Home Recording Myths - Part 1

2009 Nov 16, 2009

Today I want to expose a few home recording myths floating around out there. The problem with myths is that they can seem logical or “common knowledge” when really they are a distraction from actually recording, making music, and getting experience in the studio. Maybe you’ve heard some of these myths before or maybe you’re new to all this, either way this post should help. So let’s dive in…

Via plaisanter~ Flickr

Myth #1 – “The preamps in your audio interface are junk. You need to buy an external mic pre.”

I see this one paraded around all the time on the internet. It seems that no matter what audio interface you have, someone is criticizing the built in mic pres and making claims that if you want to make good recordings then an additional mic pre is a must. There are two problems with this myth: First, it creates an attitude of discontentment in your equipment, leading you to put too much responsibility on the shoulders of more gear when really it should fall on you and your skills. Second, it doesn’t really give a concrete answer to your “problem” since which mic pre to get is also debatable; leading the home recording newbie into a spiral of confusion and self doubt.

The reality is this: the mic preamps built in to your audio interface are more than likely clean, clear, with plenty of headroom to capture an accurate recording. Recording technology is so widely available these days that it does not take much money to create a quality signal path like it did 40 years ago. Sure an external preamp (a tube pre for example) will have a unique “sound” to it, but it won’t simply be “better” than what you have. Just different. And that’s not what you need right now. You need quality components (which you have) that will get the job done so you can focus on making good decisions with mic placement, the tone of your instrument, arrangement, and creativity in songwriting and performing.

Myth #2 – “Home recording = demos. Serious recording takes thousands of dollars and a studio.”

I come across a lot of nay-sayers on the web who think the whole “home recording” industry is a sham and really the most you can do at home with this affordable gear is just make a great demo, but not a pro recording. I think this is just ignorant snobbery. First of all, I’ve already written a post on 3 top major label bands who have recorded great albums (one of them Grammy award winning) at home. Check it out and listen for yourself. Second this myth shows blind belief in the root of Myth #1, that more gear and money spent equals better recordings, which is just not true.

I’ve said it a million times before, but a good recording is only as good as the song, the arrangement, the musician, and the creativity put into it. Sure if those elements aren’t there, or one or two of them are really weak, then you may just end up with an OK demo. But the gear is not the limiting factor…YOU are! A great example of this is famous singer/songwriter Ari Hest. Being a major label musician Ari has spent plenty of time in nice studios with great gear making great recordings. But during some downtime before his latest album was to be released on Columbia records, he decided to toy around with some recordings in his New York apartment.

He picked up a $100 M-Audio interface and a $100 microphone and used Garageband on his laptop to record what later become The Green Room Sessions, an amazing self recorded, produced, and mixed EP which Columbia picked up and released immediately. He pretty much embodies the mindset of “I am what limits my music, not gear”. If you haven’t picked up the EP, you can click through to the iTunes store to get it!

No Excuses…
Don’t let these recording myths hold you back. Just tune out all the noise and instead spend your time making music. You’ll only learn more, get better at it, and have fun. And ultimately isn’t that what making music is all about? Having fun?

Click here for Part 2 of this post!

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