Writing songs, recording songs, and making albums was a dream of mine from a very young age. I never imagined that I would be able to do it from my Brooklyn apartment and that I would be able to do it, start to finish (basically), on my own. From writing to recording, from producing to mixing, I've been making it "my way" and loving it. Here are some useful tips I've collected along the way to get the most out of my DIY recording process.
1. Invest wisely
I feel so fortunate to have had a hands-on education by working in major studios in both NYC and LA that I've been able to apply to my simple home setup. Having a home studio requires investing wisely. I've found it more important to have a couple of really good pieces of gear, as opposed to having tons of cheap gear, to allow yourself the ability to record something that's going to be able to compete sonically with big-budget projects. Having an awesome A/D converter, vocal mic, and preamp is essential, and then spend the rest of your budget on more moderately priced items. For example, there are plenty of great sounding instruments that don't necessarily cost a lot of money. Sometimes the best sounding instruments can be found in the strangest of places, like at yard sales or secondhand stores! And take good care of your equipment (including keeping it clean) so that you don’t have to spend extra money having things repaired.
2. Exercise creative freedom
I love being in the producer's chair, because creatively, I am unbound. By producing my own music, I have no limits to my exploration and the possibilities that exist, except my own limitations. But I often find that when I get stuck, I reach out and connect with friends and bounce ideas off of them, and then I'm able to move forward again. It has helped open up my palate as well as my abilities, and knowing how to engineer allows me to be completely independent. I can work whenever I want because I don’t need to schedule time with someone else – plus, over the years, I've become a better engineer. I've been forced to become better. As my production chops and listening skills improve, my engineering skills are pushed along as well. But again, when I get stuck, I reach out to friends. And of course, there's the endlessly knowledgeable friend to everyone – the internet!
3. Develop listening skills
One of the challenges of working from a tiny Brooklyn apartment (with a really nice microphone) is that you hear everything. Sometimes it's the buzz of the refrigerator, the buses and trucks flying down the street or the piercing squeal when they step on their breaks, or your neighbors doing a myriad of things from loud intimacy to loud arguments to thumping dog feet. I have had to develop my listening skills so I'm not recording extra audio detritus – which has led me to develop patience. (It really is a bummer, though, when I'm inspired and on a roll but have to wait for my neighbors to finishing trekking up the stairs.)
4. Embrace self-education
The other great thing I love about self-producing is that I'm constantly challenged, and therefore self-educating. I get to discover new things all the time about instrumentation, engineering, musicianship, working with musicians, learning different styles of music and how to incorporate them into what I'm doing, and what I like doing. Furthermore, it's led me to produce other artists, as well as compose for video artists and film – new avenues I'm loving.
5. Work with cool people
The best part of self-producing is collaborating with amazing people and musicians. In this environment, I get to work with people who inspire me, who I love to be around, who I learn from, and who will put their all into the music. I have a tremendous number of musicians, engineers, producers, and studio owners in my community, and I love being able to confer with them and then come home and apply it to what I'm working on.
6. Strike a balance
There are so many benefits to self-engineering and self-producing, but there are also many challenges. Sometimes, it's a challenge separating work time from personal time. Living in the same place I often work, though, can also be a blessing. When I'm inspired at odd hours of the day or night, I don't have to wait to sketch out the idea; I can go right to it and get to work. However, there are also great benefits to being submerged in a work environment where you get to interact with your peers on a daily basis, as opposed to being somewhat isolated in a home studio situation. The key is to find a balance between the two.
I'm still amazed on a daily basis at what I'm capable of creating and producing in my home studio. The benefits far outweigh the challenges. I look forward to growing and expanding my home studio, my body of work, and working with more awesome people.
Brooklyn-based artist, composer, audio engineer, and producer Erica Glyn is an amplifying force in the music industry. From her self-made creations to her songwriting and production work, she’s becoming a well-known entity and tuning in ears across the globe.