Home Recording on a Budget[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.”

Which wins?

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.”