You have some good songs, you have a vision for your ‘sound’ and you’re starting to build a good following for your live shows. Next, you’ll probably be looking to make some good quality recordings made so you can start earning money online from your music.
One of the bigger decisions you’ll make early on in your music career is whether to invest your hard earned cash into professional studio time.
Maybe you have a musician friend who played you their new tracks and then, when you asked where they recorded, surprised you with “I recorded these at home”. So now you’re starting to wonder – is it worth going into a professional studio when you can invest that money into equipment and make great quality tracks without leaving the comfort of your bedroom?
The short answer is that it depends on a number of factors. I’m going to examine the pros of each option.
The Advantages of Self-Recording
If you read this section and are SOLD on the benefits of home recording, you can read our Guide: How to Self-Record an EP at Home.
To summarise, this method involves:
- Buying some equipment (e.g. mics, an audio interface, something to input MIDI like a keyboard, possibly a good DAW like Logic or Ableton, and so on)
- Learning mic placement (assuming you’re recording vocals) and basic mixing techniques
- Multi-track recording each of your instruments and vocal parts, one after the other
- Learning basic mixing techniques
Here are a number of reasons to doing it this way
Reason #1 – you own your own equipment
If you have, say, £1,000 and you invest it into 2-3 days in the studio, the only thing you have to show for that time are the tracks you produce in those 2-3 days
IF, however, you spend that money on buying equipment, that equipment is now YOURS. You can use it again and again and again. It’s like buying a house instead of just renting for ever – at the end, you have something to show for it!
Reason #2 – you can work at your own pace
Studio time can often be very rushed. You are aware that you have spent a lot of money and that puts extra pressure on you to get results quickly. You might be more likely to accept less-than-amazing vocal takes. The pressure could even affect your ability to sing/play naturally.
With home-recording, this problem goes away. You have far more time to explore your ideas, your voice, different instrument sounds, mic placements, and so on.
Do not underestimate the importance of taking your time. For every 10 ideas you have, 1 might be that brilliant idea that makes the song really click. You need the time to have all those 10 ideas without needing to hurry through the process.
Reason #3 – you can customise your environment and make it as inspirational as possible
While you are flexible with time, you are also flexible with space – i.e. what you do to your environment to help with the flow of ideas.
If you want a completely empty space (move all your stuff into another room etc), or you want to stick nature posters up everywhere, or whatever, you can do it!
Chances are, if you’re working for a few days in a professional studio, you’re going to have to work in whatever space you’re given. For some people, this is fine; for others, maybe less so
Reason #4 – you get a better learning experience
Boring as it might seem, by needing to do all the mic placement and recording tech stuff yourself, you will learn more skills than if you have an engineer doing it all for you.
Knowledge is power – the process of home recording will really prepare you for when you do eventually go into a studio, because you’ll have a better idea (a) of what you want, AND (b) how to communicate it to the engineer.
The same goes for mixing – there’s no substitute for having an idea for what your song should sound like and being able to try it yourself.
Reason #5 – you can avoid a Producer’s cut and make more money!
Alongside the day rate of the studio itself, it’s also likely that your producer will want a cut of your master – i.e. they take a percentage, e.g. 10%, of your streaming and sales income as an extra payment for the work they’ve done.
This will depend on the agreement you have with the producer (if they are only engineering and not giving any creative input into the songs then a cut is much less likely). But it’s useful to know this.
If you’re self-recording, you get to keep all the % yourself!
[You can read more about cuts and producer’s agreements here]
Reason #6 – you get more creative control over your project
If you are recording in a studio and your producer is involved in the creative process, this reduces the amount of creative control you have over your project.
This can be a very good thing. If you have a great producer [and it’s worth reading our article about finding the right producer] then they might be the key to you finding your “sound” and releasing amazing music.
However, when you are just starting out, a stubborn producer with fixed ideas about how things should sound can actually hold you back from finding the sound you want.
Recording at home, you do it YOUR way and keep that creative control. Later on, when you start recording in a professional studio, you’ve already started that creative journey yourself and can also direct your producer, not only the other way round.
Reason #7 – recording at home can be more impressive
You can argue that it’s more impressive to have recorded something really good at home. The world smiles on self-starters, people who take the initiative.
Just think about your reaction to your musician friend telling you their great tracks were recorded at home… a part of you was impressed. How did you manage to get such a great sound recording in your bedroom?
There are, however, a number of reasons to consider recording in a studio instead and saving yourself the effort of setting up a home studio.
Read on, in Part 2
Have you had to make this choice yourself? Do you have experience self-recording at home?
As always, if you have any opinions or want to share your own experiences, please leave a comment below!