How To Choose A Recording Studio
There are endless questions you could ask a potential recording studio before you commit to a booking. However some are much more important than others, so for example “does the studio have a coffee machine?” should not be top of the list!
Below are a few questions that should be asked though, before you make that all-important decision.
1. Can I use a home-studio?
You can use a home studio but the finished product will not be of a high enough standard to send to prospective record labels. A professional recording studio can give you the high quality finish you need plus the use of a qualified sound engineer; and the added bonuses of sound proofing and enough space to fit the whole band in is a big help as well.
2. Do I need to book a large studio?
No. Small studios with the right equipment can give you the same quality recording and benefits as many of the larger studios but for a cheaper price.
3. How much will a studio cost to hire?
This depends on many things but hourly charges can range from £5 to over £200 (I am only expert in UK prices!). Most studios provide the option of booking the entire day which consists of a set number of hours. By doing this you will get a small discount and the benefit of knowing exactly how many hours you have. Day rates range from £50 to well over £1000 for the large studios. The price you pay usually includes the services of a sound engineer but doesn't include the cost of your master tapes; remember to budget anywhere up to £50 for your tapes.
4. How long will I need in the studio?
Again this depends on many factors. If you are well prepared, know your material by heart and have played together as a band for a considerable length of time then you should be able to record and mix between 2 and 5 songs in a typical session of 8 hours (although in order to complete 5 songs the band would have to play ‘live' as apposed to recording each individual track). The professionalism of the band members and the sound engineer will also affect how much gets done in a day.
The number of days you need will ultimately depend on how many songs you want to record. Remember that recording and mixing always takes a lot longer than you imagine so make sure to budget sufficiently for this. A full album can take anywhere up to 14 full days studio time with approximately half of this time being spent on the mix down. For this reason you, as a band must be as perfect as possible with regard to your musicianship otherwise you may end up paying for extra days to finish the mixing stage.
5. Does it matter what kind of music I play?
No. An experienced engineer will be able to produce any type of music you give him/her. Check that the studio has all the equipment you will need however as styles such as hip-hop and dance music may need specialist sound effects that some studios won't have.
You could look around for a specialist studio that is known for producing your style of music but these can be more expensive than a normal studio and there is no guarantee that your master tapes will turn out any better.
6. How can I find out if the studio is any good?
Ask friends and other musicians if they have used the studio or if they know anyone who has. Personal recommendations are a good start as musicians will not promote a studio who did an unsatisfactory job on their recordings. If someone has used the studio you're interested in ask if you can listen to the recordings they produced.
However if you can't find anyone phone the studio and ask to make an appointment to look around and meet the staff. Most studios will happily allow you to visit and will play you some of their productions if you ask.
7. Will I have an input on how the final mix sounds?
Yes. Any reputable studio will insist you are present for the mixing stage. At the end of the day it is your music and your recording session. You are the ones paying for production and so it is totally up to you to ensure that the final product is something you are happy with.
Overall you are looking for a studio to suit your needs that offer rates within your budget, the services of an experienced sound engineer, an excellent reputation for their sound quality and professionalism and helpful, friendly staff that will make your recording experience worthwhile and productive.
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