I used to have a purpose-built, soundproofed, acoustically treated studio, now I don’t.
I distinctly remember the occasion when I first conceived the desire to have a recording studio of my own.
It was 1981. A full 26 years ago.
And then, home recording studios didn’t exist. Well, George Harrison had one apparently.
Some other top acts had their own studios, but not at home. The problem was that it was fiendishly expensive to build and equip a studio in those days.
Acts that did venture into studio ownership soon found that they had to hire them out so that they could earn their keep. And then they found they couldn’t get into their own studios because other people had booked them!
But in 1981 I was hardly a top act, although I had plans (that somehow got diverted along a different track...).
But I still wanted that home recording studio, so I sat down and listed all the equipment I would need – mixing console, multitrack recorder, reverb unit (they were huge great mechanical things in those days).
It all added up to a small fortune. It was absolutely, totally, completely impractical.
So I continued my recording doing what many others did at the time, and probably still do – I scrounged time in studios. If you are connected with the business, and around equipment, then just by asking nicely it is sometimes possible to get free time on it.
But I still wanted a setup of my own, even if not a full-blown, purpose-built studio.
The next part of the story could be lengthy, but you know it already. Gradually the cost of equipment capable of professional-quality results came down. It was still expensive – I remember paying £5000 ($10,000) for a 16-track recorder in 1987.
I can’t imagine what that would be now if inflation is taken into account.
So I got my equipment together and enjoyed making recordings at home.
Still, however, I longer for a professional studio environment to work in.
But then in 1994, I decided to move out of my small London apartment to a house in a small town amidst the countryside.
And as a priority, I made sure that one of the bedrooms was suitable to convert into a recording room.
So I did that. I soundproofed the windows (which was easy, cheap and very effective – I’ll tell you about that another time). I also soundproofed the door, which wasn’t as effective but OK. I didn’t soundproof the walls – I accepted that there would be some leakage into other parts of the house.
It looked really good, if I say so myself, and it was a pleasant environment to work in.
But I still wanted a 'proper’ studio.
And then... for no particular reason I was idly looking through estate agents’ (real estate brokers’) blurbs, I spotted a quite nice house, with the intriguing comment, “Garden at rear with path leading to recording studio”.
It said 'recording studio’! That just had to be interesting.
I went to view the property and sure enough, down at the bottom of the garden was the biggest shed you have ever seen.
Well, it looked like a shed. Within the wooden exterior was a substantial concrete building with walls literally two feet thick.
It was fully kitted out with acoustic treatment. It had a large control room, a small recording area, and there was a machine room – ideal for noisy computers.
It also had a kitchen and toilet.
Fantastic! How could it get any better?
Apparently, the house had been owned by a record producer who had had some success in lightweight pop. I was told that Kylie Minogue had visited (and Des O’Connor).
He and his partner had previously worked from a bedroom, but then invested some money in this purpose-built studio. Their reason for selling was that they had teamed up with a third producer and planned on setting up an even more sophisticated facility located elsewhere in the country.
So I bought the house. And you know how much that studio cost me?
Nothing. Not a penny.
I know that because the next-door house was also on the market. It was an almost identical design, but without a studio. It was on offer at an even higher price.
A studio for nothing is what I call a bargain.
So I worked in that studio for the next five and a half years until eventually, for reasons outside of music, I decided to relocate.
So I had to let the studio go. But the strange thing is that I rarely miss it.
During my time there I did lots of work on other people’s recordings for my production music library. But somehow I didn’t get much of my own work done.
In fact, for my own music, I achieved much more taking a mobile system to rented country cottages than I ever did at home. The change of atmosphere seemed to work for me, rather than the same day-to-day environment.
And now, I don’t really need a studio. I can do all the editing and mastering I need for my production music library at home. I don’t need soundproofing or anything more than modest acoustic treatment.
If I want to be creative, I can rent somewhere nice and spend a few days working on tracks.
If I have anything that needs doing that requires precise acoustics, I can hire a commercial studio at a reasonable rate.
Hmm... I felt for a moment that I was coming to a conclusion. But actually I’m not, except to say that there is not one 'holy grail’ of home recording studios. What works for one person might not be necessary at all for another.
And perhaps the most important point is to find the kind of environment where you can work at your best – whether traditional studio, home studio or otherwise.
Never let any apparent lack of facilities stand in your way.