Updated: Oct 5, 2019
I've been looking back at my old uni work to look up certain techniques my lecturers taught me while I studied at Huddersfield University. While looking I came across one of the most difficult pieces of work I did during my time at uni....my dissertation (dramatic music!)
Long story short, I decided to look into whether recording in various studios, each with their own level of equipment and space, would make any difference to the overall outcome of a track.
I was curious how working in each environment would affect my workflow in the role of engineer and producer (done solely, which proved challenging later on!) But, more importantly, how it affected the artist I work with in each studio environment.
The artist I worked with was musician and good friend to Vibrations Studios, Liam Sullivan.
We agreed on doing 4 tracks from demos Liam had stored away, mostly just him with an acoustic guitar and singing. 3 of the tracks would be fully produced and 1 would be a live take from each recording environment.
For each environment I had rules and limitations of the type of equipment I could use, recreating a realistic setting for recording these tracks.
The limitations were mainly the number of inputs I could use or the number/type of microphones allowed. As I'm sure not many people own an SSL channel strip with a selection of analogue compressors in their bedroom studio (but I could be wrong)!
Overall, I felt it would be a good challenge as I knew sadly at some point I wouldn't get to use all the fancy and very expensive gear the university allowed us to use freely, a very sad day indeed! I didn't really know what issues I would face at any stage of recording these tracks or what I would notice that was different.
Here is are a bit of a collage of the different environments as reference of how they compare.
- Home Studio
- Commercial Studio (Vibes HQ)
- University Studios
//Many many many hours of edits and mixing later... was it worth it...
After a few (...okay a lot of) tweaks, chops, and remixing, I finally handed in the whole project that took over 7 months to finish. Doing this project help tons for my confidence with working in a variety of environments using both analogue and digital consoles, adapting my workflow to suit both!
1) The immediacy when working in the home studio was the best compared to the Uni studio.
As the studio gear it went up and allowed for more equipment to be used, the pre-production became more dominant during the recording process. Working at the home studio we created more spontaneous ideas that could be quickly captured, whereas with the larger setups we had a plan and had to work towards recording each element.
2) The time spent during both the recording phase and mixing phase for the Home Studio and University Studio had trade offs.
Although I could quickly adapt and change my setup in the home studio due to the minimal gear at my disposal, the trade off was a lot more editing and corrective eq'ing due to the recording space. In turn, the Uni studio had a lot of pre-production and setting up time during the recording phase, however, the mixing stage was pretty much there already with only minimal time spent to get that perfect snare or balanced vocal! Depending what you see as a positive and a negative could be a question for your own personal work flow and preferred method!
3) Always have help for larger setups...
Working in the university studio really highlighted why having a team of people or a good assistant to keep the flow of the session going as smoothly and, more importantly, quickly as possible! It was suitable for my project to work alone as it kept it all the same for all three environments, but I have to say it was a ton of work put on myself to just get everything set up to how I liked it! Double checking and making sure the kick drum or acoustic guitar sounded as good as they could be. Ultimately, a good team will speed up the process and require you to not have to think about all the possible issues like routing, placements, putting up a stand, moving a mic an inch to the left, loading up a session, helping the musician with an issue, etc etc etc...
4) Having limitations can benefit time spent being creative.
When faced with a long list of fantastic mics, you can defiantly get carried away, which can be seen on the drum micing I did in the uni studios! On the other hand, I did feel when I was limited with the choice of mic's, my mind was more focused on position and getting the most out of the microphone. Sometimes I got similar results when comparing acoustic guitar from the Uni studio and home studio. Overall it was great to use such fantastic equipment, but when you're spending an hour getting it all setup and you hear that another mic on its own can capture a similar effect you do wonder why you're rushing about and routing everything!
I am excited to share the tracks at some point soon when they are released. Since listening back, it has been very satisfying to hear them all from the different setups and to also see the mountain of work that came with it!
But please do check out Liam's music as he has recently released his latest EP (which yours truly assisted here and there) 'The News I Needed' recorded at Vibrations Studios. I'll leave links to his social pages and hopefully you will hear these tracks very soon!
Till next time,
Dan AKA Morgs
Check out my personal Instagram page for general studio day to day life and below average photography of studio gear - @dandrinksribena