SPARS Sound Bite: Choosing a Studio

May 1, 2013 9:00 AM, Mix, By Pat McMakin


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Pat McMakin

What do an iPad, a spare bedroom, a converted garage and Abbey Road Studios have in common? They are all recording studios (of sorts). When to use which version of a studio is a frequent topic of discussion among producers and artists. It’s obviously impossible to record a 100-piece orchestral project in a garage, and it makes little economic sense to cut vocal overdubs in a large scoring stage. With decreased budgets, producers are trying to stretch their funds as far as possible while finding a balance between creative and technical considerations.

The trend we are seeing at Ocean Way Nashville is that experienced producers like having all options available, utilizing each for its strengths. We are seeing an increase in the amount of tracking and large section overdubs such as strings. Stacking a violin 40 times does not sound the same as using a 40-piece string section. Our clients really like to record rhythm tracks with the whole band in the same room at the same time. If the keyboard part changes, the bass part can change in real time and not require bringing the bassist back in. This approach takes advantage of all that a commercial facility offers, such as great acoustics, an extensive mic/gear collection, and a great headphone system, to name but a few. It also invites creative collaboration in ways that many private studios cannot offer because of space and equipment limitations. With thorough pre-production, and efficient use of time and expertise in the studio, it can actually be more cost-effective to record in this traditional fashion.

There are other considerations that make recording at home or in a private studio appealing—privacy, more time to experiment, lower costs in some cases—and this is a great alternative for some. But one thing is the same in both environments: the people involved. Talent is the single most important element in any musical creation. From artist to engineer, that’s the one thing that should never be compromised.

Pat McMakin is director of operations at Ocean Way Nashville.

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