What You Should Know About
Home Recording Before You Try It
One of my "Ten Commandments of Recording" is "Thou shalt not be thine own engineer.
Much has changed since I first wrote that. The basic tools available to the home recordist now rival those in most studios, and it's become commonplace for musicians to record their own albums and demos. The sonic quality of these recordings ranges from obviously amateur to fully professional, with most sounding at least decent.
Nevertheless, I still believe in the essential truth of that commandment, though I would now amend it to say "Thou Shalt Not Be Thine Own Engineer Unless Thou Hast Given It Most Careful Thought."
Now, I know what you're thinking. As a studio owner, don't I have a major conflict of interest here?
Well, just to prove my heart is in the right place, not only do I recommend that every serious musician own recording gear, I once even accompanied a client to a store and helped them pick some out! Home recording is a great way to try out ideas, work out arrangements, and make rough demos.
But when it comes to making an album, there's a catch, and it's a big one.
You have to be really into engineering.
You have to enjoy things like watching meters, positioning microphones, tweaking knobs, staring at computer screens, connecting wires, flipping switches, reading manuals, testing gear, tracking down problems, getting stuff repaired, and learning to use all kinds of hardware and software.
If that's you, then by all means go for it!
But if you want to record at home only because you think you're going to save money or avoid the pressure of recording in a studio, then you're wasting your time, your money, and your energy.
Before you start down the slippery slope, consider the following:
- In addition to a recorder or work station, you'll need decent microphones, good speakers, and an acoustically accurate listening environment.
- Despite what the ads say, learning to use recording gear takes a lot of time. It will probably be months before you're comfortable with it, and a year or more before you're good at it.
- Having to worry about both sides of the microphones will definitely interfere with your ability to perform. Think of it this way; if you have trouble in a studio where someone else is handling the engineering, what makes you think you'll do better when you yourself have to perform and engineer at the same time?
- The fact that you can spend as much time as you want without paying for it can sap the discipline you need to deliver a really good performance.
- Soon "gear lust" will set in. You'll want better microphones, better reverb, better speakers, more plug-ins, a faster computer, etc. Each new thing you buy will expose the limitations in what you already have, so gear lust will be self-perpetuating.
- Eventually gear will start to break or wear, and maintenance costs will set in.
I could go on, but you get the idea. And this is not theory. I've seen it happen!
Bottom line: Don't be an engineer unless you really want to. Otherwise, let us be the engineers. That's what we do. You be the artist. That's what you do.