Article: "Why should I record at a studio when home recording equipment is getting so cheap?" Part 2

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In part one we looked at some reasons, costs, and pros and cons, to record in a professional studio versus a home studio.

By now, you can see that a professional studio can save you a lot of money even though you are paying an hourly rate.

A trained professional in charge of the recording end can work very quickly and get a great sound without a lot of experimentation. They will have the expertise and equipment to chose the best microphones for the job and will understand all the ins-and-outs of your project, their equipment, room acoustics, and ultimately will take less time than recording on your own. In a studio, the engineer has all the necessary equipment to capture and mix your music, and the producer can offer suggestions to improve the project. There should be nothing extra to buy. An experienced engineer in a studio environment can often get a demo recorded for about $500 to $1,000 (based on how much time you spend with the project and post-production editing) which is far less than buying your own set up.

Comparing the time it takes to record an album, without the help of a skilled engineer, is far longer than if you have an engineer on hand. This eliminates the problems about the recording end, and will relieve the stress of you dealing with it. This means you can concentrate on performing your music and not worrying about the technical aspects.

This creates a more relaxed and organic experience. It is hard to get comfortable and just play your part if you have to stare at meters, run over to a computer keyboard or recording device to start and stop the recording. In the professional studio, an album could take a few days to record rather than weeks or months as in a home studio.

Quality? You will definitely get as much or more for your money from a professional studio session. The room in which you perform will be treated to provide the best acoustics possible. Remember, no amount of high dollar equipment or tweak time can make up for bad acoustics captured during the recording process. When recording at a studio, the engineer has the best idea of how to capture your sounds to get optimal results, unlike somebody with little or no experience. A good engineer will also be able to determine how to process the various sounds of your record in order to bring out the best. When recording at a studio, there will be tricks of the trade at your disposal that you may not think about, which can make or break an album. Also, since the engineer and producer have objective viewpoints, they may catch sonic and performance related problems that you may miss.

Now a concise list of pros and cons over both options.

Home studio (advantages) Pro Studio (advantages)
  1. No hourly rate, easier on time for experimentation and perfection of parts
  2. Great learning experience
  3. No scheduling multiple appointments
  4. More relaxed and leisurely atmosphere
  5. Lasting investment in recording equipment
  1. Recording process takes less time
  2. Experienced staff to get better quality in acoustically treated rooms
  3. Musicians only have to concentrate on performing
  4. No set up cost on expensive recording equipment
  5. Flexible, quality hardware
Home studio (disadvantages) Pro Studio (disadvantages)
  1. Generally poor acoustics
  2. Steep learning curve (takes years to become good at recording)
  3. Inorganic work flow
  4. Robs musicians of concentration on their performance
  5. Potentially expensive to set up
  1. Less time for experimentation, must be well rehearsed in advanced
  2. No lasting investment in studio equipment for the artist
  3. Difficult to get work out schedules of individual performers
  4. Cost is variable. Depends on musicianís skill and number of sessions/editing needed
  5. Have to transport musical equipment to location

You will notice that there are five examples of each category in order to be fair to each.

Since both systems have their advantages and disadvantages, one can determine that a combination of those ideals are best. Some people will record scratch tracks (jam tracks) and then start the basic recording process on their own. Then they will go to a pro studio to record more difficult things like drums, piano and vocals. They often mix in the pro studio as well. Some find it best to record their whole album in a commercial setting to speed up the process, then take the raw tracks to their home studio to mix. Some do the initial tracking such as guitar, bass, and drums, as well as vocals, at a large studio and then go to a home studio or smaller studio to do the more time consuming overdubs. There are infinite variations to these approaches. What you chose is purely up to you.

Below is a simple guideline chart to help you with your decision. Remember, this is just a basic guideline chart. It does not cover all variables or degrees of determination.

Musicianship
Budget
Time
Recording skill
Outcome
Expert
Moderate / unlimited
No restrictions
No experience
Studio only
Experienced
Limited to Moderate
Few Restrictions
Experienced
Home Only
Experienced
Limited to Moderate
Few Restrictions
Some Experience
Studio / Home mix
Experienced
Limited to Moderate
Few Restrictions
Little/no experience
Studio only
Experienced
Limited to Moderate
Some restrictions
Experienced
Studio / Home mix
Experienced
Limited to Moderate
Some restrictions
Some Experience
Studio / Home mix
Experienced
Limited to Moderate
Some restrictions
Little/no experience
Studio only
Experienced
Limited to Moderate
Multiple restrictions
No experience
Studio only
Well Rehearsed
Very limited
Few Restrictions
Experienced
Home Only
Well Rehearsed
Very limited
Few Restrictions
Some Experience
Home Only
Well Rehearsed
Very limited
Few Restrictions
Little/no experience
Postpone Project
Well Rehearsed
Very limited
Some restrictions
Experienced
Home Only
Well Rehearsed
Very limited
Some restrictions
Some Experience
Home Only
Well Rehearsed
Very limited
Some restrictions
Little/no experience
Borrow Money for Studio
Well Rehearsed
Very limited
Multiple restrictions
Experienced
Home Only
Well Rehearsed
Very limited
Multiple restrictions
Some Experience
Home Only
Well Rehearsed
Very limited
Multiple restrictions
Little/no experience
Borrow Money for Studio
Some Experience
Moderate / unlimited
No restrictions
No experience
Studio only
Some Experience
Limited to Moderate
Few Restrictions
Experienced
Home Only
Some Experience
Limited to Moderate
Few Restrictions
Some Experience
Studio / Home mix
Some Experience
Limited to Moderate
Few Restrictions
Little/no experience
Studio only
Some Experience
Limited to Moderate
Some restrictions
Experienced
Studio / Home mix
Some Experience
Limited to Moderate
Some restrictions
Some Experience
Studio / Home mix
Some Experience
Limited to Moderate
Some restrictions
Little/no experience
Studio only
Some Experience
Limited to Moderate
Multiple restrictions
No experience
Studio only
Some Experience
Very limited
Few Restrictions
Experienced
Home Only
Some Experience
Very limited
Few Restrictions
Some Experience
Home Only
Some Experience
Very limited
Few Restrictions
Little/no experience
Postpone Project
Some Experience
Very limited
Some restrictions
Experienced
Home Only
Some Experience
Very limited
Some restrictions
Some Experience
Home Only
Some Experience
Very limited
Some restrictions
Little/no experience
Postpone Project
Some Experience
Very limited
Multiple restrictions
Experienced
Home Only
Some Experience
Very limited
Multiple restrictions
Some Experience
Home Only
Some Experience
Very limited
Multiple restrictions
Little/no experience
Cancel Project till later date
No experience/ Novice
Very limited
Multiple restrictions
No experience
Cancel Project

Remember, whatever you decide is the best option for your project, once the final product has been mastered, and on it's way to the agent, label, or shelves of the music store, you will have to live with the results. The difference between a so-so recording and a smash could be a contract.

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2006 - 2007 C.L. "Buddy" Richardson, B. S., A & R, Member: Recording Academy and SMPTE

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Updated: Sunday June 8. 2014