Internal Affairs familiarizes itself with DIY recording
By Zoe Cordes Selbin,
2:40PM, Fri. Apr. 13, 2012
If you’re a local musician, there's a myriad of Austin recording studios to choose from. Let’s say you’re just getting started, though. Or maybe you just want to record some demos. Or, let’s be honest, you haven't enough money to book studio time. No matter the reason, self-recording can be an obvious and totally viable option for those who may be studio-shy.
I’m no recording expert, so I went to two self-recording locals to get the scoop. One of them is Ryan McGill, vocalist and guitarist for the band Little Lo. He’s been recording himself since he was in middle school, and his set-up has gone from extremely basic to pretty advanced.
“For the last album, A Poison Tree, I wanted to plan things out better,” says McGill. “I turned my house into a temporary studio. I went to Rock N Roll Rentals for equipment, like mics and pre-amps. My room served as the control room. I set up speakers on cinder blocks, and used plywood, attic insulation, and canvas to make acoustic panels. That deadened the frequency of the room so I could have a really accurate listening environment.”
Sounds like a lot of work, but it paid off with professional sounding results. McGill also recommends using Logic software for recording, and he’s been experimenting with 4-track and 8-track recorders.
“I’ve learned a lot of tricks to manipulate audio on a computer,” says McGill. “But for me as a songwriter, it can be distracting. With tape, I can just listen, and all the limitations force me to be really creative.”
McGill might be a little more passionate than most about recording, but he's quick to encourage musicians to get involved, no matter their level of knowledge. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the nicest recording equipment,” stresses McGill. “Even on quality equipment, audio engineering is always a compromise.”
Those looking for a simpler approach will find good company in Alex Cohen, the brains behind the Alex Napping Project and a member of Soft Hands. She’s been recording herself for four years using Garage Band software, an Apogee Duet interface, and large diaphragm condenser mics. Cohen also rents equipment from Rock n Roll Rentals.
“The recordings aren’t necessarily studio quality,” she admits, “but I just want to get songs out so that people can hear them. Recording is also really valuable for songwriting if you’re a multi-instrumentalist.”
Of course, there are difficulties that come with self-recording.
“I had to have two glasses of wine before I recorded my own voice,” laughs Cohen. “Obviously you’re always your own worst critic, and sometimes in recording you can get bogged down in a negative mood. If you don’t have a band to record with, there’s also isolation.
“You don’t get the encouragement you might get from other people.”
Despite these challenges, Cohen still recommends that artists give self-recording a try.
“Dive into it,” she exclaims. “The best way to do it is dedicate a big period of time. Experiment with recording equipment. You can rent top notch gear for less than $100 a month. Don’t get discouraged if things don’t sound exactly how you want when you’re first starting.
“This is your material and when you’re self-recording, you can do whatever you want with it!”