Technology can be a blessing and a curse. Most aspiring, artistic types now have the opportunity to produce music (and video) at home with results and quality that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. Although much of my music has been recorded at home, I’ve also experienced commercial studios while working on a range of different projects. Both home and commercial studios have pluses and minuses that are worthy of your consideration before deciding which route may be best for you.
One of the most frequently cited reasons for recording at home is time. Although pro studios can be found to accommodate a fairly modest budget, the clock is still ticking. For the perfectionists among us, compromises are inevitable when the meter is running at $100 per hour. Being well rehearsed and knowing exactly what you want to accomplish are extremely important. Having an experienced producer for your project might take up some of this slack, but most fledgling beginners do not have this luxury. A good engineer can certainly help your project along as he or she will know the gear and the complexities of capturing your music, but your artistic vision becoming reality in the studio is mostly up to you.
A time restriction can also be a positive force however to put limits on one’s project and keep the train on the tracks. While living in California I had the opportunity to hang out with a major rock star who had a home studio to rival any commercial facility. While discussing his latest album project, he informed me that he absolutely had to complete it; the record company was on his case since he’d been working on it for five years. Five YEARS! (The album did go on to become a major hit BTW…) You may know people who are such perfectionists they never seem to get anything done. They constantly change their minds and start over from the beginning. Having the clock ticking and keeping your project under budget can be a motivating factor for many artists. Hard deadlines can be good for many people depending on their particular style of working. Consider that the first Beatles album was recorded in about 12 hours!
Another negative aspect of owning your own studio is perfecting a piece of music in such an extreme way, you literally choke the life and spontaneity out of it; quantize, autotune, composite, and process hell out of it! Now this is a matter of personal preference, but one of the appeals of live performance is the spontaneity and the likelihood that something may go wrong! Consider events where athletics, dance, live theater or concerts draw an audience. Spontaneity and uncertainty what may happen certainly contribute to the appeal. Pro recording engineers have learned to always record the first few takes since these fresh performances may have the most feel and emotion.
One of the joys of owning a home studio is the freedom to jam, noodle, and dream to your heart’s content. Sitting down at my piano with no particular goal, deadline, or structure is truly one of my favorite things to do. Recreation, escape, a pass time, a diversion – a home studio can be all of these and more. In some ways my home studio has become the 21st century version of the parlor, salon, or music room of 100 years ago where people would gather around the piano and sing the latest popular songs.
So should you invest in a home studio for serious recording, or find a commercial facility and book some time? The goals and purpose of your finished project, along with your personal style of working should enter into your decision – and beware of editing and perfecting your music to the point where the recording or performance is lifeless, sterile, and ultimately boring! Imperfections and spontaneity are what make art human, interesting, and a reflection of life.