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In The Studio: Being A Great Engineer/Producer On A Budget

Making do -- and much more -- with what you have...

By Mike Moschetto October 22, 2012

This article is provided by the Pro Audio Files.


I’m not what you would call “well-to-do” or “affluent,” probably because I lack what you would call “traditional work ethic.”

However, I do work very hard at my passion, and that is music production and engineering. I locked onto recording as a career path many years ago and haven’t looked back.

It may not be what you would call “cost-effective,” but I live to do it and that’s what matters.

As the old saying goes, “find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” – though you may be forced to live in what you would call “abject poverty.”

Even with all the strides made toward affordable gear, pro audio is still an expensive hobby/vice/lifestyle. Not all of us can just go out and pick up a Blue Woodpecker ribbon microphone or a Mojave Audio MA-200 tube condenser microphone like it ain’t no thing.

Sure, you can go to your local music instrument retailer and get a “complete recording package” for a few hundred bucks, but think about how that stuff got from the factory to you: what are you really getting? Shoddy workmanship? Planned obsolescence? Who can really say?

At the end of the day, it seems that if you want to avoid amateurish recordings, you have to drop some serious dough… OR DO YOU?!

Get Started & Get Better

It certainly doesn’t hurt to “go big or go home.” If you can afford to spend more on a better product, 9 times out of 10 you’ll be glad you didn’t compromise on quality to benefit your budget.

On the other hand, middle-of-the-road gear never hurt anyone, and are oftentimes the easiest way to get started and, more importantly, get better.

If you’re anything like me, you’re essentially unemployed and you live with your parents, doing odd jobs until you can afford that next pricey piece of gear. Don’t be so glum!

This means you can use your spare time to get really familiar with your existing arsenal of recording gear:

—Hold shootouts between mics, preamps, outboard gear, instruments and whatever

—Listen critically to EVERYTHING: frequency response, off-axis rejection, self-noise, etc.

—Try out new and zany mic techniques; take note of how they compare to the tried-and-true.

—Use different plug-ins or different settings on your preferred/only plug-ins.

—Record the same source the same way in different rooms (or different parts of the same room)

There are endless ways to make the most of your means, and you’ll be amazed at the sonic versatility you’ll find. Never be afraid to experiment and scratch beneath the surface. (Insert clichéd iceberg analogy here.)

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