Something we get asked ALL THE TIME here at Sound Cannon is: What are the real differences between recording my project at home versus a professional studio. Most people are aware of the basics, but there is a TON more that separates the 2 besides the mere change of venue.
DIY Home Recording
There has been an explosion in home recording over the last decade or more. This is mostly thanks to the release of more and more accessible home recording software and equipment. Almost anyone with a computer and a few bucks for a microphone can very easily get started recording their own music at home. While there are many obvious benefits to cutting your next track from the comfort of your own bedroom, there also many potential issues that could cause you headaches down the road. Let’s dig into the pros and cons.
You Have Infinite Time
Making great music is often about taking the time to experiment and find what combination of creative elements fits the song best. Recording at home gives you the freedom to take all the time you want to explore different arrangements, instrumentation, and sound design to discover “your sound”. Even if you plan on recording the final version of your record in a professional studio, this “pre-production” work is great to spend time on at home.
Well, I guess that depends on your rent or mortgage. But unless you’re living in a 20,000 square foot mega-mansion, recording at home is probably cheaper than renting a professional studio 365 days a year. Taking the pressure off of your recording budget can give you more freedom to invest into other parts of your recording music career such as merchandise and marketing.
You MIGHT be More Comfortable…
This all depends on your own creative workflow, but many people will find the comfort of their own home to be a good environment for writing and producing new music. That said, many others - myself included - find that making music at home can be very distracting. This particular advantage depends on your mindset.
You Can Record Whenever Inspiration Strikes You
Probably the greatest advantage of having a recording setup at home is to be able to capture any melodies or new song ideas that pop into your head from time to time. Don’t let the technology slow your momentum though! An acoustic guitar into an iPhone makes just about as good a worktape demo as any. Capturing your idea before the muse escapes you should be top priority.
You Have Infinite Time
I know what you’re thinking… “Wait a second! I thought this was just i just read this in the “PRO” list for home recording.” The truth is that infinite time is often a double-edged sword. I know more songwriters and artists than I can count that have spent precious years working on a handful of songs only to never release them. There’s a well-known theory called Parkinson’s Law that states, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. In essence, if you fail to give your creative process any boundaries, it may sprawl out for years and put a huge damper on your musical output.
Lack Of Equipment
Many home recordists have a great mic or 2 and probably a guitar or perhaps a piano. It is much more unlikely, however, that you have a wide array of vintage channel strips or an immaculately maintained Steinway at home. Using the same few pieces of equipment for your recordings can result in an uninspiring and homogenized sound – and yes, that applies to software instruments too.
Poor Acoustics Can Mean Bad Sounding Tracks
There’s a reason that there is an entire industry devoted to the architecture and construction of spaces meant for recording sound. Acoustic energy is very peculiar. The way that various frequencies bounce of walls and get amplified by specific angles of a room can have huge effect on your project. The surprising thing about these sonic inconsistencies is that they often don’t start to become apparent until you start mixing and combining all of your various tracks together in your song. By then, it’s unfortunately too late to correct the issue.
Potentially Angry Neighbors/Roommates/Parents/Cats
[steve carell loud noises giphy]
OK – maybe your cat loves to hear your Marshall 4×12 turned up to “11”, but I can assure you that mine does not. Recording great music often means making lots of loud noises. Friends, Family, and Felines alike would probably prefer that you do that somewhere out of earshot of their humble abodes.
RENTING OUT A PROFESSIONAL STUDIO
While almost everyone who has an interest in recording their own music has experienced the joys (and heartaches) of recording at home, very few have gotten to spend the day cutting songs in a professional recording studio. There are many benefits of booking out time in a space that is purpose-built for the recording of music. Of course, recording in a professional studio is not a perfect fit for everyone. Here are some of the advantages and drawbacks:
World-class Gear At Your Fingertips
One of the greatest advantages of a professional recording studio is the veritable smorgasbord of legendary gear that many studios are packed with. Not only will your music sound sonically superior through that golden-era Neve recording console, but you may find that the sound of such unique pieces of equipment actually inspires you to create a better performance when the tape is rolling. That itself is priceless.
Rooms That Are Purpose-built For Great Acoustics
As I said before, acoustic engineering is a big and serious business. If you have ever walked inside some of the great recording studios in various cities (we have a ton here in Nashville) you may have noticed the odd angles of the walls and alien-looking diffusers and absorption panels strewn about the space. These are not just for show; they will have a notable effect on the way your final project sounds.
Back-up Equipment On Hand In Case Something Needs To Be Switched Out Mid-session
Crappy cables cutting out mid-chorus is a bummer for sure. But realizing that you don’t have an extra on hand is a tragedy and could kill the momentum of your entire session. Luckily, any professional studio worth its salt will have many multiples of each piece of equipment to ensure that the session keeps rolling forward.
It’s Not Your House
If you’re anything like me, you do your best work in a space where the vibe is right, the workspace is set up just to my liking, and my dirty clothes hamper isn’t at arm’s length. Yes, recording at home can be comfortable, but maybe sometimes it’s a little too comfortable. Getting into a new environment where great music is made often can be the perfect source of inspiration for your next project.
This is probably the biggest hurdle for most to overcome when deciding whether or not to book a professional recording studio for their project. Most pro studios rent from a couple hundred to even several thousand dollars per day. When figuring out if this sort of investment is right for your project, it’s important to consider the costs of not using a pro studio. Will recording your album at home cause it to take longer? Will it sound more amateurish? Will it make less of an impact that it could have otherwise? These are all considerations to keep in mind when making your decision.
You’ll Need To Make A Plan
Although this is in the CON list, I consider this somewhat of an advantage of using a professional recording studio. You will have time constraints and therefore be forced into making a plan to make the most out of your time in the studio. This can be anxiety-inducing for some, but it has been my experience that having a plan put just enough of a boundary around my creative process to yield the best results possible.
You Don’t Have Infinite Time
Slightly related to the last point, you will not have infinite time when you book out a professional recording studio. For this reason, it is vital that you do an appropriate amount of pre-production, put a plan together for your recording day, and make sure that you have an effective and talented engineer to run the session. Do these things ahead of time and you will have an awesome day in the studio.
WHICH IS RIGHT FOR MY PROJECT?
When it comes to deciding whether to record your next project in a professional studio or Do-It-Yourself at home, here are some recommendations. If you are still in the midst of the writing process and experimenting with arrangements, it’s probably best to continue refining your music at home. Similarly, if you are just beginning to dip your toes into recording your own music, it might be better to stay in the comfort of your home studio. On the other hand, if you are looking to make a more intentional effort to produce an album as part of a music career, it will likely be better for you to invest in booking out some time at a professional recording studio. Using a pro studio is going to give your project a more “radio-ready” sound, and the advantages of a purpose-built space and high-quality equipment can help you give your best performance possible.
Where did you recording your last project? Where do you plan on recording your next one? Let us know in the comments section below! Until then, happy tracking! 😉