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electronic MUSICIAN

EM Editor's Note: The Personal Studio Comes of Age

By Mike Levine, Editor | September 30, 2010

The interviews in this issue with Serj Tankian and Alan Evans both serve to reinforce how much personal studios have become integrated into today''s music industry. Although commercial facilities still play a major role in the production of recorded music—especially in the pop and country realms—it''s now almost a given that recording musicians will have home studios of some variety and will use them to some extent in their productions.

These studios run the gamut from the high-end facilities such as those owned by Tankian and other big-name artists—setups on par with commercial studios—to the other extreme, which can be as modest as a DAW-equipped computer rig in a bedroom with a couple of inexpensive mics. The common thread, though, is that these studios are being used to produce recordings that end up on albums, EPs, TV or movie cues, and videogames.

Yes, if you want that huge live-drum sound or you want a vocal chain with a vintage AKG C 12, Universal Audio LA-2A, and Neve mic pre—and you have a budget for studio time—you''ll probably want to use a commercial studio. But the point is that you don''t have to do that anymore. You have choices. With a decent mic and pre, you can record good-sounding vocals or acoustic instruments into your DAW. If you have some engineering chops, you can get respectable drum sounds in your basement. (And there''s always the option of using drum-replacer software later to beef up those sounds.)

If you''re doing electronic-based music, you may never need to go to a big studio. It seems that most of today''s electronic artists work out of their own setups primarily. But even in projects that do end up in major studios, often there are tracks from the artists'' home studios that get brought in and used on the finals.

Obviously, this emphasis on home production has changed the way music is made. There are fewer live sessions with multiple players; a much more decentralized studio scene; and more overdubbing, layering, and programming going on. And that has caused not only changes in musical style, but the loss of livelihood for many session players, which is one of the unfortunate side effects of the home studio revolution. Ironically, while we now have more opportunities to get our music heard because of our studios and the promotional power of the Internet, it''s become a lot harder to make a living as a musician—and it was never easy. But I''m getting off subject here.

My overall point is that home recording has never been as ubiquitous as it is now. And what was once an ironclad distinction between doing demos at home and final tracks in a big studio has eroded greatly. Of course, I''m not quoting empirical statistics, just anecdotal observations, but during the course of the numerous artist interviews that I''ve done, it''s never seemed more clear that the home studio has become an integral part of the workflow of today''s recorded music.

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