Choose Your Team Wisely
To save money, you may be tempted to produce and mix the project yourself. Affordable software makes it possible for anyone to saturate the internet with their music directly from their home studio. Don’t do this!

“Nowadays, kids call themselves producers, and all they do is put beats together—in other words, steal other people’s songs!” says Wagener. “The ability for a guitar player to record himself and be the engineer is not a good thing. You can get good tone, but engineering is a left-brain situation and playing guitar is a right-brain situation. The more left brain you have going on, the more it takes away from the right brain. Guitarists should just think about playing and singing, and the engineer can take care of the technical side. Doing it yourself is not a good idea. A good engineer can be very helpful.”

“With Pro Tools, you can move three seconds of music one millisecond forward, do endless editing and get it just the way you want,” says Burleson. “But with a good engineer, you don’t have to think about the technical stuff. Just immerse yourself in the music you’re cutting.”

How do you find the right person for the engineering job? “When somebody is recommended, that means something,” says Kulick. “No matter where you are, someone in your city or state has a reputation for getting the sounds.” Do your homework, check references, reputations. Once you find someone, remember that you’re paying for their knowledge and expertise, so listen carefully and keep an open mind. That said, don’t hire on name alone. “The wrong producer can take a project in a direction that isn’t you,” says Kulick. “There are so many variables in the way that something is created, molded and shaped in production. It takes a visionary person to make it special. Listen to someone’s work. If you like a couple of albums they produced, or they like you and they give you a CD to listen to, whether it’s an entire album or 10 tracks by different artists, you will get a sense of their sound. Something should click in you instinctively that says that this person can do something for you.”

Be forewarned: quality isn’t cheap, but it will benefit the outcome. “Recording in a professional studio is very expensive,” says Kulick. “However, I believe that the end result of using a real studio, if you have a gifted engineer and a visionary producer, will give you amazing results, if you have the budget. Not all studios will break the bank, but make sure you know whether it’s a day rate or an hour-by-hour rate, so that you have everything lined up.

Bruce Kulick at Stagg Studios recording BK3.
“If budget is a problem, you might consider having them just do the two or three key tracks of your record, the tracks that can make a difference between the entire album being popular or not,” he says. “We live in a singles age, anyway, so those two or three key tracks matter. Musicians always talk about whether they’ve had a positive or negative experience with someone, or why someone made a project special. That’s the reputation again. Also, when you hire someone with that good reputation, they know how to bring in a good team to make things great. This is a very competitive business, so those things are important.”