...Making The Right Decision, by Robert John Godfrey
A badly recorded track will make a lasting bad impression on all who hear it, however good you are.
Choosing the right studio can be confusing. There are many good studios offering a high standard of work for a reasonable price. There are also a lot of cowboys out there who will do you a bad job and take your money just the same - in fact, it is just like the building trade.
Most studios will claim that they are amongst the best on the scene even when some know that they are not. This article is to help direct the reader to the better places and avoid the cowboys.
The best studio recommendations will come from an impartial third party who has used the studio themselves. A good report from a happy band with an impressive recording they are excited about says it all.
However, bear in mind that some studios excel at some types of recording/music, while making a mess of others. Generally, studios which do a good job with dance music or soundtracks often haven't a clue when it comes to tuning and miking up a drum kit or recording an electric or acoustic guitar.
Some studios seem to be good value because they are very cheap - just remember that there is a fundamental difference between 'cheap' and 'inexpensive'. What you are actually paying for, when you book a session in a studio, is time. But what if your valuable time gets wasted through lack of experience or facilities? What if it takes all day to get a satisfactory drum sound thereby forcing you into booking more recording time. How is this cheap?
If you need to make a good impression - say on a venue for getting gigs, or a record label to get them interested - there is no point in skimping. A few extra pounds spent now might make a big difference, whereas a badly recorded demo will make a lasting bad impression on all who hear it, however good you are.
THE BEST COURSE OF ACTION
No amount of fancy recording gear can make up for an engineer with little ability, knowledge, interest or skill.
First, decide how much you want to spend, what facilities you need from a studio and then hunt down the one that best meets your requirements. The 'specifics' section below should help decide what facilities you'll need for your project. The best way to choose a studio is to make an appointment to visit it. If you are going to check out a studio by visiting it, why not take a CD of something that you think is a great recording? See what it sounds like through the studio's monitoring system, and ask to hear something they have recorded recently to compare.
Make sure that the studio has the right gear to do the job, enough properly designed and acoustically treated space, and it has an experienced engineer with the right attitude. Many of the cheaper studio's have trainee engineers or inexperienced owners.
When you make your appointment, ask that the person who would be engineering your session is there so that you can meet them. Find out how long they have been doing the job. Don't get palmed off with someone inexperienced.
An engineer with 'the right attitude' means someone who will be attentive to your needs and work with you to get the best possible result. Engineers with a bad attitude are those who: seem bored with the session; are always on the phone; 'do their own thing' to your recording; or are rushing to get away as soon as possible. Therefore, having met the person who would be engineering your session, try to gauge if you are going to be able to work them. And don't be frightened to ask questions.
Finally, make sure that the studio has ALL the right technical facilities for you. For whilst it is true that getting a good recording is primarily a matter of experience, skill, talent and commitment by all concerned, it is also true that even the cleverest of engineers is limited to what can be achieved without the right tools for the job. No amount of fancy recording gear can make up for an engineer with little ability, knowledge or skill. It is a sad fact that there are many of them out there!
Cheapskate studios and cowboy operations tend to skimp on things like good mics, high quality outboard gear, equipment maintenance and air conditioning.
If you cannot make a visit, go the studio's website or phone them directly. Check their equipment list, client list, mp3 files and room specs.