Whilst waiting for band members to arrive a couple of weeks ago I was indulging in one of my less stressful pastimes; looking at new recording equipment on line. More specifically, I was checking out a ‘small format’ analogue mixing console from a well known manufacturer and considering the possible upgrade options for my studio (day dreaming in other words).
The first member of the band to arrive was the guitar player and we began casually chatting as I readied the studio for the day’s session. He was telling me about a friend of his who was recording that week in London, and was posting a daily video blog showing the progress his band were making.
‘Oh, where are they recording?’ I asked
‘I don’t know the name of the place… but I don’t think it’s a proper studio…’ came the reply, ‘… it looks tiny’.
‘Size isn’t everything though is it?’ I said. Wink, wink.
‘Yeah, I suppose so. I did tell them about this place but they’d already booked. Come and have a look…’ he said, as he flipped open his laptop. ‘See what I mean? Pretty basic isn’t it?’
I didn’t recognise the studio in the video. The control room was smaller than mine but it looked nice enough. What did catch my eye however, was the mixing desk, which just so happened to be the exact model I was day-dreaming about owning only moments ago.
My current desk is by no means massive – I would call it medium sized – but it is inevitably the focus point of the control room. Almost everyone who comes into the studio remarks on it, and generally, the less they know about recording the more impressed they are by it. I have actually disappointed people in the past when I explain to them that it is essentially the same set of buttons duplicated over thirty six channels, so once you know how to work one channel you can operate ninety percent of the desk.
After this basic lesson in how studios can be viewed, I was left with a worrying quandary. Was I prepared to upgrade to a newer desk with a smaller footprint if it meant the studio looking less impressive? This may seem a little shallow but first impressions do count, particularly if you don’t have a list of house hold names to impress potential clients with. I hate the fact that this is something I feel I need to consider when choosing equipment – am I wrong?
It all comes down to the assumption that to run a recording session you need to be some kind of magician who can fathom large, exotic equipment. Once you’ve acquired this knowledge, you can constantly impress the unknowing by making the equipment do exactly what you want it to… which is all a bit smoke and mirrors if you ask me.
I think that far too much emphasis is put on the equipment when recording and too little on the person operating it. From now on I’m going to try and let my ears do the talking, not my gear…