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Burning The Candle At Both Ends 183

Posted by michael
from the home-office-deduction dept.
The Fanfan sends us this: "A very interesting article in today's New York Times on how home studios are breaking the stronghold of recording companies on music production. Nowadays, anyone with some talent, a PC and a couple of peripherals and good mikes can produce music which would have required spending weeks in an expensive professional recording studio five years ago. Only recording companies could pay those expenses. So, the same way Napster and the Net at large have already seriously eroded their monopoly on distribution, are home studios the other (unsung) heroes of the war against BMG, EMI, Sony and altars?" This fits in well with the article we just posted.
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Burning the Candle at Both Ends

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  • by Lonesmurf (88531) on Sunday February 11, 2001 @05:57AM (#440352) Homepage
    I read the article without any great reservations -- I knew it was a fluff piece, but I didn't realise it was cotton candy. When I came to the part when the author stated that people would soon be recording music on a pro level with "little plastic microphones", I dropped my cup of water because I was laughing (well, snorting) so loud.

    I used to work for Altec Lansing [altecmm.com] in their R&D center, here in Israel. We worked some on some directional microphone tech which is very cool. They sell it now in the InteliMic package. Even with this great mic, there is still residual sound, distortion, hollowness, etc.

    I'm sorry to break this to you, man, but there is no way in hell that some "little plastic microphone" will ever hit the level of quality [rogernichols.com] microphone. And then there is the studio environment (you know, of course, that your home is not really as quiet as you would think), the professional mixers, etc.

    Me thinks that this is just another ad revenue piece that panders to the drooling masses that have (well, sort of thankfully) found a target in the RIAA.

    Rami
    --
  • And you contradict yourself. You first say that an expensive room is necessary. then you say that Les had mics over the kitchen sink. I really doubt that kitchen sinks are conducive to good acoustics.

    Thery're not, agreed. But then, Les was recording onto 8-track analog tape and was going to be bouncing many times...I doubt if he recorded lead vocals there, just extra little vocal bits.

    My answer is, you can put anachoic tile and foam anywhere and get a good room, but if you just try mics in different locations in your house, you'd be surprised at how good some creative locations can sound!

    You can get a deader sounding room, but not a good room. And dead sound doesn't make the room actually quieter. The acoustic treatment doesn't have to be expensive, but making the walls thick is. There's a reason people building recording studios use isolated stud construction, construct floating slab floors...and it's not just to spend money.

  • "That does not give you the mass necessary to actually block outside sounds. Much of the new home studio equipment is 24bit/96khz with a dynamic range. What you propose might work fine for recording a punk band that is not using the lower end of the dynamic range possible."

    You are right. If you are in the middle of a big noisy city, it won't do the trick for keeping outside sounds out. I live out in the country and there aren't any outside sounds to block. The styrofoam and carpet is to make it possible to get decent sound when recording drums. I should have been more specific.

  • Very well stated!
  • "The band gets cues off of each other when they are playing live. When you separate them out, the body-language cues are gone, the band looses the "vibe" and "energy" they get when they are playing live"

    That is the reason for recording the reference track. If they can't play without the others, let them all listen on headphones and play along with the recorded reference track. Turn off the inputs for everyone except the one you are recording.
  • As for the middle [marketing]: they've never been as good at this as they've claimed, and the Net provides a new medium that, by all accounts, they fail to understand.

    They've been wonderful at marketing. Have you looked at the charts lately? Sales are concentrating on a relatively small number of heavily promoted groups. Note that one producer is responsible for two or three of the best selling acts in the business today.

    I don't think the net is going to change the mass-market as much as people think it is. What it is going to do is allow the rest of the world access to more targeted channels; in other words, MTV will still promote Christina Aguilera and Eminem-- but there will be many more alternatives to MTV. Even though sales of the kinds of music I listen to will never approach those of Britney Spears, I will at least be able to hear those bands with a much higher signal-to-noise ratio.

    I think those people who imagine that this is going to destroy the record industry are badly mistaken. It will allow artists more choice, it will allow customers to avoid the crap (and record companies will eventually get in on this) but it isn't going to end their domination (unless, possibly, they get wiped out by their mishandling of copyright issues.)

  • Pretty much everyone said that you can't get a home recording to sound as good as a professional recording.

    Imagine this scenerio: a lot of people are angry at the music industry because they're a bunch of greedy people who profit off some artists' hard work. Most artists have trouble even breaking even after the expense of producing an album. Now I don't know about anyone else here, but I'd rather pay the artist directly for a home recording that sounds pretty good than pay the greedy recording industry for a version that sounds really good. I'm not talking about buying crap, either, I'm talking about buying truly artistic work, even if it sounds kind of hollow.

    If enough people would actually start doing this, artists will actually *profit* from their work, which would make it possible for them to get better equipment and produce better sounding music. So quit supporting the stupid music industry. They take your money and use it to pass legislation to take away our rights to fair use. Support the artists who deserve to be supported.

    -NGH

    "The tomorrow of Windows is the yesterday of UNIX."

  • by fornix (30268) on Sunday February 11, 2001 @10:08AM (#440359) Homepage
    Tech is not the limiting factor anymore. Not by a long shot. For less than the price of a decent used car, you can make excellent sounding music in your bedroom! The cheap semi-pro stuff became "good enough" several years ago. The only real limitation now is your musical vision and performance.

    Need proof? It's all over mp3.com. For example, this guy [mp3s.com] (no relation to myself) blows my mind with the sound he gets from semi-pro gear. That song "Lie" sounds like it might have been one that Lennon cut in the studio. And you know what? All his stuff was recorded in his bedroom with an AT4033 condensor mic (~$500), Alesis SR-16 drum machine (~$250), Roland V Drums ($2-3000), Roland VS1680 ($2500 with effects cards), ART Tube PAC (couple hundred $) and his guitars. The guitar sounds were all done with the VS1680 amp sims! No live amps. No fancy preamps. No acoustically treated room necessary. And it is pro quality. I know of many other examples like this on mp3.com

    Nothing's holding you back if you have the musical talent and you're willing to put in the time necessary to learn how to engineer a good sound. The semi-pro stuff is now about 85-90% as good sounding as the most expensive stuff. A $500 condensor mic is good enough to get your point across in hi fidelity - you really don't need a U87 to make music that is enjoyable.
  • Working in a professional studio does not make you a great musician.
    Working as a UNIX admin does not guarantee competency.
    Being a great musician has nothing to do with what equipment you use.

    There have always been and and always will be those with talent and those without. Great musicians will make great music regardless of what tools are available to them. The difference is, now all the great musicians who couldn't shell out $50+ (at minimum) an hour to get into a studio can now afford to make great music at all, instead of fucking around on a $50 guitar and never showing how good they are to anyone but their friends and family, and never sharing their talent with anyone.

    1st Law Of Networking: Loose ends are bad, termination is good.

  • There's no excuse for lossy compression these days, when CD audio can be losslessly compressed at a ratio of 2:1 and hard drives are less than three dollars a gig.

    Which creates huge problems if you want to send CD audio from one place to another. You have to either pay through the nose for bandwidth (even 2:1 compressed it's 700 kilobits per second, and 56K dialup is still the fastest access available in many areas), or burn the audio onto CD and send it through snail mail. Streaming is out of the question unless you're Hollywood and can afford the infrastructure to every home in the target market.


    Like Tetris? Like drugs? Ever try combining them? [pineight.com]
  • Besides equipment, you also need an "ear". I've been mixing sound in a large group setting (mostly church audio) for years and years, and recently I had a miserable time mixing my first album in a real studio - after a few songs I started to get the hang of it, but it's not for newbies. Even by the end it didn't really sound GOOD - just acceptable. And as has already been stated in this discussion, an evenly balanced acoustical environment is critical.

    The one advantage the "big boys" have, that no home studio run by an amateur will EVER duplicate (on the first, second, third, or even tenth album), is experience at mixing. You can't just balance all the levels and call it done - getting the tonal characteristics, the details, the effects, etc. all in there only comes with lots of time.

    BTW, if you want to hear our band's attempts [simusic.com], I've got an MP3 sampler here [simusic.com] (about 4 mb). Great tunes, but average mix - all in all a good example of what an amateur will usually produce, even in a decent studio.
    * ~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-
    * Split Infinity Music [simusic.com]

  • Actually, the PC can do what a Mac could do 10 years ago, what some rented analog gear could do 15 years ago, and what the punks started doing over 25 years ago.

    Actually, this is totally wrong. Price out some of the lower end Digidesign [digidesign.com] or MOTU [motu.com] cards/racks, then tell me how far that amount would have gotten you 25 years ago (adjusted for inflation, of course). The big difference is that your home recorded music can end up on CD sounding good rather than a self released cassette. Remember those?

    Since, the "near death" of Apple a couple years ago, most major third party hardware and software is available for both Windows and Mac OS, with the same functionality. And yes, you do need third party hardware, even on the Mac. To name a few of the major players: Steinberg [steinberg.net], Emagic [emagic.de], Opcode [opcode.com], Sonic Foundry [sonicfoundry.com], etc.

    A short history on music production and distribution:
    blah, blah, blah

    This amusingly myopic regurgitation of dated rock critic wisdom is so terrible that I'll bring up only the worst points of it and then point you to some good resources so you can get a better handle on things.

    The major problem with your "history" is that it neglects to mention black people until Public Enemy and NWA. Don't forget that the black community has played a major role in the invention of every American music, from jazz to rap to techno. Furthermore, they've had their own distribution channels in the past, and still do today.

    While perhaps making for convenient comparisons to Britney, et al. , your explanation of the differences between AM/FM and 33/45 are grossly exagerated and, in some cases, incorrect. A lot of this has to do with the fact that you forgot black people, whose music is often more appropriately presented in a singles format.

    Perhaps you best check out these places:
    All Music [allmusic.com]
    The Mechanic's Guide to Putting Out Records, Cassettes and CDs [indiecentre.com]
    Home Recording at About.com [about.com]

  • by fatmantis (218867) on Sunday February 11, 2001 @10:14AM (#440364) Homepage
    those are some seriously good points, but I'm afraid you're just towing the party line here, mick. I want to point you to some of the best sounding albums ever put to wax, namely

    White Light / White Heat (velvet underground)
    Piper at the Gates of Dawn (the Pink Floyd)
    Damaged (Black Flag)
    Loveless (My Bloody Valentine)

    the overarching point being that it isn't the recording space, gear or even engineering that brought those records together, rather it was inspiration, showmanship and a vision of what makes an album a great album.

    With the exception of Loveless and to an extent, Piper, no studio is needed or wanted for the true masterpiece. Not a single $90,000 compressor was used on any of these albums. no $2M 'desk' (your parlance) was required to complete WL/WH, it was recorded in an abandoned church with a greasy 2 track. sure, they may have had 220v ribbon mikes, but those weren't ridiculously vauntedly overvalued by a mob of hoodwinked guitar-center junkies. It was all just old crappy gear being used by people who'd transcended the status quo of the music industry.

    And now, with my Pod and my Tascam MD 8track, my cluster of smc '57 and a nice stretch of hardwood floors, I can attain better sounds than they got on Rubber Soul. all it takes is a little imagination and a a bit of tweeking in sound forge...
  • I have to disagree about the current importance of MP3s. I will admit that their popularity is increasing, but they still don't garner nearly the attention and market share that recordings from the major labels do. Look at the upcoming Grammy awards. How many non-major-label artists are likely to win anything? Granted, the Grammys are a product of the recording industry, but do you see an MP3 awards show getting the press and television coverage the Grammys are? Of course not. Like it or not, the major labels still command a lion's share of the music scene. If you believe for one minute that most people in this country aren't being influenced by the mass media in their music-buying decisions, then go to your local shopping mall and ask each person who passes you how many MP3s they downloaded this week and what non-major label albums that prompted them to buy. I guarantee you that a significant number of folks won't even know what an MP3 is. After you get right down to it, you're going to find that only a small minority are not relying on the mass media when making their buying decisions. Don't forget that the majority of Americans aren't even connected to the Internet. And as for my statement about getting exposure through independent record stores, I didn't say this was a sure-fire way to succeed, but a vast majority of bands never get much farther than their garages anyway. And there most certainly are independent record stores in smaller cities. They usually crop up in college towns, places where alternative music thrives.
  • Like anything else, it takes practice... you don't just pick up a guitar and play Stairway to Heaven, do you? (OK, bad example ;)

    1st Law Of Networking: Loose ends are bad, termination is good.

  • Lossy compression will never be "passe".

    Compression doesn't always mean producing the same or lower quality at a lower bitrate. It can also be used to produce *higher* quality at the *same* bitrate.

    For whatever given bitrate you're willing to deal with, it _always_ makes sense to perform lossy compression. A good compression system running at 700kb/s (1/2 CD audio's bitrate) could have quality far superior to CD.

  • Just to throw in an example of this... Three Doors Down (you know, the guys who sing that "Kryponite" song) were total unknowns down in Mississippi(?) before steps 1-6 happened. The only difference is that instead of distributing through a Napster or a Gnutella, they got signed.

    Right away, the music companies started to screw them out of their profits. I wish I remembered where I read it, there was a great interview with/article about the band where they talked about how they'd all immediately started putting a big chunk of their money in 401Ks, blue-chip investments, and attempting not to let the music company sucker the dough back into their own pockets.

    I happen to like Three Doors Down, and think they have a good sound. It's a damn shame that the time they used to spend playing in local joints to make cash, they now have to spend defending what should be their profits against the people who have already taken so much ca$h for the dubious privelege of putting them on the top 40.
  • Well the issue here is not distribution ( i'll cover that part below) but creation.

    Currently only the very big music studio's with very high quality engineer's are getting bookings for there time. Alot of studios are very worried and some have gone for sale in the past 4 months.

    Anybody with about 12K can create a music studio in there home that would replicate a quality music studio. there they can master a good demo ( we get alot of demos for our show and some are very very good )

    As for distibution, that's were the labels come in. Everyone has to have a distribution deal if they even want to have a chance. Discovering an artist is still a Label thing . that's why they pay a finders fee ( up to 20K ) for those that are willing to gather demos, listen to them, weed out the garbage and present to them the final fee that make it.

    Our team has a different approach to this.

    We have ton's of demos that we listen to every day. we weed out the basic crap. after that we tell all the lables about our finds ( we tell the artist to post there music at a web site for the label to download them. after that it's up to the label to contact the Musicians. All we ask for in return is access to their artist to place on our show. We find that by staying totaly nuetral that the labels give us more respect and better quality interviews.

    ONEPOINT

    spambait e-mail
    my web site artistcorner.tv hip-hop music news
    please help me make it better
  • In addition to its "state of the art" recording equipment, a good recording studio also requires musicians, engineers, secretaries and janitors, not to mention interior decorators, limousine service and snacks for hungry artists, all of which means additional expense.

    ya, every time I have ever been in a 'recording' studio, it didn't have any 'limousine' service( or if it did, it was our van!). The janitor is usually the guy behind the mixer, the snacks are whatever we brought with us. Last recording studio I was at, had a frickin' bullet hole going through the back door!

  • yer damn right dude!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Having Photoshop on your computer does not make you a great artist.
    Installing Red Hat does not make you a unix expert.
    Being able to do high-quality sound recordings with your PC does not make you a great musician.
  • Of course, moving from 5 to 6 is almost impossible without some sort of "pull". Either you have a label behind you, you know someone at the station, or there are drugs involved (beleive me, more than one hit song has become a hit due to a cocaine shipment arriving on time).

    rr

  • Last night a friend of mine played my his latest mix he arranged using Acid. (Sweet, sweet program). It sounded just like a studio recording, and was incredible quality. He did this in a day on him home PC. So for a grand or so, anyone can get the music down. Of course it still takes talent to make the music.
  • I make beats and rhymes. Coming down the pipe to you soon. Here's the distribution model I'm planning; let me know what you think.

    I'm producing all my stuff on a Win2000 Pro box with the standard stuff, ReBirth, Cubase, Sound Forge, Acid, bla bla, f'ing bla. All the tunes are saved on a Linux box with 80 gigs, 128MB RAM, and a 633 Celery over SAMBA. I'll be encoding to ogg and mp3. This ass spanking newborn box is connected to my 1mbit dsl line. My hacker gang on-line collaborates to point the desired domain to the desired dymamic IP. I'll serve up the mp3s using Apache from a very simple and basic web page. In other words, I will be my distributor. I'll market myself on-line and in the clubs in the Bay Area where I live.

    If this is the dawn of a new era for artists, I'll see soon. Later y'all.

    -Natedawg the Frisco Disco Donkey Kong Babeeee!
  • Hey, sorry if I put your post in the wrong light - it just happened to trigger a pent up rant.
  • "NO artist has made several hundred thousand dollars from publishing their music on mp3.com."

    Please take a look at this group [mp3.com] under MP3.com earnings. $188,533.19
  • How does the sound of something recorded on a portastudio compare to something recorded on a professional 2" tape machine?

    It can sound damned close - and good enough anyway. Definitely comparable. Check out this guy's stuff [garageband.com] if you realy want to know. It was recorded on a four track cassette with SM57's. Springsteen cut his album "Nebraska" on a four track cassette and he was already an established star. The quality was good enough.

    The revolution did begin with 4 track cassettes. Is it the sonic equal of 2" tape? No, but close enough. Quality vs price in audio gear approaches an asymptote - once you spend a modest amount of $$$, additional money spent results in only a relatively small increase in quality.
  • Imagine two news groups, one dedicated to announcing new up and coming OSes; one dedicated to up and coming bands.

    I'm guessing the one announcing new bands would have a fairly significatant amount of traffic :)

    People rely on radio stations (for better or for worse) to filter out the "crap" for them. The only way I see a completey opened up music market working is if people rely on their music entusiast buddies to filter out the "crap" again for them; but on a micro level of sorts.

    For alot of us getting ahold of some music that doesn't completely suck is all we're looking for. Sure, sometimes it's nice to have something to listen to that completely blows your hair back and all; but _finding_ that among all the music simply takes a long time.

    Yeah.. that was probably a pointless post.

    Justin Buist
  • Do you feel the same way about music, or do you really want Christina, Britney, *NSUCK, and Backstreet Boys to fill the airwaves? The content that can't stand up on its own and leans on its marketing is not the true content.

    Of course I don't feel the same way about music, that's why I posted a message on Slashdot to say so. My point was not that we need the crappy music the music industry provides. It was that it will be much harder to replace the big budget movie industry than it will be to replace the music industry. Although it would be cute to see your Quake mod, it wouldn't go very far towards replacing what I get out of movies.

    It takes a fairly small investment to produce music that rivals anything the music industry produces. I think it will be a long time before the same can be said for movies. So if I felt morally obligated to boycott products associated with the RIAA and MPAA, or if I were witness to these bloated industries collapsing, I'd probably miss the MPAA more. Their product, crappy as it usually is, is not yet reproducible on a shoestring budget.

  • by lamz (60321)
    Hilarious!
    Mike van Lammeren
  • Think Brittany Spears and nSync.

    Ick. I'd love to smear their brains all over the pavement.

    Rami
    --
  • OK, making music is one thing. How about distribution? How is an unknown artist going to get his new home made CD on the shelves of HMV or Wal Mart?
  • This is a very naive, yet elitist point of view. Do you really think that the success of a song hinges upon the subtle differences between "professional" mixes & mastering and what can be accomplished by a self producing musician with good ears? Do you think people are going to be singing along with a catchy tune and then stop to ponder whether the snare needs a narrow band cut at 5K? Or if a second pass of compression on the bass would have made it sturdier?

    And your point about having to do some sort of apprenticeship is just plain wrong too. It is no different than any other aspect of creating music. You can learn it (and invent it) on your own. Just like they way you learn to play guitar - in your bedroom with a bunch of reference recordings. Do you think that audio engineers are the only people who have good ears? Do you think it isn't possible for people to change mic placements and tweak knobs until they like the sounds? And if someone is bent on having instruction, there are plenty of resources on the net with people like you dispensing valuable advice based on experience.

    Amatuer production is easily good enough if you are serious about working. And besides, it's the songs that really matter, not the glitter and gloss of production. That's one thing that we should have learned from the 80's. No amount of mixing and tweaking will save a crappy song. And on the other hand, a great song will shine through no matter what the level of production.
  • by mcrbids (148650) on Sunday February 11, 2001 @11:36AM (#440391) Journal
    Duh!

    Can you say 'yard sale'?

    I have a buddy with an impressive self-studio with real high-quality gear, put together entirely with yard-sale stuff!

    Alot of H/K, Altec Lansing, boom / directional / cardioid mics - the whole shootin' match, replete with 4 track mini-studio!

    I doubt he's spent over $1000 on all of it... (in fact, he's often sold a guitar or two at a significant profit!)

    But, yer right - a $12 PC 'boom mic' isn't ever going to sound like anything but tin and plastic..

    -Ben
  • I think that with individuals being able to run their own recording studios in their livingrooms we could see a move to making attainment of music much cheaper or even free.

    The article mentions that perhaps the industry's move to implement watermarking will allow independent artists to distribute music using that technology. I don't quite see that happening, as I feel the RIAA will want to keep that technology to themselves.

    What I think will happen, and should happen, is that musical artists should throw out their creations for free all over the Internet and elsewhere. Make themselves heard. I think their real compensation in the future will come from charging for live interaction.

    Most of the music I listen to comes from local independent musicians who give away their CD's. But they are so good, it's worth every dollar to go see them at pubs and concert halls around town. It helps generate human contact and you spend time hanging out with your friends drinking beer and listening to good music. And this isn't just your back garage punk band...that isn't my mainstay of music nowadays (of course I still listen to it). These bands range from rock to ska to electronic DJ's to Jazz fusion and even classical. There is nothing quite as fun as being only 5 feet away from a good band...maybe even having a beer with them afterwards.

    I'm sure touring is hard on bands, but most of my musician friends love it. They get to travel around, meet new people and do what they love doing. It helps inspire a better sense of community. Some of the extra good local bands here now have some followings in other states too. If I get a bands CD for free over the Internet, hear how good they are and hear rave reviews of their local concerts...I would travel across state to see them.

    I don't know if their popularity will ever quite soar to where someone is shelling out $150 a ticket (yuk...U2!) to sit far away from the musicians in a large stadium. Rather impersonal. But I think those type of concerts will die out as well, once the RIAA loses its grip some more and stops the endless promoting of no-talen bands like N-sync and the like. Once they start losing their marketing grip, newer generations wont be so brainwashed into believing the tripe they promote today.

    So in conclusion, I think these super-cheap home studios will lead to more free music for all. This will generate musicians who truly focus on their music and promote themselves through the community...not some faceless, money-grabbing corporation.

    - not your normal AC

  • it isn't so much that home studios are breaking the hold of the recording companies, its that the recording companies are becoming home studios.

    Most of the name producers I know, have home studios as powerful as the ones they have at work. They may not have acoustic chambers or other stuff, but they got enough to record a rawk act.

    I've got a pretty rudimentary studio right now...a several keyboards, a few computers a few racks and stuff, and its more powerful than the studios I had paid $50 an hour for in the late 80s. Hell, my Powerbook alone is more powerful than most of these places.

    The shift has already started. People record most of their tracks at home, then only go into the studio when they need either a producer or equipment they don't have. I don't have good vocal mics, or a vocal booth, the few folks I've recorded at my place end up tracking everything but the vocals at my place. Hell with the new Antaries Mic Modeller and some noise reduction software, I could stick the singer infront of an expensive reference mic in my walk in closet and most folks wouldn't know the difference.

    If ya are interested in home studios, take a stroll on down to Sonikmatter.com [slashdot.org] and read through our forums. Several in our community are well known producer types as well as a few name musicians (heh...you'll have to read for a while before ya figure any of them out though). We are all working on integrating studio technology into the home and we don't care if yer using PCs Macs Be Linux or even Ataris (lots of our european audience are still using old Atari STs I believe...)

    clif
  • None of this is really news, home recording equipment costs have plummeted since the initial introduction of the TEAC PortaStudio cassette multitracker many years ago.

    I wrote/recorded my own music on a home studio, mp3s of some of them are available at mp3music.kritek.com [kritek.com].

    The notion of relying on a big record company is absurd to me, but then I'm not trying to make a living playing music anymore, I write/record/release my material for the PEOPLE, not the corporations. I know there are people that enjoy freely available music, and my music in particular, so have at it.

  • by blakestah (91866) <blakestah@gmail.com> on Sunday February 11, 2001 @06:13AM (#440398) Homepage
    Young band makes it on the local scene.

    They cut a CD, because it is fairly easy, and nowadays everyone is doing it.

    They go nowhere.

    Record company comes along, and offers to make them rock stars, if they will sign over all copyright for 10 years and guarantee 7 new CDs, with an opt out for the recording company if the band crashes and burns. This is the dilemma. The band either joins the market forces and potentially becomes rich, or tries to make it on their own, and dies poor.

    Access to recording studios has been costly, but never a limiting factor. Recording studios PROMOTE artists with ways and means beyond that of any garage band.

    And we all KNOW good marketing and sales beats a good product every time. Look at Iomega and Syquest. CP/M and DOS. Heck, look at ANY Microsoft product.

    Napster is nice for making the bands closer to their fans, but AIRTIME and PROMOTION with lots of CASH will continue to make bands.
  • "
    I never said you couldn't make good art at home. I just said it'll never sound as good as the big boys.
    "

    I strongly contend that home stuff can sound better that the big boys.

    Recording live gigs to 2 track DAT + bundle of SM57s + SM58s + a few condensors + Soundcraft Live4 mixer gives a good result.

    The big boys when recording a live gig compress the final output to buggery - just to make it sound better on cheap reproduction equipment.

    I don't care about cheap equipment - I have expensive equipment so I end up with a more natural sounding live recording than any 'professional' live recording I've ever bought because I've not had reams of compression and EQ added to the final mix to beef out the sound.

    Admittedly this is in the semi-pro level, the equipment is owned by College for the student gigs and has a much larger budget than I could manage plus the advantage of soudn engineers that have done a variety of venues and different bands rather than recording their own stuff, but it is still possible to get some excellent results.

  • SM57's are not generally used for studio recording because they are, frankly, crap. They are mostly used for live performances, where the fact that they are bullet-proof and extremely directional makes up for the fact that they have a lousy frequency response curve, and even there the top bands mostly use Beta-57's (which are hand-sorted SM-57's selected for better frequency response).

    You can get a better notion of what mikes are currently preferred for home recording by going over to alt.music.4-track (which despite its name is about home recording of all kinds). It appears that various small and large diaphragm condenser mikes are preferred for most purposes, with vintage mikes such as the SM-57 relegated to those times when you want a vintage sound. Microphones like the Marshal MXL-2001 and the Oktava MC-012 are a bit more expensive than an SM-57 (going for around $200-$300 rather than under $100 like an SM-57), but considering that a band can spend $15,000 for a 3-day recording session at a "real" recording studio, that's hardly a major expense.

    -E

  • Thanks! This gives me a lot to think about. Here's how I'd attack the problems you raise, though as I say I'm no expert and this could be nonsense.

    On cheap mics. Bear in mind that you help the software out with calibration: play the mic a tuning fork and let the software figure out the parameters of the distortion compensation. Sure, tolerances will have to be higher than those of the cheapest mics to remove pure random noise (eg thermal noise), but software could still improve the mics.

    On active soundproofing. First, renting a soundproof room is really expensive and inconvenient for lots of musicians who'd rather record in their bedroom. So it doesn't have to be all that good or all that cheap before people will use it. Second, I'm hoping that we can make mikes cheaper! Third, I'm assuming that processing power is basically free, since it halves in price every eighteen months. Fourth, in theory the software might be able to do its own setup; set the mikes up, leave the room for 20 minutes, and the software uses the noise it's supposed to be cancelling to figure out the relative positions of the microphones and the cancellation parameters.

    The difference doesn't have to be negligible. The quality might be worse. As we move away from the world of big budget record company bonanzas, we'll see more people sacrificing quality for savings in money and convenience.
    --
  • You can compensate for many problems with microphones and acoustics using signal processing. It's kind of like modems can compensate for many problems with telephone lines and still give you very high data rates. Cheap sensors with smart processing is the future of audio and video.
  • What would you consider a better quality representation of a song, the whole song in near-CD quality or a short snippet in CD quality?

    But that's not what I'm getting at. My point is that with lossy compression, it's possible to have a smaller or equal size file with the whole song in *better* than CD quality if you compress it down from a high quality source. (say, the original 96KHz/24bit studio file)

  • "the overarching point being that it isn't the recording space, gear or even engineering that brought those records together, rather it was inspiration, showmanship and a vision of what makes an album a great album."

    Also try Michelle Shocked's "Texas Campfire Tapes" -- recorded on a minidisc at a campfire, Gomez's "Bring it On" -- recorded in the band's garage (and IMHO far better than the next album, Liquid Skin, recorded at Abbey Road).

    In the realms of Electronica, of course, it's even easier to get a professional sound on a shoestring. All those early Orbital albums... yum.

    --
  • If you are making what I would classify as "parasitic" music ie. DJ stuff, some techno, some hip-hop you can pick up some software for a few hundred bucks and maybe one decent mic and you are set

    As opposed to, say, "parasitic" music like Elvis Presley, or most early rock & roll, or Robert Johnson's producers, all of which ripped off earlier blues styles and musicians wholesale without credit or compensation?

    (Now go download some symbiotic music [prmsystems.com] to listen to).

  • Talking about the Napster revolution is a moot issue.

    There has not been a chart hit so far that came purely from MP3, without the help of the industry.

    Give me just one counter example. Where are all those indepentend artists making a buck off MP3 music?

    When I'm on Napster, people keep downloading the mass market music from my hard disk. I've stopped offering it now and only offer my own group's music. Guess what - nobody cares about it.

    Oh, and while you're at it, buy my group's album [sechsrichtige.de]. Thank you. :-)

    ------------------
  • by Eric Green (627) on Sunday February 11, 2001 @12:21PM (#440417) Homepage
    I agree that getting a home recording to sound like what plays on the top 40 is not achievable by most people. On the other hand, not everybody WANTS their music to sound like the overproduced underwhelming crap that plays on the top 40.

    People believe that overproduced overhyped drivel sounds good because they've been culturally acclimated into believing so. When the majority of music is once again home produced, as it was prior to the invention of the record, it is unlikely that the overproduced sound will survive. People will once again become accustomed to listening to real music, warts and all, rather than the sterile edifices to perfection that characterise big-studio productions.

    -E

  • first off, I'd like to point at this article on salon by Courtney Love about the money an artist makes. http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2000/06/14/love/ index.html Now, if an artist or group foots the bill themselves and manages to get 2 bucks a CD while touring, are they gonna make more or less than a record deal if they handle all the promotion? How many CD's do they need to sell to turn a profit? IF they use Napster as a promotional tool, and give away some music they could easily recoup their investment and make some money by selling off a website. Once more musicians realise that self promotion can net them more dollars in the end, I suspect a lot of artists will ignore the big labels. College and Internet Radio are excellent promotional tools. To make money as an artist with a recording contract, you need to sell millions of copies. To do it without, you only need to sell thousands.
  • I think the real point though, is that in the not to distant future, home recording with studio quality is going to be a reality.


    Perhaps, but my point was that they won't be doing it with sub par equipment. They still need a quiet (preferably sound-proofed) place to record, and good microphones. What the author was, I think, trying to say was that the PC is going to soon be replacing the mixer and studio setup. Since the PC is multi purpose, it is cheaper and takes up less space. I'm amazed he got an entire article out of that.

    It just takes some talent and elbow grease.


    That's a copout if I ever heard one. The fact is that it takes talent and elbow grease no matter where you are or what setup you are using. I somehow think that it is invariably obvious that when a team of professionals and a studio is replaced with some people (experienced or otherwise) and a PC, there is going to be extra work and lower quality. (Don't quote me on that lower-quality thing. With the advent of pop-smear bands and the crap that pollutes out airwaves, it wouldn't surprise me if my little brother (13) could make a hit on that level.)

    Rami
    --
  • One can (if a bit wistfully) think that indeed, perhaps people can take their music back. Studios are not people. They are large artificial constructs held together by predictable laws of capital and profit. Perhaps by being the hoi polloi, the numerous, the People, by gum, we can remove them from power and put People before Corporations, instead of vice versa.

    Dang, I'm getting all philosophical...

  • by typedef (139123) on Sunday February 11, 2001 @06:41AM (#440426)
    Just listen to the high quality of this [efront.com] mp3. Can you believe this is self produced? Its amazing what you can do with computers these days. I envision that the corporate entity of music that we know today will eventually be replaced with a culture built off of self expression rather than making money. For a couple more of this artist's mp3's check here [efront.com] and here [efront.com].
  • Blockquoth the poster:
    in other words, MTV will still promote Christina Aguilera and Eminem-- but there will be many more alternatives to MTV
    But, the advantage and the power of the recording companies lies almost entirely in their uniqueness ... It's their way or the highway, and the highway doesn't go anywhere. But now, the Net is paving new roads.

    Breaking the distribution modes breaks the marketing monopoly. I am an optimist, I guess, but I think that if the good stuff is out there, it will get promoted. I think that the Media Moguls do have an impact, but less than is usually believed.

  • w/o record companies, no music is ever going to "get famous" no musician is ever going to "make it big".

    Unless the music is just earth-shatteringly great.

    IOW - I won't be wasting $20 on some crap. Unless it's a local band I know and like. Reviewers will have millions of bands to listen to, and of course a corrupt system of bribes and kickbacks will have to grow to replace the one we have today - but mostly, on the word of music reviewers, word of mouth, etc. these new musicians of the future will gain hold like this, or perish into obscurity. But only the truly great ones will make it.

    Isn't that how it should be?
  • and only you and your little clique of wannabes will ever hear it. And your music will fade into obscurity along with the other millions and millions of other kids who do beats and rhymes, and have a few thousand bucks.

    Not to be mean - I'm not saying your music isn't any good - but for you and your kind, it will serve as sort of a tribal glue, the original purpose of music. It will be your "local" subculture.

    Unless you're totally great, like virtuoso great, like Stevie Ray Vaughn great.

    Then, and only then, will you gain noteriety, and achieve mass-market success, and take advantages of economies of scale so you can get rich.

    Unfortunately, there will always be a market for crap from the record companies, so for people willing to go that route, you still have a chance to sell your souls.
  • by Chris Johnson (580) on Sunday February 11, 2001 @12:54PM (#440433) Homepage Journal
    Actually, mp3.com is one of the worst places you could sign with at this point- artist conditions have declined radically in just a couple years.
    • The contract is now changeable by mp3.com at any time without consent of the artist
    • The contract gives permanent rights to mp3.com even after you terminate it, which isn't a good position to be in
    • You must _pay_ monthly, per 'band' (many people have a whole stable of projects) for preferred treatment in order to have your songs go live in a timely fashion. The amount, around $20 per month per band, seriously exceeds the income of 99% of the acts.
    • mp3.com encourages you to get, and promote, an 'express URL' (such as the one I have at besonic, www.besonic.com/chrisj [besonic.com]) but the thing is, mp3.com have taken to seizing people's express URLs and reassigning them to major label artists. The pages the URLs now point to do not actually have mp3s on them- they're links to online CD shopping! This makes promotion virtually impossible- at any time the URL you're promoting and printing onto materials can be seized and given to a major label act that DIDN'T EVEN ASK for it.
    • They've just raised the price of the DAM CD program: instead of these burn-to-order audio CDs (burned entirely from 128K mp3s, remember) being $5.99 to $14.99 (plus a couple bucks shipping), new CDs must cost at least $6.99 not counting shipping and can be as high as $30 for a CDR burned off 128K mp3s! Most artists who were selling CDs were using the $5.99 price and getting a bit under $3 from it. Going in the direction of major-label-cartel CD pricing without even the audio quality to justify it is _not_ a win...

    It is possible that, doing all these things, especially _charging_ most musicians for timely service and hosting, mp3.com will not roll over and die, and I suppose there's some merit to that. But they are already doing the things that so outrage slashdotters when they happen to, for instance, domain names, and I don't think they deserve any more artists. Do business with them if you want, but read your contract because it does matter, and consider giving your music hosting to a smaller, better competitor like besonic.com or ampcast.com.
  • that's really just such an excellent analogy that I can't even begin to explain why.

    There's tons of guys out there making "badass texas chili" and there are tons of big restaurant chains serving crappy bland "badass texas chili".

    We all know, when we have a summer neighborhood barbequeue, who's really the best.
    But when it's "date night", we go to that restaurant and fork over our $20.
  • Exactly.

    Blair Witch Project cost what, $60k to make?

    And $10 million in marketing.
  • 4.

    That's an interesting point;
    I know it's kind of late to get a response to this thread, but with the advent of USB, I wonder if someone could hack together a driver to simultaneously run two mice - then a person could run more than one control simultaneously, switch to others while modulating one - a peice of software that could support that might become the next sound mixing killer app!
  • that's fine, except some folks just CAN'T tour.

    One example, Andy Partridge from XTC simply cannot perform in front of an audience. He gets severe anxiety attacks in front of crowds, which is not conducive to a good performance.

    In fact, this was a major factor to the band XTC not getting as wide a popular acceptance as they SHOULD have had - because their music was totally fucking awesome.
  • Weird Al recorded his first hit; "another one rides the bus" in the bathroom of the radio station for Cal Poly.
  • I'm taking a look at the page now. It's funny that you should mention FM. I've been a fan of The Hunz for a couple years now.

    Apparently The Hunz has changed his site since I leeched all his music,but you can still check it out here.

  • My URL went sour. Sorry. You can check out The Hunz here [mp3s.com].

  • Recently I've taken to visiting MP3.com a lot and truly it is an excellent place to find lots of unsigned, small, basement artists works. While I have yet to venture into any section including vocals (which is usually where the difference between professionals and amateurs comes SHINING THROUGH. Even if you have a good singer, which is rare, a good vocal producer does amazing things), and I have stuck almost primarily to techno, I've found some amazing stuff. The irony is that while most of the people on Slashdot are always yapping their mouth without the interaction of their brains, and defending Napster as this great new medium for garage bands (which is pure bullshit), MP3.com (and many others) has been there all along ACTUALLY doing something for the little guy. Hell I'm seeing some of these no namers with MP3.com earnings over $100K so it's good to see that they are being rewarded for what they do.

    Of course I would like to find some good review sites for this stuff as while I've found some good stuff, I've found a boatload of completely unoriginal, amateur, juvenile rip-off ware. That's the one detriment to an open forum : When any wank can put something together there isn't that critical wall that has to be overcome (preceeding the replies : Yes I realize there are Backdoor Boys and Britney Spears out there, however they too (along with their cadre of cohorts) had to go over the wall related to the genre they deal in), it can mean endless searching by us end users which is annoying.

  • CastlebayMusic.com [castlebaymusic.com] is another one of those "made @ home 'cause its too easy to do it now" record labels, this one by Cape Breton (Nova Scotia) artists Tracey Dares and Paul MacNeil. To summarize, they recorded it in their kitchen, just the piano, bagpipes, and friends on various instruments like fiddles.

    About the only thing with all-accoustic recording @home (even if you have great resonance in the room being used) is that it can still have difficulties in the mixdown -- instruments will tend to cross over from one mic to the next ("Drum microphones record everything" -- R.Fripp)...you can't get that isolation that modern studios do with plexglass and separated instruments where each is recording their own in a near sound-proof room, listening to the others on headphones...

  • by gilroy (155262) on Sunday February 11, 2001 @06:47AM (#440446) Homepage Journal
    Blockquoth the poster:
    It doesn't matter that home studios can produce high quality music, the thing that the big labels have over little guys is not quality but marketing (and, for that matter, market power over retailers).
    No, not really. What McDonald's has is an infrastructure in place for producing and distributing those burgers. Sure, I can make a few hamburgers that are better than McDonalds, but I'd probably pale at having to serve a few million such burgers.

    But look further: The article makes the point that this technology will pose a threat to the Media Moguls when coupled to Net-based distribution systems. To my eye, there seem to be three major areas where the RIAA, traditionally, has held the cards:

    1. Production
    2. Marketing
    3. Distribution
    These new systems remove the first. Naptser, MP3s, etc., remove the last. As for the middle: they've never been as good at this as they've claimed, and the Net provides a new medium that, by all accounts, they fail to understand.

    The RIAA is being out-evolved, and good riddance.

  • by Sludge (1234) <(gro.dessot) (ta) (todhsals)> on Sunday February 11, 2001 @06:48AM (#440448) Homepage
    I've always been a computer enthusiast, and for the last seven or so years I've also been a guitar player. I became interested in the idea of recording myself with my computer some time after I started jamming and I wanted to find counter melodies to lines I was writing without needing another human being around. I started experimenting with CakeWalk and some lame audio recorders, trying tricks out like throwing my mic in the soundhole of my hollowbody acoustic guitar.

    I learnt pretty fast that recording maybe twelve seconds of music and looping it is a serious bitch with the hardware I had in that day, never mind multitracking a song for production. Back then, I had a SoundBlaster Pro, 16 megabytes of RAM and a p75.

    Two years later I was at a friend's house clicking icons when I found out he had Cooledit Pro installed. I hadn't ever seen anything like this before. Although it was buggy and the filters were painfully slow, there was enough tech there to throw together a song.

    Pretty soon after that, I hooked up with modplug (a win32 freeware mod editor) and I tracked this song [dhs.org]. Modplug was used to do all of the background music and computer generated notes, and real guitars were layered overtop with the aforementioned multitracking software.

    This was recorded on a celeron 300 w/ 128 megs of RAM, no SCSI hardware, a $50 guitar and a SB Awe32. I was learning how to use the software, and it took me about a month's worth of time that I had to steal off my friend's machine.

    One of the biggest losses is the full duplex recording mode of the Awe32. The recording quality goes right out the window when you start playback. I ended up having to use noise reduction filters, which also sacrificed my overall audio quality.

    I recorded all guitar tracks dry because my setup was so poor. Any overdrive/distortion you hear is the result of post-production. I hear you're supposed to do it this way so you can add or remove effects, but most pro musicians get to hear themselves playing overdriven guitar while recording dry to get themselves into the mood. :)

    All in all, my hardware wasn't enough to produce a quality track, and it wasn't able to be done in a timely fashion. Nowadays, I've gotten out of highschool, and I have some more spending money. I've picked up an Ibanez RG Series guitar and an RP2000 effects modeling unit, as well as a k7-750 w/ 256 megs of ram and a SBLive (which does full duplex a lot nicer). I'm gonna give it another shot, after the CTF paks are released. (See homepage URL :) )

  • They're fighting for their lifes now, so of course they fight dirty. You would too. In the long run (10-20 years) they don't have a chance.
  • by Lonesmurf (88531) on Sunday February 11, 2001 @06:49AM (#440451) Homepage
    I'd like to reply to this before the masses latch hold and drag it down. You are so right, it hurts. What the music labels have are huge networked stations on radio, tv, and the web. MTV has an enormous impact on society and those that worship it (MTV). It is a religion for today's youth; what they say goes. There is no thought involved. No conscious choice. They say, "buy!!" and we say, "how many copies?"

    Breaking into a market like that is simply not possible, especially with the price of admission. Last I heard, most of those 3-6 minute videos cost between $100K and $1M. I don't care how many PCs you have, that ain't gonna get you a spot on MTVs top ten list.

    Also: the web is a big argument when things like this come up. While the web is a great place to store and distribute, it does not (yet, and I believe never will) have a huge and significant impact on the mass purchases done by any given demographic (ok, maybe geeks.. but I digress).

    Rami
    --
  • While the RIAA/MPAA lobby for more draconian content protection laws daily, the reality is that more and more people continue to opt out of mainstream content consumption. Most of my friends are into underground music, favor independent or foreign films, watch little to no television, read independent news media sources and ignore radio outside of college, pirate or public stations. Further, more and more of us are becoming our own audio/video/radio/print content producers.

    Perhaps we should let Hollwood spend all of their money running concertina wire and digging trenches around copyright. They are less and less the ones making content anybody gives a shit about. Sure, the've got some promotional/synergistic inertia left from the glory days of Big Media, but that advantage is eroding fast. Who really cares anymore if you own a TV network, radio stations and a chain of newspapers? I can do all that and more in my basement for $2,500.

    Disney got skewered on the internet because they couldn't monopolize an infinitely expandable virtual space where it was all too easy for people to route around their banal corporate pap.

    Go RIAA! Go MPAA! Spend yourselves into the ground protecting the music and movies we'll all be making and watching without you!

    Night
  • I listen to Les Paul all the time-

    And you contradict yourself. You first say that an expensive room is necessary. then you say that Les had mics over the kitchen sink. I really doubt that kitchen sinks are conducive to good acoustics.

    My answer is, you can put anachoic tile and foam anywhere and get a good room, but if you just try mics in different locations in your house, you'd be surprised at how good some creative locations can sound!

    A host is a host from coast to coast, but no one uses a host that's close
  • There are 'promotion' companies that set the playlist for radio stations.. Your right.
    The radio station play it, and it's a hit. Other stations ask for the song does not happen
  • Poor, poor Courtney Love. Can't make millions of dollars - she has the RIGHT to, you know, because she was married to a very popular musician who made it big (due mostly to promotional efforts by the record company he signed with: Nirvanna wasn't especially great compared to other bands in the Seattle scene at the time).

    Fuck these guys - they have a right to make a living , sure I agree with that, but do they have a god-given right to be billionaires just because the Stones and the Beatles were?
  • oh, sure, that's the way it is RIGHT NOW.

    But remember back when only large corporations and universities had access to computing power? The mainframe days. There were very very few, very talented computer programmers out there.

    Then came the PC.
    Then came the Internet.

    Now we have zillions of sckript kiddies, and VB programers (and HTML "programmers") - and a truly HUGE number of reasonably competent professional C++ programmers, who's careers have been built entirely on consumer-level equipment, or equipment within reach of a dedicated consumer. And the number of people who are very very good at this stuff is still HUGE compared with 3 decades ago.

    Right now, every squirt with mommy's mastercard is out getting home studios and a PC. In 30 years, there will be THOUSANDS of people with talent, skill and experience, and they'll make a great living doing their thing. But there won't be a chokehold on talent anymore like there is today. These few guys work with a few record companies. Who will the thousands of tomorrow work for?
  • I strongly contend that home stuff can sound better that the big boys.

    You're certainly welcome to believe that. :-)

    The big boys when recording a live gig compress the final output to buggery - just to make it sound better on cheap reproduction equipment.

    The compress it to make it LOUD. Nothing more.

    I don't care about cheap equipment - I have expensive equipment so I end up with a more natural sounding live recording than any 'professional' live recording I've ever bought because I've not had reams of compression and EQ added to the final mix to beef out the sound.

    Well my mastering engineer compresses based on the type of material it is. Which is what all good mastering engineers should do. Obviously you don't squeeze jazz like you squeeze rock.

    And EQ is used to only when required. No beefing out allowed. :-)

    Rich...

  • I don't see why we are comparing home studios to pro studios. Most of the people doing home recordings aren't striving to be as good as a pro studio, they are simply trying to do better than a cassette deck and a radio shack microphone (which is what the band I am currently working with was trying to use until they realized they could do *much* better.) And to me, that's what the home recording technology we have today is all about, just having the ability to do it a *LOT* better than the "old" way. I don't promise my bands a pro-quality recording experience, and they don't expect one. I do promise them an affordable method of recording that is superior to the *old* affordable methods, and they are usually satisfied with the results. I can't make a bad guitar player sound like a good one, but I can record his bad guitar playing quite accurately.

    Amen, I couldn't agree more. That's really what it's about.

    My pet peeve has always been about the people on here who've never even been near a great recording studio telling me that they get can make a world class recording with their computer and Sound Forge. I've been around enough to know that it just ain't gonna happen. :-)

    Keep up the good work and keep working at sharpening your skills.

    Remember, the ears are everything. Also remember that MOST (if not all) HOME STUDIOS LIE TO YOU. It's simply not possible to have a flat requency response in a room with parallel surfaces (and that means most homes).

    Before you add any drastic EQ to something walk around your control room and see if the frequencies don't change a lot from places that might even be as close as one foot adjacent. If they do the offending frequencies are probably a resonance, and not actually in the mix. So don't try and remove them.

    Also remember that low end accumulates near walls, and expecially in corners.

    Rich...


  • The recording studios brought this on themselves by introducing digital recording systems (such as Protools) into their studios.

    As I mentioned in a previous post, audio engineering is not about acccurate sound reproduction, it's about coloring the sound so that it sounds aethetically pleasing. Prior to the advent of digital recordings, 2" analog tape machines were used to record. 2" tape machines color the sound in a particular way, tape naturally compresses the highs. Microphones such as the Neumann U87 (considered one of the best microphones in the world for over a decade) produce a particular frequency response curve that, when coupled with the natural compression and saturation characteristics of analog tape, produced a sound that audio engineers determined was aesthetically pleasing. People grew accustomed to tape's tonal characteristics.

    When digital systems entered the picture, a change took place. The same microphones that sounded great on tape sounded completely different when recorded digitally. This is due to the absence of tape's natural compression and saturation characteristics. Studios could not at first determine how to resolve the issue and many of the first digitally-recorded works sounded like crap.

    This is where the recording studios screwed the pooch. When record labels released those first few years of harsh-sounding digitally recorded albums, the music consumers were introduced to a new set of tonal characteristics. Harsh and over-trebled recordings became acceptable. Where in the past the warm sound of 2" analog tape was the only accepted sound, suddenly albums sounded vastly different as engineers struggled to compensate for digital's "lack of warmth" (which was caused by using microphones designed to compensate for tape's uneven frequency response). All of the sudden the bar was dropped. Songs no longer had to have this particular sound associated with a $30,000 tape machine. In just a few years, as ADAT increased in popularity, home studios were able to produce albums rivalling big studios. The gap narrows daily.

    I do see multiple posters in this thread who seem to think that because a $30,000 tape machine is no longer required to make a good recording that decent quality microphones and preamps are no longer needed either. While the digital audio revolution has really made music consumers accept (or learn to live with?) a wide variety of sound quality in modern recording, the difference between an inexpensive mic (SM58, etc) and preamp (Mackie) and quality mics (Neumann TLM103) and preamps (Great River, Presonus) are still like night and day.

    maru
  • First, I won't be that surprised if we start hearing a lot more music made with lower production values.

    It would be cool, though, if software could be used to make good mikes cheaper, or to solve the soundproofing problem. Could we build directional mikes with interferometary implemented on the PC? Is there a way of making mikes cheaper that introduces a systematic distortion that could be undone after capture? Could we do "active soundproofing" with extra mikes away from the main mike, that capture information about what extraneous noise will be arriving so it can be dulled in postprocessing?

    In general, the purely digital end of things improves with Moore's Law and gets cheap fast while the analogue end improves very slowly and stays expensive. If there were ways of pushing the burden over to the digital end to make the analogue end easier, that could be a route to making things cheaper.

    Genuine question, is this a mistaken hope?
    --
  • by keesh (202812) on Sunday February 11, 2001 @05:37AM (#440488) Homepage

    How did one unknown hacker get his operating system onto the walls of computer shops? I know there's a big difference between music and Linux, but the same basic principles could still apply.

    If one newsgroup message was enough to start off Linux, maybe something similar could start off the next generation of music...

  • Yes, a kid with a Sound Blaster cannot possibly reproduce the results of a 128-track Neve/Neumann/Apogee-packin' studio in a dedicated facility, but guess what? The bottom line is _technology_, not money. And it's very true that the technology is more and more attainable- it'd take a dedicated effort to stamp that out (as happened with DAT) and I think it's too late.

    Someone mentioned SM57s in an earlier thread, dismissing them as 'toy' mics, colored and useless for professional use. Um. *g* apart from the fact that they're still a classic snare mic and general drumkit mic, their distinctive coloration has always been hugely popular at all levels, right up to the top: on the Division Bell Pink Floyd tour, the backing singers used SM51 condenser mics, but David Gilmour chose to sing through a SM58- described as a 'regular' SM58. Not only that- both Gary Wallis's and Nick Mason's snare drums were miked with SM57s!

    It's like that all over, now. The hottest new compressor available is not a $3000 tube optoelectronic recreation of vintage compressors- it's a little 1/3 rack space unit by a little company called FMR Audio [fmraudio.com] and it's named the Really Nice Compressor, or RNC- running a purely analog signal path, but digital circuitry to cascade as many as three compression staged to specify the control gain in SuperNice mode, this compressor is _the_ hot gain reduction device out there right now- and it's $199 MSRP.

    Give a person one of these, a couple SM57s, impedance matching transformers and either a half-decent PC soundcard or any old Powermac, and they will be able to record an acoustic event with sound quality that is more than acceptable. They probably cannot afford _really_ good digital compression, but the RNC will easily beat any but the most top-of-the-line digital compression and feed the soundcard or powermac with the most ideal signal it could ask for, leaving little or nothing to do in the digital domain- unless you want to, of course, and then it'd provide a great launching-point for entertaining digital effects and radical sounds.

    You can go the other direction as well, away from digital effects and sounds. Check "B17 Flying Fortress" or "Supermarine Spitfire" at www.besonic.com/chrisj [besonic.com]. I happen to _like_ the big-studio sound. Some of the techniques used to get that are very clean, pure signal paths and good components inside the equipment. You can do that at home, too, and I did, including the heavy modding of my 20-bit ADAT because it sounded thin. As a result, "B17 Flying Fortress" has a bigness and spaciousness that you cannot get outside of a big studio- except, surprise! I got it in my apartment, and so can you, if you like that approach. You can have ANYTHING you want now, if you're willing to do the work, learn a lot, and push the envelope. Sometimes the guys selling the equipment aren't the most honest sources of information about what decisions you should make...

    I see this as analogous to Linux itself. It is no different from saying, 'You can't have a really proper operating system unless you pay a lot of money for it and have a large company supporting it'. The truth is, such performance happens because of _reasons_: and just as a bunch of programmers can get together and cooperate working on an OS, sound engineers and audio tinkerers can get together and work on gear that will bring big-studio performance to apartments and basements. It started with the Tom Scholz 'Rockman' and the Shure SM58, is continuing with the RNC compressor, and I think the market is actually getting even _better_ what with the ability of people to find out about stuff like the RNC without having to go through a lot of industry middlemen.

    You can even do _room_ treatment for super cheap, and I'm not talking about 'dead-room' stuff like putting up egg crates (useless) or covering everything with blankets (yucky dead high end, doesn't help lower room modes much). Here's what I did: stumbled across a box of furnace air filters, realised 'hey, this is a 25x16x2 cardboard box filled with fibreglass, lacking only the front and back face to make it a sort of weak bass trap!', got about $100 of foam-core art board (chosen for lightness, rigidity, and reflectiveness in the high frequencies) and made lots and lots of plain boxes, reflective at higher frequencies, moderately absorptive with resistive damping at low frequencies, and innocuous-looking- and put them up all around my studio room and miking room. The 2" spacing out from the walls did great things for flutter echo- there's a test called the 'clap test' where you clap, making the room go 'rinnng', and the difference from these cheap things is NOT subtle. I don't know or care how much better professional room treatment would be since _real_ diffusers would be hundreds of dollars for just _one_ unit smaller than the dozen I made- the point is, it's not about the money. It's about understanding the principle, the technology, and _using_ that to better your situation. And yes, you can even do proper room treatment with diffusers and real bass traps cheaply, you only have to be willing to DIY! And make more of the treatment because it'll not be fully as effective as the kilobuck stuff. No sweat...

    By the way, if the guitar tones on those tracks sounded nice enough that you _want_ 'em, I'm just on the verge of dropping a big chunk of loan money on a project that will put me in the 'manufacturer' camp. I'm going to be building guitar preamps that are as good at their job as the RNC is at its- and they'll be no more expensive. I think I can really beat the crap out of the sound quality of Line 6 'POD' products, musically, at the cost of not being able to get tones quite as muddy and rumbly as the POD can. When I have prototypes built that really reflect the final product rather than (as of now) just being proof of concept for the technologies, I'll be making mp3s available that can be compared to the mp3s you can easily get of all the digital amp modelling effect devices like the POD.

    Even if my tones aren't what people are madly looking for, there's going to be others out there, it'll be just a question of education. If you just go to the store and buy what they tell you, your sound will probably correlate to the amount of money you spent (including on engineering lessons, obviously!). If you use the Net and your brain and the resources of your community and are willing to work hard and DIY, you'll be able to put out sonics that compete with _anybody_ at virtually any price point. That's not going to go away, now. It's a factor of networking and accessibility of information of all types. In 2001 and beyond, _expertise_ is the key factor, because you're not confined to just what some company is willing to sell you. Ten years ago you couldn't go look at a RNC online and buy one- and they couldn't get their message to you without going through distributors who'd rather be selling Sony. Things are different now, get used to it, make use of it...

  • by CarrotLord (161788) <don DOT richarde AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday February 11, 2001 @05:42AM (#440492) Journal
    It doesn't matter that home studios can produce high quality music, the thing that the big labels have over little guys is not quality but marketing (and, for that matter, market power over retailers). Think about it -- how many of us can make a better burger than McDonalds? I know I can. But I don't have the marketing clout that McD's have, so no matter how hard I try, until I get big-time marketing resources behind me, I won't sell as many burgers as McD's, and in fact, won't even present a threat to them. Likewise, Sony and friends are not going to be worried about small-time producers stealing their market, because they have the marketing dollars to ensure that it doesn't happen.

    rr

  • by autocracy (192714) <slashdot2007 AT storyinmemo DOT com> on Sunday February 11, 2001 @05:42AM (#440495) Homepage
    Check this out:
    1. Band comes up with a good song
    2. Band can't go to recording studio, label doesn't want to carry them...
    3. Band spends a few bucks made from playing at local places to buy some tech.
    4. They hook up the tech to their buddy's computer and start recording
    5. The CD is burned, and sent to a local radio station.
    6. The radio station play it, and it's a hit. Other stations ask for the song
    7. People are really hearing it now, so they start checking it out on Napster.
    Now, I know that there is some way for them to get a profit out of all this (probably concerts rather than CDs...), but for most people it's all about being heard. Why do you think we post on Slashdot anyway?

    You have now just witnessed the death of an industry!

    The problem with capped Karma is it only goes down...

  • I agree that getting a home recording to sound like what plays on the top 40 is not achievable by most people. On the other hand, not everybody WANTS their music to sound like the overproduced underwhelming crap that plays on the top 40.

    To me these are two different issues. Good audio-integrity is key, whether it's a symphony or a top-40 act. Let's not confuse over-production with audio integrity, they are two different things. :-)

    I want every project I do to have good audio integrity. That means going to tape (or disc) with good mics, good pre's, good converters, and using techniques that are proven to sound good.

    The record that Ricky Martin did that had La Vida Loca on it is a perfect example of what I am talking about. The record IS overproduced drivel. The songs suck, and so does he! :-) But the audio integrity of that disc is SLAMMIN and I wish I could say that I tracked and mixed it. It sounds world class.

    Rich...

  • This is a very naive, yet elitist point of view.

    Elitist, yes. Naive? I don't think so.

    Do you really think that the success of a song hinges upon the subtle differences between "professional" mixes & mastering and what can be accomplished by a self producing musician with good ears?

    I don't recall saying that. This is immaterial to what I was saying. Many records that sound bad do well. Just don't ever ask me to make one. :-)

    And your point about having to do some sort of apprenticeship is just plain wrong too. It is no different than any other aspect of creating music. You can learn it (and invent it) on your own.

    Perhaps, and you can believe this if you choose, but there are SOME things in audio engineering that require knowledge and experience. For example I know a guy who has been an "engineer" for about 10 years and STILL doesn't understand phase and constantly makes mix decisions that cause things in his mix to disappear when played in mono (for example). You can be ignorant and be happy, but that doesn't mean you're not going to shoot yourself in your foot.

    Do you think that audio engineers are the only people who have good ears?

    Of course not. And I didn't say that. :-)

    Do you think it isn't possible for people to change mic placements and tweak knobs until they like the sounds?

    Of course. :-)

    And besides, it's the songs that really matter, not the glitter and gloss of production. That's one thing that we should have learned from the 80's. No amount of mixing and tweaking will save a crappy song. And on the other hand, a great song will shine through no matter what the level of production.

    Of course, but my issue is really audio integrity and not really prodcution.

    And I really wish you'd stop putting words in my mouth. :-)

    Rich...

  • by firewort (180062) on Sunday February 11, 2001 @07:30AM (#440501)
    I have a home recording setup.

    consists of my PC, 16 mics, four AKG, four Electro-Voice, four Shure SM58B, and two antique Electro-Voice, and two antique Shure mics, the chrome ones you always see in old movies.

    The old mics have a warm sound to them that just can't be replicated with equalization and effects.

    I run the mics into a Mackie 12-VLZ-PRO mixer because it has great mic preamps, and then use its outputs to go to the PC.

    My PC setup consists of win98se, (and Mandrake, but where are the good digital recording apps for Linux?) a lexicon core2, which gives me 24bit 48khz with 8 inputs (4 stereo). Add Cakewalk Pro Audio 9 with plug-ins, and I've got a studio.

    I then use SoundForge to make the CD from the work I've done in CakeWalk. It sounds every bit as good, and sometimes better than CDs made by the large companies that manufacture groups and music.

    For all those who say recording must be done by the big companies because they hold the locks to distribution, I say there's a way to do it yourself.

    Ani DiFranco has been successful distributing her own music on her own label. Online distribution methods are becoming more prevalent despite what the Big Companies/RIAA want-

    Besides, if you love making music, there's nothing wrong with satisfying the urge to record without having to shell out large amounts on studio time.

    It's very gratifying to be able to hand out demo cd's or make cd's for friends.
    Last year, I made a cd where I played covers of my friends' favorite songs, and gave it to him for his birthday... he said it was the best present he ever got.


    A host is a host from coast to coast, but no one uses a host that's close
  • 1) Environment.

    In a dedicated room in my house, I have put acoustic damping tile on the ceiling and the anachoic foam on the walls. On a budget, a mattress or cardboard eggcrate works as well.

    2) Decent microphones.

    Decent microphones are fairly affordable. I don't mean the $50 budget mics, but the Shure SM58 and 58b series of mics go for under $200, and are the same microphones used both on the road and in the studio by a large number of bands. Now, if I were recording a large orchestra, I might want to have spent a bit more on the microphones, but for the money, these are affordable mics that sound *good*.

    In a home environment with the PC, what comes after the mic is every bit as important. You MUST have a mic preamp before the computer, and it pays to have a good one. Fortunately, Mackie produces mixers with good preamps, and have an affordable mixer. the 12vlzPro cost me under $300, and really contributes a lot to the quality of sound I get.

    The sound card in the PC must be of high quality. Some people get away with using soundblasters and such, but the best way is to get a dedicated card for this purpose. Event makes the Gina, Darla, and Layla series, Lexicon makes the Core2, and E-MU Ensoniq makes the Paris system, which is 16 channels of simultaeneous 24bit wonder. (If only I had the money for that one! I bought the core2, it was under $500. the Paris was over $1000 at the time.)

    www.lexicon.com/core2
    www.emuparis.com


    A host is a host from coast to coast, but no one uses a host that's close
  • by double_h (21284) on Sunday February 11, 2001 @07:43AM (#440503) Homepage

    I've been a bedroom-studio musician for a little under a decade, and it's been really wonderful seeing how the expanse of technology has allowed me to do things that would have been difficult or impossible to do 20 years ago without an expensive studio.

    As others have mentioned in this thread, Tascam's introduction of the Portastudio in the late 70s was the REAL revolution, and that was my first really important purchase. I recorded my first full tape around 1993, using a combination of acoustic instruments, Casio CZ-1000 keyboard, Tascam 4-track, and an Atari ST as a primitive sequencer/sampler. The Atari ST, at 8mhz and 4MB of RAM, could loop beats and samples at all of 8-bit 22khz I think, but it made a GREAT MIDI sequencer - it ran Cubase, and was far more stable and reliable than anything I've used on a PC.

    Computers themselves have been a big part of the tech boom for musicians, but it's also driven down the price of electronics in general. For a few hundred dollars, you can pick up a used Akai or Roland sampler with power that would have cost tens of thousands of dollars a couple of decades ago. And while I'm not sold on the ability of just a PC and software to be an all-in-one production station, it's made a BIG difference. With a fast machine and a good recording card (i.e. not a consumer-level one), it's no big deal having 24 tracks or more of high-quality digital audio. And that software DOES come in handy for editing and post-production tasks, and the advent of the CD burner means that you can cut a perfect-quality copy of your work instantly -- tape hiss is a thing of the past.

    Overall, I've probably spent about $3-$5K on my studio over the past decade, not counting the computer upgrades every couple of years that I would have done anyway. From this setup, I've put out at least half a dozen self-produced tapes and CDs (ranging from electronic music to psychedelic punk) that haven't made me a living, but have gotten me a couple of club gigs and radio play on both sides of the Atlantic. I think that's pretty cool. (but don't just believe me,listen for yourself [prmsystems.com]!)

    I'm really glad I got into home recording before the PC explosion hit, though, because it made me go out and learn a lot of fundamental information about sound engineering that I might not have gone out and learned otherwise. It's a GOOD thing that I don't have to fool with bouncing tracks or setting up MIDI tape sync or wrestling with quite as many patch cables as I used to, but I'm glad that I know how, since it gives me a wider perspective of recording technology. Learning how to really use a 4-track will prepare you for aspects of a full-blown studio that no amount of Cakewalking ever will. And there are countless cool effects possible with a mixer and tape recorder that are well-nigh impossible to reproduce purely in the digital domain.

    So by all means, computers are great - get out there and make some music with them - but don't forget that low-tech is an important part of the picture as well.

  • by mav[LAG] (31387) on Sunday February 11, 2001 @05:44AM (#440513)
    Record companies are not stupid. Greedy, short-sighted - some say evil - but not stupid. Their plan of attack has not been to produce better methods of distribution or *gasp* cut their pricing model to stay competitive, but rather to attack fair use [slashdot.org], control [sdmi.org] digital content as much as possible and extend [theregister.co.uk] that control as much as possible to PCs.

    But, as this article makes fairly clear, studio-quality productions are now within easy reach of anyone with a PC and a modicum of talent (some would say even the talent is optional). If you want cool new music from the best trackers [traxinspace.com] or the best independent musicians [mp3.com] make sure you keep those watching over your rights [eff.org] financially healthy.

    Troll version: screw the RIAA/MPAA/Disney/Time Warner bunnies and join the EFF [goatse.cx] today!

  • Exactly how is lossy compression supposed to improve audio quality?

    Look at it this way. Say you only have 50 kilobits per second downstream because neither cable nor DSL is available in your area. Now would you rather give up the phone line for 20 minutes to download a (lossy) OGG at 192 kbps VBR or for an hour and a half to download the (lossless) FLAC [sourceforge.net]? What would you consider a better quality representation of a song, the whole song in near-CD quality or a short snippet in CD quality?

    And would you rather be able to store eight lossless PNGs or sixty high-quality JPEGs on your digital camera's flash card?


    Like Tetris? Like drugs? Ever try combining them? [pineight.com]
  • So do you have any alternative to mp3.com? IUMA has crashed and burned so that's not an alternative...

    The problem with mp3.com is that the "suits" took over. What we need is a site by artists, for artists, without the bullshit. Sort of like Keenspot [keenspot.com] is for web comics, but with mp3's instead of comics. Yeah, the artists would have to pay a few bucks a month for web hosting services to make such a thing work, but (a) that would keep the claptrap down, and (b) it would keep hucksterism from dictating site policy -- the site would be controlled by the artists, not by venture capitalists or stockholders.

    Remember, he who pays the bills controls the content. mp3.com promised a free ride to artists. Well, there ain't no such thing as a free lunch, and whoever pays the bills gets the say. It's called the golden rule -- he who has the gold, rules.

    -E

  • Your band doesn't seem to exist on mp3.com.

    Besides, you would never be able to tell the quality of the produced music using an MP3 since the format is so incredibly lossy.

    Sometime try listening to your MP3 music with a pair of cheap Grado SR-80 headphones and see if you can stomach it.
  • those are some seriously good points, but I'm afraid you're just towing the party line here, mick.

    I'm not in any party, Bill. :-) And I can assure I don't tow ANY line, and it has gotten me kicked out of many a studio. The guys with the egos upstairs often don't like to be challenged.

    With the exception of Loveless and to an extent, Piper, no studio is needed or wanted for the true masterpiece.

    I never said you couldn't make good art at home. I just said it'll never sound as good as the big boys.

    Not a single $90,000 compressor was used on any of these albums. no $2M 'desk' (your parlance) was required to complete WL/WH

    Well, I've never used a $90,000 compressor. Let's not get ridiculous. The Focusrite Red-3 comes in at around 3 grand. The Tube-Tech stuff sounds good too. ;-)

    And the most expensive desk (industry parlance) I have worked on to date only cost $840,000 at retail. :-)

    But if you truly believe you can get your stuff to sound like that at home with a computer and a few plugins, you're mistaken. I've used the expensive stuff, and I've used the inexpensive stuff, and I can assure you there are light-years of distance between them in terms of audio integrity. When I tracked on an Amek Mozart RN (Ruperet Neve) for the first time, I couldn't BELIEVE how hard you could hit the mic pre's with signal. They just WOULD NOT distort. Up until then I had never seen anything like it.

    What I'm truly disappointed about is that no one challenged me by talking about the lastest Victor Wooten album (I think it's called Yin/Yang). There is the rumor floating around that he did it entirely on his Roland home harddisk porta-studio thingie.

    Well don't believe the hype. I've read a lot about it in Mix Magazine and the Roland Users Group magazine, and he tracked the important stuff (drums and bass) in an expensive Nashville studio on a Neve desk using killer mics and killer converters, and them transferred those tracks to the Roland at the digital level. He only did a few overdubs on the portable thing.

    And now, with my Pod and my Tascam MD 8track, my cluster of smc '57 and a nice stretch of hardwood floors, I can attain better sounds than they got on Rubber Soul. all it takes is a little imagination and a a bit of tweeking in sound forge...

    Well, that was more than 30 years ago. Ancient history in terms of technology. Pick a more recent target. :-)

    Let me also say that I'm not trying to criticize anyone here. I hope you all make records and become millionaires! I encourage you all to get better at your craft and go crazy trying new things. Hell I'll even some over and work for free on your project! If you hate me, show me the door! :-)

    I just kinda have a pet peeve about audio. Next time you see me you can slap me because of it. :-)

    Rich...

  • But what about movies? Short of large computer generated casts and scenery

    Which is becoming easier and easier. I could see a Quake 3 mod allowing players on a LAN to act instead of killing one another. Sure, Q3A's graphics are cartoonlike, but look how good Toy Story did (forget for a moment that it was backed by Di$ney) with its cartoon graphics. Now all you need is to know how to voice act and model your sets and virtual actors. Oh, and you need a VGA to DV converter and a video card on the "camera" computer capable of handling 1600x1200 (movie quality is approx. 1600x1000 after the top and bottom are cropped off to form the letterbox).

    Although I enjoy low-budget independent films as much as the next guy, and I have a serious issue with blockbusters, I think there's good reason for concern that certain types of movies will no longer be produced by anyone.

    Do you feel the same way about music, or do you really want Christina, Britney, *NSUCK, and Backstreet Boys to fill the airwaves? The content that can't stand up on its own and leans on its marketing is not the true content.


    Like Tetris? Like drugs? Ever try combining them? [pineight.com]
  • One thing that audio elitists need to realize is that a "wannabee engineer" doesn't have to be the best. He just has to be good enough, and it's getting cheaper and cheaper to achieve a good-enough sound at home.

    The gear is already there. For me the issue is if the home engineer knows how to use it. And not to sound elitist, but the home engineers I've seen aren't even close to where they need to be to get their stuff to sound good. They're definitely not using the gear to the level it can be used.

    And not to burst any bubbles, but the role of the engineer is always, always econdary to the material you're recording.

    Actually, the engineer should be MORE than secondary, he should be INVISIBLE to the creative process. However in many of the smaller studios I've worked, the engineer was often the defacto producer. So it is then impossible to be invisible.

    Rich...

  • Well you're absolutely right. Most people are content to eat their Big Macs and not interested in exotic cuisine. Same in music. Truely creative or soulful music is often relegated to the fringe. That won't change. But now these fringe artists are able to connect with those who are interested in something more. By fringe, I am referring to music not targeted and manufactured for 14 year old girls. Of course, it goes without saying that not everyone making music in their living room is making good music.


    The best music is born out of passion, not money. Music created with the primary purpose of making money (eg Backstreet Boys, N Sync, Spice Girls..) is vacuous. This kind of music is made by formula, to the specifications of marketing departments. It has no soul, I'm afraid.

    If the corporate music industry disappeared I would not miss it at all. Music was a thriving part of the human spirit long before the labels arrived on the scene. Did those poor sharecroppers need the labels to create the blues? Hell no. It was pure expression from the soul - something that was an end in itself, not a means to an end. The labels had their place in history, but will no longer be necessary or desireable IMHO. Then again, the same could be said about McDonald's - and they're not going away, but I have no further need for them. It's not hard for a talented local musician to hook up with some guy with a home studio equipped with Neumann mics, Manley preamps and Pro Tools who won't try to reshape the artist's music for to match corporate goals.

    There will probably be less artists who make a living from selling recordings (precious few sell enough to do that anyway). The live music industry (where the vast majority of musicians make most of their money) won't be harmed in the least. And it might even be bolstered. I know I've gone to checkout local acts I previewed on mp3.com that I wouldn't have known about otherwise.

    I agree with the poster who said music should be more of a social activity than a commercial product.
  • This will take out the basic production costs, but not necessarily marketing/promotional costs which are always high. And to be completely frank, a lot of these musicians aren't the greatest recording engineers

    I think a better approach is to look at how much more of a grassroots audience you can hit. One of my favorite bands is Guided by Voices, who made a living releasing 4-track recordings for a lot of years. But if they play a show, they pack the house - Over the last few years, they've upgraded, but they're still letting lo-fi stuff out the door occasionally.
  • But the difference between a $300 and a $3000 microphone is no longer night and day. For example, Oktava has some great-sounding small and large-diaphragmn condenser mikes for cheap, as does Marshal Electronics (the mike people, not the soundboard people).

    I do agree, though, that the better equipment is more consistent and easier to work with. But it's no longer a night and day contrast. It's more of a 5 minutes before sundown and 3 minutes before sudown contrast, where there is a noticable difference, but only shades, not a complete "this is crap". An Oktava can sound quite good, good enough that without another mike to compare it against, a pro couldn't tell that it was a $300 mike, but put it head-to-head against a $3,000 microphone and you'll be able to hear the difference. But without that direct comparison point, most people can't tell it's a $300 mike.

    But yeah, I agree that people who think they're going to record good-sounding stuff with a $50 mike are deluded. The afore-mentioned Oktava is the lowest-cost mike that sounds reasonably good for digital recording. But it's no longer a case where you MUST have a $3,000 mike to sound good. There's now a lot of good mikes in the $200-$500 range that sound quite good, to the point where most people can't tell the difference unless they happen to have a $3,000 mike handy to directly compare against.

    -E

  • by Crixus (97721) on Sunday February 11, 2001 @09:36AM (#440527) Homepage
    I am an audio engineer and have had the good fortune of working in some small, medium, and high-end studios, and I can say with a great deal of certainty, that some home wannabee engineer will NEVER be able to get his mixes to sound like the big boys... PERIOD.

    Why do you think the big artists and labels hire guys like Roger Nichols, Ed Cherney, and George Massenburg? (if you want to see some serious gear check out HIS stuff!) They hire them because their ears have DECADES of experience.

    Home engineers using modern, inexpensive, good-sounding digital tools simply don't have the experience. And getting the good experience isn't simply a matter of working in your home studio a lot. It's a question of working as a 2nd engineer to a guy with a ton of experience. Somethings are learned in a book, others are learned by working with a master, and both a required to be good.

    Home engineers also don't have reliable accoustic spaces. How do you know what you have on tape if the environment your recording in and listening in has resonances at several frequencies? You don't.

    For example, I didn't know what my home listening environment (ie my computer/stereo room) truly sounded like until I finally got to mix a record in a real accoustically neutral control room in NY City, on a world class desk and a great pair of studio monitors. Getting the project home in my computer room with all of those parallel walls was a shocker... suddenly it didn't sound the same. :-) And forget about the car.... :-)

    The bottom line is this. It still takes money and experience to build these good accoustic spaces and to make a TRULY wonderful record. Yes, the mic-pre's in the Mackie Digital 8-Buss sound OK, but they don't sound like a Neve 1073, an Amek 9098i, or a GML 8304, and that's for sure.

    I am all for home-based digital recording studios (I've got one myself), but as long as the people running them don't have the knowledge and experience required, all they're going to produce is a decent demo-quality project.

    I would however encourage all of you to continue what you're doing. Continue writing and recording your music and strive to make it great. Because who knows, maybe it is. :-)

    Rich...

  • This is not that expensive. Put 1/2" styrofoam on the walls and then cover that with carpet scraps.

    That does not give you the mass necessary to actually block outside sounds. Much of the new home studio equipment is 24bit/96khz with a dynamic range. What you propose might work fine for recording a punk band that is not using the lower end of the dynamic range possible. But if an artist plans to have quiet bits, where for instance there is nothing but a single acoustic guitar string being plucked...then styrofoam just isn't going to cut it. You need isolated stud construction with multiple layers of sheetrock to block outside sound, and the deadness of a bunch of '70s era carpet-covered walls just isn't going to make that string sing. You need diffusion.

  • by xDe (264660) on Sunday February 11, 2001 @05:54AM (#440533)
    Sounds like producing anything of real quality at home is still in the future.

    At the moment, it depends what style of music you're interested in. Primarily synth/sample based music (particularly dance music) can, and often is, created to commercial quality at home - although not quite a normal home PC ... it usually requires more than the normal consumer-market soundcard, and a well-specified PC... music software is one of the few fields which genuinely requires fast processors. The reason, of course, is that samplers and synths (excluding analogue) are themselves dedicated digital computers - reproducing the same work in software on a PC is not much different, provided your PC can handle it. If you listen to techno/house music, it's often not possible to tell wether a tune was recorded in a home or professional studio.

    The situation is diferent for recording live instruments though, for two reasons:

    1.Since the sound depends on the accoustic qualities of the recording environment professional studios still have a significant advantage, in being able to afford properly accoustically designed and treated rooms.

    2.Recording live instruments requires analogue equipment - in this case there is usually a clear relationship between the cost of the equipment and the quality of the sound (the article mentioned using cheap microphones - complete nonsense, at least for the present - cheap mics sound very cheap)

    Neither of these factors can easily be fixed in software (although a skilled producer can certainly work around them to a certain extent). Although interesting accoustic/live band music has been made in home studios, it is extremely difficult to get the polished sound of a professional studio, and unfortunately this is often required by radio stations, without which it's extremely difficult to reach a wider audience.

  • by K8Fan (37875) on Sunday February 11, 2001 @05:55AM (#440534) Journal

    A lot of successful artists eventually built their own studios, but they usually couldn't afford it until they were successful. That was too late, as they had already signed a contract that gave the record company the ownership of the actual recordings, a right they gave up to get that first recording session. Now, they can create the recordings right from the start, and lease the master to the record company.

    I hate to quote Karl Marx, who was a doofus in most respects, but he was right about the "workers controlling the means of production". Lots of artists (Frank Zappa for instance) have had to fight to regain ownership of their own work. The really offensive part is that standard record company contracts require the costs of the recording to come out of the artist's share of the royalties...and then the company owns the recording.

    The main problem, scarcely touched on in the article, is that while the equipment is cheap, architecture is still expensive. The most expensive part of a recording studio is a good sounding room. A great, inexpensive large-diaphram condenser mic won't do you any good for recording vocals if people can hear a passing bus in the background, or if your voice sounds flat from mediocre acoustics. And don't even think of recording drums in most rooms.

    Sampling works fine if that's your kind of music, but it doesn't work for all genres. But most of the artists I know are working this way now...even the ones who have traditionally worked in huge, expensive studios. The inventor of multi-tracking, Les Paul was also the father of the home studio. He had microphone lines all over the house to be able to record anywhere...he even had a mic hanging over the sink in case he needed a quick vocal overdub while his wife Mary Ford was cooking dinner.

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