Running Your Own Recording Studio

General Stalin

Crow
Gold Member
This thread is part data sheet, and part feedback.

First, my experience:

I was in a regionally popular DIY touring heavy metal band for about 8 years. We recorded a demo and 3 full-length albums all in professional/semi-professional studios, the 3rd being recorded by myself in my own studio.

Towards the latter end of my career in the band after having had a decent amount of experience with the recording and sound engineering process, I got really interested in doing my own recording. I have been recording for about 2 years now and have had a few clients. It can be a tough market to build your name in as there are a lot of people recording themselves, and even more small-time basement studios recording people on the cheap. It's become rather flooded.

Essential Home Studio Gear

Be weary that there is a lot of elitism and gear-pornism in the recording community. A lot of it is nitpicking keyboard jockey nerd bullshit where people think you need to spend thousands of dollars to get hardware worth using. In the end the only thing that matters is how your finished product sounds to you, your clients, and their audiences.

Computer:
First you will need a computer. Something with a decent amount of hardware resources - I recommend a fast quad-core CPU and 8GB - 16GB of RAM (cheap hardware these days). You will also want a lot of hard drive space as WAVs/media project files take up a lot of storage. It is highly recommended you invest in some type of external backup in case something happens and your HDD(s) tank and all your data is gone.

I will leave the Windows/Mac debate out of this as it's really all preferential, though keep in mind some recording software is not compatible with some platforms (e.g. Logic Pro is OS X only). I use Windows.

It's important to stress that you do not need to buy a custom-tailored "Recording Studio Workstation" computer. That's a marketing gimmick used to get people to buy overpriced hardware. There is no special type of computer for recording music - you just need a computer with a decent CPU and memory as I stated above. I also recommend a dual-monitor setup

Audio Interface:
Next you will need an analogue-to-digital converter interface to record instruments/microphones to your computer. These typically connect to your computer via USB or Firewire - keep this in mind as not all computer motherboards have integrated Firewire so you may have to install a Firewire expansion card into your computer to connect up some interfaces.

Smaller entry level hardware is cheap, but if you are looking to record a band and multiple live instruments (especially a drumset) you will want something with a lot of I/O. You can get something with sufficient I/O and features in the $500 ballpark. I personally use this:

https://us.focusrite.com/usb-audio-interfaces/scarlett-18i20

My personal metric is "does it have enough inputs to record a fully-mic'd drumset?"

Now if you do not ever plan on having a lot of instruments or microphones plugged in at the same time then you can go with a smaller interface, and a simple 2-input device can run you about $100 - $150. Also keep in mind many smaller but well-featured interfaces will have optical jacks or some other high-speed connection you can use to expand the I/O with another device - but I won't get into that. For simplicity's sake, just get an interface with enough I/O for your desires.

Again though, where this is for business purposes you want to be able to market yourself - unless your niche is only going to be hip-hop or electronic music or something like that where your analogue input needs are small, then you will want to have the ability to plug in a lot of microphones.

One more important element in a good interface is phantom power. The interface needs to have at least one input channel that can deliver 48v of power to drive a condenser microphone (will get to this later). Mine has 8.

Studio Monitors + Headphones
You want to hear what you are recording right? Studio monitors (speakers) can be a real sticking point for a lot of gear fags, but it doesn't need to be that complicated. Studio monitors are different than just normal computer desktop speakers in that they are designed to voice "true sound" and any decent monitor will be self-powered, un-EQ'd, and takes balanced cable inputs. You do not need to spend shit loads of money on monitors... though you certainly can. I use these cheapos:

http://www.m-audio.com/products/view/bx5-d2#.Vzyg7zdriUk

Even cheap monitors aren't cheap - these ones are about $150/each, but they are important.

Another important element is headphones. Your clients will need these as will you - I recommend getting a couple pairs. The biggest thing I can stress about headphones is make sure they are durable. Headphones get tugged on, dropped, etc. Something with a long thick cord, and sturdy construction is good.

I have a pair of shitty cheap Shure headphones that I will be replacing with something better soon. Again, you don't need to be paying buku bucks for a set of studio headphones. You can get an adequate pair for around $150 or even less.

Microphones + Cables
There are different mics for different jobs, and there are different cables for different jobs. Lets go over the the basics:

Dynamic Microphones: Generally rugged and cheaper microphones with very low-frequency response and good resistance to high-pressure sound waves. Great for recording loud instruments like drums and can also be used to vocal recording. Recommended brands/models - Shure SM58, and Shure SM57. I have both and they can be had for ~$100 each. They are industry standard pieces both on-stage and off.

Condenser Microphones: Generally pricier, much higher frequency response, and much more accurate and sensitive. These are powered microphones and need 48v of phantom power which should be provided by your interface as mentioned earlier. Condenser mics are good for recording vocals, acoustic instruments, and anything that is quiet. They have much higher output than a dynamic microphone and are well suited to record even the quietest sounds accurately. Recommended brands/models: Audio-Technica AT2020, and MXL 770. These are both cheap condensers but still sound great, and realistically once you add compression and other effects to a voice or acoustic guitar recording you would be hard-press to tell the difference between something that was recorded with a $1500 mic and a $150 mic.

Speaker Cables: 1/4" balanced unshielded cables. Not to be confused with an instrument cable. These are what you use to plug your studio monitors into you audio interface, or alternatively...

XLR Cables: These are arguably the most important cable in a recording studio. All microphones use these balanced cables, and they also can transmit your 48v phantom power to condenser mics. Some interfaces and monitors also use these cables to connect.

Instrument Cables: 1/4" shielded lower-level signal cable. These are what you use to plug a guitar or other electric instrument into your interface.

Cable Brands - I always recommend Mogami (Gold). They are pricey but all other cables I have used end up failing.

Recording Software AKA Digital Audio Workstation (DAW):
You need an application to record, edit, mix, and master you and your clients' music. There are endless different particulars to each program out there. Pro Tools, Ableton, Cubase, Sonar, Logic Pro, Reaper, the list goes on. I have experience using two programs: Pro Tools developed by Avid and Reaper developed by Cockos.

Currently I prefer Reaper which can be purchased for $60, is compatible with more software plugins that are relevant to me, and has more readily intuitive features that I prefer. You can also evaluate the full software for 60 days to try it out.

Again the DAW is all preferential - they will all record and edit music. Pro Tools can be had for a $25/month subscription.

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Now you're ready to record!

This topic is not about the recording, mixing, and mastering process or how to record, but rather what you need to build a home studio and potentially get clients. Recording is an art that must be learned and practiced - remember home recording can be had for a relatively low cost of entry so people are paying you not for your gear but for your abilities and experience as a sound engineer/producer.

If you are going to have clients it is best if you have a dedicated space to record - not your bedroom. I have an attached garage, but a finished basement will also do. A separate commercial space is obviously best and more professional but will be a much higher cost.

I think it's important to make your space comfortable. Recording is generally not and in-and-out process. Have comfortable places to sit and hang out. Have a mini-fridge and keep it stocked with bottled water. Keep is air conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter.

Some studios go crazy with having video game consoles and lounge rooms etc. You're not Master P. so you don't need to go nuts, but again making your clients comfortable is important. You're taking an artist's vision they are passionate about and bringing it to life to it's best potential - this inherently gives you and your client an intimate bond so you kind of have to be there friend as opposed to someone they are just doing business with. Sound engineering is 50/50 science and art. Equal parts technical prowess and creativity. You will likely have to play producer too, which can be fun and rewarding for both you and the client.

Marketing/Promotion

Social Media - The Necessary Evil:
Artists use Facebook. No two ways about it. This is the easiest way to reachout. Join local music community groups on your area and post your page. Cold-call bands who may want to record. Posting stuff on your own business page may not be worth it - you need to reach out. You can't expect artists to come to you until you've really built a name that people seek out. Word of mouth is king. If you record with some people and they have a great experience and are happy with the product, they will show you off and talk about it. Free promotion.

Solicitation:
Make business cards and hand them out to artists at local gigs. Get friendly with the local music scene. You could even find ban practice spaces and hand out cards there and talk shop with jam bands.

Freebies:
If an artist is interested in recording a demo, EP, or LP, then maybe offer to record one song for free - this doesn't mean give them a free mastered track to put on their bandpage. Record a "watermark" over part of it, or just give them a portion of the song and fade it out as a "teaser"

Have a Niche or a Gimmick:
Artists have to have a reason to go to you over other studios, or their cousin who can record them for free. Maybe it's your price:quality ratio, maybe your recordings have a unique sound/touch to them that is appealing, maybe you're a great producer and you're great at the getting the best out of the the artist. Whatever it is, have a hook. Something that makes recording with you most appealing. Having a target market helps. I tend to market to heavy metal as I am most experienced in that genre and client-base.

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Pricing Model

There are a few ways to break this down. It's always tricky and often times has a lot to do with your experience and the artist's project.

Big studios always rate per hour. You pay for the studio rental time and you pay for the hourly rate of the sound engineer.

Where you will be a sole-proprietor and likely not be using commercial studio space - your pricing can be more flexible, as it should be. Especially if you are working with more local/DIY/amateur artists. They will have tighter budgets and less experience with the recording process.

Personally, I like to talk to the potential client to get an idea of what their project entails and go from there, though generally I go for a per-track pricing model barring special circumstances (I recorded an album last year that had almost 50 songs. I wasn't about to charge the guy $5000 when half of the tracks took us 30 minutes/ea. to record tops.) Per-track makes basic quoting much easier - just be careful not to let yourself get fucked by people who take advantage of your time.

Per-hour rates keep artists more honest and more on task, but can often scare away clients because they think about how quickly the costs can tally up spending long days in the studio.

I can't stress it enough that local small-time artists can be tricky as they have shallow pockets but want the best product. Fortunately with modern recording technology and some knowhow you can make recordings sound great will little time investment - but a lot of that comes down to getting the best performance out of the artist.

As I get more experienced in recording and actually built a reputable name for myself, I may end up moving to a strict per-hour pricing model.

Setup a Paypal or a Square account so clients can pay with cards and get receipts.

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There you have it - the basics running a home recording studio. If you can gain traction it can be rewarding work, especially since you work for yourself, generally make your own hours, and can decide to hold off taking clients for periods of time and take time off whenever you feel like.

This line of work can also be more diverse than recording bands and solo artists - you could also record live shows, do film scoring, or just edit/mix/master other people's recordings.

As I said, part of this data sheet is also feedback. I haven't seen many people talking about recording music here on the forum and would love to hear from others who record and also have clients and make money off of it.
 

realologist

Ostrich
Gold Member
My uncle isn't in a band but he produces and works with a lot of country and Christian music bands. He has his own large studio on his property. I know he is successful at it and has moved to smaller production but full length movies. I wish I knew more information on what he does that could help you. Next time I see him I'll ask him if he has any tips on how is successful with it.
 

Vaun

Hummingbird
Gold Member
Have wanted to do this for years, but being stuck in an urban one bedroom for the last 5 years has prevented this. One day again I will have a studio!

Would you consider stocking the studio with instruments, or is that totally on the client to bring their own?

Why do you choose Windows over Mac?
 
Vaun said:
Have wanted to do this for years, but being stuck in an urban one bedroom for the last 5 years has prevented this. One day again I will have a studio!

Would you consider stocking the studio with instruments, or is that totally on the client to bring their own?

Why do you choose Windows over Mac?

I know your not asking me but most artists cutting demos or recording self-produced projects are using digitally produced tracks made using sequencers/samplers, drum machines and other MIDI instruments. Over half of all music today is what would be called "electronic music". Most likely your living room is not large enough nor properly acoustically designed to record live instruments, especially drums. In addition you will need an isolation booth to record vocals without the backing tracks or instruments from "bleeding" onto your vocal mike. This is also a reason drums are usually miked in a separate room or behind plexiglass. The drum sounds will bleed onto the vocals and other instrument mics.

Windows is a cheaper, less reliable alternative, Mac is a more expensive, but rock-solid platform for recording music digitally.

Experience: Been a touring and studio musician since late 1980's-Back in the reel to reel days, before even ADAT, DAT, DAW's and in house CD burners. I worked as a digital audio engineer/Producer for some labels and in different studios running Pro Tools. At the time studio time was very expensive, about $100 an hour. The explosion of Digital Audio Workstations and cheap recording software has really reduced the price one can charge for studio time as anybody with a PC and Fruity Loops think they are a producer/engineer. I got out of the industry around 2005 but I still produce some tracks for friends every once in a while. Digital Audio Engineering can be very fulfilling but it is a very difficult business to make money in.
 

weambulance

Hummingbird
Gold Member
I'm not any kind of producer but I have been a musician since I was a wee lad. I can't imagine musicians wanting to use someone else's instruments for any kind of serious playing. Small differences, things like action height on a string instrument, can be very distracting.

As far as software, since the important thing is using the tools you like, you should run whatever operating system supports those tools. OSX is not superior to Windows 7 at least; I don't know much about 10. Windows and OSX are simply different platforms, designed for different types of users with different preferences.

From a hardware perspective, at this point in time Apple offers substantially less bang for your buck than good PC systems do. Still, if you want to run software that only works on a Mac, the tradeoff is probably worth it. I think a comfortable work environment, which includes the software environment, is incredibly important in any kind of computer-based work.
 

General Stalin

Crow
Gold Member
Vaun said:
Would you consider stocking the studio with instruments, or is that totally on the client to bring their own?

It's a good idea. Obviously a musician coming to record is going to have his/her own instrument(s) and will tend to prefer to play and record with that, but you have no idea of the condition of said instruments. It's smart to have your own stuff that you know is in good working order, and sounds great recorded. A couple years ago I was recording a friend of mine's album and he was using this beat up Epiphone SG where the neck was warped and would not hold tuning properly (you would tune it open but when fretted the notes would be wrong). You don't want that to be your only option.

I myself have an acoustic guitar, 3 electric guitars, and 2 electric bass guitars. I also have a tube amplifier and 2 cabinets. I'd like to get more amps and eventually a drum set.

Obviously buying your own instruments is going to be a heavier investment as good guitars and drums are not cheap. The cost of my instruments and amps/cabs outweigh the cost of my recording equipment.

You can also rent gear from places so keep that in mind. If you or the artist have a certain gear piece in mind that would sound great on the track, then you can rent it for a day or two.

Vaun said:
Why do you choose Windows over Mac?

It's really personal preference. I hate Mac. Platform is too proprietary for my liking and it's grossly overpriced compared to a Windows based system with the same spec's. I record on a PC I built myself that is likely as powerful as a Mac workstation that is twice the price. Also Windows us just a generally more supported platform across the board - though when strictly talking about recording music, they are relatively equal as far as software compatibility and support goes.
 

RedPillUK

Pelican
Yes some very valuable information about recording thanks!

I am a musician too, I also played in a touring heavy metal band in England for 5 years we did a few cheap local studio demo recordings before getting onto a couple different shitty record labels and recording in a professional studio. Although the producer did a good job of recording us, I remember him quantising and fucking up the drums during the mixing. I was pretty young and naive back then, just going with the flow of things in that band, never made any money, I do better now playing local gigs.

So, I'm just starting to get into home recording in the cheapest way possible. I have a fast enough laptop with ProTools on it connected to a small mbox 2 external sound card. I connect up a keyboard or electric piano to that via MIDI and I can play any virtual instrument I want. I'm thinking of setting up a small electric drum kit so I can record, rather than program electronic drums also.

I think this is the most basic setup you could have for purely electronic music, then you would need a vocal booth and a condensor mic for recording vocals.

I'm not planning on trying to make money from this, it would just be nice to have my own recording setup that I can produce endless tracks with myself and musicians/singers I collaborate with. Although who knows, if I get good at this and have the space and equipment..

Anyway, would anyone be up for collaborating on some music online? Electronic music, DAWs and mixing/mastering are still new subjects for me but after getting the hang of the basics of ProTools I've found I'm very good at coming up with stuff and writing things, from studying improvising, composing, jazz harmony for quite a few years. I'm also a very good drummer, so I have no problem coming up with drum beats in all styles of music.
 
RedPillUK said:
Yes some very valuable information about recording thanks!

Although the producer did a good job of recording us, I remember him quantising and fucking up the drums during the mixing. I was pretty young and naive back then, just going with the flow of things in that band, never made any money, I do better now playing local gigs.

Quantizing live drums, huh. Bad idea. It destroys what is called "swing"-natural timing variations that human drummers have that drum machines dont. It is the reason drum machines have a swing variable. It can make MIDI drum patterns sound more realistic, but will make a live drum track sound more robotic or stiff. Cant believe an engineer would do that to a live drum track, especially Heavy Metal. Some engineers cant help but try to be a producer in the studio since most bands/artists dont have an actual producer unless they are signed to a major label with an A&R dept. In looking for an engineer find one that will respect your sound. The only time as a engineer that I interfered in artistic decisions was if I felt that the final product would reflect poorly on me if I didn't say something. Rock on.
 

Vaun

Hummingbird
Gold Member
I grew up with musicians, young and old, famous and starving, and its where I came from. Being purely a rock/metal musician that toured, performed and roadied in high school and shortly after, I have always fantasized about building a full working studio. I was set to attend the Recording Workshop when I was 19. Went there, toured it, had the application approved, financing lined up, but I backed away from it. Its always something I have put off, relegated to the background by mainly working, earning money and women. I have always thought it was my calling in life, but I have never fully focused my adult life on it. In the meantime I occasionally complete a track with Garageband and drum loops, with my adding in guitars, bass and vocals. its just so easy to do that. I had an MBox and ProTools but gave up on it around 2006 when the Macbook came out. By my lifestyle of living in small places, I have a collection of gear that allows me to record by being mobile; a macbook with RAM, some mics, guitar mics, interface, etc. If I want to record drums I go to a rehearsal studio in my town, rent a room with a kit, mic up, and go. In my town there are some great small studios like this, run by former notable musicians who make a nice nut producing. I've even contacted some more famous rock producers to learn of their rates, and if one is motivated with the means, you can pretty much record anywhere.

The dream of mine is to own a country house one day, and build a studio like GS described, and basically live like David Gilmour.
 

MY DETROIT PLAYAS

Ostrich
Gold Member
^^^Some would argue that the producer of the track should NOT necessarily be the person turning the nobs on the mix down.

Having a different set of ear helps; which is why the engineer is so important in the mastering process

Two totally different skillsets.
 

Meadowlark

Hummingbird
Gold Member
FireWire is definitely the way to go. I've got PreSonus interfaces and the software/hardware/firewire combo makes it so you can daisy chain interfaces. So I can take the little 8 channel for on-site live recording, and mate it up with the 12 channel rack mount one in the studio for extra channels.

496427d1441775128-presonus-firestudio-mobile-art-pro-vla-2-help-presonus-firestudio-mobile-1.jpg





M-Audio BX5a is also a solid monitor, I've had mine for over 10 years.
 

General Stalin

Crow
Gold Member
Well for those of you interested in home recording, the cost of entry for purely personal use is very low. A 2-input/2-output interface, a set of decent headphones, a Shure SM58 and a Mogami Gold 15' XLR would run you <$500.

As for discussing recording practices, thats a deep deep rabbit hole.

On the topic of quantizing live drums - nothing wrong with that and there are a few reasons an engineer may do it.

1.) The drummer sucked and couldn't play tight to the click no matter how many takes so it has to be edited to a grid.

2.) The genre of music (heavy metal for example) calls for robot-like precision where "feel" isn't a factor.

3.) Modern editing and quantizing techniques can give the illusion of a very organic and "human" feel to drums whether they be heavily edited live drums or MIDI tracks.

Now it is dependent on the genre and style, but generally nowadays I would say most drum recordings are just sampled using a drum machine, custom samples, or at least backed up with samples. I myself prefer to sample the drumkit but prefer to record live cymbals. Live cymbals just sound better than sampled ones from my experience, plus they are very easy to record and make them sound great.

The game has changed so much that nowadays using live acoustic instruments and analogue tools is considered novelty.

As for vocal recording; you don't need a vocal booth, unless of course you are recording a full live band and you want to avoid bleed-over into the vocal mic. I multi-track record, and for that you can just set up something to kill sound waves behind the mic so there is now echo bouncing back. Some egg crate foam or even a thick blanket is fine. Hell, maybe your room has great acoustics and natural reverb and you don't need to kill room sound at all.
 
MY DETROIT PLAYAS said:
^^^Some would argue that the producer of the track should NOT necessarily be the person turning the nobs on the mix down.

Having a different set of ear helps; which is why the engineer is so important in the mastering process

Two totally different skillsets.

Co-sign. Originally Producer, Recording Engineer, Mixing Engineer, and Mastering Engineer were all different, individual veterans, with decades of experience in their individual fields. The digital revolution has caused everybody to think that if they can make a beat or run the DAW software, they can also wear all of the previous mentioned caps. It doesnt work that way. Different ears are needed on the project as well as listening to the final tracks from different sources before mastering.
 
General Stalin said:
Well for those of you interested in home recording, the cost of entry for purely personal use is very low. A 2-input/2-output interface, a set of decent headphones, a Shure SM58 and a Mogami Gold 15' XLR would run you <$500.

As for discussing recording practices, thats a deep deep rabbit hole.

On the topic of quantizing live drums - nothing wrong with that and there are a few reasons an engineer may do it.

1.) The drummer sucked and couldn't play tight to the click no matter how many takes so it has to be edited to a grid.

2.) The genre of music (heavy metal for example) calls for robot-like precision where "feel" isn't a factor.

3.) Modern editing and quantizing techniques can give the illusion of a very organic and "human" feel to drums whether they be heavily edited live drums or MIDI tracks.

Now it is dependent on the genre and style, but generally nowadays I would say most drum recordings are just sampled using a drum machine, custom samples, or at least backed up with samples. I myself prefer to sample the drumkit but prefer to record live cymbals. Live cymbals just sound better than sampled ones from my experience, plus they are very easy to record and make them sound great.

The game has changed so much that nowadays using live acoustic instruments and analogue tools is considered novelty.

As for vocal recording; you don't need a vocal booth, unless of course you are recording a full live band and you want to avoid bleed-over into the vocal mic. I multi-track record, and for that you can just set up something to kill sound waves behind the mic so there is now echo bouncing back. Some egg crate foam or even a thick blanket is fine. Hell, maybe your room has great acoustics and natural reverb and you don't need to kill room sound at all.

Good Post. I hope I didnt come across as discouraging someone from starting a home studio. I ended my post saying it was extremely fulfilling which is why I still occasionally do it for no profit.

Red Pill UK specifically said the engineer "ruined" the drum track by quantizing. As an engineer my first thought was re record the drum tracks or get a drummer that can play in time naturally or with a metronome. I am sure the quantizing capability has come a long way since when i was professionally doing music. If you are doing digital only tracks it is true you can record vocals in the control room as long as your DAW's PCU fan is somehow muffled to not bleed onto the recording.

As much as music and fame is an aphrodisiac I think some decent "home-studio game" could be included eventually from this thread. I know I got laid from my studio and being a producer as much as I did from my touring and performing days. Lots of hot young Rhianna, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj wannabees out there looking for someone to "put them on."
 

Rigsby

Pelican
Gold Member
MY DETROIT PLAYAS said:
^^^Some would argue that the producer of the track should NOT necessarily be the person turning the nobs on the mix down.

Well, there is the original audio engineer who takes his cue from the producer. Then when that is done and dusted, a mix engineer will usually be brought in. Then finally a mastering engineer to finalise everything.

Usually the mix engineer fucks it up. And if he doesn't the mastering engineer certainly will.

It's possible to both produce and engineer your own recordings, then mix it down, then master it. They are all black arts, as much science as art, and as much alchemy and muse as anything else.

I'm a producer, but I'm an engineer too. I can also master. Yes, all three very different disciplines, each requiring many years to become proficient in, before you start to shine.

Producers these days tend to be more of the audio engineer school, where as old school producers such as myself are more well versed in song structure and vibe. Most modern producers don't know how to write a decent song, but know what software and eq to use. I also know what software and eq to use, and am probably as good an audio engineer as they are.

The music world is stagnating. We have more knowledge being shared and more free software and cheap digital computers than ever, but yet, there is a crisis.

It's pretty pointless making a good recording these days when a mix engineer will come along and distort the vision of your mix, by too much compression or eq or wtf - he'll find a way. And then that monstrosity is then further put through the mangler of a mastering engineer that will limit your finished product with more than 6dB of gain reduction and brickwall limiting until it flatlines and resembles more a square wave than a musical signal.

Also, let us make the distinction between those doing it for themselves (such as GS the OP) and those that have responsibilities to an actual record company. You might have made the best album in the world. You might have even had a great mix engineer like Mark 'Spike' Stent come in and do you a killer mix. But when it gets sent of to Mr. Billy Big Balls mastering engineer, his brief is to crush it so much that it just sounds like white noise (all frequencies represented at full amplitude).

Two very different scenarios.


General Stalin, you are psychic if nothing else. I was just about to do a data sheet on music production and audio engineering for noobs. But you covered an awful lot of the ground that I thought about. Well done. You certainly have provided an excellent resource for those starting out, even those looking to up their game. Kudos to you.

In fact, your excellent post has focused my mind more on what I should do. But I'm not sure if it is too esoteric and abstract at the end of the day. In fact, I wanted to include songwriting in it as well, which is inextricable to the whole subject at hand, when you are talking about great recordings, you are talking about great music.

I'm not really interested in arguing the merits of mac vs. pc because that has been already answered. Those at the top of this game do not indulge in such debates. It's very boring now. Also hardware vs. software debates are old hat. That question has also been answered. Ditto analog vs. digital.

I can provide technical and artistic details to people who want to make great music. I can mentor them with their songwriting. I can mentor with regard to high-end production as well. I can even advise on audio engineering, to a degree that will make people proficient. I can also explain the differences between all these fields, to those who are not yet familiar with the jargon. I can also advise on music business roles to those unfamiliar, but wanting to get a basic grounding.

But I don't want to hijack your thread GS. You've done a great job with this. I think it is going to benefit a lot of people very much (those that are genuinely interested in getting in to this game).

Kudos.
 

Rigsby

Pelican
Gold Member
RedPillUK said:
Anyway, would anyone be up for collaborating on some music online? Electronic music, DAWs and mixing/mastering are still new subjects for me but after getting the hang of the basics of ProTools I've found I'm very good at coming up with stuff and writing things, from studying improvising, composing, jazz harmony for quite a few years. I'm also a very good drummer, so I have no problem coming up with drum beats in all styles of music.


I would in an ideal world. But I just don't want to have any real world commitments at the moment.

I wouldn't mind listening to your stuff and giving you a critique. I did that before in fact a while back with another RVF member. His stuff was pretty good and he got a lot of hits on youtube. I'm sure he was legit.

DAWs and mixing and mastering are kind of my speciality. But theory only goes so far. I talk a good game, but I play better in the field, actually doing it. I usually have sparks flying all around me when making music or producing others. A bit of a brag maybe, but some people just have it, and others don't.

After saying all this, I'm sure you probably know a whole lot more about this stuff than you're letting on, even to yourself ;-)

As for the drumming, do you play a kit?

I program my drums, by either playing it in, or using midi clips of real drummers playing in the studio, then mix that all up too. I always like to program some drums into the track, but I like to use breakbeats and samples too. It's a pretty standard and boring way of working. So you have to take other approaches sometimes too.

I'm sure any question you would need to ask could be answered by yourself, even after a quick search maybe. But sometimes, there are things that just puzzle you. There are things like that with me. And you just want to ask 'what is that all about?'. Well, if you have a technical question like that, I can probably answer it, or at least point you in the right direction. I've got a pretty broad generalist knowledge of most audio software, going back decades.

Anyway, I'm sure your stuff sounds alright, and it will probably be better than most of my rubbish. I like to experiment. But I can play with the big boys if I have to. I can find a redeeming feature in any part of music.

I'm full of it really. Sometimes we just adopt these roles, and if others go along with it, it's game on. But they are good games. Who appointed you producer? is what they said to me. It's a dirty job...

But sometimes, you just need to bring a man in. You've got the track recorded by all the musicians in the expensive recording studio, and it still sounds like pants, so you call your man. Call him producer, remixer, lifesaver, whatever, for 50 quid, he can turn the 500 plus you just spent into something worthwhile. While he weaves his magic.

All good studio owners have good relations with people like this if they can. It's probably just a nobody that nobody has heard of, but a mate down the road. It's a rare gift. You need a certain kind of confidence and madness to do it. Hero or zero. And all for 50 quid!

I'm really neutral and agnostic with my views on technology. I hate it as much as I love it, and I can cut it out of the loop straight away if it's getting in the way. I still like to record on 4-Track. I know it's crap quality, but it doesn't matter, coz the vibe you pick up is something else.

Besides, you can put all that into an audio editor and do anything you want. Cancel out the noise or hum. Eq it obviously. Change the speed of it. The pitch. Timestretch. Compress it to iron out large volume spikes (but it's tape so has a certain amount of saturation and therefore will compress naturally). You can even drown it in reverb if you think it sounds good.

And at the end of all that, if what you captured originally on that 4-Track cassette had any redeeming features about it, it should be starting to shine through. Else you need to start again.

And then when you take that rough diamond performance, and you have honed it as much as you can, you now have a new form to work with. Come back to it the next day. Load it up in different software. Sculpt it further. Sometimes not very much at all. Now we are in to the realms of mastering. For the home recording engineer, it should just be a natural, logical progression to your stuff being finally mastered. But there are people out there that will do it better than you for little money. I know a few good mastering engineers who will do an excellent job for very little cash (50 bucks a track).

But I like to master my own stuff. It's just something I've always been in to and something I have studied and something I want to get better at. And teaching others what I have learned is a great way for me to consolidate the knowledge I have attained.
 

The Beast1

Peacock
Gold Member
+1 from me GS. Excellent read.

I used to roll in this world. Interesting people, stories, and work. Ultimately not for me.

With that in mind, the most popular forum on the internet for this topic is aptly named:

www.gearslutz.com

That should give you a rough idea of the level of aspie you'll be dealing with in the audio engineering world. Lot of lone wolves with golden ears out there.
 

General Stalin

Crow
Gold Member
A lot of the specialization in recording is removed nowadays, partially because it's so easy to do it all in one DAW with plugins you already have etc. and partially because the market is so saturated and people are cheap and want-it-all without having to pay a handful of different people to get their music finished. Most small-time independent recordings are all edited, mixed, and mastered all with the same guy. The last album I did was recorded, co-produced, edited, mixed, and mastered by me.

I'll be the first to tell you I am definitely not a mastering engineer. I still suck at it, and sometimes I feel like my masters sound worse than my mixes, just louder. The problem is the industry has changed so much in just the past 2 decades.

You don't need huge dedicated spaces full of expensive analog gear to record or master music. You can do it on a simple laptop with a DAW, some software EQ, compression, and limiting, and a little 2 I/O interface. A lot of independent artists would rather go to one place where they can record and walk out with a finished product in a few weeks rather than have to pay someone else afterwards to mix and/or master their tracks.

As per my personal taste - I feel like recording and mixing go hand in hand. I much prefer to mix my own recordings. That's where all the fun is if you ask me. Re-amping guitars, editing in cool effects, adjusting all the levels and programming automations so everything comes together to sound just right. That's where the music really comes to life if you ask me.
 

RedPillUK

Pelican
OK, so many interesting topics have been mentioned, I'll just reply to a few of them.

I'm a musician, and for most of my time playing music I've managed to completely avoid all music technology by hitting things with sticks and letting the sound guy do his thing, and the guitarist play around with his pedals, the engineers or whatever do their own thing in the studio. I didn't even know how to fold a lead properly until a few months ago.

I also play piano and as I've started to play gigs with that, I've had to finally confront my fear of music technology and look into playing keyboards live, as it's unrealistic to try and gig with actual pianos most of the time.

So in the last few months I've been experimenting with ProTools and MIDI for different keyboard sounds and writing music, listening to and figuring out pop/dance/house/hip hop/drum n bass/garage music etc, just mainly electronic music in general it's all kind of new to me as a more acoustic jazz/rock musician. It's opened my mind to a crazy amount of composing possibility that I've never had before, I think I'm picking up the basics of the program quite quickly, so I've been doing it just for the fun of it really.

It got me thinking into what is the best way to write music? Clearly writing music in a band situation is unnecesarily complicated and democratic. However I like to bounce ideas of other people, so I think writing music with one other person might be ideal. It would be even better if they had completely different skills to you, so I am thinking someone with more experience in the technology side of the things rather than the musical side. In addition I would like to work with a singer and lyricist as well, these are also things I'm not good at. That's why I mention the collaboration idea.
 

Mr. D

Pelican
Gold Member
General Stalin said:
Studio Monitors + Headphones
You want to hear what you are recording right? Studio monitors (speakers) can be a real sticking point for a lot of gear fags, but it doesn't need to be that complicated. Studio monitors are different than just normal computer desktop speakers in that they are designed to voice "true sound" and any decent monitor will be self-powered, un-EQ'd, and takes balanced cable inputs. You do not need to spend shit loads of money on monitors... though you certainly can. I use these cheapos:

http://www.m-audio.com/products/view/bx5-d2#.Vzyg7zdriUk

Even cheap monitors aren't cheap - these ones are about $150/each, but they are important.

Another important element is headphones. Your clients will need these as will you - I recommend getting a couple pairs. The biggest thing I can stress about headphones is make sure they are durable. Headphones get tugged on, dropped, etc. Something with a long thick cord, and sturdy construction is good.

I have a pair of shitty cheap Shure headphones that I will be replacing with something better soon. Again, you don't need to be paying buku bucks for a set of studio headphones. You can get an adequate pair for around $150 or even less.

As far as monitors go, I've personally used the cheaper stuff like Behringers Truth B2031A monitors.
(Basically, they're Genelec-clones, so at about 200$ a pair, you really get your bang for the buck.)
Pro-tip: Skip on the subwoofer. Some people rely too much on the sub when mixing, which in turn gives a weird sound on a regular 2.0 speaker setup.
Instead, go for a pair of monitors with as wide a frequency range as possible.

Headphone-wise, I highly recommend Samson SR-850 cans. Great balanced sound, open-back construction (á la AKG 240) for 50-60$ for a pair.

As for testing the sound of the monitors/headphones (frequencies, separation etc.), to each their own,
although I personally recommend bands like Steely Dan, Toto, Lady Antebellum or anyone with an affinity for hi-fi sounding records.
And a bit of hip-hop to check the low-end. (Warren G's "Regulators" is a personal favorite.)

My personal rule of thumb being: If it sounds full at any volume, it's good.
 
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