By Kim Copeland
Will you be recording a new CD soon? We live in a wonderful age for creativity. We also live in a time that can be overwhelming for the creative soul. Should you buy your own home recording gear and save studio costs? Should you play all of the instruments on your recordings and save musicians costs? You could also sing all of the background and harmony parts and save on the expense of extra vocalists, and do your own mixing and mastering. Think of the money you could save.
Now think of the time you would have to spend to: become really good at the technical side of engineering, learn the skill set for mastering, develop the chops for playing multi instruments at the level you want for your album, develop the ear and range for elaborate vocal parts. Oh, yes, and also act as your own project manager -keeping the time and costs in balance while creating a project that you are sure you can market.
It is not impossible, but it is very rarely the most fun, logical or professional way to approach recording. You can do anything; but can you do everything well?
I produce indie artists and singer/songwriters who express such relief at having me to think about and handle parts of the project that they were not aware of or equipped to handle.
Usually, there are some elements of recording a project that they did not want to deal with and others that they did not know how to deal with. But during the process of recording together, they also become aware of aspects of singing, playing, interacting with musicians, exploring and arranging the songs, or even dealing with the coordination and marketing of finished product, that they had not given a thought to going in; Things that make a huge difference on the recording experience and the quality of the final product.
Unless you particularly enjoy creating in a vacuum, my advice is to do what you love to do and hire someone else to do what you are perhaps less passionate about and/or less qualified at.
If you enjoy exploring and experimenting in the studio, spend some money on gear. But don’t get so focused on becoming an engineer that you set yourself back on being an artist.
If you have a limited amount of time and money to spend on your music, recording in a studio would be more efficient, though you can still use your home recording gear for working out parts, writing songs, experimenting with arrangements and sounds, etc. This can save you money when you are on the clock in an outside studio.
Here are some things to ponder as you mull over your options for recording your next project.
Recording music at home:
>Experimenting without watching the clock.
>Learning about Pro Tools or similar equipment.
>Developing songwriting instincts.
>Removing performance anxiety.
>Working in a vacuum.
>Spending your creative time and energy reading technical books and playing with a mouse instead of your guitar.
>Limited to your own skill set and experience level.
>No creative interaction to grow your skills, expand your knowledge or discover new elements of your songs and artistry.
Recording vocals at home:
>Time to explore arrangements and techniques without watching clock.
>Time to arrange and perfect bgv’s. (background vocal)
> Experimenting with EQ and effects to see what you like on your voice and what you are capable of with and without digital help.
>Working in a vacuum. No one’s voice sounds the same to their own ear and is does to others. Assuming you want others to buy your album, it is good to have someone other than yourself pointing out your strengths and weaknesses and help you discover your uniqueness and commercial potential.
Mixing at home:
(Even if you choose to record at home, mix elsewhere. Get a new set of ears on it, perhaps some with more experience, different gear options, an ear for the current market; etc.)
>Trial and error. You can spend as much time as you want playing with effects and dialing in that sound you hear in your head.
>You can spend as much time as you like….and NEVER finish!
>That sound you hear in your head may not be viable in the commercial marketplace.
>It may take you 10 times longer to find that sound than an experienced engineer with 10 times the plug ins and outboard gear you have at home.
Mastering at home:
(Don’t do it! Master elsewhere. Again, another set of ears will pick up on things you may miss and also offer new insight into the strengths and weaknesses of your work.)
>Sound and quality. Use a different set of ears for mastering than for mixing. Otherwise you have no feel for whether what you are doing resonates with anyone else or competes with other albums your audience is buying.
If you are recording purely for pleasure, home recording is great fun. However, if you are investing in expensive gear and spending copious amounts of time to achieve commercial success, you may be handicapping yourself.
Ninety nine percent of successful artists have a recording team to help them capture their vision and leave them free to focus on what they do best. Why? Maybe it’s because there are very few creative geniuses that are good at every aspect of creating and recording a music project. And even those who are know that stretching themselves to thin makes their creativity and productivity suffer.
My advice is to do that thing you do so well and let others help you look good by allowing them to do what they do well. Perhaps the real genius is in bringing out the best in those around you so that you look your best.