That is something that I have struggled with my entire recording career. Homes, apartments, houses — they’re just not very quiet. A professional recording studio is acoustically treated and isolated. If you walk into a pro vocal booth, it is dead quiet.
But the question I have for you is this — is that really that important? Here’s what I think: no, not really.
How do you listen to music? Are you listening in a very quiet room on really nice headphones or very accurate studio monitors? Or are you listening with iPod ear buds, riding your bike, or working out? Or perhaps you are listening in your car, going 70 miles per hour down the interstate.
Some of my favorite recordings done by professional engineers — major label releases — have all sorts of noise on them. There is one in particular. When I listen to it, I very distinctly hear hiss at the beginning and ends of certain songs; and because I know the producer, I know that a lot of this was recorded in hotel rooms, actually on tour with the particular artist.
Does that make the songs bad? Not at all. In fact, the performance and the quality of the recording so far outshine the little noises here and there that it doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I find it kind of cool.
So, if you are one of those people who really struggles with noise in your studio, and you can’t stop thinking about it, here are three questions to ask yourself:
1. Will you be able to hear it in the mix?
Yes, if you solo that acoustic guitar part, you can hear the noise, but once it is blended with everything else in the song, can you hear it? If the answer is no, don’t worry about it.
I just finished up a project where there was all sorts of noise, you can even hear my baby in the next room crying on a couple of tracks. Did I let that stop me? Did I re-record everything? No. I couldn’t hear it in the mix; so I moved on, and the recording sounds great.
2. Will it distract from the song?
This goes hand in hand with number 1, but even if you can hear the noise in the recording, like the record that I just mentioned above, does it distract from the song? Chances are the answer is no.
3. Can the song still sound great?
This is the most important thing. If the song and the recording sound phenomenal, I don’t care what noise is there. Focus on the song, focus on a good recording, no one will ever notice the noise.
So, be honest, do you worry about noise too much?