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Choosing A Studio

My band will be recording our first full-length this winter. We're currently demoing the initial batch of songs to choose from in my home studio, but want to take the project to a nicer facility to track and mix for the final product.

My initial approach was to listen to some albums that have a similar sound to what I am looking for and find out where they were recorded. That information hasn't been as ready available as what I had hoped, and the easy ones are usually somewhere like Abbey Road. We ain't flyin' 'cross the pond. In fact, we'd like to stay as close to the southeastern US as possible.

Our budget will be modest, but hopefully adequate ($3000 - $4000).

Does anyone have any suggestions?

Comments

JoeH Tue, 10/03/2006 - 21:30
As usual, Remy, your post was DEAD-on, right on the money. I wish more people thought that way. With all the gear-snobbery out there, it's no wonder people think they can't record with simply GOOD gear, vs. outstaning, top of the line stuff. (Frankly, IMHO most "Good" gear available today has better specs than some "Great" gear of 20 years ago.)

My first live pro sound gig in 1976 was limited to 10 SM57's and 6 SM58's, plus a couple of really banged up condensers. We made it all work, indeed. I had a friend open a studio around here a few years back, and his budget only included a handful of mics, most of them SM57's. Didn't matter; the guy KNEW how to make it all work, and the tracks sounded great.

The point is, one CAN make great recordings - even if they're only demos - with some pretty basic stuff, at least while one is learning. I'd take Stickers advice, and do it yourself, at least for now, get a good demo done, and then see where you're at.

CircuitRider Wed, 10/04/2006 - 09:00
I think I'm convinced, Remy. We had a long discussion last night, and agreed that we don't want to spend the entire budget tracking in a studio only to find that we could have nailed it better in the living room. We have actually found a couple of places that have some basic equipment and some good room treatment that we can use for cheap where we may do some tracking. We'll probably bring some mics and our own gear and put in a few days that way, but we'll basically just be paying for space and an isolated no-distraction environment. We can kick down for two or three more 57s and maybe get a pair of 81s for over the drums. I'll look for a deal on at least one dbx 166 compressor. That allows us to get started much sooner. I'll probaby have lots of questions and may see if a couple of you could listen to a raw track of a vocal or the drums, but I'm confident that we can produce a good product this way.

RemyRAD Wed, 10/04/2006 - 10:13
CircuitRider, I don't think you will fall short of your goals and ideals? You are starting the right way, on the right note.

Thanks again for your support JoeH! I love ya'!

And just think, after you cut all of your tracks, and you know the performances are good, you're mixing engineer may choose to jump into his own ProTools rig, slap on a bunch of cool plug-ins and give you a product that you thought was impossible. There are lots of microphone emulation plug-ins that frequently require a SM57/58 to be used as the source microphone. From that microphone, they have the ability to model almost any popular any "high-end" microphone sound imaginable. So if you're on the right track!

Check back regularly for tips and suggestions while you're in the process.
Ms. Remy Ann David

Reggie Wed, 10/04/2006 - 13:51
I'm not that close to the Southern East coast of the US, but I'm not in Europe either, I work a bit down south, in Valencia, Venezuela. But I'll be happy to record your proyect at a price inside your budget limits if you're willing to come down here. My email is cosmeliccardo@hotmail.com, you can write or add me in msn messenger whenever you like and I can show you some of my work and tell you a bit more about the studio.

What kind of desperate spam is this? Why would they spend half their budget getting the band members and equipment down to Venezuela? :roll:

Anyway, I think I will go against the prevailing wisdom so far in this thread and recommend doing your album in a real studio. It will be faster, you can focus on the performance part rather than trying to get all the technical details right, the pressure of the studio clock running can sometimes invoke extra "magic" moments of the performance by causing you to take on a more serious mindset, and I'm willing to bet the end result will be a good deal better than DIY. You should be able to find deals in scheduling large blocks of studio time; maybe find special deals for late night blocks. If you rehearse your songs a ton so that all the parts are tight (if not, maybe don't bother with a studio?), I would recommend recording drums/gtrs/bass all at the same time to seperate tracks. Of course you will need a studio that has enough iso rooms for this, but a lot of times this gives the parts an extra bit of cohesiveness with eachother. Then go back and do a few overdubbed instruments if necessary, and vocals of course. If you can't get all that done for about $2000, either the talent isnt there, or you went to a studio that is way out of your league, or you just got a crappy deal. Then put the rest of your budget towards mixing and mastering.

CircuitRider Thu, 02/22/2007 - 08:31
Just an update -

After rehearsing for the past few months and experimenting within my limits, we decided to find a decent facility away from home (and away from cellphones and girlfriends and dayjobs, etc.). So we shove off for Boston tonight to spend a week in a studio where we can cut everything live and come back to overdub the extras. I may transfer the entire project home afterward, depending on how much we get accomplished.

At any rate, as much as I love recording, I'm very excited to have someone else running the session. Pushing the faders and playing the songs all while keeping the band on track is exausting.

Soooo, wish us luck!

Pro Audio Guest Wed, 10/04/2006 - 18:41
...

I'd like to know your definition of a real studio, have you ever even seen the studio that I work for?, have you ever heard my work to know what I do? and the quality of my work?, my price doesn't describe my work, it's just cheaper because everything is cheaper here than in the US, so I'd appreciate it if you didn't make destructive crticism about something you know nothing about. I was only making a suggestion, it's not desprate, I just saw that their budget fits with my price AND their travel costs.

Pro Audio Guest Wed, 10/04/2006 - 23:22
Is this album something you want to sell on?

If so, track the kit professionally (in a good space, studio etc) on analog tape with someone who KNOWS DRUMS and get it transferred to whatever format you're working on. It will be less expensive than the weeks spent trying to emulate the sound.

Then track whatever other shit you like wherever and get someone who has MIXED RECORDS to look at the results.

Hand the finished product to someone who KNOWS MASTERING.

If you don't know people like this or can't afford to hire their time, your record will go down the pan sonically, and be at best a good DIY attempt, not in any way a "killer sound", or something a label will pick up on.

No offense, but I doubt you will get releasable results with that gear. (I'd love to be proved wrong here). If the record is the real issue put the funds into that, it will be there forever, to hell with the rest.

good luck!

Reggie Thu, 10/05/2006 - 09:16
Cosme, I wasn't insinuating that you didn't run a "real" studio; it just seems like a rediculous proposal to me that they should spend a couple thousand bucks getting 4 dudes and all their gear down there, maybe have to take time off from their day jobs to get the recording/mixing/mastering process done while they are down there. Typically only larger budget recordings can afford to take an out of state (or in this case, out of country) vacation for a few days(weeks?) in order to work on an album. Or maybe you are willing to work for $20/day and pay for their lost wages or something. As you say, I don't know you; so, whatever dude.

Circuit Rider, check out his work and see if it is worth the hassle to go down there. Maybe it is; I don't know.

JoeH Thu, 10/05/2006 - 09:33
Hey, it might be crazy, but it might work. You never know without at least trying; the worst anyone can say is: "Thanks, but no thanks."

When an artist(s) is young, hungry, and fairly unencumbered with family, job, entourage, etc., sometimes things like that (a trip to another country) can happen. It could be an adventure as well, if it's the kind of thing that the musicians could do (Travel on their own dime) for the experience and sheer helluvit. It's kind've an artistic roll of the dice, as well...sometimes recording projects are deeply influenced by locations they're recorded in. (The story about the making of Deep Purple's 'Smoke on the Water' is one that comes to mind, ditto for McCartney's Band on the Run...)

There's a very good case to be made for artists doing their best work while they're still innocent, hungry and willing to suffer for their art. Who knows? I wish I was young and naive enough to take a month off and go record somewhere far far away. 8-)

CircuitRider Thu, 10/05/2006 - 10:08
Unfortunately, going to Venezuela is not an option for us. I do appreciate the consideration, though, Cosme. And it would be one hell of an experience, I'm sure. Hell, maybe the next project. We're going to stay within driving distance for this one. Everyone is pretty attached to their own rigs and we have some pretty heavy stuff. I think we're going to go with a combination of Remy and alimoniack's suggestions. We'll get a scratch track of drums and redo them in a studio if nescessary.

Reggie Thu, 10/05/2006 - 12:30
Just a word of warning, I would HIGHLY recommend against rerecording drums to your main gtr/vocal tracks. Any of the bands that I have worked with that have tried, never have good results. It never seems to be as tight as getting your drum tracks set in stone, and then recording the "fiddly bits" over them (or record live all together works too). But I guess you'll figure something out...

Pro Audio Guest Fri, 03/09/2007 - 08:52
$3000 to $4000 dollars can get you into a very nice studio where i live. you can get a pro sounding cd for that amount of money. it wont be as good as songs on the radio, but it will be very close. as far as mastering, you dont need to spend $1500 on it. like he said thats for real mastering and youre going to pay for it. there are many other people who will do it for way less. its still going to be around $800-1000 i think for decent stuff. just look around and ask for samples from the various places before you decide.

however if youre looking into abbey road, disregard all of what i said. theres no way youre going to have enough. BUT, you can get a very very nice sounding cd for what you have if you look around a lot find out where bands you liked the tones from recorded and just keep looking for samples, until you find a place that works.

Pro Audio Guest Wed, 02/28/2007 - 11:42
OK, the absolute cheapest way to record (I should not be telling you this as a studio owner, but hey, I'm in Scotland so I figure it's OK) is like this

1. Practice those songs until you are 100% perfect.

2. Pick a good tracking studio (that is not in the middle of a city where you have to pay for the location) with good kit, no cheap mics and budget desks but good stuff and of course everything that you need by way of instruments and backline. I STRONGLY recommend you look for a studio with Radar-24 for tracking as this will give you the quality and the speed (cut down costs) you are looking for.

3. Track drums and bass first and then do the rest with two goes at vocals on different days.

4. Take the project with you as a series of WAV files on DVD-R.

5. Get the whole thing edited in ProTools or similar by someone cheap and good using their own home stuff. There is no need for a studio for editing.

6. Go to a local studio with good monitors and desk and spend two days mixing.

7. Get it mastered by someone who is good and yet prepared to do it for a set price. Here look out for B&W speakers and a treated room, not some kid in an attic.

Tracking should cost $3,000, editing maybe $1,000 and mastering about the same max.

Pro Audio Guest Wed, 02/28/2007 - 11:47
OK, the absolute cheapest way to record (I should not be telling you this as a studio owner, but hey, I'm in Scotland so I figure it's OK) is like this

1. Practice those songs until you are 100% perfect.

2. Pick a good tracking studio (that is not in the middle of a city where you have to pay for the location) with good kit, no cheap mics and budget desks but good stuff and of course everything that you need by way of instruments and backline. I STRONGLY recommend you look for a studio with Radar-24 for tracking as this will give you the quality and the speed (cut down costs) you are looking for.

3. Track drums and bass first and then do the rest with two goes at vocals on different days.

4. Take the project with you as a series of WAV files on DVD-R.

5. Get the whole thing edited in ProTools or similar by someone cheap and good using their own home stuff. There is no need for a studio for editing.

6. Go to a local studio with good monitors and desk and spend two days mixing.

7. Get it mastered by someone who is good and yet prepared to do it for a set price. Here look out for B&W speakers and a treated room, not some kid in an attic.

Tracking should cost $3,000, editing maybe $1,000 and mixing and mastering about the same max.

The most expensive way to make a CD is to buy a big pile of gear and then try to work out how to use it. That way you get to pay for the gear and for the studio as well!

Cucco Wed, 02/28/2007 - 18:06
A couple thoughts here.

1 - a budget of $4,000 should suffice. This isn't LA or New York or Cashville we're talking about. In SC, NC, VA, GA, FL, you can get some nice studios for $125 an hour. If you're well rehearsed and good to go, 2 days of solid work and 1 day of editing/mixing should be fine. That would leave you a grand for mastering.

2 - I agree with Remy that even with your modest gear, you should be able to get great results that even a decent studio should be able to work with. Often, mixing is less than tracking (especially in this part of the country).

A lot of good artists out there are rolling their own albums. There's nothing wrong with this. However, it's important for you to be present during mixing or at least work with someone whom you trust.

One question -

Have you been relatively pleased with the results you've gotten by yourself thus far and what would you like to change about your results as of yet?

CircuitRider Tue, 03/06/2007 - 09:01
Boston was great. We knocked out all of the tracking and still had time for some experimenting. I would highly recommend the studio and engineer that we used. I won't spam this board, but if you're looking in the Boston area, contact me and I'll give you the info.

So now we're looking toward mastering. As soon as we raise some more scratch, we'll knock the whole thing out. Anyone have any suggestions for duplication? I've always used Diskmakers for the commercial stuff and Diskfaktory or RL Labs for demo-level. This needs to be super high quality packaging, etc.
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