Buyer’s Giude: How to Find good Recording Studios

Have you ever slaved to prepare for an important recording session and shelled out a ton of hard-earned cash, only to discover that your tape sounds like you were singing through a velvet curtain? Ever hired an engineer to record a recital, given a glorious performance, and found the resulting tape unusable? Had problems with surly engineers, cramped, dead studio space, or allergies due to pets and dustiness in the studio?

One of the greatest frustrations of making an audition tape is knowing what you are getting into. One singer with bad allergies scheduled a taping session without checking out the facility first. When he arrived, he found the studio was horribly dusty. He started singing, his throat closed up, and his money went down the drain. Check to see that the studio is clean and, if you’re allergic to animals, that there are no pets on the premises.

If you want to save time and money, do some checking ahead of time. On the opposite page are the questions I usually ask. I’ve started the search for you by interviewing three of the studios and engineers in the New York City area.

Making a recording is a sizable investment and something you will use to market yourself to managers, producers, and companies. It is imperative you feel as comfortable as possible in the studio, and confident that you are protecting yourself and your investment.

Sometimes singers have no choice regarding the recording engineer. We may be engaged to perform with a group and find that the engineer is already lined up. For a better chance of getting a usable recording, make it your business to find out whether the engineer is experienced with small or large voices, or with a particular type of music. Try to arrange a few trial takes to check his setup, and recording results. Sometimes equipment adjustments can be made. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Request references and sample tapes of other clients.

Every engineer has a different ear, different acoustical environment, and different equipment. The changes may be subtle, but can impact the final product enormously. A little research in advance of your recording session will help you get a finished product that will accomplish its purpose–putting you in the limelight!Craig Collins is a tenor residing in NYC.

[Editor’s Note: see related story “YOUR TURN” for another singer’s recommendations on several recording studios.]