3 Reasons To Invest In Your Studio Slowly

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If you’re like me you want to have your entire studio setup completely from day one. Whether you’re brand new to this, or have been a closet recording guru for years, you might be the type of person who wants your studio up and running with everything you could ever need (and maybe want) from Day 1.

Today, however, let me give you three very compelling reasons to do the exact opposite. I want to convince you to build up your studio as slowly as possible. Let’s dive in…

Reason #1 – You’ll Learn Your Gear Better

The absolute biggest reason to build your studio up piece by piece (or a few pieces at a time) is that it forces you to learn your gear. I mean really learn your gear inside and out. Think about it: if you buy an entire mic collection from day 1, after a handful of recording sessions you might only have scratched the surface on what your mics can do.

Contrast that to the person who starts out with a simple $100 microphone for a couple of years. After the same handful of recording sessions, that one mic guy is going to the full capabilities of his only mic because he’s been forced to lean on it alone to get all of his desired sounds.

Too many people have too much gear that they know too little about. This trend plagues the home recording market and creates a plethora of weakly formed opinions on the gear in question. Budget gear would have better reviews if people actually took the time to use the darn stuff!

Reason #2 – You’ll Get More Value Over Time

For those of you who don’t have money growing on a tree in your backyard, then you’ll appreciate this. One of the best things about investing in studio gear slowly is that you get way more value out of your purchases. Financially you are spending the same amount of money on paper, but in reality you are spreading those purchases out over time, allowing you to squeeze as much musical juice out of every dollar you spend.

It’s also a way of forced deferral of money being spent. If you wait to get that DAW upgrade next year, you allow yourself time to make some extra cash to pay for it. And all the while you are getting more projects done with your current DAW version. Thus you get more value for money already spent. Plus you are learning more about your DAW (see reason #1 above).

Reason #3 – You Won’t Get Into Debt

This whole post is predicated on the fact that you actually have money to spend. But let’s be honest, many people today are spending money they don’t have. All it takes is 30 seconds and a credit card to become a slave to some financial institution.

If you are going into debt to buy recording gear, you are foolish.

There aren’t many things in this world worth borrowing money for, and studio gear is definitely not one of them. For every person who drops $1000 of money they don’t have on gear that they want, there’s some teenager in his parent’s basement making a better sounding EP on an old laptop with free software.

Am I against spending money on gear? No way! But the best way to pay for your gear is with money. Actual money. So invest slowly, over time, when you can actually afford to buy, and you’ll avoid the debt trap.

This is especially important for those of you trying to run your studio as a business. The only way to really make a living is to run your business debt free. It keeps your overhead low, and forces you to make money with the gear you have, which you can then reinvest into your studio. What a concept!

 

 

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37 Responses to “3 Reasons To Invest In Your Studio Slowly”

  1. Mike

    this is sooooooooooooo true! Therefore BIG yes from someone who made all the mistakes possibly related to gear.

    There´s one aspect more to avoid massive gear investment all in one go.

    The manufacturers make you believe that the chance to buy the stuff as cheap as this will never come again. But the opposite ist true. We learnt that by painful experience.

    PlugIns get outdated sooner as we like. And then you get better ones for the same price or the same ones for a better price.

    Recent example:

    TC Electronics are renowned for their great reverbs. So I gladly bought the TC Powercore to grab one of these reverb plugins that were equal to the famous 6000er series. I thought I was clever to pick a plugin that the hardware buyers had formerly paid thousands of dollars for. Compared to me they seemed to be foolish to have invested more than 10000 dollars for something that was now available for a little more than 1000 dollars.

    I was not willing to first work with the stock plugins that came with the powercore which were also great sounding TC reverbs.

    Luckily I restrained myself to the VSS3, one of three reverb packages representing all the 6000er reverb algorithms.

    Just recently TC stopped the Powercore product line and sold out all the plugins for for a fraction of the price.

    So I bought the nonlinear Reverb and the EMT 250 Emulation and saved more than 400 Dollars compared to the regular price.

    Conclusion:

    You will never miss any chances to buy gear for a good price if you wait till you can pay it from the money your studio generates.

    Thanks for sharing, Graham

    Mike

    Reply
  2. Rob

    Hey Graham, maybe you could start a 12 step group?

    Hi, I’m Rob, and I am a gearaholic!

    Thanks for your post. I’m trying to resist the urge to buy more gear, and your posts help so much.

    Reply
  3. Heliophile

    Upgrading at a slower pace also means that you’ll learn much better what gear you truly need. You may, for example, discover that you only need two different mics, instead of the five you would have bought if you upgraded very rapidly.

    Reply
  4. Daniel C.

    Really like this article you wrote Graham. We all need to have patience when it comes to decisions like these. If not then we begin to fall based on our own selfish desires and short comings. Love it.

    Reply
  5. Lindsey

    This is certainly the case with plugins. Many of the plugins that I bought initially are hardly used now and this is because as I’ve learned how to use the rest of my gear better, I’m finding I don’t need them. Now if I think I want a plugin I wait for a while and usually don’t end up buying it!

    Reply
  6. Mastermind

    “For every person who drops $1000 of money they don’t have on gear that they want, there’s some teenager in his parent’s basement making a better sounding EP on an old laptop with free software.” So true!!!!!!! Another producer and I were talking about this just the other day. He remarked that he had a session where his ears were telling him that the mic he had chosen for a particular singer was perfect for her voice (and it was a pretty cheap mic), but his PRIDE kept forcing him to convince himself that the $3k U-87 HAD to be the best choice. Right? He had “justified” the purchase to his wife, so it HAD to be a great mic?
    I read tons of articles and it’s always interesting to read the ones–that usually never reach the light of day–about the young artists who are writing songs in their “untreated” garages with a cheap mic, an M-box and a laptop for major companies (like Sony, Warner Bros, etc), who end up using the mixes as they are. It’s a travesty…this article is RIGHT ON bro! Let’s commit to learning our craft, AND the gear that we already have!!!

    Reply
  7. Waddy P

    This is all so true. It’s not about the gear, it’s about what you do with it and what you get out of it. I started recording as a young kid on an Ampex reel to reel in the 1960′s (oops gave away my age) and would bounce between 2 stereo decks to multi-track. The equipment available today for hundreds of dollars equals what used to be the equivalent of a million dollar studio in the way back days. Just because you have great gear doesn’t = great sounding recordings. It takes a lot of practice and a good ear as well as learning a lot of tricks to end up with a great sounding recording.

    Reply
  8. Mark Rufino

    Graham, this is without a doubt the best post I have ever read on recording. I found about debt the hard way and have very little to show for it. Getting to debt free, and you are absolutely right about learning gear better. Thank you for writing this.

    Reply
  9. James Nunn

    Yet anothet great read!

    I agree! I started with a budget set up and have slowly added too it!

    Biggest waste of money in my opinion is plugin’s! Most forums rave about them,
    But to me a £500 plug in bundle or a nice analog pre? Thats a no brainer!
    A compressor plug in or an actual compressor there is a tonne of difference!
    I love buying gear bit by bit and hearing the difference even if it is a tiny one!

    Reply
  10. Max Velazquez

    So true so true I am living proof of how one can get into debt buying gear that “I thought” I needed only to sell the gear within the year.

    Those that are in debt looking for help, check out Dave Ramsey. Google him and his radio show.

    Reply
  11. neal

    Because I took my time and did tons of research I have no “gear regrets”. Everything is used, haven’t bought anything in years.

    What’s better than new gear? Old gear you’ve mastered.

    Reply
  12. Lee

    Well I’ve never borrowed money or gone into debt to purchase studio gear. If I ain’t got the cash, I don’t splash out.

    Reply
  13. Haiku

    Graham is wise beyond his years. I’m older than him and have been working in studios far longer than him and yet … I’m learning so much from him! What’s that all about?

    But today’s article is yet more profound advice and not just about gear and recording but about life in general.

    Keep up the great work. I’ve bought many of your videos by the way as a thank you as you give so much and it is so appreciated.

    Reply
    • Graham

      Thank you for the support Haiku. Appreciate your humility as well. We can all learn from each other!

      Reply
  14. Simon

    Agree 100%. Its taken me a long time to get the gear I have now but the learning journey has been so worth it and its not over yet!!

    Reply
  15. Glen

    What’s up Graham/Everyone,

    Not sure if you’ve heard of a guy named Jeremy Larson. In my opinion, he’s one of the best musicians in the West (and beyond) right now. He plays pretty much everything, and runs his own studio in Springfield, MO. If you recognize bands/artists such as Mutemath, Canon Blue, Sucre, Jon Foreman (of Switchfoot), and Paper Route (among others), you’ve likely heard Jeremy’s influence somehow. He has a few of his own records. He has a blog too. One time I emailed him when first starting my recording/mixing career. He emailed me back and answered all my questions, and gave me a link to one of his blog entries. I’ve attached it here. It talks about which order Jeremy suggests you should buy your gear when first starting out.

    If you guys haven’t heard of Jeremy Larson, you must change that immediately. His work will make you a better person at very least. Careful though. He may change your life.

    “August 30, 2011

    What To Buy, and When To Buy It

    I have to admit, I’m a little surprised that my brief mention of a car jacking with a hatchet didn’t peak anyone’s interest… I guess there’s not really much of a story there anyhow. That’s just what happened. I watched a man sprint at full speed toward a large SUV with a hatchet. He tried to get in, but the car sped around him. Pretty crazy.

    Moving on.

    Let’s do something fun here.

    Did any of you ever play Mega Man X for Super NES? It’s awesome. Now, when I first started playing it, I was trying to beat the levels by choosing one at random. What I didn’t know, is that there is an ideal order to beating the Boss’s. If you beat the Flame Mammoth first, he’ll give you what you need to beat the Chill Penguin and so on. If you go out of order, it’s almost impossible to beat. For the longest time, I kept thinking why is this game so damn hard?!? There’s a sequence to it.

    Buying gear is like Mega Man X.

    I’m going to tell you the order I think you should buy your gear in. Recording equipment is expensive, so many of us have to buy one piece at a time. For the sake of simplicity, let’s pretend you already have a computer, and Garage Band. In order of importance:

    1. A/D Converter: (that’s analog to digital converter)

    I bought this fairly late in the game, and I wish I would’ve bought it much sooner. I’m gonna be honest, it’s not a glamorous purchase. You plug it in, and it just sits there. Usually there aren’t many knobs to turn, and they don’t do much. You also don’t easily hear an immediate difference in the sound with a single track. It’s in the details of the mix. Buying a good converter improved my recordings more than any other purchase. Don’t skimp on this.

    2. Monitors: (your speakers)

    People always told me to “mix on what you’re used to”. I disagree. I say, mix on what exposes your flaws. When I bought my new monitors recently, my old mixes sounded terrible. The new monitors exposed a lot of chaos in the low mids. My old monitors seemed to just slap a bunch of makeup on my mixes and made me think they were ok. They weren’t.

    3. Room Treatment

    Now, I know that room treatment can cost a fortune, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Buy some bed foam, mattresses, blankets, etc. I don’t care what mic you are using, if you’re recording drums or acoustic guitar in a room with nasty acoustics, it’s gonna sound nasty. Your brain is going to tell you that if you just got the right mic, your drums would start sounding amazing. It’s just not true. I’ve used some very expensive microphones in really nasty rooms, and you know what, those mic’s captured that “nasty room sound” perfectly. It’s gotta sound good in the room first.

    4. Preamps

    Now we can move on to the fun stuff. Don’t buy a $100 outboard compressor or EQ. Your built in Garage Band plugins are probably every bit as good. Wait until you can drop some money into this. I have a different opinion on this than most people. I’ve worked with racks of tens of thousands of dollars worth of outboard gear, and found myself using everything sparingly. Recording is different than it used to be. If you’re like me, you’re afraid to commit to a sound right off the bat. I want to be able to change compression and EQ while I’m mixing, therefore I use a lot of plugins. I typically use preamps as a part of the signal chain, but not really for the “sound”. So if you’ve heard something I’ve recorded and thought, “man, I wonder what mic and preamp he used for that…”, it’s probably irrelevant. 90% of the “sound” probably came from me using plugins. People may do things differently, and that’s ok.

    5. Microphones

    I know, you were hoping this would be number one. Microphones are cool and sexy. I was using decent microphones before I bought any of this other stuff. It was a mistake. I was constantly disappointed that my thousand dollar microphone didn’t sound like a thousand dollars. I’ve heard amazing things come from the right singer in the right room, even with a cheap mic. Don’t rush out to buy a nice microphone. If you are just dying to get a cool looking workhorse mic, I’d recommend an SM7 (that’s not the same as a 57). I’ve used it live and in the studio, and I love it on almost everything. We even used it on Stacy’s voice for the live DVD and it came out beautiful. You can get a used one for about $300.

    Hope that helps someone out there. Thanks for reading.

    Jeremy”

    http://jeremylarson.typepad.com/jeremy_larson/recording/

    Reply
  16. Morten

    My advice would be: Get a job, work it hard, save money, buy a lot of gear. Then quit the job and start using the gear :-)

    Reply
  17. Fred H.

    Probably the most compelling reason to buy hardware later rather than sooner, for a computer musician, is the technological advancements that will have been made in the short time that the purchase was deferred. It’s not as great as Moore’s Law might have you believe… you won’t get twice the value for every 18 months you wait; but if you remain in the same pricing bracket you’ll almost always get more speed, memory, features, signal:noise and/or channels. Now reliability and good drivers that doesn’t always improve but that’s another post, I suppose.

    Reply
  18. Niklas J. Blixt

    #1 is the exact reason why I decided to sell a lot of gear a couple of years ago, to start learning the gear I kept inside out. I had a couple of outboard compressors and so on but I almost hadn’t touched the one in my DAW so I didn’t really know witch one was the better. Since I only knew what the outboard sounded. And the bottom line of this is that your skill level makes huge more difference then the amount of gear you own. Your own skill should be the biggest investment in your studio.

    Reply
  19. Tomas

    This is gospel. I’ve found that austerity is one’s #1 ally when it comes to learning to produce music. It’s the same principle as using a single model for each type of plugin (one eq, one compressor, etc) in all your mixes

    Reply
  20. Jordan

    I love this philosophy, I’m always trying to squeeze the last bit of life out of EVERYTHING before I move on, knowing full well it will only make me BETTER when I finally have that thing I want so badly

    Reply
  21. John Santos

    Quite true…It applies to my situation with some basic, aging gear but I manage to produce decent music….I felt handicapped at first, but Graham’s articles are enlightening !

    Reply

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