Choosing the right recording studio is an important decision in the making of an album, or even the recording of one song or a demo.
You can check out the gear (microphones, board, instruments, software, etc.) of a studio, if you know what to look for, along with the résumés of its engineers and personnel. But if you’re not experienced enough to understand all the technical ins and outs—and many aren’t—then there are some other ways you can judge whether or not a studio will be right for you.
First, you’ll want to look for studios within your price range. It used to be that there weren’t very many studios around, and people would have to go to a big studio and pay a lot more money, or go in at 2 o’clock in the morning during downtime so that they could get a rate that they could afford. That is no longer true—now there are many small studios, so finding one in your price range should not be difficult.
Next, you’ll want to know if the studio can actually produce the product you really need. The quickest route I know of in finding this out is to cut straight to the chase: actually listen to the overall quality of the sound of their products. Does it sound good, does it sound professional? If you don’t know what to listen for—which some people don’t—you could just compare the studio’s finished recordings to professional products that are already out on the market. Do they sound as good?
If you still need a further example of a professional versus a sub-par recording, you could listen to something like a karaoke track and realize that it sounds cheesy compared to listening to something that’s put out by a major studio or a major recording company. Then go back and compare the studio’s products to major recordings out there on the market.
It is important as you are going through this step to pay attention to the genre. See if the studio has recorded in your genre, and what those recordings sound like. There are various specific elements to watch for; as an example if you’re doing a classical recording, you’re going to want a real piano, not a digital piano (no matter how good the digital pianos are today). If you are recording rock and roll, you might want specific amplifiers or other gear, or at least the capability to obtain those sounds using software. But again, listening to the products the studio has produced should tell you much of what you need to know about their capabilities within a genre.
Once you find a studio that is producing high quality recordings in the genre you are working within, it is a good idea to go and look at the studio. Are the personnel knowledgeable and professional? Is the studio well-kept? Does it actually look like a professional recording studio? Even a home studio can provide a professional, competent atmosphere.
Another point is, does the studio create a comfortable atmosphere in which you will feel creative? Do the personnel put you at ease and make you feel confident in what you are doing? The last thing you want is to go into a studio to create an artistic product and feel stifled, belittled or pressured. Such factors will affect the final recording.
These guidelines should help you in choosing a studio in which to make your recording.