Home recording is an attractive option for bands on a tight budget. No deposits, no hourly/project fees, and the flexibility of recording where you’re most comfortable. That said, sacrificing sound and quality for these benefits is never worth it, and in this day and age, this is (usually but not always, we’ll get to that in a minute) one of the biggest mistakes indie bands who are trying to launch their careers could make.
The Advice I Wish I’d Taken
11 years ago when I first started in Larusso and we were recording our debut EP, I received some advice from a prominent local band:
“You’ll never get good, quality recordings unless you pay good money for them.”
Being completely enamored and immersed with recording our first album, I immediately dismissed the advice. It seemed somewhat arrogant to me, but getting the songs we’d played live for so long finally laid down so that I could enjoy them as a listener (for the first time ever) kept me blind to some things.
Home Recording Doesn’t Usually Make Good First Impressions
When you start taking over your local scene, hit the road, and/or start sending in press kits to labels, people are going to want to listen to and share your music with their friends. This is your chance to make a memorable first impression! One of the single biggest compliments we receive on Life in Static is the high quality of our recordings, because most indie bands just don’t have that.
Investing in a professional sounding EP or LP shows your fans that you are a band worth their attention, and shows the industry that you take yourself seriously. Please know that I’m not dismissing your own basement recordings, because it works for a lot of bands and many of them sound great. In my personal experiences growing as a musician and a recording artist, however, I’ve found that having a professional producer, the best and a wide variety of gear, and state of the art Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) can add a whole new dimension to your recordings. Which brings me to…
Finding/Choosing Your Studio
You don’t have to pack your bags and move to LA to get professional studios working on your project; there are probably plenty in your hometown. As many of you know, we’re releasing a brand new single, ‘Fever’, next month which we recorded with Mike Sasich at Man Vs Music Studios, and I could not be more proud. We have been fortunate enough to build a great relationship with Mike, who is a genius engineer and producer right here in Salt Lake City.
Terrance Halterman at Counterpoint Studios is another. While recording an acoustic version of ‘The Voice’, I had the honor of playing Counterpoint’s Fazioli concert grand piano (which is worth more than most of our houses). A high quality DI keyboard up against this piano with state of the art microphones in a perfectly treated room is never going to measure up the same way. The small nuances of those sound reflections, and the tonal qualities of a perfectly crafted piano, are something that cannot be easily replicated in a basement.
A quick Google search will show several other fantastic studios in your area and most of them would love to give you a tour. I would highly encourage you to go and check them out! Talk to the producers and the engineers about your project. Check out their equipment. Listen to their latest projects. Do the studios feel good? Or more importantly, do they feel right?
Unfortunately yes, professional studios all costs money, but the end product truly justifies it. The investment is worth giving your fans the best possible version of your songs because in the end, that’s what your art deserves.
That’s Great, But My Band Is on a Tight Budget
There’s nothing wrong with practicality. Where there’s a will there’s a way, but at the same time, not every band has the money to drop on a pro studio for their next release. If I can stress anything to you, it’s try to find a way, but if not there are still steps you can take to get a great sound from a home recording if it’s your only option.
You can get most of the engineering grunt work done with a good dynamic mic for vocals, and a Shure SM57 for your guitar and bass cabs if you’re careful about your levels, background noise, etc. Also be very careful about your choice of instruments, as you don’t have a professional producer helping you with things like how to choose a guitar that will give you the best tones or basic eq/engineering strategy. Everything should sound as good as it possibly can raw i.e. don’t say ‘we can fix that in the mix’.
If you absolutely must go forward with a home recording, it is still probably in your best interest, however, to get your drums done at a pro studio. Not only is a full set of good drum mics a bit pricey, to get a good sound from the kit your room has to be very well treated. Consider renting out a studio for a few hours and hammering out your drum tracks there before you do the rest at home.
Best of luck on your new record, and give us a like or share below if this helped you!