it turns out it's just some guy with Cubase (I'm not sure how you use that to master?) and no actual equipment...I can drop a file into GarageBand and click the button so that it is supposed to sound mastered in the style of your choosing...but it always just sounds worse to me...
     
  9. AlligatorMtn

    AlligatorMtn Member

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    Thanks for the tips guys.

    Rodney Mills is who i was referencing as $15 a minute.

    Does anyone have any experience with Tree Sound Studios in ATL?

    I need a place to do overdubs and finish any tracking, a place to mix, and someone to master - thats what I decided today would be the best. I need a place with access to vintage equipment - there are a couple guitars i'd really like to use that I don't have any access to...as well as a few amps - do those overdubs, then mix it down and have it mastered.
     
  10. loudboy

    loudboy Member

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    You're approaching it a little backwards, IMHO.

    You should spend your money at a decent medium-sized room tracking drums. What you pay for is a nice acoustical space, good gear and an engineer who knows how to use it. All crucial to getting great drum tracks, without which your record will not be very good.

    Don't skimp on this, you should be able to find a kickin' room for $40-50/hr. especially in this day and age.

    Then, find someone local w/a nice project studio and cut vox and guitars and whatever else. You can do this with a minimum of high-quality gear, and a smaller space. If you hunt, you can probably find someone to do it for $25-30/hr. and do a great job of it.

    Then go somewhere nice to mix, again, you shouldn't have to pay more then $40/hr. to get someone who can do a great job. The key is to visit several places and pick the one w/the coolest engineer that has done other great sounding stuff. I wouldn't go too far out of town, as the quality probably won't be any better, you'll be too rushed and it won't be any fun.

    Mastering should be done by a mastering engineer - there are many, and the most expensive are not always the best. Look at some of the bigger mastering houses, and give 'em a call. They often have trainees/interns who can do a great job, for a very reasonable rate. Chances are, if you hire a "name" guy and he's never heard of you, an intern will do most of it anyway... <g>

    Keep in mind, that you're not doing a major label record here - it's a vanity project and should be treated as such. Have a great time, work with people you enjoy and don't bankrupt yourself. Most projects I did would go around 120-150 hrs. for 10 songs, at $35-40/hr. and if the artist was any good, would compare favorably with major independent and some major label projects w/budgets 5-50x bigger. So, it can be done, if you find the right folks.

    Loudboy
     
  11. AlligatorMtn

    AlligatorMtn Member

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    Thanks for the tips!!

    The room I am referring to is a good acoustic room - I've recorded 5 drum tracks there before - I think our major flaw was not the acoustics or the engineer, but the mixing process. Had they had the proper equipment and effects to adjust the drums to how they should be then I think they would have been top notch. The room is $55 an hour - there are two studios in town and thats by far the best of the two.

    The ONLY reason i'd be overdubbing any guitar tracks would be to have access to vintage guitars and amps - something I cannot do anywhere here , i'd have to head to ATL to have any access to vintage equipment - the rhythms and such can be done with the drums. I'd like to go somewhere different for the vocals and do NOTHING but the vocals - somewhere where the engineer will put in some good feedback and not simply be there to set up the mic and press record - I want a cool, good vibe environment, and good mics (something i've had trouble finding locally).
     
  12. devinb

    devinb Member

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    I think finding an engineer that you're comfortable with, and works well with your style does need to be high on the list.

    Keep in mind that the lead engineer on Sgt. Pepper's was 19 or 20 when became The Beatles lead engineer...I'm not saying that their meeting wasn't very good fortune...but sometimes finding someone who is willing to work with you is most important...I ruled out a few studios in the area that have nicer gear (Neve consoles) and probably better engineered rooms because I felt that the engineers might not have as interesting takes on how go about getting the sounds I'm after...
     
  13. AlligatorMtn

    AlligatorMtn Member

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    I think that was our biggest flaw - the engineers were not fans of our music and were more focused on producing rap music and punk/alternative...not jamband music so they didn't have a feel for it..it was always like 'man thats a good track' or 'oh i liked that' - never any suggestions as to how to make things better or anything of that nature.

     
  14. kludge

    kludge The droid you're looking for Silver Supporting Member

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    Mastering is a totally separate discipline from mixing. I just did an album for a friend and we had it mastered by Rare Form Mastering in Minneapolis, who did a terrific job. He's been a mastering engineer for over two decades, and doesn't do mixing or recording at all. And it wasn't just the mastering that was good... I was able to bounce rough mixes off of him for advice (and he SCHOOLED me, which was good). He kept emphasizing that a good mix makes mastering easy, but mastering can't fix a bad mix.

    Also, there was a distinction between hardware and software mastering... the cheap job (and what many cheap places offer) was to just run it through "mastering" plug-ins, but the good job was to use hardware for eq, limiting, etc. But the hardware mastering has to be done in real-time, which is more time-consuming and thus more expensive.

    As for non-mastering stuff... I'm a firm believer that PERFORMANCE matters much, much more than recording hardware. Rather than worrying about access to cool vintage gear and stuff, find a place with a comfortable, supportive atmosphere. You'll play better, and that matters more than whether you're using your own amp or some collectable.
     
  15. michael patrick

    michael patrick Supporting Member

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    I don't have much to add, except I'll relate how my band did our most recent disc...

    We recorded the entire album at home in the basement, which saved us a ton of money. I think it also led to better perfomances, since we weren't on the clock. I could change stuff ten times over if I wanted to, and it didn't cost a dime more.

    The money we saved on recording we spent on professional mixing and mastering. In our case, we are lucky to have a world-class mixing facility right here in little ol' Madison, WI. The mixing we did at Smart Studios, which is owned by two members of Garbage, and where bands from Nirvana to the Smashing Pumpkins have recorded. The rates were reasonable by New York or Nashville standards. We got it mastered at Colossal Mastering in Chicago.

    Looking back there's a few things we could have done differently, but all in all I'm happy with the way it turned out.
     
  16. wolf9309

    wolf9309 Member

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    ignoring the rest of the conversation, Tree in Atlanta is a very, very cool place. It's worth checking out even if you don't record there
     
  17. AlligatorMtn

    AlligatorMtn Member

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    I've contacted Tree Sound but it seems as though they either A) have no interest in helping me or B) are way to busy to contact me back.
     
  18. devinb

    devinb Member

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    Follow-up, I don't think there are too many studios that try to burn bridges...everyone needs to earn a buck...
     
  19. AlligatorMtn

    AlligatorMtn Member

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    I've done some more research and found some places in Brooklyn that look pretty legit. I've found on in particular, MetroSonic Studios in Brooklyn that looks amazing, and their big deal is 'cheaper then you think' - I've been cosidering blocking out a place for a day and knocking out all the overdubbing and editing, then spending another day mixing and mastering the tracks. I figured if I could block out a place for day @ no more then $500 a day then that'd be nice. I got an email from Johnny Sandlin and he said it'd only be $500 for the day w/ an engineer - thats a 10 hour day. Considering what has to be done, 10 hours is more then enough time. I'm hoping MetroSonic will be able to help me get an affordable rate, they also offer lodging so if I can do the whole deal lodging, recording, mixing, mastering in one full sweep that'd be the easiest and cheapest. I made sure that I can have a fresh set of ears do the mastering, that's my main requirement.
     
  20. noises ten

    noises ten Member

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    Hey man!!

    Here is another option for you... check out www.chrisgarges.com He is an engineer friend of mine that works out of old house studios in Gastonia, NC. Very reasonable, with amazing ears and a mic closet that would make you blush (somewhere around 90??). He has been doing some jazz and fusion projects lately that are of note, as well as lots of everything.

    He is also a trained drummer, with a drum collection that is quite staggering too. He also has a lot of guitar amps and fun stuff to play with on the guitar and bass (he bought an old P-bass from me).

    He frequents the Tape-op board quite often and is a regular contributer to the magazine..

    Anyways, just another option. only about 3hrs away!!

    Good Luck!
     

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