DIY. The Pros and Cons.
Ok I’m not talking about putting in a new dishwasher or refinishing your deck. I’m talking about recording and producing yourself in your home studio. And let’s remember, these days recording oneself at home means that you have to wear all the hats: singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, recording & mix engineer, producer, arranger, roadie, groupie and tea maker. Back in “the day” there were a team of people that handled these individual aspects of recording. Makes sense right? I mean you wouldn’t expect Robert Downey Jr. to portray Iron Man but then also be Gwyneth Paltrow’s character, the cinematographer, screenwriter, director, and the key grippe (whatever that guy does). Needless to say, the range of talents one must master to record and produce great sounding music at home is mind boggling. And it is one reason why most home recordings sound like demos, not records.
That sounds like a “con” doesn’t it? So let’s run down a few more while we’re being a negative Nancy. Inadequate equipment or just not the right gear for the job. For example, cheap mics are not very forgiving. Despite the hype of versatility afforded them by their manufacturers, they tend to be a jack of all trades master of none. Space restrictions. Your garage or bedroom may be fine for a jam but chances are it’s less than adequate for a recording/mixing space. Throwing up some auralex or duvets helps a bit but once those problem frequencies creep into your tracks they are as hard to get rid of as your out of work cousin crashing on your couch and drinking all your beer. But my favorite con of all? NOBODY TO PLAY WITH 🙁
Music is supposed to be a shared experience. Collaboration always renders new ideas that you wouldn’t have come up with on your own. Plus having an extra set of ears is always helpful so long as those ears know what to listen for. Having someone to keep you on task and say that take was a keeper or not is invaluable to the process of making a record rather than a demo. Yes art is not supposed to be perfect, but you don’t want those imperfections to get in the way of conveying the feeling of the song.
Ok thus far it may seem like I’m biased. I run a professional recording studio so of course I want you DIY artists to bring your project to TPH. However, there is immense value in self-recording so long as you keep your expectations in check. Use your home based DAW to work on performance and arrangement. Explore guitar, keyboard, sample sounds and effect ideas. Make your songs the best they can be from a writing perspective. Get the general vibe happening; then go to an audio pro who can understand and share your vision and help you take it the rest of the way. The benefits are obvious. The greatest solo records of all time were NOT a one person show. That is not to say you can’t make great recordings in your home studio. But isn’t it more fun to work with others?
written by Martin Shears, Tahoe Production House Audio Engineer