Without trying to sound too pompous or airy-fairy about it, we have entered a new age in many different ways, but not the least in how music is produced and consumed. Since the advent of and widespread use of microcomputer technology, the first decade of the 21st century has seen a phenomenal growth in amateur and professional music-making. It seems like everyone who is a musician of any stripe has a “studio”, or knows someone who does. I am no exception here.
I got started recording in 2002 with a (not too inexpensive) M-Audio Delta 66 audio interface and a small Behringer (no comments please!) mixer, and SONAR 2.0, a full featured DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software product. This was soon followed by a few cheap Chinese-made mics, and a keyboard for generating synthesized sounds (Alesis QA 6.2, still a favorite), and additional software for “mastering” my own mixes.
Let me add that my only recording experience prior to that was in several Tucson studios as a performer on local band CD projects, in the 1990’s. That, and a compilation tape made for an art project at Stanford in 1968, using an old Ampex reel-to-reel with sound-on-sound capabilities (how i wish I had kept it!). And I remember a tiny, old reel voice recorder that my folks got me when I was a child, and wondering why my voice sounded so strange (we all feel that way the first time).
So recording my own musical ideas was like stepping off a chasm, not knowing where I would end up. The result was my first solo CD, Barn Jazz, Vol. I, released in August 2003. I sold several hundred copies and that was it. I was hooked.
So back to that bedroom studio, if you are trying to record your own music or your band, what do you look for in a studio, and how can you tell if you are wasting your time with your friend’s rig? That is one subject I will return too often, but leave you with the following critical success factors, not necessarily in order:
- The Engineer (technique)
- The Producer (musicality)
- The Room (acoustics)
- The Gear (quality)
- The Players (groove)
- The Tune (listenability)