Q & A: Recording studio head sees more people taking their music into their own hands

Patrick Bologna used to hate music. That all changed during his junior year of high school, when a f

Patrick Bologna used to hate music.

While in elementary school, he would refuse to go with the rest of his classmates to music class. It was never something that he saw himself using in the future. That all changed during his junior year of high school, when a friend of his left an electric guitar behind after staying over at his house.

The rest, as they say, is history. Bologna began playing in hard and classic rock bands in 1968, eventually moving on to cover bands in the 1980s. He first opened his home recording studio, in part to record his own music, Sand Creek Music, in East Greenbush in 1981, and stayed there until 1990, when he moved to his current location at Barrington Court in Schenectady, about a five-minute drive from Albany International Airport.

Despite the fact that the tiny Sand Creek Music is technically a home studio, it is equipped with state-of-the-art software — Bologna has used Pro Tools HD3, which is found in most professional studios today, for the past three years. He charges $40 an hour for recording.

Over the years, Bologna has recorded musicians, both local and national, from all genres, including a session two years ago with Trans-Siberian Orchestra guitarist Alex Skolnick. His local credits include Grammy winner Kevin Brandow, Prolonged Exposure, The Usual Suspects and John Lewycky.

His studio also does the occasional odd recording job for radio or other mediums — Republican state Assemblyman Jim Tedisco recorded ads at the studio for his special election campaign earlier this year for the congressional seat vacated when Democratic Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed to the Senate.

Bologna still writes music, although he has stopped playing in bands because of his busy schedule in his studio. His most recent recording, “Don’t Dredge It,” a protest song against the Hudson River dredging, is available on his Web site, www.sandcreekmusic.com.

Q: How has your clientele changed over the years as the music industry has changed — especially with the boom in do-it-yourself recording in the past decade?

A: [When I first started] I recorded a lot, a lot of heavy metal bands. That was the main focus. Now I don’t do as many bands anymore, for some reason. I have a feeling a lot of the bands have their own little recording system they use, and record themselves, and I know I get a lot of them coming in and saying, “Could you just master this and fix it up a little bit?” So I know they’re doing their own recordings, which is fine.

It’s been very busy lately. I kind of really don’t miss doing bands anyway, that much. It’s more people to deal with. I’m kind of on my way to semi-retirement in the business. I’ve been doing it for so long, I’m kind of trying to slow down a little bit. I want to play more tennis.

So I guess, I don’t mind doing the bands; it’s just that I like doing, say a two-, three-piece better, or an individual — I get a lot of individuals coming in. Since the “American Idol” thing, it seems like everybody and their brother wants to be a star, so they all want to come in and try to sing and make a record or something, see how they sound. I try to help them out as far as making them sound good; that’s partly my job.

Q: When and how did the switch from recording on tape to computer happen for you?

A: About three years ago, say. I was using digital tape before that. I was reluctant to upgrade because I was getting by with using it, plus if I got any computer-based recording it was going to be Pro Tools HD; I didn’t want anything but that, because nothing else would have sufficed. And unfortunately the upgrade to HD was around $50,000, so I didn’t really want to upgrade them.

But I finally did, and you know what? I’ll never go back to anything else. It seems like business boomed since then, and you can do so much more with it. The editing is unbelievable.

Q: Many artists prefer working on analog tape over digital mediums, claiming they get a better sound out of it. Is there a noticeable sound difference?

A: Yes. The digital is really pristine and crisp, and it could almost be too tinny unless you have — I use a lot of tube stuff still in the front end. And there are plug-ins that … simulate analog tape — saturation, they call it. I don’t have any of them, but I don’t feel that I need it.

And that’s the misconception about the recordings nowadays. A lot of people do their own recordings, and they’re so clear and clean, they think that they are going to sound as good as what you’re hearing on the radio, but it’s not necessarily true, because a clear sound is not the same as a real full sound. . . . Converting from analog to digital when it gets into your computer is, people don’t realize that it makes a big difference. I know, because I used to use digital tape decks, and the converters weren’t as good as what I have now.

[I] probably would never go back to it, even if it was a hair better. The analog does have that full sound, I will say that. It has a great sound, but it also has other complications. Not to mention the price of tape has gone so high. Just for a simple reel of tape, you can spend $100 for a reel of quarter-inch tape. The 16-track tapes are probably several hundred dollars for a reel, and you only get like 30 minutes on it. Really, I would never switch because of that.

Q: Are professional recording studios on the decline due to easier and cheaper home recording options?

A: I’ve had people in here from other places — say, Nashville. They lost a lot, a lot of business down in Nashville. Some big studios had closed because they weren’t getting the business, and smaller studios were opening up. I don’t know what they mean by small — undercutting prices. And I’m sure that’s true in the whole country. And as far as this area, I don’t know; I can’t really speak for this area, but I know a lot of studios are opening up, like you said, people in their houses.

But . . . it all depends on how elaborate you want to be. In fact, I just had somebody in here a few days ago — they were thinking about buying a little studio for themselves. And they were in here singing a couple of songs, and I said, “You know what, it all depends on how many songs you’re going to do yourself.” If you’re a band, it’s better to concentrate on the music — play your music and be good at that. And if you want to record like once a year, it’s better to just go in and have it done in a studio instead of spending money on equipment and learning how to use it. Because even if you bought equipment, you’re going to have to spend thousands of dollars on them in order to make it sound decent. Sometimes it’s better just to do that — to go in the studio once a year, spend a few hundred bucks, and then get a great sound.

Categories: Life and Arts

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