How I Accidentally Became a Recording Engineer
Well, not exactly. I did intentionally learn how to record. But it wasn’t as a career choice. It was only out of necessity. It’s really expensive to record in a professional studio. Where I live, it costs at least $250 per song to record with the top local engineer. That is an enormous bill at the end of a 10-song project. And bands around here somehow come up with that money. However, I cannot. And neither can any of my band mates. So, in order to get anything recorded, someone has to undertake the massive chore of audio recording. And somehow that person has ended up being me. And I’m not completely happy about it. I mean, I love the end result of a recording project. It’s such a difficult process that it’s hard not to be proud of the final product. But getting there is very painful. Not physically, but mentally. It requires a great deal of studying and experimenting to get adequate results out of a recording studio. I spent many months stressing and obsessing over sound treatment and setup.
There are so many variables to deal with: sound treatment, microphone placement, studio monitor placement, etc. And that’s just the preparation to start tracking. And then once tracking is complete, mixing and mastering are the next two laborious chores. And these two tasks entail so much attention that I consider each to be an additional task to accompany the recording process. On my first project I did all three: recording, mixing, and mastering. And after that project, I immediately understood why this is not the usual method. It’s a good idea to let a fresh set of ears take over at the mastering stage, allowing for a new perspective to the project. I am now more than happy to turn the project over to someone else after the mixing stage.
Not too long after that first project was completed, I started getting asked by other bands to do recording for them. Definitely not my intention, but I figured, “why not?” I had already spent so much time studying the recording process and setting up my own studio, that it almost seemed silly not to. So I did. And at first I was very passionate about it. People were enjoying my work and I was very proud of the sounds I was obtaining in my DIY recording studio. But as time went on, I began neglecting my own music. Recording had become nothing more than a job. I think of it in the same way that I do my experience playing in a cover band. Playing other people’s music or recording other people’s music… the end result of neglect is the same. So now, I’m back in college to obtain an accounting degree. I’ve already tried twice to make music my career. Both times my passion was depleted. But it’s back now. I can concentrate on playing music and writing songs. And with my arsenal of recording tools, I can document my own music with relative ease. These days I take pride in sharing my DIY and cost effective recording techniques with those who are just getting into the field of home recording. So in the end, my temporary time as a paid recording engineer really ended up being a positive thing. And the knowledge is a great backup to have as a last resort, just in case I go completely broke again.
– Ronnie Pistons is a punk musician of nearly twenty-five years. In this time he has participated in many recording sessions. With a DIY approach, he has learned to get great home recordings without breaking the bank. Now he wants to share his insight with anyone who is willing to listen.