When it comes to picking a recording studio, there are a lot of options out there. Now, assuming you will be picking a professional studio, and not a friends basement, or project studio, there are a few things to consider before booking.
1. The studio doesn’t make you sound great, the engineer does
There are lots of big, expensive studios out there that have tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment, acoustics, etc. But all of that means nothing if you don’t have the right engineer working it. Lots of studios rely on interns, or newly hired, inexperienced engineers to handle some of the “non famous” clients. So even though this studio may charge $100/hr, and have every preamp and compressor and mic ever made, if the engineer doesn’t know how to use the equipment, or choose the right tools for the job, its not going to sound the way it should. Period. I have seen this a lot in my experience, people bring me sessions from some amazing studios, and I hear what the engineer did, and I have honestly heard better stuff from some experienced guys with home studios. No lie. Which brings us to our next point.
2. Know your engineer!!
Some studios will have a staff of numerous engineers. A lot of times it is a pecking order, when someone wants to book, they just go down the line of who’s next up for a session. If you do hip hop music lets say, you may get an engineer that hates hip hop, but is taking the session because he needs the money. He may have no idea of the current hip hop sound or how to achieve what you are going for. There are a lot of studios now like us at Miller Street Studios that specialize in certain genres, so we only deal with genres that we are familiar with and current.
3. “Who have you worked with”
This is a question that is not valid. Just because Kanye West has walked into a studio and had someone set up a mic for him and hit record, doesn’t mean that guy or girl is the engineer for you. There are lots of engineers out there that I know that have worked with A-list artists, but can’t mix a song great. Recording and Mixing are 2 complete different tasks. Recording is a fairly simple task, once you get past the fact that when it comes to setting up microphones, picking the right one, placing it correct, obviously there is a lot of stuff you need to know to make sure you are using the right mic, preamp, compressor, etc., but compared to mixing, that is a whole different ballgame. See you can have a good mic, good pre, good acoustics, and get a good recording. Hitting record is very simple. But when it comes to mixing, that is where it separates the men from the boys. Mixing is a very creative process, and takes someone who has creativity, and good experience and knowledge to get a great sound. So instead of asking the famous question “who have you worked with” you need to be asking, “where can I hear some of your mixes, or masters, or recordings” whatever you are looking to get done.
So, to recap, basically, it comes down to finding the right engineer, not the right studio. Sure, you want an engineer that works out of a studio that has great gear and acoustics, but understand that the gear doesn’t make the engineer good, the engineer makes the gear great, by his professional knowledge and experience. Always know who you are working with, and do your research on them, to make sure that they can provide you with the quality and sound you are looking for.