March 26, 2021
There was a time not so long ago that a band or solo artist would have to hire a real-live studio to record anything. Those days are gone, but it doesn’t mean studios are gone and it doesn’t mean recording doesn’t cost anything now. Since many projects might require a combination of home and studio recording, there are still studio fees to think about, and home recording gear isn’t free.
So, here are five ways to save on recording costs, no matter how you go about things.
Even if you need to go into a real studio, you don’t need to go in for the whole project. Take stock of the gear you already have and perhaps more importantly – your skill set.
Vocals, guitars, synths, and anything else that records directly into the computer are all great candidates for home recording – though for vocals you’ll want to make sure you’ve got a great mic and a nicely treated space. Grand pianos, big horn sections, or orchestras on the other hand might require studio time. Mixing and mastering are good things to leave to the pros – unless that’s specifically your game.
In other words – don’t go for the full-service sell from a studio. Instead, budget expensive time wisely and get the rest done at home – or in a cheaper studio.
This is old school advice, but it still applies – especially if you’re in a band or ensemble and you need a studio to record in. Nothing burns money faster than take after botched take. You’ll probably never get everything cut in one take, but if you’re well-rehearsed, the likelihood of long hours stuck on one song is less.
The same goes for overdubbing anything from vocals to bass to piano. Don’t practice in the studio – instead come to the studio at the top of your game, ready to rock as if it were a live show.
We’ve all heard of the all-night studio session. And everyone who records fantasizes about having 12 hours solid to just play with fancy gear and discover things. But at $150 an hour that’s 18 big ones down the drain. Instead, think of the studio as the final stage of a process which starts with planning. Instead of going into the studio with a list of 100 songs and a dream – go into the studio with one well-rehearsed song and an exact plan for what part of the song is being recorded.
For example, your session plan might look like this: “Song of Love. Rhythm piano.” Tell the engineer ahead of time so they can be ready, warm up before you get there, and walk into that studio like the pro you are! Just like that 12 hours turns into 2 and you’ve saved $1500.
When it comes to the home-recorded parts of your project, there’s one big way you can save money on all your projects, not to mention the current one. That’s the habit of avoiding gear head syndrome. Instead of buying expensive gear that you have no plan for, conceive of your projects – and your overall mission, and purchase only that which serves the purpose. In addition, most gear can be purchased used at a significant discount.
If something comes up that you need a certain piece of gear for but it’s only going to come up once, considering renting it or hiring studio time for that piece. No need to buy a $5000 microphone you’ll only use once. To some this may seem like common sense advice, but you’d be surprised how many recording musicians ignore it.
Finally, a lesson learned after many years – and a necessity once life gets truly busy (as it does when one reaches adulthood). You don’t actually have to record every song. Some songs, frankly, are not good enough to immortalize, and some may not have much purpose outside of a live setting.
It’s tempting, given the current technology and the ease of distribution to try to turn every fledgling idea into a masterpiece. But if you’re prolific at all, you’ll find very quickly that you don’t have time – or money – to cut every idea. So instead, go old school and make songs earn their way onto records by getting great feedback, turning into well-rehearsed gems, and evolving into fully formed pieces of art on their own.
The side benefit will be easier to plan productions and recording sessions – no more hacking together pieces to create Frankenstein songs at $150 an hour. Fully formed songs lend themselves to efficient, clear session plans.
There you have it – a few of the top ways to save money on recording. There are plenty of other subtle ways to save money on recording projects but these are some of the big, tried and true time and money savers – which should help you come out richer and get more done.
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