Archive for the ‘fooman’ Category

The Home Studio – useless chatter

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Well I don’t have anything to really base a topic on, I just feel like talking about the studio.  It’s my way of unwinding I guess.

Here’s some things I’ve come to understand and realize in the past little while that may be of some use to anyone starting up their own little studio:

- Get a good tuner that people like to use.  It’s very hard to record over out-of-tune scratch tracks, and also annoying if you realize your last amazing take is not in tune.  Use this one tuner for everyone.
-Don’t take it personally if potential clients back out or don’t reply to calls or emails/msgs.  It’s the name of the game.  Network yourself, but realize that some of the younger clients don’t have the social maturity to do you the courtesy of being on honest with you.  They would sometimes rather not deal with telling you that they are going to go elsewhere or do it themselves (hehe).

- If you want that huge tight wall-of-guitar sound, it’s more easily achieved using the same rig and player.  Often the two guitar players in a band will want to each track a rhythm part, meaning two guitars, and sometimes using two different amps, and always two different playing styles.  Completely different doesn’t equal giant singular sound when double tracking and whatnot.  If the guitar player whom you want to take a backseat during the rhythm parts is offended, get him to try his hand at it and then show him the results.  Worse thing that can happen is that the band will discuss and decide which way they want to go.
-  Having a nice desk relaxes clients!  It’s sad, but soooo true.  I had a PC desk from Office Depot that I used in the studio for awhile.  It was ok, did the job.  However, I could tell that some potential clients were put off because my setup did not have that professional studio desk look (you know, those guys that think you must have Pro Tools to record their record that they only want to spend $1-2k on).  I got an Argosy desk, and suddenly my clients began to listen to me more closely and the potential clients who came to check out the studio were always excited when they saw the setup.  I thought it was just my head playing games, but I swear that the appearance of your studio does in fact play a part in the whole scheme of things.

-  Put a light air freshener in your control room.  Nothing crazy, but one of those Glade plugins that give off a small amount of nice scent.  Relaxing… and better than body odor of the drummer who just finished laying down some tracks.  Nobody wants to work in a stank room.

-  Go to see your potential clients play live at shows.  They will be impressed that you came to see them and it will definitely help your case in trying to get their project in your studio.  Otherwise you will only be recording your friends whom you already know and they will probably want a discount ;)

-  Try to stay away from “I want to sound like this band”.  I mean, I always ask about influences, fav records, etc…. but I try to not let the client think that they can spend pennies on a song relative to what the band they are referring to and get the same results, especially since quite often Andy Wallace or Randy Staub or CLA or TLA or etc etc mixed the cd.  I can get their project to sound good and make the client happy and excited to get their music out there, but you have to be realistic.  If you can come to peace with what you have, work on your abilities within your room and space, and not promise the client what you cannot achieve, then you’ll be ok.

That’s about it from me.  Random, very random, but all of this has helped make my studio life a little bit better as time goes on.

The ’secret’ of getting great drum sounds

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

People all over the net ask “How do I get my drums to sound professional”? Often, these people have a low-end or mid-level kit, record amateur drummers, and have sub par gear on which to record them. How do I know? I was one of these people.

Here’s my three keys on having a good drum sound in order of importance
- Have a good drummer
- Tune the drums properly
- Have some good drums

Ok, here’s why….
1. Good drummer
A good drummer can make a bad kit sound decent. A good drummer can also make a badly-tuned kit sound better. A good drummer can set up in a room, allow for mic movement, cymbals higher/lower, moved drums, clicktrack, dynamic control, etc. That means once mixing starts, it’s simply turning a golden sound into an even better one. Makes your life SO easy. Even if you have to replace a kick drum with a sample, snare enhancement with samples, etc at least the original drums in the overheads and close mics will be in time and sound dynamic!
I’ve had a crappy drummer on a well-tuned $6k DW custom kit that hit like a pansy for metal music, and it was stupid. I’ve had 17 year old kids who can play my studio mid-level kit and I was able to get great sounds with minimal work.

2. Good tuning
A well-tuned crappy drum set can sound absolutely usable. No doubt. However, an amazing $6k kit tuned like a piece of horsepie will definately make your mix a challenge.  Put a great drummer on a well-tuned kit and you’re almost golden.  Almost.

3. Good Kit
This is last because you can get away with a bad kit when having the first two items and still get a usable drum sound.  But if you put all three of these things together, then you just set up your mics, get healthy levels, and press record and smile.  But without either of the first two, this last item is worthless IMHO.

So many a-newb do not want to hear ANY of the above.  Why?  It takes work and/or cash to get each of these keys in order.  It takes work to get good at drums, and we can’t always tell those who we have as clients to practice more before they enter the studio.  It takes work to learn to tune drums, and even still each drum is different.  It takes money and knowledge to get a good drum kit!  So that’s why it often takes awhile, in my experience at least, for a new person interested in recording to really admit why they can’t get the drum sounds they want.  There ain’t no magic process to get a great drum sound.  Tricks and tips to help?  Yea sure, but the honest truth is: You can’t shine a turd.  Everyone’s read that, and there’s a reason people say it.  You gotta get the basics down first, meaning a good musician on a good instrument.
Obviously, having some good mics and preamps… gear in general… will help.  I upgraded from Behringer to Mackie to API preamps.  Huge step up each time.  Same with conversion from Delta 1010 to Lynx Aurora 16.  Mics from chinese Apex to Shure LDCs, 57s, Audix, and Sennheiser.  I can’t afford to have a mic selection that will not get used, so I carefully selected the best mics I can afford for the stuff I record… which is heavier rock music, metal, etc that have full drum kits and large amps, and loud vocals.  Thing is, I can use a lot of my mics for multiple things.  But that’s another topic (one that is rather important for small project studios I might add!).

Also, a good/great room.  My studio is fairly popular with those who have played in it.  Drummers love it cause the drums sound huge, even though it’s a fairly small room.  I guess they are used to playing in boxy rooms that sound like hell, but I know how to use my room and it works for me.  But once again, without the first 3 things up there, the room means squat.

For anyone who thinks I’m full of hot-air, here’s what happened recently:
I recorded a young hardcore band.  They tried to do stuff on their own, then came to me.  Cool.  We tracked the drums and they were pumped, as was I because the drummer had a nice vintage kit, tuned properly.  He was also a fantastic drummer, especially for a 17 year old kid!!!  Super mature and well-behaved, and played well and hard, which you need for the type of music.  So we got a great sound.  I got some samples from his kit just in case.  I told him what I was doing cause I don’t hide the fact that some things may need enhancement or replacement.  I EQ’d the kick in a standard fashion with a UAD 1074 and compressed with an 1176LN, mostly so we could get a close sound to what we wanted to hear after things were done.  Also known as, the metal clicky kick ;)

They came back the next day and the drummer says “Wow man the kit sounds huge!  What did you replace with samples?”
I replied, “Nothing man, that is all you.  Exactly what went down yesterday.”

That’s all there is to it.  I could have left the drums as-is.  In fact, after tracking said band, I could have given them the rough ‘mixes’ the last day of tracking and they would have been happy.  Why?  Cause I get things to sound good before processing… get things good while tracking.

I’m still learning, as is anyone else.  If you have anything to add to what I said, or if you care to discuss the order of importance feel free to comment on the forums.  Maybe I can learn a thing or two from those with more experience.

So much to think about, so little time

Monday, July 21st, 2008

Once again, it’s been a long while since I came over to this site. Not too many people are posting, which is odd to me…. I’d have figured that anyone with a little studio would be posting their thoughts and experiences with the recording arts. O well, more space for me!! I like to ramble, keeps me sane hehe.

First of all, a band that I tracked some live-off-the-floor demos got signed! They haven’t set it in stone, but I was told that they presented the demos to the label they were going for and it helped them secure the deal. Seeing as it was my first real session of live recordings in my small studio I was pretty happy. I hope to have a song from the sessions up very soon on my website… as soon as my studio is done going through a small renovation this week =)

Recently, I’ve been advised to start running my studio as an actual business in order to be able to benefit from the financial side and keep things legit when it comes to paying clients and purchasing gear that I could possibly benefit from come tax season. My significant other’s mother is a book-keeper and knows her stuff, and she has helped me more than I could have hoped for in this regard. She has started her own business on the bookkeeping front, so she told me where to go to register myself and whatnot. She is also doing all my tax work for free (I’m going to pay her whether she likes it or not)! I gave her ALL of my music-related receipts I’ve kept since the beginning of time, and I will be able to apparently reap the benefits once things are lined up. She did work for a buddy of mine who has a PA rental business, and his first tax return was something along the lines of $4k that he used to upgrade his rig. I could definitely use a return like that… wow.

So with my business in order, an invoice system put together, everything organized, a website up and running, and a steadily-growing client list, I’m ready to go!

However no studio owner ever goes a few months without a sever case of GAS (gear acquisition syndrome). So I started to think about my next large gear purchase. Monitors were on my list, as my Yorkville YSM1p’s lacked the low-end detail and hi-end clarity that I need in order to step up my game.

I’m very happy with my mic collection after purchasing two Shure KSM44’s, AKG D112 to go along with my Audix D6, i5, bunch of 57’s and 58’s, and a 421. The only mic I’m missing is a good ribbon such as a Royer 121. I figured maybe I could grab a pair of Fatheads for significantly less, but I know that I’d eventually get a great ribbon so why not skip the intermediate step?  Obviously, I’m not including a vintage LDC because it simply isn’t in my budget and I can get by without one.

One actual instrument I’d like to consider is a nice amp!
When a client walks in and see’s a Mesa Triple Rectumfrier, the response is ALWAYS “Hey wow!!   Is that yours?  Can I use it when I record?  When can I come in???”  My old guitarist in my band (that’s been getting airplay on the local radio even since we broke up from a demo I recorded) owned one of these amps, and since it was at my studio I was able to use it.  It always produced a usable tone and often a great tone no matter what guitar was used.  I own a Marshall JCM 2000, but it doesn’t match up when recording hard-rock acts.  The Mesa will bring in clients, meaning anything else on this list won’t be far behind.
Another thing I’d like to look at doing is getting a great outboard compressor. Candidates are the API 2500, Smart C2, 1176, and the Distressor. I own an FMR RNC, but to be honest it’s so transparent that it does nothing for me or my tracks. I can get better sounds for the song quicker by using UAD compressors compared to running things through a patchbay messing with the RNC to get what I need (not transparent comp sounds), and then back into my PC. Blah. If I go through the trouble of wiring stuff up, I want to give the sound something special. With a box like the 2500 or the C2, I could also use it on the 2-buss to add some glue and vibe to the mix. I spoke with my mastering guy, and he told me that if it actually does give the mix some vibe he’d be all for it as long as I print a safe mix as well. He also told me he’d go for the Distressor because it’s so versatile and is a bread-n-butter type of unit. I have to find a store in Canada that will ship me some of these units to test them, and then just ship back what I don’t want. If anyone knows of a place, please PM me!!

Another item(s) I’m also considering is some of the ceiling panels from Real Traps for above my drum kit and mixing position. I have very low ceilings, and the drop ceiling isn’t the most absorbing material, although it’s not as bad as a drywall ceiling. So perhaps spending some cash on a few panels would be money well spent… but with something like this where so few people actually have them makes me very cautious. I doubt I could just return them after installing them and using them for a few sessions. The PVB from Real Traps has been great for my studio, so I’m sure I’d love the panels… we’ll see. It’s definitely in the future.
Also a few more panels from Gik… maybe a few of the diffusers would suit me better. We’ll see what Glenn or his staff have to say when I bring it up.

And finally, a desk!
I’ve went from wanting this crazy desk with room for my Axiom 61, desk space galore, racks upon racks etc… to wanting more of a mastering desk. Small footprint, simply rackspace, enough desk space for keyboard and Alphatrack and mouse, and that’s about it! I don’t need more in reality. I need the rack devices I do have right in front of me, and access to those three desk items. Problem is, it seems these desks cost more than the mixing desks. I went to local shops and it seems that they would even charge me more than ordering & shipping online from the US! So I think I’ll wait until I can afford it, and then make it happen by ordering from Sterling or Argosy. If this were to happen I’d have some planning to do anyways…

What I’ve Learned During a Project – Pt. 2

Friday, July 18th, 2008

Well it’s been a little while since I’ve been around the forums. The good news is because the studio has been busy and my day job has picked up! I just wanted to share an update of sorts on my previous post that was based on learning from a very challenging project. My work since has been very fulfilling and has really allowed me to confirm my insights that I previously stated. Some of this is a bit rehash, but I wanted to convey that I’ve taken some big steps in the right direction and my ideas brought before have helped me and held up over time as I’ve worked with better artists and worked on more projects.

To start, I have upgraded my studio quite a bit in the past year. I went from 2xDelta 1010’s to a Lynx Aurora 16 w/ a Lynx AES16. This really made a difference. The signal that gets to my hard drive is the signal that came out of my preamp, meaning it does not lose anything at the convertors. No more digital haze. Then I upgraded my preamp section to an API 3124+. So I now have an API 3124+, FMR RNP, and then a Mackie 1604 VLZ for any extra tracks I may need to record at one time. Having both of these MAJOR upgrades has allowed me to create a mix with a more defined soundstage, and give me some more confidence that the sounds I’m getting to/from my monitors are going to be what I hear in the outside world.

Speaking of translation, I also dropped a bunch of cash on some Gik Acoustics treatment. 18 pieces. My room has never sounded better, and my mixes have never translated as well as they do with the treatment. This was actually the first thing I did after my last little article on these boards. When a client walks into the studio, they now KNOW it’s a studio that means business. Sure, they don’t know why I have the stuff on the walls, but they see it and think “This isn’t just another basement studio”. They see the treatment and make a connection in their minds to the studios they see on TV or whatever. I can relate, I was the same way when I was inexperienced in a studio. I didn’t get treatment for this reason, and it’s actually worth it to get yourself some treatment just like everyone says it is… but I wanted to share that little bit because it’s a big benefit from doing up your room well. Make it look nice and people will notice and take you much more seriously. Even the Mackie 1604 gets a LOT of attention from clients. They see a decent sized mixer and assume it’s going to be used a lot; they don’t know it’s mainly extra pre’s for drum and used mostly for headphone mixes!

Another upgrade that has helped me is moving to learning and using UAD plugs. Putting the 1176LN and Pultec/Neve on a kick drum often is a good starting point for the rock mixes I do. The LA3A is probably one of my fav compressors. If only I had the cash to spend on one or two of these in hardware-land… ;)

So here’s some updates based on my last article:
The last time I wrote, the artist in mind was not well rehearsed. I’ve recorded some bands since then with all my new gear and I’d had much more experience, but the projects still turned out like junk (to my ears) because the bands or artists were just not tight with their material. I’m not one to sit and edit a song for 4 hours before I start to mix, which is simply my choice. I’ve realized that I enjoy mixing songs like the artist play them, as in I want to mix what the mic hears. Sure, I’ll put some delay on the vocals, dirty up the bass, get the kick to sit nicely in the track… but I’m not going to change your drummers horrible timing in every bar or pitch your singer’s every word if they can’t sing. The band who I’ve worked with who know their sh!t can come in, lay down their tracks with ease, experiment a bit, take my advice on tone or parts played, and leave happy. The guys who come in not knowing their stuff leave pissed at themselves or their bandmates every single time. The process is not fun when these ppl come in. Recording is meant to be fun and new for most of the people I work with, not something to frown while doing. At the end of the day, those who know their stuff are basically mixed before I even touch a fader.

The artist from my last post made me do 9-song in two weeks… including a home-brew mastering. I have a day job and a band of my own that plays out a lot. So when I get home, I do want to mix 9/10 days, but if I want to see my girlfriend I’d like to tell her that we have the night to hang out. If I get pissed off or over-worked, I notice that the work suffers. I rush through it or don’t make smart intuitive decisions. On a long project you will get sucked into using ‘presets’, that is, the settings from your first mixed song for the other ones. That often leads to a boring bunch of tunes because by the time your done everything sounds a bit the same… but hey at least you overworked yourself and made the deadline! Sure, you should work hard at your studio to make the client happy but the difference is when the artist is one of those who aren’t tight and yet ask for a rush job. Things add up to create either crap or gold!
If the artist knows the game, they will let you take your time. Most of the bands I’m currently working with simply tell me to take my time and be done when I’m done. That doesn’t always happen, but it’s nice when it does… and I usually work longer and harder for those people.

At the time of my last post, I would tend to rely on getting a workable source and trying to tame it later on. Now I take the time to dial in the amp, move the mic to the right spot, and just get it going right from the start. The thing is, this takes some experience because you have to keep in mind the sound you are going for in the end. You wouldn’t have the guitarist in a heavy metal band crank the gain, lower the mids, and later try to EQ the mids back in. If you want a clicky drum sound, get the right mic, get it in the drum, and make it happen while tracking. So now when you mix, you can sit there and say “Does this sound really need much at 5k? Do I really have to set the attack time so high on my compressor?” I often track distorted guitars and leave them as-is without any compression ITB or much, if any, EQ. If it sounds good, it IS good. Having said that, if it doesn’t sound good after tracking, then I try to get another sound.

In a nutshell…if you play like junk, your recording will sound like junk cause I’m not spending 4 hrs of my time fixing junk. You could say “Well then get them to play it until they get it right”. I charge by the project, not by the hour. One of the reasons is because I expect you to be ready to play when you come in. If you can’t play, then I’m recording your best performance I can get from you, but it’s still probably not top-notch. I can usually tell when someone isn’t going to be playing well after their 1st or 2nd take… and I’m sure most of you can as well… so once again why waste your time? Give them their recordings the way they played them.

I usually listen to a similar artist that I enjoy during the same time period as the project starts, give it a rest during the actual tracking process. then listen again before I mix. I don’t really listen heavily to a reference during the mixing session or anything because then I’ll try to ‘copy’ that artist. I’d rather have the ideas and concepts in my head while I mix so I end up with an original sound that fits the artist. This goes hand in hand with ending up with a recording that sounds like how you played.

This next point is painful for some people to realize and get across. You can’t be band X on the radio. The band you are recording loves their kick sound, is influenced by them, and wants their guitars to be as deep as band X, but you have to realize (or help THEM realize) that you aren’t in a million dollar room with a grammy-nominated mixing engineer and producer. Of course, you don’t say that… but a reality check is sometimes needed. Sure, I have API, some damn good mics, Lynx convertors, and now a decent ear… but that doesn’t mean I can put out the same quality as Andy Wallace working on an SLL. You get more than what you paid for when you come to me (IMHO), but there’s a limit. Apparently it’s hard for some people to say that… I’m always hearing crap from bands who go to a studio and are told they will sound like gold, spend a fortune, and come away peeved.

So those are some of the thing I’ve learned, and reinforced, in my little project studio.  It’s been real fun, and I have more to write and ponder over but it’ll be posted in a separate blog probably very soon.  I hope my thoughts have been entertaining to you.  Cya ’round the net!

- Erik

What I’ve Learned During a Project

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

This is what I’ve learned during my first long, 9-song, project with a 4-piece band.  Some of the points I learned from making the mistakes once or twice, some I knew but were reinforced by this experience.

1.  Rehearsal is key.  Make the artist know all songs front to back… I had to do edits on structure because one guy played one part while the others played something similar, but different.  This shouldn’t happen in a well-rehearsed situation.

2.  Don’t let the artist force you to work in unrealistic time constraints – you will do NO good to your work and your artist’s music if you are being rushed.  Working under a deadline is fine, staying up until 1am is alright… but you know when a deadline is rediculous.  Make sure the artist knows as well.  If they don’t, and you put out less-than-stellar mixes and work, they will come back unhappy and not know why.  I had an insanely tight deadline, and have a day-job and a girlfriend I didn’t see a lot for two weeks.  The band realized that this deadline was nuts, but we made it work but I know the mixes suffered.

3.  Get it right at tracking – You can only do so much at the mix.  If the kick sound is off, you might be able to sample in a new drum convincingly.  MAYBE.  If the drummer is playing poorly and you know it, don’t think you can fix it in the mix without compromise.  Get things sounding as best you can at tracking.  Fixing it in the mix is wasting your time.  Enhancing it in the mix is art.

4.  Have the artist play well – Read around online about any of the classic albums made, and the guys who tracked them usually say “I just captured the magic”.  It’s so true man… I’ve never worked with an absolutely genious player, but I have recorded sloppy players and really good players.  The difference is night and day in the end.  A sloppy drummer cannot be saved by mixing ‘magic’.  People will know that the person playing is amatuer, even if their drums/bass/guitar does sound like “Metallica’s Black album yea!!”  I cannot stress this enough…. a poor performance has to be pointed out to the band asap.  They may not wanna hear it, but what else can you do?  A well-played part recorded half-assed is still better than a piss-poor part recorded well in my book.  Why do you think classics still stack up to today’s ‘polished’ sound of lesser artists?

5.  Have a reference – Import some tracks from a related artist into a track in your sequencer for reference.  I didn’t do this due to the lack of time, but I was I had… I noticed at the end when I DID have time to reference a professional mix that the width of my mix wasn’t where I wanted it to be.  The snare also wasn’t cutting like I’d like it to be.  However, this leads to the next point.

6.  Get your own sound – It’s good to reference, but don’t try and carbon-copy a sound of another band, especially if you are recording/mixing songs for a band who wants their own sound.  If your snare drum isn’t as fat as you’d have hoped but is cutting through and sound good, move on and continue to work.  See what the band thinks.  They might love it.  If a sound you are going for isn’t working, change it.  There has been enough times that I’ve tried to fit a square peg in a round hole.  Often this starts with tracking the proper instruments with the right mic.

7.  Don’t give out your thoughts – If you think a drum track sounds odd, you’re probably right… but don’t tell the band this in a listening session.  Let them tell you.  If the band says “Man that drum track is cool!”, then perhaps it’s just that you created an original sound that differs than the original goal.  If you tell the artist right off the bat that the bass track is bad, they will focus on it and not hear anything else in the SONG.  How can anyone give proper feedback if they have pre-conceived thoughts running through their mind?

8.  Take a break – Don’t work for 6 straight hours.  If you have a day job, allow yourself some time to walk around and get some water every now and then to clear your head.  Often I’d go nuts sitting there for hours on end going over a guitar part or two, and I realized I had to get away for 5 mins to let myself gain perspective.  Mixing is an art, and art is something that, for me, works better when I’m fluid and creative.  When I start to get bogged down and wracking my head about specifics over a length of time I know I need to get away and let myself start again with creativity in mind.  That’s why I personally take breaks.  For you, it could be any number of reasons.

9.  Match sounds – One of the hardest things I experienced when doing 9 4+ minute songs is that I had to get them to all sound like they were all part of the same production.  The kick was the same volume in relation to the mix as the rest of the tunes (with exceptions based on song style), the guitars had a similar vibe… or sound… to them.  This isn’t saying all bass parts must have the same amp tone, or anything like that, but when put together the songs on a 4-piece band’s disc usually need to sound like a solid piece of work unless specified otherwise.

10.  Ask in advance – When starting a project, ask the band where to go.  Where do they want to go.  It’s their art.  You aren’t a major label producer, so you just need to help them get to where they want to go without forcing them somewhere else.  If it’s not working for you or them, it’s better to find out now rather than later.  Ask them what instruments they have, what amps they use, what previous studio experiences they had, what mics were used on any previous work, etc. The more info, the less surprises later on.  Last thing you want is for the bass playing to bring in a wooden stick with elastic bands as a bass hehe.  If rentals are needed, nows the time to mention it.  I can’t stress enough how much it helped me to have a sit-down meeting with the band before starting.

11.  Know thy music!! – How can you track a song if you aren’t sure of the direction the song wants to go?  Go see the band do it’s thing live or in their practice space.  It’s a good thing to see the music being played before hand especially if you don’t know the band very well… because if the drummer does a ton of double kick in a song you may want to use mic A instead of mic B.  Of course, not everyone has the time to go out and watch all their projects live before hand… this is just something I personally try to do.

12.  Have a pair – Don’t be afraid to ask for payments, push a deadline back, etc.  If you don’t ask, nothing will get resolved or discussed.  The artists knows they will have to pay, so asking them to do so isn’t rude.  It’s part of the business.  If you are doing this for free/fun, then you can really be lenient and really have some leeway!

13.  Master elsewhere – Try and convince the band to master at a professional facility.  It’s often hard, but show them work you’ve recorded that was professionally mastered.  If done well, it will convince them.  Often projects I record would rather have me do it for cheap and just boost the volume, or worse yet get the mixdown and attempt to master themselves in a pirated copy of Adobe Cool Edit…  There is no real way to get around this to my knowledge.  Even bands I know that have gone to $50/hr places want to try to master their own music.  Often they aren’t sure what mastering is, or they think it’s just a loudness issue.  Try to explain, and don’t talk down to the band!  Remind the artist that if they are spending money on the first 3/4 of the process, why skimp out on the finishing part?  The crappy paint job on a car will make it look like crap no matter what’s inside.

Those are my major lessons for myself.  I hope someone has learned something from reading this.

The Home Studio

Monday, January 15th, 2007

My name’s Erik.  I run a small studio from a basement in Windsor, Ontario.  I have learned everything I know from self-taught methods and online research.  I’ like to start my blogging by simply discussing what a guy like me goes through, what drives me, and what I deal with on a daily basis in my relatively simple home studio.  I work a day job that pays my bills and for my equipment, but this is what I love to do.

I don’t really work on music to make money.  I do make some cash when a local band or artist needs a demo and isn’t willing to pay $60/hr at a professional facility.  I mostly do this for myself because I love it.  A lot of people online ask, “Man, don’t you think you are ripping off the professionals in your area?”.  I say a firm NO!!! everytime.  Why?  Because the places in town rule the market with an iron fist and really take bands for a ride.  A band I am fairly close with went to another basement studio that charges 3x as much as I do and spent over a year on their project.  A full-length 15 song rock cd.  I went to this guy’s studio and discovered why.  He had a rack with a wicked nice preamp, Pro Tools, a few standard mics, horrible monitors, untreated weird-shaped basement, mixed in the corner, bad sounding drum room.  Oh yea, and a proudly-displayed diploma on his was from the College he got his engineer’s degree from.

Point is, my material surpasses that of this ’studied’ engineers, with lesser equipment than him because I work my arse off to know what makes a song tick.  I charge less because I know where I stand.  I am in a darn basement with Sonar 6 PE, running a Delta 1010, RNP, and a Mackie VLZ mixer!  I don’t hold a gun to a band’s head and force them to record with me.  I am firm and up front with the bands I work with about what I do and what they can expect.  Those that choose to come to me simply do not want to deal with the cost and pressure in a professional place in my town that will basically hand them something not worth the money or dick them around in the process, depending where you go.

I know, I’ve been there.

I started off in a band that needed a demo done.  We didn’t have a lot of money so I went out and bought a mixer, a $300 Echo Mia soundcard, and Cool Edit 2.0.  Yea, I spent the money and the band didn’t but it was just a taste of what was to come.

So a few years later and a ton of projects and reading/experimenting later, I’m where I am now.  I’ve spent a ton of cash on items I’d only need to upgrade later on.  But I’ve finally come to a point where I’m happy with my equipment list, what I’m about, and I know I’m not dealing a duff hand to anyone who walks through my door.

As a home studio where you are by yoursel doing the producing job for the love of it and not much more, you have to know where you stand.  You also can’t lie to clients or you will be called out and figured out REAL fast.  You could easily get some bands into your studio by pulling out a lit-up piece of gear or two and show them your automated control-surface.  However, when you are nearing completion and a popular band in town is asking about the crap coming from your speakers, what are you gonna do?  Give them their money back?  Thank god this has never happened to me, and I take care in making sure it never will.

Another point that really drives me is the need to constantly learn more.  I am still trying to get the perfect rock tone from every amp I can get my hands on.  The perfect snare sound is getting closer by the project.  A new mic here, a new micing concept there.  You can easily get lost in everything.  Midi work, audio stretching, tuning vocals, and learning my new pieces of gear have all been on my mind lately.  I then go online and start to read about something new, which leads to more and more.  I need to keep my perspective about where I am constantly.  Keep priorities and remind myself of them or I will never achieve whatever goals I had in mind.

I guess this can all sound like a rant, but talking about running a small studio in a town full of rip off artists and salesmen can sometimes sound like that.  I hope someone enjoyed reading this and can relate.