• Can we come and view the studio before booking?

    If you are recording a demo, an EP or an album it's always a good idea to meet in person before you book. That way you can have a look around and we can have a chat. Also, in person it's easier to get a feel as for whether or not we'll work well together. Discussing your project we can draw a general plan, and I can give you a good idea of different costing options.

    If you are looking to buy a gift voucher, or if you are only looking to book a couple of hours (for instance to record some vocals), please let's have a chat on the phone instead.

    For anything with a drum kit involved I would make sure your drummer comes around too, so that he can have a wee trial of the hybrid kit. Again, it will become clear pretty quick if that is something that will work well for you or not.

  • Do you provide instruments?

    There are a number of great sounding instruments that are here for you to use. These include a formidable acoustic guitar collection, 4 electric guitars, a great sounding US Fender Precision Bass, two keyboards, a hybrid drum kit, various percussion bits, some amazing guitar amps and a truly outstanding collection of modern and vintage guitar pedals.

    Please see our equipment section for more details.

  • Can you get session musicians for my recording?

    While I don't keep a list of session players as such, I know a lot of great musicians and I'll be very happy to put you in touch with someone. Just ask!

  • I have no experience of recording whatsoever: how does it work?

    There are two main approaches to recording: live tracking and overdubbing.

    With live tracking people play together, all at the same time. This is very good to capture the energy of playing live, allowing musicians to interact and respond to each other’s playing. At the same time, it may lead to poorer sound quality and it is less forgiving of mistakes.

    When overdubbing, instruments are recorded separately, layered one by one. This produces the best sound quality. Because each instrument is recorded on its separate track, it allows people to have as many takes as required and when they make mistakes they can just re-record the bit they did wrong. Overdubbing offers more choices in post-production too. On the negative side, in some cases overdubbing can make things sound a bit disjointed.

    Both have pros and cons. Some people work better with one rather than the other. Some music genres are generally more suited to one rather than the other. Usually bands records live, acoustic songwriters record things separately to then add more instruments to the mix. Of course the two approaches can be mixed, recording for instance 2-3 instruments at the same time (to preserve a live feel and its dynamics) and then overlay other things on top.

    In the case of an acoustic singer/songwriter, I encourage recording guitar and vocals together. There is something very special about the way people sing while playing guitar, something that would be a shame not to capture. Indeed, I excel in recording guitar and vocals at the same time and developed a number of techniques to do that to perfection.

    I am very good at working with you to understand which approach suits your music and playing best. Indeed the success of your recording will largely depend on finding the approach that works best for you.

  • How long will it take to record my album?

    It really depends on a lot of different elements:

    - how many songs
    - the complexity of the songs
    - your music style/genre
    - your musical ability and how well you work under pressure
    - how rehearsed you are
    - how self-critical you are
    - what results you are aiming for

    A well rehearsed singer/songwriter/guitarist can track quite a few songs in a half-day, mix it on the same day and walk away with a good quality demo. For a simple four-piece band, 3-4 demo songs are achievable in a weekend.

    If you want to record an album then you will want to work on sounds and arrangements, to what extents really depends on what you are looking for.

    A well-rehearsed band can lay down most of the basic tracks for an album in 2 days. Overdubs can take 1-2 days depending on the complexity of the material and your level of pickiness. For mixing, you are looking at 2-3 hours per song.

    Acoustic songwriters usually work much faster. In 2 or 3 half-day sessions we can find a good vocal/guitar sound and record all vocals and guitar parts. Then more instruments can be overdubbed as required.

    I've made albums in one day and others in one month, it really all depends. Just don't try to make “The Dark Side of the Moon” in three days!

  • What's your set up for recording bands?

    How many times did you see a local band playing live, sounding totally brilliant, bought their CD at the end of the gig, went home, put it on and… the excitement and magic you witnessed earlier just wasn’t quite there?

    That is what happens when you get a band and instead of making them play live you record each bit separately and then stitch it all back together. Or when a band tries to come up with new sounds without a good producer behind them.

    Another common problem are drums recorded in an unsuitable acoustic space, which don't provide the low end punch and power needed to support your mix. It is difficult to have a room which will record drums well: it needs to have a lot of headroom, the right proportions and the right acoustic treatment. Very few studios in Edinburgh offer that facility, and they charge three times as much as I do.

    To avoid all that, I have developed a special "protocol" to record bands, based around a formidable, custom built hybrid drum kit and a strong emphasis on playing live. More info, pictures and sound samples here.

  • Do you work weekends/evenings?

    Working hours are flexible and I am happy to discuss with you any times that may suit you. Usually weekends are fine and so are evenings - though I don't work after 10pm. The earlier you book, the easier it will be to accommodate your needs.

  • Is there any parking?

    Ticketed parking is available just outside the studio, at the cost of £ 2.50 per hour. This is free on a weekend or after 17.30 on weekdays. Usually availability is pretty good.

    If you cannot get street parking, there is an NCP Car Park three minutes walk from the studio as well, though it's more costly. It's open 24 hours a day and prices are:

    1 hour: £3.50
    2 hours: £7.50
    3 hours: £11.50
    4 hours: £14.50
    5 hours: £18.50
    24 hours: £21.50

    *prices updated on 1st December 2018

  • How can I pay?

    For short bookings, you can pay in cash at the end of your session.

    Payment with credit and debit cards is fine but it attracts a 3.5% surcharge (sorry, that is what they charge me!)

    For longer recording sessions (more than 3 hours), voice-over work, gift vouchers, mixing and mastering you can pay via bank transfer.

  • What if we must cancel our session?

    No problem. Simply call me as soon possible to let me know, so that I don't end up sitting around waiting for you.

    If I must cancel your session (which is very unlikely) I will do the same and notify you as soon as I possibly can, so that we can arrange another time for you to come in.

    PS: for corporate and business bookings (like advertising and voice over work) cancellations must be made at least 48 hours in advance, or you will be charged for the first two hours of your booking (for a week-day session) or 50% of the total amount of your booking (if it was for a weekend session).

  • What to bring / preparing for you session

    Whatever instrument you are going to be playing - try to bring anything you may need - just in case. Spare drum sticks, strings, picks, batteries, capos etc.

    Vocalists: consider bringing lyric sheets, they can always be handy.

    Drummers: please bring you own stool and kick pedal (we have them here too, but you may like yours better).

    Bass, mandolin, ukulele, fiddle and banjo players: please make sure you have some spare strings.

    Guitar players: although I do have spare guitar strings, I still encourage you to bring your own. In order to get the best sound out of your guitar, please change the strings 1-2 days before your recording session and make sure the guitar has been played a minimum of 30 minutes but no more than 4 hours since it has been restrung.

    Clothing: wear something comfortable. Also consider that microphones are extremely sensitive and pick everything up. A tracksuit and a top with no zip/buttons is always best, as this prevents your instrument rubbing against them and making noises that you probably don't want in your recording!

    The tracking room is small, so please take it easy with perfumes and aftershaves as they can make things a bit overwhelming for others :-)

  • What is Mixing?

    After all the instruments and vocals are recorded, they are mixed.

    Think of mixing as putting the puzzle together, assembling the parts you have recorded so that each one sits in its own space and can be clearly heard, but at the same time they form a whole together.

    Mixing involves adjusting volumes of individual tracks, adjusting the stereo image, creating a sense of space and depth, equalizing, compressing, adding effects and final touches.

    You will be involved in the process so that the final product matches your particular musical taste.

  • Digital vs analogue mixing

    You may have read contrasting opinions about this subject. Let me be blunt: a good sound engineer will be able to mix and master your album using software (or "plug-ins") alone, and get very good results. Anyone telling you otherwise has formed that opinion exclusively because of their lack of skills in using plugins. Period.

    So why do people like me still use analogue gear for mixing? Let me reply with a question: would you settle for a very good mix when you can get a truly amazing one?

    Really, that is all it comes down to. Software developers do a fantastic good job in emulating analogue outboard. But at the end of the day plugins are emulations, and analogue effects are the real thing - that sofware is trying to emulate. A famous mixing engineer put it really well: "software is like looking at a stunning, beautifully printed picture of the grand canyon taken by a world class photographer. Analogue gear is actually being there, looking at the grand canyon standing beside the photographer".

    Mixing "in the box" is quicker and all the settings are instantly recalled, making changes/revisions very easy indeed. This saves time and money. But if your concern is to get the best sound quality, plugins will never get you the same depth, clarity, warmth and phase coherence analogue brings. And the difference is not subtle... remember the grand canyon!

    The choice is yours, and I can accommodate both options. Though it doesn't need to be one against the other. There's a number of things that cannot be done in the analogue world at all, and others that digital can do better than analogue. So why not use both digital and analogue? That is exactly what I recommned: an hybrid mix where you take advantage of the best of both worlds.

  • What is mastering?

    Mastering is the process of optimizing your songs, making the overall loudness, dynamics and frequency levels (bass, treble and mid range) match the volume and frequency levels of other professional recordings of similar style/arrangement and, more importantly, match each other.

    Mastering will not simply make your songs better. It isn’t a magic pill making home recordings and demos sounding on par with major label releases. If you are not happy with your mix, then the best course of action isn’t to send it for mastering, but to go back to your mix and re-mix it. Once you are happy with your mix, if you have the budget for mastering it will make a difference and it is an investment I recommend.

    Please note that mastering is much more important for albums that include a drum kit, electric bass, double bass and deep sounding percussion instruments like djembes. If your album consists of acoustic guitar, vocals, fiddle and light percussion, then mastering is much less critical.

    Mastering demands experience, skills and very expensive, dedicated equipment. It requires a room set up and treated in a very different way from your typical mixing environment, often custom built. A good mastering engineer will assess the mixes as a whole, making sure the songs are clear, punchy, translatable onto many systems, and that are sounding good together, as a unified album.

    You may wondering whether I do mastering, costs etc. Please read on.

  • Do you do mastering?

    That depends on what you mean by “mastering”. If you haven’t already, please read the section called “what is mastering” first. According to that definition, I am not a mastering engineer by any stretch of imagination, and I should not be used as a substitute for one...

    ... unless... you have no budget to pay for a proper mastering engineer at all, and it is either me or nothing. In that case, I can finalise the mix for you, making it ready for replication and adding tasteful mastering compression. I own a few analogue compressors that are extremely popular in good mastering studios (Manley Vari MU, Pendulum Compressor, SSL G Compressor and API 2500). Therefore I can finish your mix using great quality analogue outboard, rather than putting everything we recorded through a software plug-in that will simply flatten your music out introducing harshness and killing all its dynamics for the sake of gaining a few DBs of volume, like many other places do.

    I can also work on making each song as consistent as possible with each other. This is the "mastering" that I provide included with my recording packages.

    IT DOESN'T, HOWEVER, MAKE ME A SUBSTITUTE FOR A PROPER, EXPERIENCED MASTERING ENGINEER. Unfortunately within my colleagues there is no shortage of people who really should be telling you exactly the same thing, except they won't. Nowadays it sometimes feel as if everyone with a PC, an audio card and a pair of monitors has become a mastering engineer... a pretty ridiculous state of affairs.

    Finding a proper mastering engineer isn’t easy because far too many people improvise themselves as one, and often do more harm than good to your recording. However I can help you find someone suitable if you have the budget for it (as a guideline, prices start from £ 40 per song).