A movable feast of sound
We are living in an age when anyone with access to a laptop and a microphone can make a recording good enough to be played on the radio or put on the Internet and sold. A dramatic reduction in the price of home recording technology has had an enormous impact on musicians who cannot afford recording in a high-priced studio. They can now do it themselves.
Affordable home recording equipment has opened a new world for musicians, while causing professional recording studios some concern.
Jim Parr, proprietor of Parr Audio, a small but state-of-the-art studio on Dukes County Ave. in Oak Bluffs, feels there will always be a place for studios like his. He is in fact enthusiastic about the technical innovations.
"A cool thing that's come out of this is that people are really able to spend the amount of time on their records that they need to," Mr. Parr says. "They can spend six months getting that perfect take. People want their music to be right."
He explains that the emphasis is on the artists rather than the major recording studios. The results are recordings that are more varied, intimate, and more an expression of the artist's intention.
"I've always looked at what's happened in the music business in terms of what happened in the beer industry about 15 years ago," says Mr. Parr. "It used to be that Bud and Coors were all you had for beers. Then all of a sudden the technology of making beer on a small scale got into the hands of the artisans, the people who had really new ideas about how to make beer. It was getting into the hands of the artists and out of the hands of the corporation. It's the same in music."
Even Mr. Parr, who works with internationally known performers, began by recording his own music at home.
Photo by Peter Simon
"When I moved here, I was living in a tiny house in Katama," he recalls. "There was nobody living out there in the winter. I didn't have any furniture. I had a drum set, and when I ate, I'd use the snare drum for a table. I had all my music gear but no recording gear, until a friend lent me a four track - a little Yamaha. I just got hooked."
The essentials for a home recording setup are a computer, a couple of microphones, an interface, and software such as Pro Tools Digital Performer, or Garage Band. The basic setup can be purchased at the relatively inexpensive cost of just over a thousand dollars. With Pro Tools, which has become the industry standard, tracks can be worked on at the artist's own pace, and without the pressure of money and time constraints. The studio becomes completely mobile.
Mr. Parr sums it up: "It's not about having to go to the equipment. It's about going to where you feel comfortable and where you can keep the band happy. Mr. Parr reflects on why he built a studio on the Vineyard. He laughs, then says, "I really didn't have a choice. With children and real estate, I'm deeply rooted on the Island. In terms of who I am as a person - this is what gives me life."
Mr. Parr explains that people in his position also benefit from mobile technology. "You might fly to Los Angeles because there's a great sax player you want to use on a couple of tracks. I've got five records on my laptop right now," he says. "Sitting on an airplane, I can be editing somebody's record. All the things you dream of being able to do, you can now do."
Colin Ruel contributes music reviews to The Times.