Thread: Why Shouldn't We Record At Home?

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  1. #1
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    Default Why Shouldn't We Record At Home?

    Joe Meek was the first that I know of to become known for quality home recordings. And since the late 80's more and more musicians and audio people have been developing their own home recording studios. Some have actually put out some pretty impressive records based on "home" recording.

    So why shouldn't we record at home?

    What are the biggest negatives for recording at home as opposed to a commercial studio in 2010?
    Perry Grinn
    Audio Engineer/Chief-Editor
    The Sonic Idiot | perry.grinn@gmail.com
  2. #2
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    Default Re: Why Shouldn't We Record At Home?

    Let's talk definitions.

    When you say "record at home" it means something specific. It means typically three things:

    1) alone;

    2) random chance of being in a room with good acoustics;

    3) pro-sumer equipment.

    So that's the REAL assumption of what that phrase means.

    And each of those three definitional aspects should scream out at you, exactly WHY it isn't optimal.

    When you are alone, you can only rise to your own level of mediocrity. When recording is a collaborative or group process, you can rise to the sum of the creative excellence of the group.

    When you're in a space that was not constructed with acoustics as a design goal, then it's a crap shoot as to whether it's a good sounding space or not. Most homes are not. There are three types of acoustic spaces: Good-sounding, neutral (meaning, doesn't sound good, but neither does it sound bad), and bad.)

    The third thing, the equipment, means you'll have a hard time compensating for number 2.
    "...but ma, audio engineering IS gainful employment!..."

    "...If I wuz at that club where Miles played one note I would have bounced ONE BOTTLE off his shiny fucking coconut. What? He's Phil Glass now?..." -Slipperman

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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Why Shouldn't We Record At Home?

    1) alone;

    2) random chance of being in a room with good acoustics;

    3) pro-sumer equipment.

    So that's the REAL assumption of what that phrase means.

    And each of those three definitional aspects should scream out at you, exactly WHY it isn't optimal.

    When you are alone, you can only rise to your own level of mediocrity. When recording is a collaborative or group process, you can rise to the sum of the creative excellence of the group.

    When you're in a space that was not constructed with acoustics as a design goal, then it's a crap shoot as to whether it's a good sounding space or not. Most homes are not. There are three types of acoustic spaces: Good-sounding, neutral (meaning, doesn't sound good, but neither does it sound bad), and bad.)

    The third thing, the equipment, means you'll have a hard time compensating for number 2.
    This is exactly the answer I was looking for.

    So a means to overcome #1 I assume is to find someone or a group of people to work with. Right? Not always easy, but I think CAPE does a good job at filling in the gap. Though I've never participated, I'm sure it is able to pull one up from certain unknown levels of mediocrity.

    #2 Room acoustics. constant fail next

    #3 I suppose one could be patient and due diligent work developing an actual designed sound for their home studio based on equipment alone. There are so many affordable choices now.

    PTHD is cheaper; Daking is affordable quality; there are some very skilled tech making top notch mods on low-end mics. So that looks positive.

    Looks like #2 Room Acoustics is the MOST immutable challenge. Then collaborators, though the online things seems to cheapen the experience to me.

    You are a moderator for CAPE right? How would you say it addresses #2?

    And #3, I think gear is priced well today. Who cares if it takes you a whole year to save up for a pair of ISA 110s? Right? At least you got there... thats my thinking.
    Perry Grinn
    Audio Engineer/Chief-Editor
    The Sonic Idiot | perry.grinn@gmail.com
  4. #4
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    Default Re: Why Shouldn't We Record At Home?

    I think you have to specify what you plan to record at home.

    Acoustic guitar and voice?
    Or screaming 4x12?
    Or a drumkit?
    Some things might be done at home reasonably easy.
    For others it is harder.

    Oh, and don't underestimate #1.
    There's also another factor, when you're recording at home and clock is not ticking, you have less stress, but less pressure to actually COME UP with performance and COMPLETE the recording.
    Home projects take too much time and a have less inspiration preserved IMO.
    When in doubt, mumble!

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    Default Re: Why Shouldn't We Record At Home?

    Well, clearly CAPE can do nothing for #2 and #3 of my abbreviated list. What CAPE does is to smash different perspectives and human qualities together, thus taking a step toward addressing #1.

    I constantly encounter people who approach the "bedroom audio revolution" as a means to achieve "purity of personal vision." That to me, is the fundamental mistake.

    Purity of personal vision is very very important at certain stages of the process. I want to have my songwriting ideas reach a certain finish level before I toss them out onto the pitch for a bit of kicking.

    But it DOES NOT dilute my unbelievable awesomeness to let the other guys have a tumble with my creative output.

    What the bedrooom audio revolutionaries miss, is that purity of personal vision is NOT what they actually want. What they actually want is top-level control of the decisions during the process. When you're alone, you get that, defacto. When you're in a group, you have to negotiate that.

    What it really comes down to is this: What is the end product?

    A) It's the personal aggrandizement and enjoyment;

    or B) It's the music product that results?
    "...but ma, audio engineering IS gainful employment!..."

    "...If I wuz at that club where Miles played one note I would have bounced ONE BOTTLE off his shiny fucking coconut. What? He's Phil Glass now?..." -Slipperman

    "...never attribute to magic, that which can be explained by conspiracy."
  6. #6
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    Default Re: Why Shouldn't We Record At Home?

    I think you have to specify what you plan to record at home.

    Acoustic guitar and voice?
    Or screaming 4x12?
    Or a drumkit?
    Some things might be done at home reasonably easy.
    For others it is harder.
    Well, I record at home but I also call what I do at home - a business. Cuz it provides and sustains me and my families needs.

    So I have opted to do a few services that work in from that environment. Like, drum programming (I don't own a full-kit but do record partials at my place, hi hat, snare and cymbals + the rest are samples), pro tools editing, mixing and... eh erm... cough cough mas...t....e.....r.....i......n.....g erm... cough cough .

    I don't record anything but vocals usually. If I am producing a record which I have not actually charged anyone for yet, I think I would more than likely track outside and/or hire session players and perhaps an arranger for horns or strings.

    BUT, my guess is that my "home" studio situation is NOT the norm. And I'm wondering about guys that are looking to do more of the actual composing, recording and arrangement from home. There are those who are trying to do everything at home... it seems from from dwoz's advice this is not wise.

    Oh, and don't underestimate #1.
    Yeah, I suppose that and the clock factor are true. But when you are an entrepreneur your MUST set your own deadlines. For example if I know the sync game is all about numbers. I'll need 100 compositions written, recorded and mixed and finalized for the first quarter to have a fair shot at earning dime one. So if people aren't willing or capable of setting their own targets. I don't think the music business is for them. That is my humble and very inexperienced opinion.
    Perry Grinn
    Audio Engineer/Chief-Editor
    The Sonic Idiot | perry.grinn@gmail.com
  7. #7
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    Default Re: Why Shouldn't We Record At Home?

    What it really comes down to is this: What is the end product?

    A) It's the personal aggrandizement and enjoyment;

    or B) It's the music product that results?
    Brilliant!
    Perry Grinn
    Audio Engineer/Chief-Editor
    The Sonic Idiot | perry.grinn@gmail.com
  8. #8
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    Default Re: Why Shouldn't We Record At Home?

    Dwoz makes some excellent points. Especially on how the creative process is impacted through hours working alone.

    I work from home. I've measured my room and done the necessary treatment.

    I'm not using pro-sumer gear.

    I would like to think that my work is not mediocre in any way.

    I have strict deadlines which I meet.

    I think my point here is that it IS possible to be an island, if you know the pitfalls and are very disciplined.

    But it's absolutely not for everyone. Especially if you're just started out learning your craft.

    I've collaborated for years with other musicians on my journey here.

    PS - you were charging customers for mastering in an untreated room?
    Cheers,

    Paulie.
  9. #9
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    Default Re: Why Shouldn't We Record At Home?

    you were charging customers for mastering in an untreated room?
    No, I never said my room was untreated. Acoustic issues came up as a result of dwoz's list. I did imply acoustics at home - any home - can almost always be improved. It is a constant concern unless you are able to custom design the dimensions of your room. Which I am not yet privy to.
    Perry Grinn
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    The Sonic Idiot | perry.grinn@gmail.com
  10. #10
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    Default Re: Why Shouldn't We Record At Home?

    No interns to bring you chocolate muffins.
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    Default Re: Why Shouldn't We Record At Home?

    I suppose it all depends on your definition of a "home". My "little home studio" takes up 3 rooms of a flat (one of which doubles as the living room) and contains a drum kit, upright piano, a pile o' guitars, over a half dozen amps (most of them small), a small PA system, a 32 channel automated recording console, an 24 track Studer, 2 track MCI, 24 channel computer rig (with prosumer quality converters - looking to upgrade) and somewhere around 3 dozen assorted mics and DI boxes. And assorted other crap. So far 90% of what's been recorded here has been full band multitracks in real time.

    I chose the particular flat because the rooms have naturally good acoustics with nice 12 foot ceilings and non-boxlike dimensions. Ya gotta love those San Fransisco Victorian Bay windows!

    It does drive the roommates crazy, but the lease is in my name.
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    Default Re: Why Shouldn't We Record At Home?

    Don't put words in my mouth! :-)

    When I say that it isn't advantageous to work alone, what I mean is that you're giving up the thing that happens when your brilliance collides with someone else's brilliance. Often the brilliance actually multiplies.

    When you're alone, that's off the table. Your own brilliance can still be there, but it's not going to multiply.


    ...and then there is the backside...the editing side. People have a hell of a time functioning as their own editor.
    "...but ma, audio engineering IS gainful employment!..."

    "...If I wuz at that club where Miles played one note I would have bounced ONE BOTTLE off his shiny fucking coconut. What? He's Phil Glass now?..." -Slipperman

    "...never attribute to magic, that which can be explained by conspiracy."
  13. #13
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    Default Re: Why Shouldn't We Record At Home?

    Don't put words in my mouth! :-)

    When I say that it isn't advantageous to work alone, what I mean is that you're giving up the thing that happens when your brilliance collides with someone else's brilliance. Often the brilliance actually multiplies.

    When you're alone, that's off the table. Your own brilliance can still be there, but it's not going to multiply.


    ...and then there is the backside...the editing side. People have a hell of a time functioning as their own editor.
    I hate working alone, except for writing. I hardly even play guitar by myself anymore unless I'm working on something specific before taking it to the band. I don't even engineer my own overdubs - I could, but it doesn't feel right.
    http://www.johnnyoklahoma.com/

    Originally Posted by Bob Ohlsson
    Everything is some mixture of awesome and suck. We simply want the awesome to be highlighted sufficiently that it distracts listeners from the suck.
    Originally Posted by Bob Ohlsson
    The appropriate role for science is the study of observed phenomena to gain an understanding. It is not dictating what people ought or ought not to be observing.
    Hey, if I'm Grumpy, where the hell is Snow White????
  14. #14
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    Default Re: Why Shouldn't We Record At Home?

    I hate working alone, except for writing. I hardly even play guitar by myself anymore unless I'm working on something specific before taking it to the band. I don't even engineer my own overdubs - I could, but it doesn't feel right.
    This part is pretty huge.

    Trying to work both ends (engineer and musician) can really interrupt the work flow of both. I never realized this until kind of recently, as I've been trying to record myself as long as I've played an instrument, but it really helps me on both ends to focus on one one part at a time.

    It helps me listen better on the engineer end, and it helps me play better on the instrument end.

    And I'd like to address how important a room is to a recording, and I'm not even just talking about good acoustics. Great rooms inspire musicians to play great music, and there's nothing special about walking into your practice space to record your masterpiece. Some overdubs? Sure, but there's nothing like the feeling of walking into a really good studio, walking past racks of great equipment and into their big room, where you can immediate feel that sense of space.

    That's what I hear missing from a lot of home recordings (even good ones): that interaction within a performance environment.
  15. #15
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    Default Re: Why Shouldn't We Record At Home?

    biggest negatives for me:

    i like recording in good sounding rooms - especially with regard to drums

    but i do mix at home, but tracking - in a studio

    i also like the "studio environment" and the effect it has on the artists too - like "we're here to create magic, let's make a record" type vibe - even if the band suck balls and only hope of any magic is going to a David Copperfield show
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    Default Re: Why Shouldn't We Record At Home?

    Yeah. Like I said, my rooms actually sound pretty good - but they're small. About 400 square feet for the live area, some of it taken up by furniture.

    The "Music room" and the "living room" function together as the live space. Here's a floorplan of the area involved.....
    Since it's adapted from a general plan of the flat it shows the living room furniture and the piano, but not any of the gear.....
    Attached Images  
    http://www.johnnyoklahoma.com/

    Originally Posted by Bob Ohlsson
    Everything is some mixture of awesome and suck. We simply want the awesome to be highlighted sufficiently that it distracts listeners from the suck.
    Originally Posted by Bob Ohlsson
    The appropriate role for science is the study of observed phenomena to gain an understanding. It is not dictating what people ought or ought not to be observing.
    Hey, if I'm Grumpy, where the hell is Snow White????
  17. #17
    Most friends are "on the inside". Oxygen bandit
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    Default Re: Why Shouldn't We Record At Home?

    Yeah, I think an inspiring recording space can be a lot of things, from a creepy warehouse, to a custom build studio, to a living room in San Francisco.

    I just don't think it should be your computer where you check your fucking facebook.

    The biggest disadvantage of recording yourself is the lack of adventure it presents -- not going "somewhere" to create.
  18. #18
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    Default Re: Why Shouldn't We Record At Home?

    As an AE?

    How thoroughly, and how FAST, you can "learn the craft" from your own efforts/audio school/internot vs. working in a professional production environment with lifelong record makers.

    I'd say the yield is probably at least 5:1 for the latter.

    Killed the goose that laid the golden egg we did.


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  19. #19
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    Default Re: Why Shouldn't We Record At Home?

    For me the difference are three things.

    #1: Acoustics, especially for drums.

    #2: Environment, you're less likely to work hard at home, you'll take more breaks, go watch some tv, go do this, go do that. May not apply to everyone but hey.

    #3: Image and security: You're bringing strangers into your home. I wouldn't do that. Also, it looks unprofessional 99% of the time unless you have a seperate facility for the studio space that is completely isolated from the house. A&R and other reps aren't gonna come over to your house to work with you, because it isn't a professional image you are conveying.

    Picture this, walk into a studio with a purpose built live room and control room, nice big window into the lovely big live room with high ceilings and a big ol persian rug sitting in the middle of the room. Nice big console in the control room too.

    VS

    Walk in the front door, go into the back room/upstairs/wherever and take them through your home to your setup.

    Which is more impressive?

    Now of course there is always an exception to the rule, and obviously if you are a big name producer/engineer/whatever these rules probably don't apply to you but hey, these are what made me think twice about the home studio thing.
  20. #20
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    Default Re: Why Shouldn't We Record At Home?

    No, I never said my room was untreated. Acoustic issues came up as a result of dwoz's list. I did imply acoustics at home - any home - can almost always be improved. It is a constant concern unless you are able to custom design the dimensions of your room. Which I am not yet privy to.
    Ah, gotcha
    Cheers,

    Paulie.

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