Just about every musician reaches a stage in their career where they need to record all (or at least part) of their tracks in a professional studio. Readily available resources like Garage Band can be useful, but if you really need your product to sound great, it’s hard to replace the real deal.
Not every studio is the same, however (but you knew that, didn’t you…) and choosing the right one to suit your needs can leave you either doing happy cartwheels or utterly deflated. In particular, your first studio experience can shape your future expectations of recording. Music creation should be enjoyable so therefore it should be enjoyable to record. Fear, anxiety, and criticism from your studio engineer is not conducive to creativity.
There is one question you need to ask yourself: Why do I want to record?
- Is this a stepping stone to your career?
- Are you looking to just have a good time with fellow musicians?
- Do you need this to be accepted to college?
- Is this a gift for family or friends?
It comes down to quality, time and cost. By answering the question above it will make the decision for what studio fits your needs.
5 criteria for picking the right studio:
- Are they willing to give you a test run?
- If a studio won’t let you play around with their equipment and see how it fits with you that’s a red flag.
- Do they charge hourly rates or day rates?
- Some studios may not budge on this, but it is important. You should be paying attention to the music not the clock. Shoot for a day rate.
- Is there payment up front?
- Always sketchy. If you are set on the studio than the best compromise to a situation like this comes from Star Wars. You will get half up front and the other half once we reach Alderaan or in your case have a finished album.
- Is there gear in the room?
- The presence of amps, guitars, and instruments, to test out, shows you’re working with a passionate musician. Your art deserves a creative team that is just as passionate (okay, that’s impossible, but close) about your music as you.
- Is your engineer name dropping?
- When your studio engineer says he used to record with Biggie back in the day before he blew up, he probably didn’t record with Biggie back in the day before he blew up.
Extra Advice: Get to know your engineer
- You’re going to be spending a lot of time with this person. Make sure you like each other. Take them out to lunch, get to know them. You don’t want to pay for a sub-par experience.
Ultimately, it all boils down to this: No matter what your reason is for recording picking the right people, place and vibe will be crucial to finishing the product you want.