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(Page 2 of 4)
(c) 2002 Myles Wakeham

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Most studios will advertise their facilities either by the number of tracks they can offer you for your recording, or by the type of multitrack recording system they have. Although these are important factors, they don't really make that much of a difference to the sound of your end production. You'd be surprised how many great records are made on few recording tracks. However things like quality recording rooms, or quality microphones, will make a huge difference to the sound of your recording. At the end of the day, it comes down to the way the engineer uses the equipment available, and this is something that can't be easily advertised.

As for your overall budget, let's say that you are a 4 piece band and want to record a 3 song demo. You find a 24 track recording studio that charges $50 per hour. You are well rehearsed and know exactly what is going to be recorded. You agree not to make changes to the arrangements once in the studio. I would suggest that you could probably get the demo done in around 15 hours, including a minimal amount of mix time. This is subjective, of course but its a starting number. So your overall cost is going to be $750.00.

Or if you want to record a CD and have estimated that you will need 100 hours of recording time. You will probably be able to negotiate a better rate with a studio because of the quantity of time you are going to need. Let's say that they bring the price down to $40 per hour. Then you are up for $4,000.00 of recording time.

What else do you need to budget for? Well most studios don't provide recording tape free of charge. This can be a substantial expense depending upon what you need. If you are recording at a 24 track facility, that uses 2" analog tape, and you have been told to purchase new, virgin tape, expect to pay top dollar for tape. Depending upon where you are, this will vary. If you are in America, you'll probably pay around $150 per roll of tape, and you'll get about 15 minutes on this at 30 ips, or 30 minutes at 15 ips. (ips is the speed that the tape will travel through the multitrack - faster is better sound quality). So if you want to do an album, expect 4 or so rolls of tape. If you are not in America, then your price is going to be substantially more expensive for tape. If you are recording to digital, typically your tape cost is far lower. Check with your studio on tape costs up front.

Also you have to decide if you have all the players necessary for the content of your music. You might need a specialist player (or session player as they are usually referred to) for certain instruments that you need in your production, but no one in your group can play them. Most studios have a cadre of session players that they work with and can recommend players based on your needs. However these players are usually paid independant of the studio. You will need to work out with them the cost of their time in the recording session.

Finally don't expect studios to handle the pressing of CDs or duplication of tapes for you. They might act as "brokers" and be able to arrange these for you, but typically this is done independantly of the studio. You need to know the format of the end result of your recording session (i.e. DAT Tape, CD Master, etc.). This format must be compatible with what your pressing company needs to press CDs, etc. if you are recording a master.

Is the studio any good?

How do you know that the studio you want to record at is any good? Well that question may not be specific enough. The studio may be well experienced with recording country & western bands, but may have little experience with your jazz band. Or might be really good with film post production work, but has little experience or equipment to handle your album project. What you really need to do is to have the studio play you some recordings that they have made with other clients, that are in a similar area to your music. That way you can get a general idea of how your music may end up. Its not a guarantee, but it certainly helps.

You can also get a general idea by visiting the studio. Don't be fooled by presentation, though. Although studios can often spend thousands and thousands on decor, and fancy interiors, the end result of your time there is the recording, and that's what is most important. I have seen so many artists record at the wrong studio because they liked the color of the rooms, or thought the place looked "cool". It is important to be comfortable at the studio you are working with, but remember that some great albums have been recorded in back-yard studios that were not very comfortable (check out Red Hot Chilli Pepper Albums, or early REM albums). It really comes down to the competency of the engineering team at the studio and the tools that they have at their disposal.

Often the best way to know about a studio is to talk to their past clients. Maybe you have a friend who recorded at a studio and can recommend it to you. That's one of the best ways to ensure you are at the right studio. Just make sure you get the same engineering team working on your project as your friends, though.



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