If you’ve never recorded before, picking a studio can be tough. Where do you begin? How do you know that you’re picking the right place? Location is a good to start but picking a studio involves many more variables than finding the place nearest to you. Follow these 3 tips to find the best studio for you and your budget.
3. Gear/space – If certain gear is going to be required for your session, obviously there is no point in looking at studios that don’t have it. That being said, if you are flexible with gear decisions, it’s best to talk to your engineer. He or she should be an expert with the gear at that particular studio and may be able to suggest an alternative that might even work better for you. If analog recording is important to you, you’ll need to find a studio with that capability. All analog recording is quickly becoming a rarity and finding a studio that specializes in it might present a challenge (depending on your area). The experience of the engineer, too, is all the more important in an analog session. Remember, CTRL-Z doesn’t work on 2-inch tape.
2. Price – Recording sessions can be very expensive so obviously price is a major consideration. However, the studio with the lowest rate may not necessarily end up being the most economical option. For example, let’s take Studio A and Studio B as a test case. A’s rate is $40/hr and B’s rate is $65/hr. Gear is about the same, space is about the same so, obviously, you go with A. When you arrive, you speak with the engineer about how to begin and he starts setting up. And setting up. And setting up. And before long an hour is gone. Finally, you start recording but wait a second, this mic isn’t working out, so let’s swap it out. New mic in, hit record, one take is in the can but something isn’t sounding right…oh yeah, you were probably off mic because the stand was moved during the mic swap. Let’s try again, oh wait, this time it’s the cable; engineer swaps that out. He’s doing everything because you don’t get an assistant at this rate. Everything is taking twice as long. 6 hours and $300 later and you finally have your song. On the flip side, at Studio B everything goes smoothly. The staff are courteous and professional and are prepared for your session. Although B had a more expensive rate, they did better work in half the time at ⅔ the cost. This example illustrates how a low hourly rate can actually be misleading for the bottom line. Finally, the most important consideration when picking a recording studio is…
1. Staff – There is no substitute for good staff in a recording studio. Bad staff can make world class gear sound like shit but good staff can make classic recordings on just about anything. The absolute most critical step of picking the right studio is speaking to the studio manager or engineer. Experienced and professional staff will make sure that your session runs smoothly. Communicating your ideas to the staff is essential in picking the right equipment to use and setting it up in a way that best suits your needs. You also want to make sure that you can get along and work with the people at the studio. If you get a bad vibe, for whatever reason, that is not the place for you. Good staff are going to be looking out for you, not trying to weasel extra time and extra money out of your budget. Good staff will want you to walk away a happy and hopefully loyal customer and they want you to be proud of the work you did together.