Home Recording Myths – Part 2

| Pro Tools, Tips

zeusIn Part 1 of this post I exposed 2 of the most prevalent myths relating to home recording floating around out there. You don’t need thousands of dollars of gear including boutique preamps to make pro recordings…it’s just not true (remember Ari Hest). Today though I want to touch on 2 myths that swing the other way slightly. Kind of playing devil’s advocate here. Because the other problem I see out there is people who claim to have all the gear I recommend and they just aren’t getting the results they want, so they blame the gear. Let’s take a look…

Myth #3 – “I have Pro Tools and it’s the industry standard, therefor my recordings should sound amazing!”

You’ll see this one a lot online. People will buy a Pro Tools system and then bash all the other software users out there while at the same time espousing that just because they own and use Pro Tools, they should be making pro level recordings. Now I’m unashamed to say that I love and use Pro Tools practically everyday. I think it is the industry standard for a reason and continues to serve as an awesome recording solution for hobbyists and professionals alike. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, just having a good tool doesn’t guarantee good work.

On this blog and when I do consulting I recommend most people get a Pro Tools system. Read some of my earlier posts to see a lot of the benefits to Pro Tools and why push it. I believe it has all the tools to help you make pro recordings. But that’s it. It won’t record for you and it won’t get a great acoustic guitar tone for you. YOU have to learn how to record, edit, and mix yourself. It takes time and experience, not money. So get the right tool for the job (and don’t pay anymore than you have to) but then learn the tool as best as you can. That is the ONLY way to get a good recording.

Myth #4 – “My recordings sound good to me so they must be good!”

I’m going to be honest with you right now. Just because you think your recordings sound good doesn’t necessarily mean they ARE good. Now how could I say that?! Isn’t music subjective? Well yes and no. I do encourage creativity and innovation. And many styles and sounds we now consider the standard were once new and weird. And you must make music the way YOU want to hear it. It is the only way to satisfy your creative spirit. If we’re all just recording music to meet some standard of perfection then we’re simply a factory churning out clones. But there is an important other side to this coin.

Taking all of that into account, when you make a recording you still need create a balanced and clear representation of the music you have in your head. It will need to be captured in a way that translates well onto computer speakers, iPod earbuds, car stereos, and home theaters. You have a medium in which you will be delivering your art and there are standards to which you must adhere. The problem comes when you have spent hours in your home studio working on a song or an album and it sounds good to YOU. But have you tested it on other speakers? Have you played it for people you trust? Have you compared it to they way your favorite professional recordings sound? These are vital steps to help you actually see the true recording behind your bias mask (we all have this). If you truly care about making great recordings, then take the time to ensure what you are creating will translate well into the real world.

Don’t fall for the myths…

You’re a smart person. You are reading this blog for a reason. Obviously you care about good music and making great recordings. Do yourself a favor and don’t listen to all the myths floating around on the internet or in recording magazines. And don’t espouse those same myths to yourself that will actually hold you back from making the best possible music. Instead focus your energy on getting the right tools, learning them well, and just getting in the studio and doing it.

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19 Responses to “Home Recording Myths – Part 2”

  1. Joesi

    Hi Graham,
    First, I want to thank you for sharing your experience with all of us. Although I am one of those who call themselves experienced I found some useful tricks in some of your vids.
    However, I want to add some piece of software you likely haven´t noticed yet: Cockos Reaper. I´d like to mention that I was educated on ProTools but I did not like the fact that ProTools was dictating you what kind of hardware you may use (which finally has changed). So I looked for another DAW. I tried Logic, I tried Cubase and I felt quite uncomfortable with it. Then I found Reaper which is a piece of gold. The best way to have an idea of Reaper´s capabilities is – of course – to read the manual like a novel. Or to download the tiny installer and try it out. Anyway, the important thing about Reaper is its price tag: it is shareware. And it can do even more (and this even faster believe it or not) than PT.
    I think beginners would benefit a lot from a bundle including Reaper!
    best regards from good old Europe

    Reply
    • Graham

      Yep, I’m fully aware of reaper. Not for me, but I know users love it. Glad to have you around!

      Reply
  2. Ken

    In reading “myths” you say you prefer Pro Tool and call it the “industry standard.” Since I’m relatively new to home recording, I initially compared Pro Tools 9 to Logic Studio and, at the time (about 2 years ago) I selected Logic for a variety of “reasons” including the fact it was built for Mac use (which I assumed would eliminate or, at least, minimize compatibility problems). I also selected Logic based on its large package of plug-ins and that it visually appeared to be more compatible with the way I perceive the visualization of recorded digital music.

    Admittedly, I have not done very much home recording (due to other business obligations), so I haven’t become proficient with Logic (or anything else). I’ve just taken a couple of Guitar Center “seminars” on Pro Tool 10 and find it reasonably similar to Logic.

    My question is this: Financial considerations aside, since I’m in the early stage of my engineering endeavor and am not very familiar with ANY DAW, is the use of Pro Tools so significant to justify switching? In other words, since the quality of any recording is based on the quality of the performance, the song and the basic recorded sound quality (plus the mixing ability of the engineer), does the switch from Logic to Pro Tools really matter?

    Thanks in advance of your response . . .

    Reply
    • Joesi

      Hi Ken!

      I do both home recording and professional recording (by saying professional I mean producing jingles for TV and radio stations). As I mentioned earlier in this thread I tried many DAWs for the last 8 years. I’m absolutely besotted with Reaper but I know many engineers who love ProTools. (or Cubase, or Logic…you name it) It all depends on you. It’s a matter of taste. ProTools is renowned for it’s editing-which is quite intuitive and quick. In the meantime every DAW came up with its own way of editing and it’s up to you to decide what you like best. I love the Reaper-editing because it’s so similar to ProTools (but even more flexible). Noone can make that decision for you, you have to find out yourself (sorry for that).
      You mentioned plugins…Well, if you are after a huge amount of stock plugins Reaper could be for you. You get an incredible bunch of cool plugins (EQs, filters, convolution reverb, compressors, limiters, analysers, MIDI plugins,…)
      Reaper supports VST (as well as Cubase and others, except ProTools); that means you can get tons of free quality FXs in the www – BUT! be aware, you can get lost in the jungle of plugins. Decide what you need and don’t care about the overwhelming rest! Don’t let them impress you with cool GUI. It’s not the look, it’s the sound that counts. (There’s a Reaper-feature I love: you can switch from any GUI to simple Reaper-style faders on a grey background. So you have to LISTEN to what you are doing rather than watch).
      Although ProTools doesn’t support VST it doesn’t mean necessarily a constriction. Most high quality plugins are available as RTAS or AAX. Okay, you won’t find many free RTAS/AAX-FX, but so what? You don’t need thousands of free FXs you likely never touch again after you downloaded them :-)

      To answer your initial question: Is the difference significant enough to justify the switch?
      HMMMM…..Pepsi or Coca Cola. :-D
      best regards,
      Joesi

      Reply
    • Graham Cochrane

      I agree with Joesi, it really doesn’t matter which DAW you use, especially if you don’t have to share files with other studios a lot. Right now it’s hard to tell where Logic is going since it has been updated significantly for quite some time. But Logic is a legitimate DAW, so if you are familiar with it, stay with it.

      Reply
  3. Carl M Borsing

    I’m a media maker about to build a small project studio for serious acoustic recording and CDA stereo/DVD 5.1/7.1 surround mastering. I found your refreshing tutorials on YouTube since it’s been years ago I was involved with pro audio and felt some re-schooling was appropriate. Everything I do is about preparation so I immediately appreciated them for their clear basic down to earth approach especially since I experienced many weird so called FL video/photo professionals the past few years. We’ve since relocated and have heard wonderful music made by very talented people here in TN through their CD’s, only to find them lacking terribly when it comes to mixing and mastering and there’s really no excuse when a “pro studio” charges =/>$30-40/hour for a production of that quality. You and I clearly speak the same language as I feel I’d rather give free studio time to someone I like than accept weirdness from certain local individuals, no matter how much they pay me. I suppose it’s a curse originating from being a true artist myself ;o)

    Carl

    Reply
    • Graham

      Hi Carl, glad you found my site and appreciate your comment. Best of luck with your new studio space!

      Reply
  4. Ian

    So is there any deleterious effect of plugging an external pre into the DAW’s pre, I mean it’s not like you can turn the DAW’s off…….

    Reply
  5. Jim Dinan

    Hello Graham,

    How do you integrate video into recordings since that is where it is at

    I am exploring your craft for a hobby and I am a pure amateur and quite frankly my videos / recordings could actually be embarrassing.

    My second question is how do you know that what you put out there is just plain awful.

    Reply
    • Graham

      Hi Jim,

      I’m not the best video guy, but you would want to focus on the audio side first (i.e. get a great mix) then create a great video to sync up with the mix. Regarding knowing whether your stuff is good or not, you need people in your life that can give you honest feedback and encourage you to do your best work.

      Reply
  6. Ken

    Hi Graham

    Thanks for all this. I bought a mac which had garageband installed on it, and thought “ok, I can make some music”, so I bought a PreSonus interface and a Rode condenser mic. Then, rather than making music, I thought “no, I need more channels on my interface and some better/different mics”. I was hunting through articles and youtube videos on setting up home studios when I chanced upon your site. You’ve just saved me a fortune! I’ve stopped hunting and started recording. Ok, it may be cr*p, but it will get better if I persevere, and I have some music to play back, so thanks. Oh, and I bought the Ari Hest album for inspiration, and also your “The Tree” EP, not just because I wanted to give something back, but also cos it’s great!

    Cheers, and thanks for the sensible advice!

    Ken

    Reply
      • Ken

        No problem, I’ve been playing the EP and showing the website to a number of pals who play/sing, just ‘cos they’re great and everybody should know about them!

        Reply
  7. Niklas J. Blixt

    Good point about Pro Tools! I use Pro Tools myself professionally, and I agree with you that it’s the industry standard for a reason. But I think that almost any of the major DAWs out there are more or less equal in quality. It’s more about workflow and what works for you. I personally use Pro Tools because that was the first DAW I came in contact with and I’ve used it since. I’ve been trying some other DAWs at some points and I’ve been able to make great sounding recordings with them as well. But for me Pro Tools is my weapon of choice because I’ve spent most time working with it so I know it better than any other DAW. Had I spent as much time with lets say Cubase as I’ve done with Pro Tools I’d probably prefer Cubase.

    Point is, as Graham points out, how your recordings sound has little to do with the gear. It’s about YOU!

    Reply

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  1.  Home Recording Myths – Part 1 « The Recording Revolution
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  3.  Home Recording Myths – Part 1 | The Recording Revolution
  4.  Home Recording Myths | Missing Amelia Records

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Home Recording Myths – Part 1

Today I want to expose a few home recording myths floating around out there. The problem with myths is that...

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