5 Things to Consider for a Successful Studio Recording Budget
A lot of musicians don’t know how to prepare a studio recording budget correctly. This is because of the many moving parts of the process that musicians are often unaware of. There’s more to a professional recording than just putting a microphone in front of something and hitting “record.”
Suppose you’re wondering what parts are essential in making an excellent sounding record. In that case, this article will provide all the answers that you need. When planning your next recording, it can be challenging to figure out what you should budget for and what you shouldn’t, but that’s why I’ve created this article to help you succeed.
The following guide will walk you through every necessary person you need to consider for getting everything done right. After that, you won’t need to worry about anything except crafting a great song and giving your best when your studio recording budget allows for the following key players in your next recording session.
Let’s get started!
#1 Studio Musicians
The secret to a great-sounding recording is surrounding yourself with the right musicians. If you can get your musical arrangements and the right players from the get-go, the rest of the process will be a lot smoother. In addition, this will result in a better chance of you connecting with your intended audience.
A vibe is something you can’t fake in a recording session, and getting players who know how to correctly record will save you tons of time and money.
Also, hiring the wrong musicians makes everyone else’s job moving forward – a burden. As a result, everything will take more time, require more fixing, and, worst of all, cost you more money.
Don’t skimp on your studio musicians because the wrong ones will sink your recording right from the start.
Hiring and working with musicians (especially online musicians) is an art in itself. We have covered this topic in detail in our article “7 Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring Online Musicians.”
#2 Audio Engineer
When hiring a studio, or outsourcing your work to an online service, ask whether or not an audio engineer is provided in the price. It’s good to know whether or not you are just renting a room. If they are separate fees, make sure your studio recording budget covers both the space and the audio engineer.
However, often when you are hiring remote musicians, they are engineering the project themselves.
There is nothing wrong with this; however, when tracking multiple players and instruments, this approach could become problematic.
You see, an audio engineer does more than set up a few microphones, hit record, and speak to you through a funny-looking microphone. Instead, a professional audio engineer thoughtfully thinks of how each instrument will connect sonically when coming through the speakers.
They will make specific mic selections to accentuate certain frequencies, choose pre-amps for extra color, add compression for increased headroom, and subtle EQ for sculpting.
An audio engineer knows that there is only so much bandwidth in the frequency spectrum. Therefore, each gear choice will naturally place specific instruments in their correct space.
A great audio engineer creates sonic cohesion.
When you piecemeal different players from different areas, you might get great performances. But, still, you won’t get any of the thoughts an engineer brings on how to make sure all the instruments work together sonically.
#3 Audio Editor
I hate to burst your purist bubble, but everything gets some form of editing these days. Whether it be timing drums, tuning vocals, or comping together multiple takes. Modern recordings get heavily edited, which is the “sound” that casual listeners are used to hearing these days.
However, the beauty behind a pro audio editor is that they can pull off these edits transparently.
I’ve been in sessions where serious pros listen back to a track where their performance was edited, and they didn’t even blink an eye. They were thrilled with what they were hearing coming out of the speakers.
On the other hand, I have been in sessions with less than great editing and an offended client.
Great editing is tedious and highly detail-oriented work. There are many ways to mess it up, and one mistake could ruin your entire recording.
If you are wondering what you should be looking for when it comes to a great editor, the quick checklist is:
- Beat Detective (Drum Editing)
- Vocal Tuning and Timing (internal link to “5 Ways a Professional Engineer Makes You Sound Like a Rockstar”)
- Comping (Frankesteining the best takes together)
Pro-Tip: Record your drums first and have them edited before laying other instruments on top of it. This will avoid the problem of recording to a drum track that later will be edited. When the drum tracks shift in editing, it will throw off the timing of every other instrument leaving you with a mess on your hands.
#4 Mix Engineer
Including a mix engineer in your studio recording budget brings balance and life to your music. This art form gets very subjective, and it’s essential to find someone who understands your genre of music.
More expensive is not always better when it comes to mixing.
For example, I worked for a producer whose studio engineer assisted a very famous mix engineer.
The producer outsourced one of his mixes to this engineer to see how much better the mix would sound coming from someone at the top of the industry.
Well, the mix wasn’t as good as the original mix, and he scrapped it. It’s not that this mix engineer gave a lousy mix; it was just his aesthetic didn’t fit the producer’s aesthetic.
It’s essential to listen to a mix engineer’s work and find someone whose sonic vibe you resonate with. Then, you might be able to find a great bargain for some really great work.
However, it’s important to note that a mixing engineer’s job becomes much easier when you spend the time getting the previous steps correct.
There’s a famous phrase that gets thrown around, “Fix it in the mix.” This statement is fun to say, but you shouldn’t be thinking of “fixing” much of anything in the mix. For example, if your musicians played their parts with feeling, your audio engineer thoughtfully captured it, and your editor transparently fixed the mistakes, then the mix engineer should only have to “Sweeten it in the mix.”
That doesn’t have as good of a ring to it, but that’s what you are aiming for.
#5 Mastering Engineer
A mastering engineer provides the final polish to your track. A professional mastering engineer hears music much differently than you and I. They listen in “micro-dynamics” and make minimal adjustments to ensure that your song is perfectly balanced and will translate through all speakers.
A professional master of your music will enhance the best elements of your track while creating clarity and power.
The mastering engineer should be someone who hasn’t worked on the project yet. This is crucial because everyone has heard the song many times and will have lost objectivity in making it better.
There are online services that provide “instant mastering” and some plugins like Izotope’s Ozone that have AI features to master your track.
In my opinion, these services are great alternatives to a professional mastering engineer for small-budget and/or demo recordings.
However, if you are serious about making your music as best as possible, working with a professional will get you that “x-factor” that is often missed from an algorithm.
How to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck
Your record is one of the most critical aspects of your career, and it’s worth investing in. If you want to hit a home run with your next recording, then be sure to consider these 5 areas in your studio recording budget before beginning work on your next project.
However, putting all these pieces together can be extremely daunting. This is where working with a producer who can assemble a team and execute your vision comes into play. This is especially important for those who don’t have experience producing themselves or just need some guidance about how best to capture their sound from start to finish.
At Supreme Tracks, we are here to streamline this process and make it an easy decision for you.
We offer complete music production services that will cover every detail from instrumentation and musicianship through mixing and mastering, so you can have a peace of mind knowing everything has been taken care of by industry professionals.