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Recording YourselfI know that you’re all probably well aware of the fact that it is now possible to make good quality recordings yourself. It’s become fairly ubiquitous. But even so, I feel like people may not realize some of the huge benefits that come with recording yourself.

To start, I want to enumerate the different ways that people do it. There are many different parts to the process that goes from the start of recording to the completion of a polished song, and some people pick and choose which parts of the process to handle themselves. To speak generally, the different parts I’m talking about are tracking, mixing, and mastering.

Given those parts, people usually divide them up in the following ways:

First: Well, I’m gonna start by mentioning the artists who don’t handle any of the parts themselves. This means going to a studio that has the necessary recording gear, spending time making the recordings, handing those recordings off to be mixed, and then handing those mixes off to be mastered. This is really the least involved an artist can be in the process.

Second: Increasingly I see artists who handle the tracking/recording part themselves and then hand off the rest. They have a collection of recording gear (small or large) and they lay the parts down. Then they send those parts to be mixed and then to be mastered. No official studio involved, for the tracking anyway.

Third: Other artists (I include myself in this category) handle all (or most of) the tracking themselves as well as the mixing. Once the songs sound as good as they can get it, they send it off to mastering for the final polish.

Fourth: This last category is artists who do basically everything themselves from recording to mixing to mastering.

Obviously the way I’ve listed these “recording styles” goes from most expensive to least expensive, at least in terms of paying for services. In the first case the artists has to come up with funds to pay for EVERYTHING… with the most expensive part likely to be the tracking/recording phase. I don’t know about you, but I just can’t afford all of that each time I want to release an album.

While I have mastered my own releases, most of the time I like to have someone else handle that part. I feel like handling the recording and mixing myself and then paying someone to master it is a great balance that saves a ton of money while still achieving a professional feel. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t master your own stuff. If you wanna take that on too, more power to you.

This is where I want to start talking a bit more broadly. I feel like in order to “make it” in the music industry, artists increasingly need to find ways to conserve, consolidate and just do more with their music in general. There is still a huge amount of dependence on others for most people just in the recording process, and it drains artists of time and resources.

This is why I believe that learning to record and mix your own music is going to be the thing that gives you the most freedom and most chance for success.

More specifically, it does these things for you:

  1. Makes it cheap. Once you’ve built up some modest recording gear (it doesn’t have to be a lot), the cost of creating an album is incredibly low, especially if you start with just releasing it digitally.
  2. It gives you a ton more flexibility. You can create and record songs on your own time and on your own terms. If you’re disciplined, this means you can actually create and release more music faster, since you don’t have to depend on as many people.
  3. It gives you another great skill set that can help you in your career. Everyone has different goals, but if you have experience and skill with engineering and mixing your own releases, you’ll have a huge step above a lot of other artists. The options for your future are far more open, and you’ll have other potential revenue streams if you decide you want to use your skills to help other artists.
  4. It makes you a better musician. Once you start diving in and learning about the recording and mixing process, you get a fuller picture of what music is. You’ll get more ideas. You’ll discover new techniques that you can apply to make your music even better.

Do you know the best part of all this? You don’t need to go to a school to learn recording, mixing, and mastering techniques. The absolute best way to learn is to jump in and get started. That’s exactly what I did. And once you jump in, you’ll have questions and you’ll get confused. But the Internet is full of great resources to help you. If you are patient and stick with it, you will get better, and you will discover that recording isn’t a mystical voodoo art. It’s a skill that you can master!

Have you jumped in to recording yet? If so, how is it going? If not, what’s stopping you?

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  • Daniel

    Every message you put out inspires me. I can’t wait till I start recording my own music. It’ll be a challenge but because of you and how much support you show towards independent artists, I know I can do this my way. Thanks Andy! When I release my first album i’m sending you a copy.

    • http://www.andyothling.com/ Andy Othling

      That’s awesome Daniel! I’m happy to help inspire you!

  • http://jakebeamish.co.uk/ Jake Beamish

    There’s another really advantageous aspect to regularly recording and mixing your own music: You learn to listen to yourself as an instrumentalist much more objectively. Hearing my own playing often points out tonal irregularities and black spots that I need to iron out – providing plenty of targeted practice material specific to my own playing.
    Often that’s much more useful (and inspiring) than yet another youtube ‘lesson’!

    • http://www.andyothling.com/ Andy Othling

      I definitely agree with that. There’s nothing like listening back to a recorded track and realizing it’s not nearly as good as you thought while you were playing it.

  • Christian Kragh

    Hey Andy. Awesome post! I agree with everything you said. I record and mix all of my music myself. I’m still not clear on what exactly ‘mastering’ is.. I mean the techniques and everything. It seems when I’ve looked into it, people are always speaking of it in really vague terms. When you send your music off to get it that last polish in mastering, is there a significant difference? Really I’m happy with how my music comes out but I’d like it to ‘pop’ a bit more, have the instruments more separated and clear; really have some more umph! if you will.. But I’m afraid to spend money (because I don’t make any money with my music really), and then get it back and barely notice a difference..

    • http://www.andyothling.com/ Andy Othling

      Yeah I definitely understand that, I felt the same way for a while. You should check out this post I did about mastering a while back: http://www.andyothling.com/the-importance-of-mastering-your-songs/

      To me the best thing about mastering is just getting someone else’s ears on the song, and the fact that they provide a nice way to make all the songs on your album or EP sound consistent and…. together. They’re really subtle final touches, but I think it really makes a difference.

      • Christian Kragh

        Okay, thanks, I’ll definitely read through that. I thought you might say another set of ears is good – I feel like mastering is a technique where years of experience noticing all the tiny, subtle differences you can make is the most important thing. Thanks again.

  • brandon_li

    Thanks for reinspiring me to learn how to mix and record! I was starting to fall out of it because there are just a bajillion things I want to learn, and I thought I should focus on some other things. Thanks for this great post!

  • Matthew Lee

    I used to hate recording myself but now I’ve found it to be a really useful skill and tool to have. I record myself, either demo’s of new songs or for YouTube Videos. I am also in a band and we record all out stuff in a proper studio with a producer and I have found that tracking my guitar parts has become a lot quicker and more enjoyable. I am able to communicate with the producer what I’m going for much easier and I find I already know what tone I feel is right for the song instead of spending hours finding the right tone to fit in the mix.

  • blinder

    as a counter to this, i feel it’s really important, at some point in your career, to have someone else record and mix your music.

    i spent years doing my own thing, with mixed (mostly on the mediocre side) results, then decided as an experiment that i would book some time in a local studio. luck would have it that i had just met a new friend who owned a new and up and coming studio, so i booked time there.

    it was scary (not my first time in a studio, but my first time as a solo artist) but let me tell you, i learned so much and not just the technical side. i worked with a mix engineer who was just amazing (he and i became fast friends) and he taught me about editing, and how to balance a composition, how to hold interest through mixing. he taught me about EQ and compression and how to manage gain staging.

    Aside from just learning, having another critical (and trained) set of ears has been essential, i learned to not be afraid of editing, ditching stuff that wasn’t important. in fact, i learned how to really write from this experience. i’ve now done 3 trips to the studio, and each time i learn something new, something crucial.

    yeah it is expensive. yes there’s a considerable amount of anxiety associated with it (especially given that i had been in a isolated cocoon and had never let anyone into this music world of mine) but i really think everyone should try it… record a record at a studio, have someone mix it, then take it to a mastering studio and let a professional do their thing (i could go on and on about the importance of having a professional do mastering)

    so yeah i do a lot of my own tracking, and i do some mixing, but having that other set of ears and hands has, i think, let me produce something i’m more satisfied with. it has let me actually feel like a piece is done.

  • Dm ancruem

    I just completed my first recording of myself singing, playing guitar and improvised drums on multiple video tracks. It came out horrible…but it was worth it to find out how bad I am at singing…lol.

  • Brandon

    I must admit, I put off learning about recording for a while, until a few months ago I finally sat down and arranged and recorded the songs I had written. My setup was pretty basic at that point but I knew that I just needed to move forward with what I had. Here’s a link to the album if anyone is interested: http://echoesofsilencemusic.bandcamp.com/ Since then I have upgraded my equipment (new amp, Shure SM 57) and I’m now getting ready to work on some new songs.

  • Sam

    Hi Andy,

    I just have one question (it has been bothering me quite a long time) about recording your own music?

    What exactly do I need that is cheap and affordable? I have about 200$ max on my budget. Could I use an iPhone or a Tablet (I own a Kindle Fire HDX 7)? Would that be alright? Or do I need to buy some recording gear?

    I’m not in a band. I’m a solo musician. A one-man show. All I use for music is my acoustic guitar and my voice…which hopefully makes things more simple.

  • jorg

    the main thing is the room you have to record. studio’s ambience is often more important than mics etc. I think this is the deal breaker for various home recordings for me, mainly for drums….but i had surprisingly easy sucess in recording, just by following the ‘rules’ about mixing, mic placement etc…I left the creative stuff to my composition, pedals, technique: many forget that recording is mostly getting stuff onto tape-if its good sounding to start off with it sounds good on tape usually, no need for complex experimental techniques in home recording.
    Question: do you ever do part -recording in studios without a engineer for example, hire out equipment etc. or do you have a decent space to do this?

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