Wednesday, October 19, 2011

5 Tips For Saving Money In The Studio: Tip #3

This week, I will be bringing you my top 5 tips on saving money in the recording studio. Each day for the next five days, I will present a new tip that is based directly on my observations and experiences with the many artists I have worked with in the studio over the years. Hopefully these suggestions will help make your next recording experience as fruitful and cost-efficient as possible.

Tip #3 - Record Song Demos At Home

In my previous posts in this series, I've talked about the importance of preparation and being well rehearsed before heading into the studio. Today, I want to extend that a bit further by discussing something that is common practice with established artists, but is often overlooked and undervalued by those that are relatively new to the recording experience. One of the best ways to know how you want to record each song in the studio is to make a practice recording at home. This practice recording is called a song demo, and recording one gives you some distinct advantages when you eventually enter the studio to record the master. First, it gives you an opportunity to listen objectively to the structure and performance of the song and identify any weak spots that need improvement. Secondly, it gives you unlimited time to work out any secondary parts that can't be performed during a live rehearsal, like background vocals or extra guitar parts. This can save you a ton of time and money in the studio, and will almost certainly have an impact on the overall quality of the finished product.

This tip does come with a caveat, however, because for song demos to be cost effective, it requires having at least a basic multitrack recording setup at home or in your rehearsal space, and some knowledge on how to use it. This means a modest investment of money and time on your part, but unless you intend to only ever record one project in your lifetime, this is an investment that will be rewarded time and time again down the road by saving you countless hours of studio time. You don't need to spend thousands of dollars on high end equipment, either. The goal here is clarity, not quality...the recordings just need to be good enough to allow you to hear everyone's performance.

I know, I know; some of you are probably asking yourselves right now, "If I invest my time and money into a home recording setup, why would I even need to go to a studio?" Well, I could write an entire series of posts on the benefits of going to a professional studio, but for now, I will keep it simple; the stark reality is that home recording setups are rarely adequate for creating master quality recordings, and most artists are more interested in making music than in learning the finer points of audio engineering. If you're focused on solving audio problems, you can't be focused on being creative. So the idea here is not to replace the audio professional, but to support his or her efforts by being proactive and laying as much of the groundwork for your project as you can ahead of time. This will maximize the impact that your engineer can have on the overall quality of your project, and you will end up with a better sounding record that cost less money to make.

(For more on demo and master recordings, check out my previous post on the subject.)

Check back tomorrow for Tip #2.


  1. Tascam and a few other audio manufacturers make great little handheld recorders for just this purpose. There are also plenty of iPhone apps that are great for this. I would even recommend recording live shows to go back and listen to songs in an objective manner. The sound guy can give you a feed off the house mixer and you should be able to get a decent sounding recording. Again, nothing professional but good enough to make decisions about songs before you ever get to the studio. Its not fun spending an hour on the clock deciding if the bridge is after the 2nd or 3rd chorus.

  2. Great suggestions, Rob! I myself use a small stereo field recorder during pre-production sessions with bands to keep track of songs as they progress. They are invaluable tools, especially when somebody forgets a brilliant part they came up with on the fly.