I’ve got a basement full of great gear. What does a pro studio have that I don’t?
I can sum up the answer in four words:
Expertise, Acoustics, Vibe and Focus.
Recording studios cost millions to build. The planning of the layout, the aesthetic and acoustic design of the recording and control rooms, silent air conditioning, doors, windows, cabling, equipment, catering areas, recreation areas —everything has been carefully thought through to maximize the artist’s comfort and recording experience.
All of the equipment is cared for, inspected and fixed on a regular basis by highly skilled technical staff, who are on site as long as you are in the studio to make sure that everything is in perfect working order.
If anything breaks down, it will be fixed instantly or replaced by another unit to keep the flow of the session going.
The studio bookers are invaluable in the professional recording studio environment.
These angels will bend over backwards to make sure that your time in the studio is the best time of your life.
For all the amazing consoles and microphones in the world, 9 out of ten, it is the studio booker who will be responsible for you wanting to come back!
“I want a weird African choir to sing on this pop track”, “We need a specific 70’s drum kit in this color”, “Our engineer requires gluten/wheat and dairy free food…at 4:25 in the morning” – When you ask the most out-of-this-world thing, they’ll somehow make it work.
The studio assistants are invaluable assets in the process. These guys and gals know every bit of the studio.
They know all the quirks, all the work-arounds and they are there to make sure your engineer and producer can focus on the task at hand: record your material and make it sound phenomenal.
They’ll make sure the rooms are tidy, help set up the gear, label everything, run the recorders and they are experts in keeping everybody plied with their favorite kind of coffee or blend of tea.
Watch Your Basement Acoustics
The variety of acoustics you get in a recording studio is something you just cannot achieve in your basement.
First of all, your basement will most likely have four parallel walls creating a phenomenon known as standing waves.
These are sound waves that create a loop of themselves between your walls and generate a resonance.
Because of these resonances you’ll listen to your material and instinctively reach for the eq to tune these things out; this may result in bass light recordings or material with lower mid frequency dips.
Studios have been designed not to have these problems.
Different recording rooms will have different characteristics that make them suitable for different styles of music or even instrumentation.
You may record your drums, bass and guitars in one studio and all the vocals in a different room or a completely different studio.
Studios may have iso (isolation) booths, which allow you to record all at the same time, but will all the instrument amplifiers separated so to minimize spill onto the other microphones.
Personally I am a great fan of good spill. There’s nothing like a band of amazing players all in the same room vibing of each other.
That’s where you’re going to get magical takes. The downside of it is that if somebody makes a mistake, you all need to replay it as you are spilling into each other’s microphones.
However, it is virtually impossible to artificially create the energy of a band playing as a unit, so it’s worth it.
Obviously the recording rooms and control rooms are separated from each other allowing for accurate monitoring behind the console.
My guess is that your basement will contain all the recording equipment and the band’s back line in all in the same room so you all have to work on headphones.
Zoom In On Your Vibe
The professional recording environment is a microscope that allows you to really zoom into your material and performance.
The fact that you’re working with an engineer and a producer puts you in the position to dedicate all your energy and passion to the songs rather than trying to wear all the production hats yourself. If you try to produce, engineer, write, play and have fun all at the same time, you’re going to fall short somewhere.
Having the right studio to work in, the right producer to oversee the process, the right engineer who loves your material and interpret the producer’s and your directions, is simply invaluable.
That team will take you on a journey and pull the best out of you for your music.
Add the fact that studios cost money and you’ll find yourself in a very creative and focused environment.
This is your studio time, you’re paying for it so there’s no time to waste and work on a track for months.