Updated: Mar 3
Whether we want to admit it or not, we all know that recording music isn't cheap. It doesn't matter if you go to a well-renowned recording studio across the country, find a local studio in your state, or place your trust in someone's local home studio - it's going to cost you hundreds (or thousands) of dollars for a quality song.
So, what do most of us do when we want something really really bad but we absolutely can not afford it? We turn to google and search, "How to do it myself". In this article I will tell you exactly what the top 3 pros and cons are to trying to produce your own music. The goal of this article is to help you decide whether or not you want to venture down the deep rabbit hole of "how to" for recording yourself - because I'll be honest upfront: Recording is easy, but it's not that simple.
1. It can most absolutely save you money... in the long run. If you go with the cheapest possible gear, recording equipment will cost you around $400. This will include your microphone, audio interface, cables, mic stands, software and some very basic acoustic treatment. Any professional will tell you that this is just the starting point. It is likely that in the first year of recording you will spend around $700 on improving your acoustic treatment, buying more software, and improving your hardware.
The great thing is, most the equipment does not expire. Once you have the equipment you'll likely be able to use it the rest of your life. If music is something you continue on for the rest of your life, you will absolutely avoid thousands of dollars in recording fees. Just be aware that the first $400 investment to get started WILL NOT be the gear you use the rest of your life. You will absolutely not be 100% satisfied and will likely spend around $1,000 until you can realistically create music on a professional level.
To save the most amount of money, we recommend doing the research to get the right gear from the beginning. Try to ask professional engineers for advice, or demo their microphones and find the right one for you. You can even book a tour at one of our studios to test out our mics and get expert advice on what you should buy. Get the right gear upfront so you don't spend thousands on upgrades throughout the years.
Consider yourself warned that if you get caught in the trap of buying new gear, new software, better acoustic spaces, better speakers, and so on... you won't be saving yourself any money and you'll have wasted a lot of time.
2. You can be experimental and move at your own pace.
When you are first starting out as an independent artist it's important that you get the time to be your own critic. The music industry is flooded with judgmental engineers, harsh critics, and "haters" everywhere. The time you'll spend alone fine-tuning your style and skills is precious time where you will get to decide the sound that's right for your personal expression. This industry will do everything it can to destroy art and turn your music into a soulless business. Business is important, but never lose your art.
3. You get to stay in control.
One great benefit to recording yourself is the comfortable nature of not having anyone around to judge you. In my experience, many new musicians feel super nervous in a studio setting and it shows in their performance. In some studios it can even lead to frustrated engineers degrading the artist. I've seen engineers go into "teaching mode" and totally belittle the artist, or flat out tell the artist their music sucks. 9/10 it turns into the artist changing their song to accommodate the engineers lack of patience or arrogance.
Hourly fees that studios charge makes this even worse. Engineers commonly forget that many of their customers can't really afford this, and the pressure on the artist's wallet literally builds with every minute.
When you record at home you get to stay in control and decide how you want the song to come out. And I doubt your bedroom charges you hourly fees.
1. Realizing how loud your home is How often is there noise from your dishwasher, or laundry machine, or furnace, or pets, or room mates, or neighbors? Every day life is pretty noisy, but we don't notice until we need it to be absolutely quiet for a solid vocal recording. Let me be clear, a little hum from your heater can take your song from sounding professional to amateur real quick.
If you don't have a space with absolute silence, recording at home might not be for you. 2. Acoustics (boxy vocals)
No matter how quiet you can get your room, if it's not built for recording it still won't sound good. Vibrations from your voice and other instruments bounce off the walls (and everything else in your room) and get fed back into the microphone.
When I was starting out I tried every "fix" I could find on the internet. Egg cartons, bed mattresses, moving blankets, anything that my desperate teenage-self could find. Here is the honest truth; all of those "fixes" help (kinda) but not enough to get a professional sound. Egg cartons help with dispersing very high frequencies but nothing else, mattresses can help absorb sound (some better than others) but they don't help with dispersing sound, blankets are basically the same as mattresses but thinner. If you want a professional sound you're going to have to use the right materials the right way.
To save money, I recommend using a source like this one and cut out the music-store middleman. If you buy you're own acoustics though, you're going to need to learn how to use it. Putting it all over your room is actually THE WRONG solution and you'll waste a lot of money. Schedule a free in-home setup with one of our engineers today, or do as much research as you can online and try to train your ears to listen for the exact acoustic qualities of your room (google "the room clap test" to see what I'm talking about).
Acoustics is one area where if you don't get professional stuff, you won't get professional sound.
3. Slipping down the learning curve
I'm going to be real with you here, learning how to record yourself is fairly easy but mixing and mastering your music is not. If I had two hours with you, I could show you the best gear for your situation and teach you how to record. But if you asked me to teach you how to mix and master, I'd ask for a few years of your time - I'm not exaggerating.
Why is mixing and mastering so hard? Because there's no replacement for good ears.
Let's be honest, when you watch a "how to mix a song" YouTube video do you really hear the difference with every little change they make? And more importantly, could you have heard that particular change needed to be made?
Sure, I'm sure you hear a difference when the video shows you compression, or some exaggerated EQ, but with mixing the beauty really shines in the details. In my 10 years of working in the audio industry let me tell you a secret; it's not your speakers fault, it's your ears fault. If you want to make your own music from start to finish you need to spend years training your ears.
Summary and Conclusion
Top 3 pros:
It can save you money in the long run (if you do it right)
You can be experimental and move at your own pace
You get to stay in control
Top 3 cons:
Your home is loud, and you'll hear it in the recordings
Bad home acoustics lead to bad (boxy) recordings
You can record, but your ears probably aren't good enough to mix (yet)
Everyone's circumstance is different, but overall if you want to save money then the ideal scenario is to record in the right place with the right gear for as cheap as you can but have a solid (and affordable) professional mixing and mastering your songs.
Todd and I have done everything we can to provide that ideal scenario for anyone's circumstances.
Here's how you can make that ideal happen, no matter your situation.
If you know your home is to noisy because of barking pets or a loud furnace, schedule a free tour in one of our recording studios. We will teach you how to record yourself for free in our studio if you let us mix and master your song.
If you're home is quiet enough to build a home studio, schedule a free in-home studio setup. Our engineers will take a listen to your space and give you professional advice on what gear you should get, where you should put acoustic treatment, etc. We will even help you get setup for no cost!
Why do we do both of these things for free? There are two honest reasons:
First, because we know that helping get you setup will give us a chance to prove to you that we know our stuff. So when you need a professional set of ears to mix and master your music, we will have already earned your trust.
Second, because Todd and I are sick of a music industry that continues to crush the musician. We're fighting against everything this industry has done to make it hard for you to succeed - we sincerely want to help.