Recording goals

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by ap1, Aug 3, 2006.


  1. ap1

    ap1 Member

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    Just some random thoughts and questions.

    Obviously there's a wide range of interests among the people who frequent this forum. From newbies to pros, everyone's got their own particular goals and are figuring out (or have already figured out) what equipment they need or don't need, would like to have, can/can't afford, and so on in order to achieve those goals. Add to that learning the techniques of the recording art itself.

    For a long time my own goal was to have a modest home studio with a view to producing some discs for selling at gigs or to generate some interest at a label. I'm primarily a solo acoustic player, so there's not alot involved with respect to recording. But I also anticipate doing some projects with other players as well. I figured all I'd have to do is get some good takes, probably get the final product mastered, have some professional art work done, and boom, finished. But I'm starting to wonder whether a modest home studio can really produce the quality that we've become accustomed to hearing coming out of major studios. When I say "modest," I mean a decent computer (year-old), some decent software (Cubase SL), a decent mixer (Soundcraft Spirit Folio), an interface (M-Audio Firewire 410), and some good mikes (Rode, AT). Total value less than 5g. Now I recognize that a solo acoustic gigger doesn't necessarily need to be too concerned with pro studio quality - but by the same token, I think that if your goal is to move discs at gigs, they'd better be damn good production-wise. It needs to have that sound and look, no? That's what I see with alot of talented folks who are putting their own music out.
    And I take it that a disc of such quality can be shopped to a record company, if one had the inclination.


    But am I deluded into thinking that a modest studio like mine can deliver the goods? I've got a buddy who has borrowed and invested tens of thousands into a professional home studio. He insists that the sonic quality of his productions compares with that of the big houses. Now I haven't been able to do an A-B shootout of two projects done in each studio to know for sure. But my guess is that he's probably right (let's assume that both projects are produced by the same engineer). So my question is, at what level (let's say in terms of cash or gear, I guess) can one expect a home studio to produce projects of real sonic quality? I mean, there has to be a line where you can hear a dramatic difference, no? Just plugging into the latest Tascam stand-alone recorder with a couple of Sennheisers is not going to sound like the modest studio mentioned above, and the latter's not going to sound like my buddy's, and his may or may not sound like Abbey Road. But where does the real noticeable jump occur?

    I'd like to hear from anyone who wants to share their thoughts on any of this, or their own goals, why they think their gear suffices for those goals, and any other random related thoughts.


    Cheers.
     
  2. loudboy

    loudboy Member

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    Depending upon the scope of your project, you can do amazing things at home.

    For solo acoustic guitar, all you really need are a pair of nice SDCs, two channels of Hardy or Millennia pre and a decent A/D converter. Might run $3K, total.

    Tuck and Patti recorded their stuff at home, with pretty primitive digital gear. I think Moby does, too.

    For folks who want to do this, I'll usually suggest geting a setup that will allow you to do the things you do the most of, say tracking guitars and vocals and editing, at home. Go to a pro studio to cut drum tracks, and if you can afford it, to mix.

    In most cases, this will give you the biggest bang for the buck, sonically.

    Loudboy
     
  3. John Czajkowski

    John Czajkowski Member

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    I would have to agree with everything the modest Mr. Splatt writes; however, the one thing that I don’t think he states strongly enough is that recording chops can take a very long time to develop depending in what you are trying to ultimately accomplish. There is an overwhelmingly large set of skills to build to say the least!

    I have just finished recording my first small ensemble CD out of my home studio and, although there are many things I wish I could have done better, I'm reasonably satisfied with the overall result. It doesn’t sound like it was recorded by some LA hot-shot, but I am proud to know I did it all myself. It began as relief/outlet from the demands of my MM program and quickly snowballed into a total friggin' monster. Drums are the biggest nightmare on earth…especially if you want them to sound reasonably natural. I would say I spent 70% of my time (as opposed to my guitars) freaking out about them as a case study in obsessive/neurotic behavior.

    It has been my experience that the more organic (mic'ed) elements, the harder it gets. Whereas it is very easy to get sampled and sequenced elements sounding full, fat and consistent without a ton of experience, using real instruments can take much longer to do with similar results in the end. For example, recording electric guitar with modeler software will get you useable results pretty quickly, but going that extra inch with real amps may take far longer. This is pretty much the ongoing saga you will get used to.

    Anyway, I too agree that many things are possible out of the home studio. There are many educational opportunities to choose from depending upon your location and time availability/interest. I strongly suggest creating situations where you are getting real instruction/sharing/feedback on your work to accelerate the learning curve -from informal to formal.

    Go , fight, win, RECORD!
     
  4. Bryan T

    Bryan T Guitar Owner Silver Supporting Member

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    Pierre Bensusan did his last CD at his house. Pat Metheny did his solo acoustic CD on his own, as well. Pat won a Grammy for his. While I'm sure that they have nicer equipment than a typical home studio, it proves that you can record a high quality album on your own.

    I did my last CD at my house (actually my parents' house - I kicked them out for a day so that I could record in their living room). Could it have been done better in a "real" studio? I'm sure it could have, but I learned a lot in preparing to record the CD and in recording it. The price was right, as well.

    A few things to keep in mind when recording a solo acoustic album:

    The environment matters a lot. Your microphones are going to pick up the sound of the guitar in the room and a crappy room will sound crappy.

    Good microphones don't have to cost a mint. I used a pair of Josephson microphones that were about $900 for the pair.

    Get a good sound in your headphones that will inspire you to play your best.

    Don't overcompress or EQ during the recording phase. I prefer not to use either during tracking and feel that if the microphone isn't picking up the type of sound that you want, then you need to correct that, whether it is from microphone placement, guitar choice, string age, room reflections, or whatever.

    The song/performance is king. The listener is going to latch onto a good song, not a great recording.

    Good luck with your project,
    Bryan
     
  5. hiftbso

    hiftbso Member

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    Nothing sounds as good as a room that was designed and built to be a recording studio to me. Even if you have a few U87s and a Protools HD rig in a home studio if you track vocals in your spare bedroom or an attic with big glass windows and a flat ceiling it will never sound as good as it would if it was recorded in an acousticly designed space. I'm not trashing home studio but alot of people forget they are recording the way the room sounds just as much as they are recording how the guitars sound.
     
  6. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    There are so many variables at work in creating recordings that it's hard to have a simple answer. Creating worthwhile, artistic recordings is a subjective process, and everyone works differently. But in most general terms:

    You can put the finest oil paints and canvas into the hands of a non-artist, tell him to paint, and the result will probably not be art.

    You can put crayolas and butcher paper in front of an artist, and tell her to make some art, and you will probably actually have art.

    In general, I'm happier with the work I do at my home studio, than with the work I do at world-class studios (except drums) because after 20 or so years hard at it, I'm simply more familiar with my tools and how to achieve what I'm hearing in my head than I am at explaining to even a very fine engineer what I want. I will also add that I'm more in tune with what the outcome will be in my own studio, than in a studio I'm obviously less familiar with, again for reasons having to do with working here every day.

    However, there are times when the engineer is so exceptional, and so sympatico with the project, that his/her ideas improve on, or at the very least mesh with, what I want. These engineers are artists.

    I've worked in a lot of world class rooms (offhand I can think of places like Record Plant LA, Right Track NYC, Wisselloord Holland, Plus XXX Paris, GTN Detroit, etc.), but I've worked with relatively few engineers I thought were artists (and maybe this is my fault, ie, "what we have here is a failure to communicate"). I've worked in lots of non-famous rooms, and at times have been extremely impressed with some of the engineers that no one has heard of. I've gotten better sounds at some of these rooms than some of the world class rooms, even drums. In fact, my favorite studio in the world for recording drums is one of these $100/hour rooms, because the guy who operates it gets sounds I really love. And the room wasn't designed by Russ Berger, in fact, it's a converted (nicely finished however) garage with some gobos and the odd ASC treatment hung here and there. But he gets a sound!

    So what's more important, the gear, the room, or the person with the ears?

    I can only answer that question for myself, and for me the star of the studio is the person with the ears. That person can be the artist, the producer, and/or the engineer, and often it's all three. The room and gear are the supporting cast, and in terms of importance, at least to me, they're not nearly as important. YMMV.

    And now I want to know what monitors Splatt uses even though it isn't about the gear. ;)
     
  7. ap1

    ap1 Member

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    Does your home-based work get mass produced? And is this music you write and record yourself, or are you recording other folks? Would a pair of "average" ears be able to distinguish b/w it and your work from some of the big houses?



    I guess I'm still trying to determine how much work by those of us with (modest) home studios actually gets out there on labels, indie or major.
     
  8. ap1

    ap1 Member

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    My questions were directed to L Schefman (see quote in my post), but to address your last point - I'm not looking for statistics, I'm looking for some indication of the extent to which folks with modest studios pursue projects with the goal of marketing their product, whether on a local, regional, or national level, and whether they believe the sonic quality of their product compares with that of the big houses. My own confidence and desire (or lack thereof) is irrelevant.
     
  9. ap1

    ap1 Member

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    No, it wasn't an intrusion; though I was specifcally asking Les, it's true that my original post sought input from anyone on this topic. Didn't mean to sound like I was lashing out...


    No offense taken; and your input was indeed helpful; thanks. From your list of projects, I get the impression that your home studio is a bit less modest than others - but I guess one can argue in circles about just what constitutes a modest home studio. Still, your final point there is well-taken. Thanx agin.
     
  10. GerryJ

    GerryJ Member

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    But am I deluded into thinking that a modest studio like mine can deliver the goods?


    No, but as stated above, there is a learning curve for making it sound 'good'.
    I know that's a Duh kinda comment, but think of it this way - at least for me, making the studio stuff (similar to yours) sound good has taken the same effort and time as learning a new musical instrument. Really.
    In other words, I'm much better now than i was when i started 1 and 1/2 years ago, but there is vast room for further improvement.
     
  11. johneeeveee

    johneeeveee Member

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    Another thing to consider is the added comfort level of recording at home and the relaxed (and great) performances that can sometimes allow. Seeing as you are doing more stripped down songwriter stuff, I would jump in with both feet. If you can get to the point of knowing where to place a mic well and track good performances, you can always bring in help for the mixes and other production techniques.

    Lots of records (some well known) have been recorded in home studios with great artists who were still learning their engineering chops. Elliott Smith recorded his first record on a 4 track cassette deck in his kitchen, and it still stands up as a great album. "Miss Misery" was recorded as a demo with a small Mackie board, and it ended up being nominated for an Oscar. It was mostly about the song and his performance.

    Sure, it takes knowledge and skill (as others have pointed out), to make "home" recordings that can stand up to big studio production, but you don't necessarily need to shoot for that to make a great record. There is a definite audience out there who look for very personal records that avoid the slickness of some major label releases. I know plenty of artists who sell a lot of CD's that are in this DIY vein.

    I wish you the best with your endeavors and there is much good advice for you to consider on this thread. With a little patience and hard work, I'm sure you'll end up with something you are very happy with, and proud to pass along to others.

    Good luck, and have fun - jv
     
  12. ap1

    ap1 Member

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    I like the instrument analogy - it's funny, even over the course of a few weeks, after much experimentation and trial and error, I've noticed a little improvement with regard to one particular technique I was exploring.
    It's as good a feeling as finally nailing a complicated run or something like that.
     
  13. ap1

    ap1 Member

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    True, there's a lot to be said for the absence of pressure in the home studio... Plus, as others have pointed out, there's always
    the added satisfaction of knowing that you did it yourself.




    There certainly is. Thanx to all for their input!
     
  14. johneeeveee

    johneeeveee Member

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    Absolutely.

    A good song and a good performance. I've done a lot of work with Larry Crane, who recorded Elliott Smith and puts out Tape Op magazine. He still gets countless emails from fanatic E. Smith fans wanting to know the signal chain for this and that song. He finally caved in to one particularly persistent fellow, and told him that he used this and that mic, and this and that preamp and then, oh yeah, a brilliant artist and songwriter like Elliott Smith in front of that gear. I guess the engineer that recorded Nick Drake's Pink Moon gets similar letters and requests. Same deal.
     
  15. Sub-D

    Sub-D Guest

    [​IMG]
    probably a Nueman into an API with a healthy dose of distressor.......
     

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