Home recording vs a pro studio: does it really matter?!

February 11, 2014{ 5 Comments }

iStock 000019139387XSmall Home recording vs a pro studio: does it really matter?![This article was written by guest contributor Steven James Wylie.]

A recording story about the importance of the people you work with

As technology has advanced in the last decade, the world of digital recording has evolved at an exhausting pace.

I recorded my first project in 2003 on an Akai DPS16. It had a HUGE 10 gig hard drive and some cool effects. It was an entirely self-contained unit. I would use loops in Acid on my pc and line them out into the Akai. I was thrilled. My friends and I had some good fun with it. We had no idea how digitally ignorant we were. We just knew we could make music and it was WAY better than our analog Tascam 4 track!

MP3 quality? Wave files? Whatever! Even for 2002, my lack of knowledge was embarrassing, but I was an artist! Don’t bother me with the technical crap! Ridiculous. We had great songs and concepts, but the recording quality was obviously not going to be up to par. Hindsight is 20/20.

When Apple came out with Garageband, I immediately loved it and made an EP with it in 2008. It was a major step up in sound quality. I could do more things with the built-in midi sounds and plug-ins it came with. It was a great experience. Simple and clean. The finished musical product was way better, but still not quite there.

In 2011, I upgraded to Logic and recorded my first single called “Winter Is Over” with it. It was a guitar heavy song without a lot of drums or rhythm section. It was, in my opinion, the best thing I had recorded on my own to that point. Now most of us know Logic is on the more affordable side of professional recording software, but I have loved using it. It was an easy transition for me because I was used to Garageband. Its not Pro Tools, but it can do most of the same things.

Bring in the pros

However, after I continued to work on the song “Winter Is Over” I was still not happy with it. So what was I missing? I had the gear to do most of the same things that the pros were doing. I ended up getting help from a Nashville veteran who has become a good friend to me, Mr. Bret Teegarden.

I recently asked Bret, who has mixed and mastered my two most recent projects, for his thoughts on the subject. He had this to offer:

“As far as people using home studios instead of pro studios, I would say that great results can be achieved with either. However, a pro environment can be less frustrating and can actually save time and money, if you value your time. The other factor is in using actual pros to help with production. There are many people with home studios, but generally pros have already made all the mistakes a home recordist or hobbyist has yet to discover.”

So, is a home studio as good as a pro studio? I agree with Bret, it can be dang close. Let’s also take into account that professional studios often can offer much bigger spaces and better sounding rooms than a home set up. However, what makes any recording better 90% of the time, in my opinion, is the people you have working on it. It is what made my new EP “Everything I Love” my best work to date. I could have had each guy come over to my studio and lay down their tracks. I would have had to have the drums done elsewhere to start, but otherwise, my home studio would have worked. However, I would never have gotten the synergy that came from having everyone together. I would not have had the engineering and production expertise of guys like Jeff Pitzer, Bret Teegarden and Chris Omartian. They are all very gifted at what they do, and it was revelatory to work with them.

In summary, let’s just say software and hardware are nice. In fact, what we can do with them now is amazing! However, people are what make any given endeavor great. Until we find a way to replace them, (and let’s hope we don’t) they will always be the difference-makers. And that’s probably true well beyond the music business.

There you have it. Go forth and be “pro.”

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  • http://www.danosongs.com @DanoSongs

    I am amazed with what I can do with a Blue Yeti USB mic, a computer, MixCraft daw and a guitar. I stopped going to studios long long ago. I’m not trying to win production awards, just make songs and music people like! : )

  • eLeMz Music

    The “new” age old debate! My two cents?! I think your right, the do or die determining factor is the one sitting behind the controls. I have heard some near perfect mixes come out of home studios and shitty ones come out of pro ones…and while we are taking about those, what makes them pro anyway? Brick and Mortar? Equipment? Location?…these days I think this debate only ruffles the feathers of the pro studio owner. Good stuff..signing out…@eLeMzMusic

    • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

      Agreed, I think “pro” all comes down to how good your ears are, and how well you (or the engineer) know the monitors.

      @ Chris Robley

  • Supercapital

    The main difference I see is people spend 2-3 years being a perfectionist while slowly making a record at home/project studio style. Versions get thrown away, fiddling around happens, experiments are done and amateur mistakes are made and learned from. In an actual pro studio you go in knowing what you’re arrangement is, what “sound” you’re going for and the players know the treatment and are ready to *do the work*. Soon after the recording is ready for release.

  • TJR

    Personally I like to record all my tracks at home and then take it to a pro to do the mixing and mastering.