A Professional Recording Studio – Here’s Why You Should Consider it
Who the Expert is
You’re a lyricist/songwriter. That is what you are doing. It is what you have trained yourself to do through innumerable hours of study, practice and effort. Your songs belong to you and nobody can write them to you. You've become an expert in writing your songs, that is what I mean to say
However, it is in your best interest to employ specialists at all levels if you treat your songwriting as a business you hope to profit from. In other words, unless you are an expert in recording too, I would advise you to hire the people who are. The first and most important part of the process is writing a great song but what comes in a very close second is a high quality, well-performed demo of your song. Until you've dedicated as much time to studying the recording’s art and craft as you have to your songwriting, you'll be doing a disservice to your music and your career by trying to record your own demo.
We've all heard the argument that a great song is a great song and no matter how rough, anyone with ears should be able to "hear through" any recordings. To my mind, this is the equivalent of being set up on a blind date with a person who may very well have a heart of gold but who doesn't bother showering. In other words, you have only one chance to make a first impression with your song, and it would better be a great one given the competition out there. You may even meet a person from the music industry who can hear genuinely through a rough record. This may be valid for that one guy, but if you also intend to show your song to a number of musicians, managers, producers and A&R reps, it's never safe to believe that anything less than a first-rate recording would do. By "first-class," I don't mean a full-band or an elaborate production, I simply mean that professionals will record and produce your album.
A Good Studio- how to find it
For most songwriters, one of the most difficult aspects of the recording process is simply to find the studio which is perfect for them. Word of mouth in the lyrics/songwriting community and a performing right organization’s advice like BMI are great places to continue. My recommendation is that this part of the process should be treated just as you would any business decision. Gather as much information as you can, and base your decision on where you think you’re going to get the best service and the best results of course.
With the advent of advanced recording technology and inexpensive, high-quality equipment, it is possible to make professional recordings instantly. The recording is not the sole possession of a large multi-room complex anymore. That said, before selecting a studio for your project there are a few items you should remember. Above all, the sound quality should be of utmost importance. Ask the owner/engineer of the studio for a demo of something which was recorded in their studio. But you would have to be even more specific. Ask for the music on the demo to be in the style of the music that you intend to record. If you're doing a country demo, for example, it doesn't matter if the studio has a great sounding R&B demo because that doesn't necessarily translate into a great sounding country recording. Second, make sure you’re relaxed in the room where you are going to work. While working in a growing, beautiful studio can inspire others, it can be daunting to others. You will spend a lot of time here, make sure you feel at ease there so you can relax, work efficiently and enjoy the process.
Producer / Engineer
It's not just the studio in which you're going to spend time, but also the engineer/producer (often the same person) with whom you're going to spend time. You’re going to want to make sure that you're working comfortably with this person, as you're going to entrust your music to them. For an engineer/producer, things which matter the most inclusive organization, patience and determination.
You should feel more at heart when the more experienced and professional they as then they will have your best interests, and want nothing more than to give you the best possible product. No ego should be involved at all, no matter how accomplished/experienced that person may be. To those of you who are new to the game, a simple reminder: It is not the role of the engineer/producer to judge whether the song is good or bad. The assumption is — and should always be — that you're recording your song there because you know it's good and ready to record. Taking that song and making a great demo is their job so that it's ready to be listened to. Don't be disappointed if you don't get any comments on whether your song is good or not; it's not in fact the place for the engineer/producer to comment.
Finance/ Monetary side
Beware that you don’t are foolish in monetary aspect. Remember, you’re running a business and investing in your business is an essential part of helping your business grow and ultimately bringing your investment back to you. However, this doesn't mean you shouldn't have a crystal-clear understanding of what your demo will be costing. When it comes time to talk with the studio about price, always ask for all of the fees and proper invoices.
The obvious fee is the hourly rate but it is important to ask what other charges you can incur. This can include a separate development bill, CD burning costs and even different costs for certain studio components. A studio that uses an hourly rate system should be able to estimate quite precisely what your project costs. Some studios further simplify the process by giving you an all-in project fee, which is decided upfront. It is also best to learn all this at the beginning of a project so that when it comes time to pay, there are no unexpected surprises.
Know Your Capabilities
There are just so many hours in the day. If you're a songwriter early in your career, you can spend those hours working on your songwriting and devising every possible way to get your songs heard (networking anyone?). If, however, you are truly fascinated by the recording process itself and willing to invest the time, then you will learn to engineer and produce as well by all means. Because of all the advances and advancements in recording technology, there's never been a better time to get involved in the recording. However, if you think you’re going to save money by doing your own recordings without investing the same amount of time in learning how to design, the end results would hurt your cause by documenting yourself more than any amount of money you could save. As the saying goes, it can be costly to make cheap.
Let me be clear: every time you write a song, I don't recommend that you go out and spend your hard-earned cash on a professional record. If you're planning a music career you need to be sensible about how / when you're investing your demo budget. But when you have a song or song that's ready for prime time, I'm just suggesting that you treat it in that particular way.