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Anson Stevens-Bollen

Homework

How to make an album without leaving the comfort of your house

June 8, 2016, 12:00 am

Though there is a certain level of turmoil and undervaluation of music associated with the internet and the world of album production, the good news is that recording is no longer a thing that only studios can handle. Do you have a laptop? Then you’re good to go. Programs like GarageBand and ProTools have put the power directly into the hands of the musicians. But even though a simple microphone plugged into your MacBook makes all of this possible, you might still want a few tips on how to get the most out of your home recording setup. Here’s how the local pros who have shirked the professional studios prepare to make their own albums:


Javier Romero, formerly of indie bands like The Cherry Tempo and Mistletoe, now records under the name Strange Magic. “I would say recording as simply as possible with a good audio interface is really helpful,” Romero advises. “Also keeping all my instruments, microphone and laptop well within arm’s reach.” Romero uses the Apogee One as his interface and records his beats with an electric MIDI controller/drum kit, which he routes through a plug-in called Addictive Drums. “It’s great because I usually record in the wee hours of the morning, and the Apogee One is a small, iPhone-sized device that allows for one mic and one line input; the portability helps me quickly switch between vocals, bass and guitar, and it’s got a pro-level analog-to-digital converter, which is nice to have.”

 

Peter Williams, longtime Candyman Strings & Things employee and stalwart bassist for funk act The Sticky, takes a simpler approach. “Mic the entire house when recording the drums,” he says. “Put mics everywhere.”

 

As for David Badstubner, a sound engineer who has played with everyone from Anthony Leon to the sadly defunct Treemotel, home recording is a little more scientific. “I would acoustically treat the space I wanted to track and mix in, tame first reflections and try to level out the bass frequency response as best as possible,” Badstubner says. “Oftentimes, homes are not the most desirable acoustic locations, and before I would invest a ton of money into gear, I’d invest that capital into acoustic treatment.” Badstubner notes that even modest gear can achieve a killer sound if the room is treated properly. “The other thing that trumps all of this,” he adds, “is to make sure the songs and performances are the best they can be. In the end, that’s all that really matters.”

 

Balkan folk band Rumelia’s Nicolle Jensen is understandably all about the vocals, given her amazing range and voice-centric style. “My first thought would be to be sure you have a microphone you like and that’s true to your voice/instrument, and a pre-amp,” Jensen says. “My second would be that working in spaces that are not specifically sound recording dedicated is challenging, because some of my neighbors are compensating for something by driving really loud vehicles.” She refers to audio bleed or background noises that wind up on a recording—a serious pitfall for any home production enthusiast. “I’ve lost a few takes to traffic noise,” she cautions, “so I use a shóji screen with some insulation to surround myself, but big noises will sometimes still creep through.”

 

Albuquerque-based guitarist Dave Jordan, who once played with Javier Romero and now haunts the stage with Award Tour, has advice that is perhaps less technical, but is nonetheless a very valuable piece of information.

"The best piece of advice I can give is to Not obsess with it being perfect."

“The best piece of advice I can give is to not obsess with it being perfect,” Jordan says of laying down tracks. “Let things be a little noisy, a little lively, [and] let some mistakes happen; there’s life in the human aspect. The more you remove that, the colder everything gets.”

 

Hip-hop MC Zach Maloof, who goes by the name State of the Mingo, operates his own home studio, which is also open to the public. Maloof says that it’s all about preparedness.

“It’s hard to get into the creative process when you’re constantly watching the clock, especially because recording takes much longer than you’d think,” he says. “I’d recommend doing a demo at home first, in order to save time and money. I get plenty of artists in my studio who are extremely underprepared, and it really slows down the process.”


Audio professor Jason Goodyear, who works for Santa Fe University of Art & Design and Santa Fe Community College (dude, he knows what he’s doing, OK?), says to not fight the space in which you’ll work.

“You can only improve a space so much without construction, so listen to it, understand it and learn what you can and can’t do with it,” Goodyear remarks. “And don’t just use one room; if you have more than one room, they have different sonic characteristics.”


 

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