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The Curse of the Home Studio

I remember when I was a really little kid, probably around ten years old, and I saw one of these Teen Beat magazines with a story on the Keane Brothers (anyone even know who the heck that is anymore?), who were a pair of 13 and 15 year old kids the magazine was pimping as some kind of new teen music sensations. There was a photo of them sitting in front of a reel to reel multitrack machine with a caption that talked about them working in their home recording studio. Even at ten, a year into seriously pursuing playing my guitar, I turned a shade of Kelly green as jealousy fueled my prepubescent brain. A home studio? What? How could they afford that? That's so not fair. Why, if I had a home studio I'd be making records and being pimped by Teen Beat Magazine, too. If I had a home studio, I'd make album after album, masterpiece after masterpiece, the world would hear my genius and soon know my inner Sgt Pepper!

Having a home studio was a quest I was on from that day forward as a musician. It started with me shortly after seeing that after getting a pair of crappy old tape recorders out of the trash and surmising that if I could figure out how to start and stop them just right together, I could record guitar on one, and then come back and record guitar on the other, then play them together and create something I'd never heard of called sound-on-sound or multitrack recording, which little did I know Les Paul had invented decades before my ten year old brain fathomed this concept. Needless to say, the pair of trash-can-cassette recorders didn't produce my Sgt Pepper.

The first stop in any genuine effort at recording my amazing opus collection in my head was the purchase of a four track cassette recorder when I was 20 years old and could finally sort of afford to do this. But alas, I had no experience using it, couldn't really get a handle on the manual, had no money to buy these outboard effects and signal processors, only owned a couple of live microphones in the dark ages before China would produce everything known under the sun in a version affordable for a budding engineer and producer. 

So, flash forward two decades, and what has happened. My quest for a perfect home studio, well, as perfect as it will get, has been achieved. I have a crazy-fast Mac Pro tower, a 30" LCD monitor display, two sets of studio monitor speakers, a closet full of wonderful microphones, a Pro Tools 18-input LE system, every DAW software known to the Mac world for musicians, 400GB of loops, samples and a list of plugin effects that would make The Village Recorders in Los Angeles jealous. So where is my Sgt Pepper now?

Here we have "the curse of the home studio owner." I have every toy I could possibly need to achieve my goal, but no time to finish anything I start, because I am otherwise engaged working, being a husband and father, and too distracted to complete most of the projects I start. I have hard drives full of hall-started, unfinished compositions, 300 variations of a mix on a song, and at the end of the day, very little to show for what must be at least $30,000.00 or more worth of toys in here. I'm not alone in this. I tell this story to others in my circle, and I hear the same lament from them. It was once a fantasy that if only I had my own fully decked-out studio in my home, I'd never let it collect dust, I'd crank out hit after hit. But in the real world, it doesn't seem to work that way.

The sad truth is that before I had all of this stuff, I was much more productive as a songwriter and recording artist, because I had to focus on what I was doing, write it, rehearse it, and then spend real money watching the clock in a pay-by-the-hour recording studio where screwing around would cost me real money. When you own every toy you could ever want, you lose that motivation, well, at least I have, and often find myself struggling to go in and finish my own projects in this studio, though I would crank out somebody else's project with joy. 

So, if you're struggling with your own "if I only had all those toys" demon and think like I did that it would be used to produce amazing results and masterpiece after masterpiece, take my experience with a grain of salt while you consider what you might actually accomplish before you invest in the biggest money pit outside of boat ownership. I don't regret owning all this stuff, I wouldn't sell it and not have it around me for anything, because when I do actually sit down and focus, I get to do some amazing stuff, but its not as often as you might imagine when the real world invades and even Sgt Pepper himself can't fight off that attack.

Posted: 3/16/2009 9:23:29 AM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink
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