Don White (whose first CD I engineered) once said to me, “In the old days, a musician had to know God to make an album. I only had to know you!”
It’s true that, with today’s inexpensive and easily available technology, anyone can make an album. And there are lots of studio owners and engineers like myself who consider it their pleasure, as well as their business, to help you.
The down side of this is that many artists come into the studio with little or no prior recording experience, and expect to come out a short time later with a great sounding album.
These same artists would never dream of taking on a two-set club date for their first gig! They know it would probably be a disaster.
Of course, given enough takes and edits, albums can usually be “salvaged” even if the artist is poorly prepared. But this is small consolation considering the time, effort, money, and shattered egos involved! Though you might avert a train wreck, you’ll still have a fender-bender.
Just like performing, studio recording takes practice.
So, here’s my “radical” proposition:
Instead of looking at studio recording as a “special event,” make it a regular part of your routine, just like practicing, writing, gigging and networking.
Just like you do lots of open mikes, opening sets and split gigs before you expect to “feature,” why not do lots of short recording sessions to get ready for making your first album?
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Recording costs money!
Well, I guarantee that the money you save on your album project, by being knowledgeable and proficient in studio recording before you begin, will more than make up for the money you spend on those “practice” recording sessions. You might even get some good material for demos, and for the album as well!
And, studio recording has benefits beyond the creation of albums and demos. By allowing you to hear yourself as others hear you, by objectively and clearly revealing strengths and weaknesses, and by simulating the pressure of live performance without the risk, studio recording informs and enhances every other aspect of your craft.
So, find an inexpensive studio you can conveniently visit on a regular basis (at least every few months) for, say, a one or two hour session. It needn’t even be the studio where you eventually make your album.
Studio recording is an art in itself, requiring its own special techniques, skills, and mindset. The more you do it, the better you’ll get!