Why Your Recordings Don’t Sound Like the Pro Studios

Is it possible for raw home studio recordings to sound just as good raw recordings from pro studio with all the high-end gear they use?

That’s a question I received from a friend of mine who is just getting into recording and mixing.  He was worried about getting the best possible recordings at the source.  And even though he has improved a lot in the last few months, he still thinks that they don’t stack up to the pro studios.

He’s worried that the recordings won’t sound as good, and he’ll have to get all his songs mixed with a professional online mixing service just to be competitive with the rest of the songs on the radio.

But is it necessary?  In this article, my goal is to help you get better recordings so that you can also get better mixes down the road.

Professional Facilities Have One Advantage

My friend has asked a good question.  He has the proper gear and has done enough research by reading articles and watching tutorials and has improved immensely.  With that said, he’s definitely onto something important as it relates to professional recording studios.

The biggest advantage big studios have is that they have at least one nice room for recording drums, guitar amps, vocals, etc.

Without a doubt, if you record a drum kit in a pro studio, it’s going to sound better than a recording in a home studio even with the same gear.  There’s just something about a large sounding room that makes drums sound massive.  But it is possible to record them at home, and make them sound big in the mix, believe me, I’ve done it many times!

Only You Will Hear Them Raw

This brings me to another crucial point.  At the end of it all, the only thing that matters is that your recordings sound great in the mix.  It’s just that simple because no one else is going to hear those tracks raw except for you – well maybe a friend if you have a writing partner.

Of course, you want your raw tracks to sound as good as possible because mixing becomes extremely easy, but we are working in home studios. Hence, we are working with limitations pro studios don’t have.

The professional studio will record through a few different preamps with varying amounts of tone and maybe with a touch of compression and EQ.  This is something that you will see a lot in Nashville sessions; their drums already sound mixed because they have been recorded through expensive gear in a great sounding room.  But most home studio guys record directly to their DAW, dry, in a small sounding room, so it’s hard to make a comparison to the pros.  They have a good head start; you don’t!

Keep Your Eye On The Prize

Whenever I’m the one in the recording seat, I try to keep my eye on the prize, and this is why I specifically spend most of my time on mic placement.  It truly is your first EQ in a way.  Of course, I also always keep my eye on levels and gain staging.  I do whatever I can, with my knowledge and tools to capture the best possible recording that I can.  So basically you can’t just record in any which way you want and then slap on your favorite waves plugins and call it a day.  You have to get a good sound BEFORE it gets recorded into your DAW.

All of this is done with what I can potentially accomplish in the mix.  If I have an idea of what compression and reverb can do for my recordings, then I won’t worry that much that my recordings aren’t quite as nice as a pro studio.  If I already know the kind of sounds that I can achieve using the tools I have, then I can stay relatively calm.

So to sum it all up, it is possible to turn those average recordings in your homes studio into great ones by using the tools inside your DAW.  I’m talking saturation, EQ, compression, reverb, etc.  After all, we all want to get the best possible recordings, which turn, into a great listening experience for the consumer.  So who cares how we get there as long as we do.

If you get the best possible sound you can from the source, you just might be able to get a great mix as well.  You actually might not have to pay a mixing service.  At the same time, if your project is going to be released I always advise getting your song professionally mixed and mastered if you can afford it.

Let me know how your tracks turn out!!
If you need some visual demonstration, I think this video does a great job…