Songwriters! How to record a studio single

There are plenty of ways to get your first single recorded at home. Life Hacker has a great how-to, and a million instructional video available on youtube.  But what if you want something more professional? Isn’t it crazy expensive and impossible if you’re not signed to a record label?

Well, it’s not super CHEAP, but it is much more accessible than you’d think.

We spoke to the nicest guy in music, Matt Ingram, from Urchin Studios (the inspiration for the studio in This Beats Perfect) about how it all works.

First things first. What’s the cost of recording at a professional studio – say one single, if I’m really prepared?
That would depend on the the type of song, genre and what kind of “finish” you require so anywhere really between £400-£3000.

How long does it take?
Again this depends on many factors, we’ve recorded and mixed songs that have done very well commercially in a matter of hours, we’ve also toiled for days over others. If you were to average it out I would say one day per song to record and mix.

mattWhat’s the difference between booking with an engineer or a producer?
The classic distinction between the two would be that an engineer manages the technical aspects of the recording whilst the producer oversees the artistic. However the recording process never falls into such easily defined terms for those involved, and the two roles often become blurred.

What if I just have a rough idea of my song?
That’s fine. There are writer/producers who cater for this kind of work and will help you develop a song. I’ve been involved with artists in that side of things if I feel I can bring something valid to the process.

What if I want drums, bass, backing singers etc, but I don’t know anyone who can do those for me? Does it always cost more?
If you have talented friends who will play on your record for free then you’re in luck! However if I source musicians for an artist I always insist that they get paid fairly for their services.

What if those parts are not composed?
I feel a big part of the role of a producer is getting musician’s involved who’ll have a relevant contribution to the demands of a particular project. If the song in question is a bit of a sketch and requires further development, I will bring in people who I feel will add the correct touches.

How important is it to bring musical references?
References are important and helpful, particularly in the early stages of the process. However as the song gets into the final tracking and mix stages, I find that referencing can have a derogatory effect and stop the work becoming its own thing.

Should I shop around for an engineer or producer?
Absolutely! It’s important that you find a team of people who you not only get on with personally but who are committed and able to see your vision to a satisfactory conclusion.

Can you give a quick overview of how it works? What do you do first?
Meet up with the artist, listen to the song and their ideas and do whatever’s necessary from there!

I’d love to film my session/single for youtube. Is that possible?
That would be possible but personally I find the recording process a very intimate one and in my experience cameras often the change the mood, and always not for the better in a recording session.

What’s the quickest you’ve ever got a track down?
From the artists arriving in the studio to the final mix 3 hours! That was a total freak occurrence though and has not been matched since.

And the longest?
That’s more difficult as the longer project tend to be in the context of an album where you record many more songs; perhaps 4-5 days?

Tell us about you & Urchin!
Urchin Studios is myself and my partner Dan Cox (who is also a producer/mixer/engineer). We are based in Hackney east London.

When did you open?
Urchin has been going for 8 years now and we’ve been in our current location since 2012.

Who are some of the biggest artists you’ve recorded?
We’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some really great artists, some of our more notable clients include Laura MarlingFlorence and the Machine, Lianne La Havas, Thurston Moore, The Staves and Rae Morris.

How did you become a record producer?
By being a musician who had opinions.

Your Career high
The fact people I respect want to work with me.

Your Career low
Not sure I will divulge…

Your Favourite Record of 2015?
Marika Hackman – We Slept at Last.


About Urchin Studios 

Urchin Studios was founded in the spring of 2007 with a simple ethos: To create a quality, inspirational and affordable recording environment that puts the needs of the artist first. From those first recording sessions 8 years ago to the recent UK top 40 recordings the studio has housed, Urchin’s unwavering commitment to provide a creatively inspirational workplace remains unchanged.

Drawing on their experiences of recording (and in many cases touring) with artists such as Lianne La Havas, Laura Marling, Tom Odell, Fyfe Dangerfield, Thurston Moore and many others its creators Matt Ingram and Dan Cox have been able to craft a recording studio that returns the focus of making recording to the musicians making the music.

With natural light, excellent sight lines and comfortable surroundings Urchin Studios is fast becoming one of London’s premiere recording spaces.