Like most aspiring music producers, I purchased Ableton Live, watched YouTube tutorials and tried my hand at producing tracks at home, "in the box."
I came up with a few finished songs that I thought were good. That is until I listened to my finished tracks from the studio and compared them side by side. The result: my recordings sucked.
Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) like ProTools, Cubase, Ableton Live and Logic are becoming more accessible and more musicians are choosing to produce music at home, "in the box" using their music production software.
But the proliferation of most "in the box" music is lacking character, nuance, originality and yes, musicality. Especially music being produced that's entirely dependent on pre-recorded loops (like FL Studio). How are you going to stand out when you're using the same tones, loops and beats that thousands of other people are using?
To stand out and have an original sound, you're going to need to think "outside of the box" and head to a recording studio. Here's why:
1. They have much better equipment than you ever will – a recording studio has everything you don't have in terms of music gear. Can you afford a Telefunken microphone, Hammond organ, Marshall stack, Fender Rhodes, Ludwig drumset, Moog synthesizer, mixing console and mic pre-amps? It would take many, many years (and thousands of dollars) to acquire all of this gear. When you go to a record studio, all of their equipment becomes accessible to you.
2. Their recording engineers are much more experienced – The best part about working with a studio is being paired with a recording engineer. These guys are masters of music and technology. You can describe a tone or a sound you want for the recording and they know how to achieve it.
These guys also have trained ears to hear any unpleasant frequencies, bad notes, bad performances, and phase cancellation, something your buddy with ProTools and some microphones probably isn't familiar with yet.
They also have worked with so many bands and different genres that they act as producers as well. They'll recommend instruments and effects for you to use that you've never even heard of before.
Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon wouldn't have been the same album if Alan Parsons hadn't worked on it. Not at all.
3. It's a "real space" where you can capture "real sounds" – What bothers me about using VSTs and pre-recorded samples is that you're missing out on the magic that happens inside a studio. I've had many happy accidents in the studio that turned out to be golden nuggets in my tracks.
4. Legitimacy – Tracks completed in a studio have a professional sound that is nearly impossible to achieve at home with limited gear and expertise. The combination of mic placement, room acoustics, hi-end equipment, mixing and mastering achieve that polished studio sound.
5. It feels cool – It's just cool to record your music at a studio. There's a certain prestige to it. It feels more real, more professional, more serious. And non-musicians and musicians will take you more seriously because of it.
There's a term called "studio magic." It's a pejorative term, usually implying that a studio can make anything sound good. I disagree with this term. Studio magic is real, and it's the collection of all the tiny mixing decisions, equipment, engineers and inspiration you get inside the studio that creates a magical track.
And you're not going to get that magic "inside the box."