To Record or Not To Record - At Home, That Is

I will be honest. I am addicted to music recording. I love moving faders, adjusting levels, panning, reverberating, sequencing, you name it. I especially love all that software, and the colorful ways that they show the music as a waveform. It is just cool.

And I'm not the only one. My cousin has just become hooked as well, and all around the globe many many songwriters are falling prey to the "Call of the Cubase." After all, what once upon a time could break the bank, is now easily accessible on our desktops. Every songwriter can record his/her songs for a pittance. So is this a good thing? And should we all be doing it?

On the surface, it's a no-brainer. Well, why not record? It stimulates creativity. It liberates more music from the brains of its creators. It puts more pleasure into the world. And yet, there is a downside or two to consider when you plan to record your stuff, at least at home.

Natural selection was Darwin's theory, and it applies equally to music as well. I'll be honest, I'm not the greatest songwriter. I tend to write stuff that is too long, overly cliched, and requiring the vocal range of Luciano Pavarotti mixed with Paul Robeson. Every so often, though, almost despite my best efforts, I'll crank out a beaut. When that happens, it deserves immediate posteritizing (recording for posterity), but, alas, there is a long line of "I-really-shouldn't-record-this-but-why-not-it's-cheap-to-do-it" material in front of it. Each of those will take a good week of work to arrange, record, overdub, mix, master, remix, remaster and burn. Add to that two days of regret after I've listened to the atrocious thing, you have 9 days. If I had to pay for a studio, I'd only have gone with the winner, and thos eother songs would have thankfully remained mere twinkles in my eye.

That's the first thing to consider. It's not for the betterment of the world to record everything just because you can. With the advent of the home studio, the natural selection process disappeared, and people don't have the same pressure to let their material grow, become refined, and be sure that they are going for the gold before they start laying down tracks. Always ask yourself if you can do better before you start. Don't let the technology cripple creativity with its instant allure.

Now let's say you really have an ace song on your hands. No reason not to record this, you're saying, and you're right. But. Is doing it at home the way to go? The answer is a resounding ... depends. Depends on what gear you have, sure. But even more, it depends on what you are capable of doing with that gear. If the ease with which one can record at home has limited creative quality, it may do the same to sonic quality when the creativity has been truly remarkable. I love those gadgets, but I will admit that I can never seem to get the sound I hear in my head when I write those songs. If I were properly trained, I'm sure I'd have a different take, but I'm not, and how many of us are?

So my compromise has been to have all the fun in the world with the songs I'm not staking my future on, while the keepers get a professional to make sure that I'll get that record deal. I would highly recommend, however, to record your songs at home as a prequel, if you will, to the studio. The benefits are knowing how your song will take to tape on a basic level, as well as seeing any weaknesses in your arrangements. It is a great scratch pad, and then, when you get into the studio, you'll have a great head start.

I hope everyone thrills to this wonderful world of songwriting, and whether your goal is simply to give CDs to your friends and family or to be a megastar (hope we make it), you'll use home studio technology to stimulate creativity, improve your craft and career and have a blast. Happy tunes!

Seth Lutnick is a singer, songwriter and arranger. Visit his website,, for more on creating and using a home recording studio, and personal action planning.

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