Use your resources wisely.

I think we've all gone through a time or two when we "needed" a couple new pieces of gear/software to make the recording at hand.  Only problem, we only had the funding to get 1 of the proper tools.  What did you do?  What do you do?

Use your resources wisely.

That's so much easier to say than it is to practice.  And honestly, it's hard to decide on which piece of gear is the right piece.  Much of that is because every situation is different.  Really, there's no one right answer and path to choose in this boat.  I mean, do you borrow the extra cash?  Sell some non-needed stuff?  Borrow some gear?  Buy the one you can afford and hope it still turns out?  Buy used?

Do some research.

I've found that, time allowing, if I research things for a while I can find a solution.  Most of the time it's way outside the box, but that's worked for me.  Not only has that worked for me, but it's given me some gear and sounds that not too many others have.  For instance, while recording an album we needed a few more guitar amp mics.  Sadly, we didn't have the $300 to spend on Shure SM57s or 58s.  However, doing some research (reading reviews, checking out spec sheets / frequency charts, and listening to demos) we found that we could get a few EV Cobalts for considerably less.  Which was great, because we needed 2 more vocal mics too...which we were able to pickup a couple Shure SM48s.

Are these the best, industry standard, microphones on the market?  No, they're not.  But they worked, and actually worked out pretty well.  So much so that we kept them around.  I actually like the sound of the Cobalt on high-hats.  And the SM48 is quite the under-rated mic!  It's not designed for instruments, but for vocals...it works great.  Again, I still use them and I'm constantly amazed by the quality of the sound.

Buy used.

I've done a lot of this.  It kind of comes with the "working on a budget" card.  Craigslist has been my friend, I can say that.  But so has the local GC (Guitar Center) from time to time.  When buying used, I do TONS of research.  Oh man, I think I spend more time researching used gear than I do some of my new gear.  It's crazy, but again, it's paid off.

On top of that sweet Blue Dragonfly mic, I've recently picked up a guitar and a low wattage, vintage style, tube amp.  The guitar...an early 90's, heavily upgraded, Peavey Predator.  It's a Strat knock-off that's American made.  The neck is amazing!  Kills any Squire I've played.  All the "low price and quality" parts were already replaced, and I picked it up for about $100.  I'm getting ready to toss in some vintage style, boutique, AlNiCo pickups to finish it off.

The amp is a little Bugera Vintage 5.  It's a 5watt Class A tube amp with a single EL84 power tube and a single 12AX7 preamp tube.  Again, picked it up for $100.  They went for $200-300, but they're known for being a super dark sounding amp.  So they go for cheap now.  But they have a power attenuator that allows you to run it at 5w, 1w, or 0.1w, which really helps in a studio environment.  I did a bright cap mod and a couple other modifications...and the thing sounds more like a $700+ amp.  It's only got an 8" speaker in it, so I run that into my custom pine 112 cab, makes a world of difference!  BTW, I'm using Warehouse Guitar Speakers.  I think they sound better than most other speakers, and they're so much less expensive.  Check them out.

Be careful.

One thing I try to never do is to borrow money.  I've found that borrowing money tends to translate into borrowing trouble.  I've sold stuff, I've gotten only what I could afford and made it work, I've even bought weird equipment and made it work.  But I won't borrow money to do it.  Be careful how you get what you get, and what you get.  Take some time to make your decision, be smart about it.

Also, if you're buying used and picking it up at somebody's house...be careful and smart there too.  See if you can meet them somewhere near they're place that's nice and public.  Yeah, you might not know if the equipment is good, but you have a better chance of walking away from the deal.

Have fun.

A good chunk of what I've learned by doing this on a budget is to just have fun using what I've got.  Or have fun using the equipment I can afford.  Remember that the mic guys will always tell you that you "have to have this mic..."  The hardware guys will say "these suck, these rock."  The software guys will say "only use this plugin!"  But really, you'd be surprised what kind of sounds you can get out of some of the "crap" gear.  People always seem surprised to see what I actually used to get a sound.

Go and make something you love!

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