Running Your Own Recording Studio

Rigsby

Pelican
Gold Member
AnonymousBosch said:
One thing I might mention.

< Started recording on a Tascam 4 track cassette portastudio I... err... 'accquired'... when I was 15 or so. Still got 100+ tapes of songs floating around, including punk, hardcore, full on robo-80's dance music and really, really trying to be Prince. Haven't listen to them for 12 years or more. Would hate to imagine.

I've got many tape recordings. I have the best 4-track ever made. The signal to noise ratio is horrendous, I mean, really really silly bad! But yet...

With DBX Type II and hi-speed recording on chrome, you can do pretty good. It's still really bad, but what the hell. This is the 21st Century. Digital and perfect sound is here to stay forever from now on. These shitty recordings and recorders will die out this century. They won't be made again.

It's good enough.

Steve Hillage said 'perfection is the enemy of good enough'. I won't argue the merits of that statement one way or the other, but, it does say something profound.

Ha, I did some stuff on my 4-track too trying to be prince. You had to really be experimenting and pushing yourself if you were pretending to be him. Trying to be better than him. Ha.

You learn to play guitar. You maybe learn how to sing. If you're serious you start learning how to record. From there, it gets a bit hazy.

But we can get great results these days.

Every recording studio should offer a little helping hand with a local record producer, if they may. Just the local loud mouth blow hard like me. Sometimes it works, sometimes it don't. Like I said, zero or hero.

Even better if the guy manning the studio is the guy that has an idea to produce as well. But this is difficult because of conflict of interest. Really, how do you tell the singer to tone it down a bit when he is paying the bill later? He might get offended.

That is why some arsehole bloke your mate knows, but you don't know of course, but you heard about, and can come in for 50 quid, might be able to help you out, kind of thing.

I saved many sessions where people had spent silly money on vanity projects, and yet everyone was getting too well paid (read getting by) to mention anything. At the end of it all, you dig out the master tape and you are king. Really, I suppose, you are a mixer by this point, or rather re-mixer. No, mixer. Fixer.

And you still have 3/4 personalities behind you breathing down your neck, not to mention the guy that is giving you the 50 quid later if you are lucky.

On a good day/night, it works. And everyone is happy and you are the hero. For 50 bucks remember? But the money has been spent, and if you don't make it good, then you get to be the fall guy, and everyone cuts their losses. It's studio politics.

I know some very mediocre audio engineers that made, maybe not a living, but some kind of getting by thing, for a good while, going in and out of local studios when needed.

I even had a mate who made a go of it in North London, recording and rehearsal space.

I'm really not a very good business man.
 

Rigsby

Pelican
Gold Member
AnonymousBosch said:
A lot being said in this thread, so I'm spacing out my replies. Maybe we should make a separate music creativity thread so as to not derail GS's original intention.

Yes, I also hope GS doesn't mind us somewhat hi-jacking his thread. But then again, I do think we've been kind of on frame with it all.

I'm sure GS will let us know if we need to change tact.
 

Rigsby

Pelican
Gold Member
RedPillUK said:
Yeah this is turning into a 'Musician's Lounge' type thread. There's so many things being said it's hard to keep up and reply to all of it.

I wasn't looking for songwriting advice, but it was a pretty interesting read. I'd be interested to hear your music AB and Rigsby, it makes talking about music and songwriting much more real and interesting. PM me about it if you have something you don't mind sharing.

I was just saying it occured to me recently that the way people form bands, get everyone together once a week for 3 hours, waste about 1 hour of it chatting, setting up and drinking, and then expect to write good music is an inefficent way of going about it. The drummer and bass player are sitting in the corner bored out of their mind while the guitarist(s) and singer try and come up with something there and then. Yet loads of bands do it. Working on your own as you do, or collaborating with one or two other people is a much better way.

I used to play drums in a thrash metal band that was fairly successful playing gigs around the country with a few of my favourite artists and getting signed to a couple terrible record labels, we never made any money.

However since I've started to play another type of music I love, jazz and with multiple bands on drums and piano. I've started to think in a more individualistic way. I develop my skills, my knowledge, my ability to improvise and bring that to the table wherever I go. I'm not so bothered about writing hit songs or forming an awesome band, I'm more about getting good at my instrument first. I'm more of an instrumentalist than a songwriter.

However, improvisation is just composition in real time. Studying that, composition, song structure, harmony, scales, melodies etc and having an understanding of how to play different styles of music on different instruments, has given me a huge arsenal of knowledge and ideas and I can always rework those ideas endlessly. Learning music theory really helps your creativity, it doesn't hamper it as some people believe.

Now the problem is more about deciding what is good or not, this is why I like working with someone else sometimes, for a second opinion. I also like adding my input into other people's songs, once you've studied and practised coming up with melodies over chord progressions, it is easy and like second nature, same with harmony, the 'jazz harmony' that people learn should really just be called 'harmony' and every musician should learn it in my opinion. People are amazed by some advanced chords at first, I always was, but once you learn it, you realise that there's a basic system behind it and it's not that complicated at all. I've been thinking about writing about this system of what chord extensions you can add to what chord, but it has been covered pretty well in stuff like 'The Jazz Piano Book'.

I agree with you that practise and experience is also necessary in becoming a good songwriter, just like anything else.

Now, don't get me wrong RedPillUK, I'd love to get together with you and just play about. I'm absolutely sure we could both give each other something musically. No shadow of a doubt. And it don't get better than that.

It's just that this being a kind of business related thread, and me touting such sketchy credentials, I wanted to put my cards on the table really. Sorry if it was a little arrogant sounding. Maybe that was not your perception, but I think maybe possibly I was, just from my own end...

I love playing with anyone that wants to play. I love teaching people how to play. I love teaching people how to set computers up to run the latest software. I'm a very good balance between a nerd and a creator.

My whole gig is a bit like this: I love to meet up with people and record what we do on my Zoom, and then I take it back and do all kinds of things with it. And then I work it a little bit harder.

So, if you are still up for having a 'mess about' together, know that I would ideally like to record the whole thing. It's not essential, but time is short.

I'm not so interested in this becoming a kind of musician's lounge thread, as you put it. It's GS's thread to do as he sees fit with anyway.

But so far, I think we've done pretty well in stepping outside the boundaries and confining what's the necessaries, if that makes sense, to have a very interesting inclusive conversation.

There are some exceptional musicians out there I know. Some great songwriters. Some amazing producers. Some very talented audio engineers.

I kind of see this as a getting to know each other kind of thing. I'm not interested in working with known people. I only work with unknowns.

I have the advantage of being an island, in a musical sense. But, that is also the advantage of the people I work with as well. I'm not touting for business, but yeah, I'd love to have a jam with you!


(sorry, I'm a little drunk and my grammar is starting to slip, but it's from the heart, hopefully I made my point)
 

Mr. D

Pelican
Gold Member
Rigsby said:
Mr. D said:
My personal rule of thumb being: If it sounds full at any volume, it's good.

I think I see where you are coming from with that, but that only applies to music that has been finally mastered and is 'out there'. End product. The opposite is true when music is being made and 'produced' in the studio. Not all volumes are equal.

When you are monitoring, you have to take into consideration the non-linearity of human hearing. You have to know what a Fletcher-Munson curve is.

The vast majority of mixing is done at a level where people talking among themselves is audible within the control room. There is a reason for that. And it's not just because the people in the studio don't want to go deaf. Though fatigue is definitely a factor.

A solid foundation in psycho-acoustics is called for.

Mixes need to sound full at low volume, at high volume, in stereo, in mono, on unbalanced systems like cars where the bass may be disproportionately high, and most tellingly of all, on a good system where everything else sounds wonderful, so why does your shit sound like crap? ;-)

Then we have mixing on headphones. There is a major school of thought that says this should never ever be done under any circumstances. And then there is the other school of thought that says it is possible with programs like TB-Isone-Pro and all the other speaker simulation software. Professional mixers use it, and it obviously does work for them. So where does the truth lie?

I think I may be guilty of the very thing I am railing against: Becoming too technical for its sake. It's a rabbit hole. Perhaps another thread is in order for us to just knock this stuff about.

Apologies once again GS, if I took your thread too off-track.

And apologies Mr. D, if I took your quote out of context.

You kind of did, but don't worry about it.

Although when it comes to actually mixing (instead of simply testing the monitors), I just "frame the picture", pan/volume/reverb/etc wise.
Monitors for the overall "picture", headphones for the details. (reverb length, delay times, etc.)

I usually do a couple of mixes, burn them onto a CD (or put them on a USB stick) and listen to them in any system I can find.
Except on an iPhone. That would be a bit too complicated.
 

General Stalin

Crow
Gold Member
I just started the engine - I'm not steering the ship. Although, the idea of a "Musician's Lounge Thread" may be good. Perhaps I'll start one in EE to continue the discussion and also get more eyes.

AB and Rigsby seemed to both be seasoned folks in this field, and I too would love to have a little PM exchange of music if people would be so inclined. I have no qualms sharing what I have created over the years.

I can certainly offer my hand at the "local artist" side of things.

As I've said before, while it is obviously optimal to have a producer to make a song "great" and steer the direction of the project, and it would definitely behoove any artists to have their tracks worked on by different ears throughout the recording process (tracking, editing, mixing, mastering) - realistically most small time artists will not do that. Mainly for financial reasons. An artists just starting out does not have the resources to pay half a dozen professionals to get their vision to come to life. Plus, once again, the ease of making decent recordings in your bedroom these days has made the demand for such specialized people plummet. Of course big money studios and huge top-40 artists will have bankroll and demand for such people, but not your average unsigned DIY artist.

The more you talk about "best case scenario" recording the more you alienate more common everyday musicians
 

Zep

Pelican
RedPillUK said:
Yeah this is turning into a 'Musician's Lounge' type thread. There's so many things being said it's hard to keep up and reply to all of it.

I wasn't looking for songwriting advice, but it was a pretty interesting read.

It would be nice to have a musicians lounge here.

There's a LOT in this thread, but getting back to the OPs "Running your Own Recording Studio".

I used to have a bedroom studio. "Bedroom Producers" are a dime a dozen these days. If you go to Youtube and type in "how to build a home studio" you'll be overwhelmed with advice.

If I were to be serious about a bedroom studio this is what I'd do as a single man unable to afford a house. Rent an apt with 2 bedrooms, build a room within one of the bedrooms. Forget about 'soundproofing', the best thing I've seen is like a box within a box. I do not ever want to think about the neighbors ever again in my life.

This room within a room also is a great 'safe space' for creativity that Rigsby was talking about. Once you know that no-one can hear you or see you, then you can totally let go . Make stupid noises, dance while singing ( moving the body has helped me a lot when in a creative drought ) do Tai Chi movements and sing...so you look ridiculous! who cares, no one can see you or hear you in your room within a room.

That's 1st, then get a Usb keyboard, learn how to play some piano, the keyboard ( or piano) is the greatest instrument for harmony. It also is used for midi drumming and playing samples into your compositions. Then learn to play guitar, it's a necessity for western music, it's an inspirational instrument to play because it is so alive, unlike a synthesizer.

Now, IF you can afford it, TAKE LESSONS FOR EVERYTHING. Piano, guitar, learning your software whether it's Pro tools, Logic, Cubase, Ableton Live...whatever, take lessons. There is soooo much to learn that shortening the learning curve to compete in this industry is absolutely essential.

I've been talking about bedroom producer mode so far. As for Recording Studios? the medium size studios in my city are all but dead. The Bedroom Producers don't need them, songwriters just wanting a decent demo just go to a Bedroom Producer and get their work done there. The studios that are around seem to be run by guys who literally can't help but want to be sound engineers, and they tend to get good analogue gear ( very expensive), or they have the money to have a couple of drum rooms with a couple of kits all miced up and ready to go.

If I were a songwriter today, I wouldn't even bother with computer recording. I'd buy a portable studio like AB posted above. or,the Zoom H6, it is a crazy product for the price. It's bigger than the game changing Zoom H4n, and it resolved some of the issues that the Zoom H4n had. Namely, not enough phantom power for mics.

So with a portable studio, when you record, there's no latency! Plus it's portable, if you have a track and want a singer for it and they're across town, just bring your Portastudio. The Preamps on these new studios are great. Here's Peter Erskine recording with the H6,
If I were in an Indie Band, and wanted more inputs, I'd buy two Zoom R24's ( they $500 each ), they have 8 XLR inputs, so i'd use one for the drums, and the other for everything else, now you have 16 xlr inputs of clean sound, for a tiny $1000.00!! Look at this guy using it for his drums
After you have your basic tracks, I'd send them off to a guy who mixes, I wouldn't bother with mixing and mastering in an ok Bedroom Studio. Dedicated mixing and mastering studios are usually built with really expensive monitors and the room is treated, and the mixes are designed to translate well across many different sound systems. If you're in a band and you ALSO want to try to do this, good luck, I wouldn't bother, let the creative process be the main point of the band.

I knew a band who weren't very good to be honest, they got their stuff mixed and mastered by a pro. It was stunning how well I could hear every instrument over a P.A...a P.A!! My mixes sounded like crap over that P.A. It was then that I thought 'just let someone else with great gear handle it, I'll never be able to afford his $10 000 monitors"

That's all for now. Z.
 

Ocelot

Kingfisher
Gold Member
I'm so glad General Stalin started this thread, as I've been putting together a studio over the past year, and (as with seemingly every imaginable venture on this forum) there seems to be a lot of master-level wisdom being laid down to reflect on.

AnonymousBosch said:
germanico said:
A couple of fuzzes, a medium gain distortion/overdrive, tremolo, delay and a phaser and you are set up. Get what you use and set a small collection of the ones that just sound great.

I know most simply record the guitars clean and do the effects in editing, but for some things analog sounds just right.

Perhaps my theory on this is controversial:

Don't record guitars clean. Always record with the effects on the track, even if they're subtle.

It forces the artist to fully-commit to an idea during the initial 'creation high'.

I've simply seen too much time wasted by artists in the mixing process trying to find 'the perfect sound' after the fact. This is where artists chase phantasms of what they wish their music was, rather than the actuality of what it is. You end up in this situation where they become trapped in a hedge maze, looking for the exit, always thinking it might be around the next corner. Then the next. Then the next.

I've always had mixed feelings on this one. Aside from the benefits you just mentioned of committing to a sound early on, as a player it's always easier to feel what place your part has in the track as a whole if it sounds somewhat like it's going to sound on the record. You definitely play differently when your guitar is going through different effects.

I remember listening a couple of weeks back to Steve Wilson talking about hiring a modern guitar virtuoso named Guthrie Govan for his last album (guitarists here will probably know the guy). He said how Guthrie was just a bottomless well of one idea after another, but the problem was it was just too much for a lot of the songs: so what did he do? Put lots of effects in front of the guitar, especially things like reverbs and delays, and immediately Guthrie backed off and the parts he was coming up with married better with the tracks as a whole.

One downside is it's very difficult to make even subtle changes to the sound design without re-recording parts. But modern technology does seem to be moving towards the best of both worlds now. My own setup involves a kemper profiler (a digital modelling amplifier, a concept which I was still scoffing at 4 years ago) running via S/PDIF into a thunderbolt audio interface and you can put as many effects as you want on the guitar without hitting even 10ms roundtrip latency. That's the equivalent of standing about three metres further away from a regular amplifier. And you can still sculpt any effects further during mix-down, or even radically change them. In the future I really don't think there will be any argument for not recording with effects.
 

AnonymousBosch

Crow
Gold Member
General Stalin said:
An artists just starting out does not have the resources to pay half a dozen professionals to get their vision to come to life. Plus, once again, the ease of making decent recordings in your bedroom these days has made the demand for such specialized people plummet. Of course big money studios and huge top-40 artists will have bankroll and demand for such people, but not your average unsigned DIY artist.

The more you talk about "best case scenario" recording the more you alienate more common everyday musicians

That was my point: the specialised people are now really cheap. Back in 2012, I was quoted $4,000 for one of the hot bedroom producers in Melbourne. At the same time, I was quoted $6,000 for 80's indie legend Mitch Easter, whose name was on heaps of great records I've owned since I was a kid (REM, Game Theory, The Someloves, The Hummingbirds). I didn't end up using him, (though an associate did a few years before, and the record sounded incredible).

Let's see. Last album: 52 tracks recorded, 31 taken to fully-mixed-and-mastered completion, (though only 11 were publicly-released on the album), live strings and brass across various tracks. The producer had been recording since the 80's, and would tell stories about recording budgets of half a mill. Total costs of all that before manufacturing, somewhere between $4,500-$5,000. Back when I started out, that would have gotten you a tinny-sounding EP.

That's hardly Professional League money. Many of the local bands I know have put out vinyl albums - probably $6-8 grand to manufacture. Hell, I was recently involved in a big label project where thousands upon thousands of dollars were simply wasted through incompetence and arrogance. Those kids are going to get a rude shock.

Just something to think about.
 

Rigsby

Pelican
Gold Member
Interesting stuff AB.

The silly money it takes for big name producers are more for the contact and industry ties than any kind of god-given ability to turn silver into gold. Though a good producer who you pay a decent wage to, should indeed be able to turn silver into gold.

Anyway, I got a bit waylaid with stuff, and I'm only getting around to reading this now after a while.

Imho, it would be good to keep this thread going as a kind of counterpoint to the other 'lounge' thread you started GS. This one being more practical and experience based perhaps, whilst the other might be more musings and ramblings, kind of thing.

Just a thought.
 
Owning a recording studio is tough work. A lot of the big, profitable ones have closed down recently. It sucks because you can't scale it. You can only record one client at a time (unless you have a huge facility but then you can only record one client in each room)..

A profitable thing to do is get clients in the film and/or advertising business who will pay top dollar for voice overs/adr etc... these people often look for the most expensive facilities they can find so they can tell everyone what a high class/exclusive place they were working out of..

If you can, try and do some of the voice over yourself...especially if it's a weird animal noise or something (as opposed to singing which you need to have a talent in..) Get some SAG credit for the animal noises, whistles whatever.. and you now have a nice backend payout..
 

Architekt

Ostrich
Currently studying audio engineering at a small school, which means I get almost unlimited free access to top quality professional mixing desks, recording equipment, and workstations preloaded with Pro Tools, and a bunch of other DAWs. Going to try make some moolah out of this situation and get some real recording experience before I graduate/move onto my own studio.

Aside from that, I produce from home with Ableton on a busted laptop, albeit with decent specs (and extremely temperamental headphone and power jacks) and some Audio Technica ATH-M40x cans.

I'd highly recommend those headphones for anyone looking to enter into the production side of things. They are relatively cheap and high quality with a very neutral response and superb clarity across the frequency spectrum.
 

Alpone

Woodpecker
Great thread by AB. I've just started getting into audio recording/producing and bought Pro Tools. Steep learning curve but unlimited potential.

I've been doing folky/americana music but want to expand into EDM and synthpop. I'm also on the fence about a Nord Electro or A1 but will probably explore some pro tools synth plugins before I invest in a bigbucks keyboard.
 
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