How to record an album for £100 in a friend’s kitchen
So. You play in a band. Somehow, you’ve managed to write a few songs. Gigging is fun and all, and of course you run a YouTube channel filled with questionable recordings of live sets filmed by your mum, but something is missing.
You want to create a legacy, you want to leave your artistic mark on the world, you want to be able to obnoxiously sneak your own music onto the open Spotify playlist whenever you go to a house party. You want to record an album.
Rent it. For the price of about four pints each, a four-piece band can hire legitimately high-end recording gear for a whole weekend. Of course, it helps if one of you already owns some sort of digital audio workstation (ProTools, Logic, GarageBand) and a decent computer, and your amplifiers and instruments should be in a usable condition; but studio quality recording equipment has never been more accessible or cheaper. Do make sure you have a friend who knows how everything works though.
Don’t bother. Work somewhere where your hours are only limited by the neighbours’ noise complaints and where everyone feels at home. Give yourselves enough room to breathe, but a cosy yet comfortable room that everyone knows makes for a much nicer environment than an imposing studio. It’s also cheaper. Of course, you will want to consider the acoustic qualities of the space you use, but it isn’t hard to deaden a room with a couple of mattresses and some heavy curtains.
Actually recording something
Put someone in charge. Hopefully one of you knows how all the equipment works, so allowing them to run the recording session is a good idea, but somebody in the room needs to be the boss. It’s also worthwhile playing your songs live for a few months before recording. It helps if you can avoid working out your parts during the recording session. There are a variety of approaches to recording a track, so consider whether you want to record parts in isolation or as a full band. Your room and microphone set-up might determine this. Be efficient but also willing to record as many takes as necessary.
How many takes?
Realistically, you won’t get a song done in one go. Recording is very different from playing live, and you don’t want to be forever cursed with that one little mistake you thought no one would notice. Sometimes it’s nice to record a few takes with different vibes and see which you prefer. On the other hand, it’s not worth torturing yourselves for perfection. You won’t reach it. A take with good energy and a few small slip-ups is better than a dull take played mechanically.
Don’t be disappointed when your recordings sound a bit crap. Producing is as much of a skill as playing, and good production is just as important as good musicianship. Again, it is nice if one of you knows what they’re doing and can produce the tracks themselves. Keeping that side of things in-house usually leads to a recording that sounds something like you would perform live. Failing that, pass the files onto a friend, a friend’s dad, or anyone who you actually know. If you end up doing the production, do be warned that everyone wants their instrument louder than everyone else’s. That’s normal. Just don’t let the singer produce.
You’ve done it. The noble vocation of creating art must now be replaced with the rather less noble, yet equally time-consuming, ruthless social media promotion. Or spam. Call it what you like. Don’t expect anyone to listen to your songs beyond you and your parents, and expect even fewer people to actually enjoy listening to them.
But do put them on when you go to parties.