Recording an album on a budget

Splashing out on a recording studio for your band is not cheap. Dubai Eye's Zahra tells us how to lay down tracks on the cheap.

In the first of a three-part series, Zahra questions whether going to a professional recording studio is really necessary. First step: peeking into the musicians’ bedrooms.

People are finally gathering the courage to admit the credit crunch has hit Dubai. Estate agents are applying for jobs in radio stations and confidence is going down faster than a flaming Zeppelin.

But would a downturn ever impact on a musician who wants to cut an album? Musos have always felt the pinch, but who needs to eat when you have a beautifully recorded EP of your own music sitting snug in your record bag.

With professional studios commanding more than Dhs400 per hour, you don’t need to crunch numbers to know a struggling performer would need credit. But that’s never been the way of the artist.Those who can afford it will always go to a commercial studio, but there are still options for those on a budget. Over recent years, quality equipment has become cheaper to buy for the consumer and so today is the age of the bedroom studio. Music mandarins need to watch out.

On the lowest level, you just need the right software for your laptop, a soundcard, a couple of decent microphones and you’re well on the way. This kind of equipment won’t set you back more than Dhs6,000.

And with such a low budget set up, emphasis must be placed more on the room that the equipment is in. Simply making sure that thick curtains, carpets and padding are on the walls can be more than adequate when recording vocals and an instrument like the guitar.

Salomon Ligthelm is a student at SAE and agrees that the bedroom studio is a feasible option for musicians. He recalls his end of year research project investigating whether listeners can tell the difference between home and professional studio recordings. This was done by recording two recordings of the same song and then sending out about the two recordings. The results suggest that most people can’t tell the difference. The majority thought that the home recording was actually the professional recording.

He admits that there is nowhere else he’d rather be than at home. ‘I love it because I have all the time in the world to get creative with ideas. I have way more time to experiment. I think the home studio is not only cheaper but a lot more time efficient and less intimidating, because you don’t have pro engineers and producers analysing your material. With a home studio you are also able to customise things as you would like them. You decide what you want your studio to look like and the pictures you want on the walls.’

So in recent years, the stigma of ‘recording in your bedroom’ has subsided. The lo-fi genre has always been rather fashionable underground and nowadays, an increasing number of albums recorded in the bedroom are hitting the big time. Mainstream artists such as Beck, Jamie T and Maps spring to mind. The question remains though – what if you want to stay at home but up the quality ante?

Next week, the professional studio at home. Zahra showcases the latest local musical talent on Open Mic – the radio show, that is – every Saturday from 8pm-10pm on Dubai Eye 103.8

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