The year is 2014…
Since the beginning of my musical career, I vowed to attempt to learn as much about audio engineering as possible. I remember how much I struggled at first attempting to learn Logic Pro X, (this was a little before everything was carefully explained on Youtube). I got to a point where I was semi-comfortable with my level of audio engineering, but I wanted to have a traditional experience in a real-life professional recording studio.
I did a little research, (I googled recording studios nearby), and found a studio only a few miles from where I was located. My team and I stopped by the studio one day to discuss rates and kind of get an overall feel of what to expect when recording in this studio.
Trust me, I was super nervous because I just didn’t know what to expect, what questions to ask, (aside from how much), and I didn’t want to offend anyone with my rookie status in the music industry.
I booked a 2-hour session…
It was $50/hour, (this included mixing/mastering), and I reserved two hours to assure that I would put down everything I needed. I was only recording one song, but it was the most important song on the project I was working on at the time, so it needed to be perfect. Plus, I thought maybe I could learn a thing or two and apply that knowledge to songs I had already completed for the project.
My engineer was super cool about explaining to me how things would work once I “stepped into the booth.” My recording style was a little different than most artists as I memorized my lyrics before recording, that way I could rehearse beforehand and make mental adjustments without having to waste my time figuring out what sounded best.
I found in the past that it is harder to maintain your pitch while reading and rapping.
I had just recorded a couple verses and my engineer said…
“I’m gonna punch you in right here.”
“Ummm….What’s that mean?”
He laughed, “it means I’m going to start recording after this certain spot.”
I felt like a total dumbass, but I learned something new!
At that point, I began to start worrying about the next time he would drop some studio-slang on me and I would have to either nod my head acting like I knew what he was talking about, or I was about to waste half a dollar, ($50/hour, you can do the math), of my time to learn some other phrase.
Nonetheless, my mind was distracted from the task at hand, recording this song.
“Want me to run that back?”
Okay, I could assume what that meant, but I caught him saying that after every single time I recorded a snippet of the song.
Now, for a normal artist who had never performed their lyrics, this is probably a smart thing to do. You want to make sure you recorded your verse perfectly, but I had already memorized my verse and rapped it about 100 times before I even entered the studio.
“Nah, I’m comfortable with what I put down.”
“You sure???” He said.
“Yeah….I’m definitely sure.”
At this point, I had a different vibe come over me.
Did he genuinely care about the sound of my vocals, or was he trying to consume more of my time so I would have to buy another hour..? You can never be certain, but it’s business, so I think it was a little bit of both.
My first studio session was complete!
I finished recording all the lyrics for this song, which means the mixing and mastering process was next. He told me he would complete this on his own time because it was a meticulous process that was boring to most. I was already skipping class, so I left and let him do his thing.
A couple days went by, and I got the song in my email.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was good… I am a perfectionist, so I asked him if he could make some small changes or if I could come into the studio to make slight adjustments WITH him, that way I could tell him exactly what I wanted to change, (always communicate your changes in person or over the phone, text and email will lead to miscommunication, trust me).
“You’re gonna have to book another session then…”
But my song isn’t the way I want it….And I am not satisfied with releasing it the way it is.
I’m thinking to myself,
“Is this normal, do most artists have to go back and pay for more adjustments?”
Anyways, I didn’t want to come off as rude or unprofessional, so I booked ONE more hour…
Went back, made the changes I wanted, and had my song perfect!
I ended up spending $150 for my first time in a professional studio, (this is still on the cheap end, trust me), plus the $500 I spent on the exclusive beat… All for a song that was going on a mixtape that was free to download… Sounds stupid, but it made sense at the time.
Whatever right? It was over and I got my first professional recording studio session out the way… (Insert joke about losing my studio virginity)
Now to reflect on the process…
It was a cool experience overall to go into a professional recording studio, but I wouldn’t go as far to say it was worth it, for me at least. You truly feel like a professional when you are recording in a studio. You are treated like one, most of the time, and are always welcomed back.
After that session, I was determined to become my own audio engineer, mainly because I was in college and couldn’t afford to pay that much for every single song. It motivated me to want to learn more about the process, and the engineer gave me a few helpful tips along the way, mainly about mixing and mastering, (that extra hour I booked was for educational purposes essentially).
If you are a rookie-level artist, it might be worth it to attempt learning how to mix and master your own music. It only takes time, since most programs you can find a free version online and now there is a ton of resources to teach you how to become an expert with these programs.
I mainly wanted to go into the studio to experience it. You hear a lot of stories about connections being made in these studios and there is a ton of information to obtain by being around people who know more than you.
Over the years, I found the most efficient process (for me) was to record my lyrics in my home studio, then send out the stems, (look who learned some slang), to an engineer to mix and master. That way I could avoid paying for two hours attempting to record it perfectly and only pay for the hour or so it took to mix.
Each artist has their own process, you just need to branch out a little to figure what works best. Trial & error is the best process for figuring anything out, and in this case, trial & error is going to cost you money.
Do you recommend going into a professional recording studio?
Would you rather invest in the equipment yourself and learn the process?
Let me know below!