A# Sharp Recording Studio

Rough = Fast; Quality = Slower



A: “OH ABOUT $200”




[ Back to Resources Index ]

Q: Why does Aerosmith spend one whole day on a snare drum?; Why does Pearl Jam take into a recording session 10 guitars and 20 amps and try all combinations? Why does Neil Finn spend hours trying all the mikes in the studio and hire even more in?

A: It’s because they are trying to capture that sound - the sound they hear in their head - and that sound might be a 1957 Telecaster through a 1960 Vibrolux amp - you know it when you plug in but not before.

It’s because these guys are making CDs at the cutting edge, all these bands try to make a statement with their lyrics, their music and their sounds. e.g. the U2 guitar sound, Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” snare drum, the Phil Collins vocal sound, the Pet Shop Boys’ keyboard programming, etc. Take these special styles or FX away and these songs and the effect of these songs would change.

Bands at this level have bucks behind them but they deserve it, because they sell and they’ve done their apprenticeship.

These guys spend time and money on getting these sounds (they also have time and money) but what about us mere mortals who are not yet at that
stage; with no record company support, with a 4 hour recording session instead of a 1 month block-out??

Well, preparation and realistic expectations are the answer. It also depends upon at what level you are recording .

Quick Demo

If it’s a quick demo for a few gigs @ $100 a gig (total earnings $1,000) then go in to a quick $200 session and get what you get. You should still shop around and try and find a good studio with a happening engineer who’s got half a day spare.

Note if he is a good guy, he’ll understand that every band is a potential Midnight Oil whose first recording was probably one of these type sessions. He will understand that your next recording will be (hopefully) more adventurous and time consuming; better business for him and more satisfying for you (now having more experience and expertise) and looking ahead, he will be involved with the band as the band goes from strength to strength.

Quality Demo

If you’re looking at doing a quality demo that can keep you in work for a year or so @ $500 a gig (say total $10,000 earnings) than a demo costing $1,000 or more would seem to be a fair investment.


Moving up the scale, what about an Indi CD?

500 CD’s @ $20 each = total earnings $10,000
So investing $2,500-$5,000 would seem reasonable

Moving up up up for an international selling CD - come and see me - I need a new house!!

The point is don’t expect to spend $200 on a recording and expect to do a silverchair.

I had a band call me. They had recorded twice before. They said they wanted to book a 10 hour block to do a 7 song CD - that’s:

  1. Set up
  2. Record band
  3. Overdub solos etc.
  4. Record vocals
  5. Mix 7 songs

OK, being in a particularly cruel mood that day I said OK let’s see how much time 10 hours allows us per song. He said “Sure” - like a lamb to the slaughter.


  • Lug drums and amps in
  • Set up said instruments
  • Mike all instruments
  • Get drum sound
  • Get guitar sound
  • Find out where buzz in bass amp is coming from
  • Set up guide vocals mike

1.5 hrs

How can it take 1.5 hours you say? Easy. Because the band haven’t had a whole lot of experience in the studio - it’s unlikely that (for example) the drums are going to have a perfect studio thud that the guys expect to hear on playback - we’ve got to work at it.

You see, what the band expects to end up with in 10 hours is a sound exactly like a Sound Garden or Pearl Jam CD that took 300 hours and $300,000 to create. Let me ask you a question: If Pearl Jam could make a CD in 10 hours wouldn’t they do it? They don’t spend that extra 290 hours in the studio because they like being around microphones - it’s because it takes that long to do it!! Fleetwood Mac took 2 years to make “Tusk”; Jesus Jones took 18 months to mix their 1994 CD.

OK. Where were we?


Let’s put in 1/2 hour for warm-up and headphone mixes.

0.5 hrs


Band recording songs - 7 songs @ 4 minutes each = approx 30 mins. Let’s assume all songs get recorded on the 3rd take and no-one says a word between takes.

1.5 hrs


Guitar solos, overdubs - shall we say a bit less than 10 mins. per song (in your dreams).

1.0 hr


Lead vocals - as above (in your wildest dreams).

1.0 hr


Overdub backing vocals, tambourines, handclaps, Chinese finger cymbals, and gong.

0.5 hrs


1 cup of tea, and inevitable chit-chat and loo breaks

0.5 hrs


This is in a perfect world situation - we now have 4 hours to mix 7 songs = 34 mins. per song.

On my best day if everthing was perfect, no-one talked, everyone in the band agreed 100% with how I was mixing 100% of the time - I could maybe do a mix in 34 mins for a demo if the songs had no stops, no quiet bits and went 1,2,3,4, go - to the end then POW!!! Stop.

BUT it’s not what they want and that’s not how the songs go - the guys want a panning flange on the guitar in the quiet bit, a nice fade in and fade out on song 3, swelling chorus on the girls in the 2nd chorus, etc. etc.

So - the good news is he spoke to me again and booked in 3 days; a wise decision.

The point is you can’t expect to go into a car yard, proudly slam 5 grand on the desk, and say “Gimme a Ferrari” - in short, quality takes time - your budget and your expectations have to be appropriate and realistic - I hate to rely on old sayings but “You get what you pay for”.

But having said all this, you should still strive for a good honest studio with a good dedicated engineer - they are around. Ring around the 30 that
live in your city, get a vibe off them. Out of the 30 you’ll ring you’ll get onto 10, another 10 will ring back, and 10 more will have answer phones.

At the end of the (looong) day, you’ll have a good vibe for 5 of them - Go and see them - don’t be lazy - I know we’re only talking about a $200 demo by a band that’s only 3 months old, and nobody in the band has ever recorded before - BUT - it’s important to you, the songs are important, your education as musicians and a band is important - TAKE CHARGE AND FIND SOMEONE GOOD!!


Permission to reproduce this article is available to all,
as long as you include attribution to myself including contact details
and let me know where you have used the material.
Jeff Cripps
A# Sharp Recording Studio
Email: jeff@asharp.com.au
Phone: +612 9153 9988


[ Back to Resources Index ]

    © Copyright 2005-2009 A# Sharp Studio
339 Belmore Road, Riverwood, NSW, 2210
Phone: (02) 9153 9988 • Email: jeff@asharp.com.au