Recording at Home

Pete Townshend in his liner notes for his demos album Scoop (1983):

When I have come up against any kind of problem in the past, I have always dealt with it through music, either through writing a song or literally recording the problem away therapeutically. I have recorded alone at home or more recently in my own or other pro-studios for pleasure, for catharsis, for solitude, for fulfillment and most of all for fun. For many years, recording was my one and only hobby.

Home recording has become more frequent in the years since. Although rock musicians incorporated elements of home demos into official recordings as early as the late 1960’s (including tracks by the Rolling Stones and the Small Faces in 1968), and Paul McCartney recorded much of his debut solo album at home, you needed to be a fairly wealthy musician to get together the kind of gear required to make recordings that could be put out on record. Now you can make decent, if somewhat lo-fi, recordings for a fraction of the cost. And since recording budgets have mostly vanished into thin air, anyone who isn’t a wealthy musician isn’t going to have the money to camp out for weeks on end in a professional recording studio. I saw a documentary recently about the studio where Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers  recorded Damn the Torpedoes. That studio closed recently and the people who worked there said in the documentary that they couldn’t see a place for a studio like theirs in the modern recording industry.

It’s a shame in a way. But musicians have long enjoyed recording in more informal settings. Perhaps the most renowned home demo album of all is The Basement Tapes, recorded by Bob Dylan and The Band in Bob Dylan’s home in Woodstock, NY over the summer and fall of 1967. At the time those recordings were never intended to be heard by the public, although they were soon bootlegged. Part of the charm of these recordings is the relaxed atmosphere in which a group of friends gets together and plays a bunch of tunes- and discovers something magical in how they can play those tunes. The Band went on to record their 1969 eponymous LP in a rented house made into a temporary recording studio.

For me, recording at home means that whenever I have an idea I can record it quickly, although I am limited in what I can record, chiefly by space. There is no space for a drum set, although I have a couple of percussion instruments. And although I have a keyboard we don’t currently have space to take it out of storage. I have been able to use drum and keyboard samples from And it is now easier to share demos and experiments with the public, through SoundCloud.


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