“Choosing the Recording Studio and Engineer That’s Right for You”
by David “Rainman” Banta
Multi Platinum 2 time Billboard #1 selling mixing engineer/producer
© 2013 www.Platinum-Mixes.com
(754) 444 7246
Choosing a studio, mixing and mastering engineer are among the most important choices and investments you will make in your musical career.
It is of utmost importance that you choose well! Here are some things that you should consider when deciding who to trust with your sound, hard earned money and your musical career.
Do they have a proven track record?
Has the studio or engineer won any awards? Have they worked for major artists? Have they sold a lot of albums? These questions are actually important. Most major artists can record anywhere they like. So if they choose a specific studio there is a reason. They’re happy with the sound and comfortable with the studio! It doesn’t hurt to have a known engineers name on your album either, especially when they also have their name on the albums of famous artists and platinum records.
Do they guarantee their work?
Truth is most recording studios and engineers don’t guarantee their work. For a lot of you budget is a major concern. It’s important that you find a studio and engineer that has your concerns first in mind. Concerns about customer satisfaction should also be a trait that you look for.
Three pieces of gear that will affect your recording quality.
The microphone, mic preamp, and soundcard
These days’ microphones that look impressive can actually be really cheap. A large diaphragm condenser microphone that can be plugged into the USB on your computer can cost as low as $50.I don’t recommend that you record vocals on these if you’re striving for a professional sound.
I’ve been a recording engineer in Hollywood for more than two decades, and it’s been really rare for me to see anyone not use a tube mic on vocals. There are some exceptions of course. Me personally, I only use a high ended tube mic on vocals.
The second piece of gear that affects your recording quality is the mic preamp. The signal that comes from most microphones is actually too low for the recording gear that we use in studios today. So the first thing that most microphones plug into is a mic preamp to boost the level. The quality of the mic preamp does affect the quality of your recording. A cheap mic that plugs into the USB on your computer has an extremely cheap mic preamp built inside. We don’t recommend that you use these either if you’re seeking a professional sound.
The third piece of gear that affects the recording quality is the analog-to-digital converter. Long story short, a sound card converts the signal coming out of the microphone, guitar or keyboard which is most often analog, into a digital signal that the computer can understand, record, and process. The quality of your analog to digital converter also affects your recording quality. Cheap mics that plug into USB’s on your computer also have extremely cheap converters inside.
Make sure that the studio you choose to record your vocals in has a professional microphone (large diaphragm tube mics are my preference), mic preamp, and analog-to-digital converters.
Is their digital outboard gear and software plug-ins really the best?
Most studios claim they have the best sounding software when that is simply not true. Often times the statement is made in ignorance. The best sounding and most professional software plug-ins today actually require fairly expensive hardware. Many studios have the latest software bundles that don’t come with hardware. These are called “Native plug-ins” because they use your computer’s CPU. The truth is that the best sounding software audio plug-ins requires hardware.
Universal audio is a company that makes software models of the gear that you would see in major studios. Their software plug-ins come with hardware that have chips that connect to your computer that can do more advanced processing and much faster than a computer’s native CPU. These are called “Powered plug-ins”. And their sound is considerably superior to non-powered plug-ins, such as the Waves, or Abbey Roads bundles.
I have most of the highest ended recording software bundles available today. I have to say without a doubt; all of the software that I use that comes with hardware sounds considerably better than native plug-ins,unfortunately, a lot of studios use the latest cracked software. None of these come with hardware, and so their sound is inferior.
Make sure the studio you choose has a lot of powered plug-ins.
The studio mixing console
Take a closer look at the studio mixing board, if they even have one. It may not be a real mixing board at all. At least not in the way that you and I think of a mixing board.
There are basically three types of mixing boards that you see in a studio today.
A computer controller mixing board
A huge percentage of the large mixing boards that you see in recording studios today are really just a glorified computer keyboards and mouse. They are nothing more than a way for a human to interface with the computer. These types of mixing boards don’t actually contribute to the sound of the mix or master in any way. All they do is control the computer, the same way that a keyboard and mouse would. The entire signal processing, like equalizing, is still done in the computer. So the mixing board is not really contributing to the sound of the mix or master in any way.
Some of these mixing boards have professional analog to digital converters built into them. These convert the signal from gear like microphones, guitars, and keyboards into a digital signal that the computer can recognize. It’s true that these do affect the quality of your recording sound, but these boards don’t contribute to the sound of the mixing or mastering in any way.
The digital mixing board
The second type of mixing board that you may see in the studio today is a digital mixing board. These mixing boards actually do processing to the sound like equalizing, but they do the processing digitally, not unlike a computer. I say why bother?
The analog mixing board
The truth is that most major artist and most major record labels today still prefer to mix their records using large format analog consoles.
This type of mixing board does do processing to the sound such as equalization, but it processes the sound in a very different way than digital devices do. For me this is the preferred type of mixing board by far. If you’re recording on computer the right analog board will add a beautiful new dimension to the sound of your mix and master.
Does the engineer have any schooling?
Truth is when an engineer walks into a recording studio no one cares if he had schooling, all they care about is can they do the job.
A lot of people look to recording school students and recent graduates for help with their mixes. Calling your local recording school to find an engineer is actually not a bad idea. I say if you’re going to look to a recording school to find an engineer hire teacher rather than a student. If someone is teaching at a recording school, there’s a good chance they could use the money. So rather than looking for recording students or graduates to help with your mixes, look for recording instructors.
Does the engineer have good communication skills?
It is very important that the engineer have excellent communication skills. To be able to explain to the client the process in easy-to-understand terms, and the ability to understand the clients wants and needs.
Will the studio let you take copies of your masters?
The biggest studios in Hollywood always let their clients who have paid for the studio time take copies of their masters with them. I’ve been extremely surprised over the years to find some less than professional studios that have done recordings for the clients and then refused to give out the masters, so they can hire someone else to do the mixing or mastering. This is not a professional practice at all. So beware!
Make sure that the studio you hire will allow you to take copies of your masters with you after you’ve paid all of their fees!
We at Rainman Productions and Studios are old-fashioned and believe that the customer’s satisfaction is first and foremost. This is why we always guarantee our work. Love it or pay nothing! You have nothing to lose, and a music career to gain!
Our chief engineer David “Rainman” Banta has received several multiplatinum record awards for singles that he’s mixed. Four of those singles he mixed right here at Rainman Studios just 10 min. from downtown Hollywood California.. He is also achieved 2 number one selling albums on billboard’s top 100 selling albums in Europe. David is also an accomplished producer, composer, and pianists. His credits include composing, producing, and engineering FOX’s “NASCAR Highlights Theme”
David has a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education, he also taught recording engineering and music production at UCLA in Hollywood for 10 years, and Musicians Institute for one year.Needless to say, his abilities to explain and communicate are exceptional.
We at Rainman Studios, have the best of both analog and digital gear. Our studio features a beautiful large format analog console which came to us from, and was used extensively by, Fleetwood Mac. We also have the best of digital gear, which includes the Universal Audio powered plug-ins, and some of the best digital outboard gear made, ncluding the TC electronics G Force.
We not only let you take copies of your masters, we encourage it. We give you your masters at no extra charge!
For a limited time send us one of your tracks and we will master it. If we can improve the sound in our state-of-the-art studio in Hollywood pay us only $10. Love it or pay nothing. Our prices are also slashed on mixing and mastering! Mixes starting at only $49. For a limited time only!