Did my last post about budgeting for a concept album give you a scare? Well, good for you. That was the idea.
The good news is that you can do it much cheaper. There are many ways that you can save cost by doing some things yourself. The bad news is that some of these things you can do may compromise on quality if you do not know what you are doing. However, if you are vigilant you may get away with a very reasonable quality product.
For example, we have seen how a session musician may want to charge you a two session price for strumming a guitar on a single song. If that sounds excessive, that is exactly what it is. That is what the going rate is. That is what unions do. Unions are there to ensure unemployment for their members. Keeping prices unaffordable for the small entrepreneur like you and me. If you can play a reasonable guitar, you can strum that guitar yourself. It may however not sound as good as the session musician, recorded by a professional engineer. You may not have the same quality gear or the same skills - and this is where the vigilant part comes in.
Start thinking like a business man here. We have 20 songs, each track will cost you 2 sessions for a musician, plus one hour studio cost; i.e. a total of $400 per song. Multiply this with 20 songs to give you $8000, just for strumming guitars on your 20 songs!
What can you do with $8000? For one, you can buy a reasonably good quality guitar for less than $500, but if you really go for the top of the range, splash out around $1000 and you are assured to have a sound as good as that professional. You also will need a very good microphone. For about $100 you can get a cheap mic, but, I would recommend that you go for the $500 range to get the best quality. You will also need a reasonably good set of headphones, which would cost around $200. Let's assume you already have a good computer with a good recording program. All you would need is a quiet place where you can record you guitar and you are set to go. For about $2000 and lots (yes lots) of time, you can have your guitars recorded and save yourself $6000!
The only variable we have now is your own skills. Look at it this way. If I'd pay you $6000 cash to practice, how much would you be prepared to sit down and practice? 5 days? 10 day? I'd think more. So all that is left for you is to sit down and practice. There are thousands of internet sites giving advice on how to practice. Remember, we are just talking about strumming your guitar here. We have not even looked at the fingerpicking and guitar solos yet. Adding the possibility to do the finger picking parts, electric guitar parts, and the guitar solos, you may be able to save yourself a whopping $20,000 to $30,000, just by doing all the guitar parts yourself. That is not bad hey!
Remember, this is a concept album recording. You do not need to have Eric Clapton playing the guitars.
Off course, you will have to also learn a few other things in addition to playing the guitar. That studio owner and recording engineer was not sitting around doing nothing. You will have to learn how to best record a guitar. Trust me, you don't simply switch on a microphone and start recording. Google is you best friend here and you may want to spend many (yes, many) hours reading books and trying different ways. You will have to be prepared to re-record a song many times until you have the best take. Does 10 times recording the same song scare you? Wake up then, cause you might have to do it 20 times for each song.
Going this route has many other advantages. You are not limited to only one strumming part per song anymore. You may choose to record your guitars in stereo by recording different parts for left and right. You may even get creative by overdubbing certain parts and add fills and thrills. All for free. A song like Hotel California has at least 10 guitar parts double tracked.
This gives you an idea on how to save costs - lots of it - when doing a concept album. The same idea may apply to all your other instruments. Ever wanted to start playing the drums? What about piano? Bass guitar? Violin, cello, saxophone, trumpet, etc. We can get really creative......but......
Fact is, not everybody is able to play musical instruments, especially not that many different ones. Even if you were able to learn to play all those instruments, it may take you many years to become reasonably skilled in all of them.
Next time we will look at other ways of doing it. Help is out there. We just have to find it. You do not really have to play the drums and trumpets yourself, and still get away without it costing you anything.