What are the benefits of recording in a large studio vs. my friend’s basement?
As a recording engineer in 2008, I have watched the giant studios of the 70′s and 80′s close in a whimper. Some would say, it is engineers like myself that caused this breakdown of the big rooms. I started a studio with less than $20,000 of investment and I quickly built it into a room that people were comfortable in and talked about.
So I guess that I am the DAW inspired new generation that took down the big guys! The conundrum of this destruction of classic studios is that these rooms are where I would love to be making records. Even though there are a million plugins that can emulate almost any piece of gear, the physical space and attention to professional detail cannot be emulated with some WAVES plugin. There are still uses for these big rooms, even with records on a shoestring budget.
So the question I ask is, how can we integrate a home recording/ small studio budget with rooms that truly have the the vibe, instruments, and equipment (a real console… Neve 8068!)? The answer lies in a new breed of producers and engineers that are able to quickly and efficiently integrate a small project studio with a large facility. Often, freelance engineers can book studios that they have working relationships with at a bargain price and pass the deal on to the artist.
But…what is the benefit of this really expensive room?
The benefit is usually not in one specific sound or instrument, but an accumulation of higher quality acoustical spaces, microphones, instruments, and maintenance. You kick drum might sound 10% better with a Neumann FET47 in front of it, but if you factor that into 16 microphones, all with great compressors, EQs run through a classic NEVE console in a GREAT SOUNDING ROOM with the right engineer, the outcome is noticeably different than recording drums in your basement. It is true that you can get a passable B3 organ sound out of a virtual instrument, but moving air with a real leslie speaker in front of vintage ribbon microphones ensures a sound that is more malleable in mix.
If basics are tracked in a large facility, money can often be saved doing overdubs in a smaller facility. Guitars can often be tracked in a much cheaper facility, with a few pieces of very nice equipment. There are many mid level recording studios that specialize in tracking guitars and keys. They have a wonderful collection of vintage instruments, but without the overhead of a multiroom giant facilitiy. In a similar manner, many producers and engineers now have private mix facilities (I do, feel free to ask me about it) that can be a much cheaper way to spend the right amount of time on mix. The engineer is often more likely to be comfortable and work efficiently in their own den of mix gear and monitoring that they are familiar with. With better sounds, from a big room in tracking, the mix engineer can focus on making a mix shine instead of fixing problems of room acoustics, inadequate gear and sloppy recording.
This method can often take a record that would have cost thousands in a huge studio down to a price where almost any indie artist can afford. If this is the type of scenario you see you band working in, feel free to message me. I would be happy to talk you through the logistics of making this happen. It is probably more affordable than you think!