Ten years ago, what Kurt Wipperfurth is doing today would have been impossible. A decade ago the era of analog recording filled entire rooms with racks of processors, mixers and multitrack recorders, but the digital age has changed all that.
Today, anyone interested in recording music can have professional-grade equipment that fits in a space the size of a card table. Someone who has a casual interest in music production can buy software for a laptop and start recording for an investment of $500.
Because of those recent changes, Wipperfurth was able to build a sound studio in his backyard.
From the outside, his new studio looks like a small storage shed. He built it this fall, complete with six-inch soundproof walls and floors full of sand. A full band can be playing inside, and no one walking by would know.
The digital age allows Wipperfurth to house a sound booth, an isolating booth for vocals and a control room in 400 square feet.
Fitting an entire recording studio in a space the size of most bedrooms is made possible by the Akai DPS 24 recorder. One-half of the soundboard is analog and the other is digital. It can record 24 tracks and store as many as 256 tracks of digital quality sound. It also holds 160 effects processors.
When Wipperfurth decided he wanted to open a recording studio, he looked into renting office space, but when he added in the cost of sound-proofing the rooms, it made more sense to build a studio from the ground up. He installed air conditioning and heat and a fresh air exchanger for the windowless building because "there's nothing worse than a room full of smelly musicians." He added an electronic drum kit, hooked up the utilities and Wipperfurth's Big Idiot Productions Studio officially opened for business Jan. 9.
Wipperfurth got interested in music recording when he was 15 years old. He was playing drums in a punk rock band in his hometown of Daytona Beach, Fla. It was 1985, and he started recording the band with a four track Tascam recorder.
"I got the bug," he said. "I was playing live in clubs and at parties, but when I got into the studio, it was a whole different world. The way you play is different.
"It made me a better player. I'd go home and work on areas of my playing because it was the first time I could hear it back. I was fine-tuning my craft."
A couple of years later, when Wipperfurth was in his early 20s, he took a job as a studio musician at Full Sail Real World Education, a media production school and college near Orlando, Fla.
He would play the drums in the school's studio so the students could practice recording him. But there was a lot of down time in the job while he waited for the student engineers to mix his music. While he waited, Wipperfurth would sit in on classes.
He became a sponge for any music production information.
Since then, Wipperfurth has slowly invested in recording equipment, updating as technology improved.
What sets Wipperfurth apart at the soundboard is his alter-function as a musician. On any record, he can be the engineer, the producer and the studio musician.
He is putting the finishing touches on an album for Winter Park musician Nate Allman. The 11-track CD is Wipperfurth's second full-length release and the first time he served all three functions.
Wipperfurth met Allman when he came through Steamboat to play a gig. Allman asked him for help doing the pre-production on five songs he wanted to present to a label in Boston.
"He wanted to be prepared when he approached the label," Wipperfurth said. Wipperfurth recorded Allman's voice and guitar and layered it with a couple of tracks of drums and other percussions. When Allman took the demo to his label in Boston, they told him to finish it in Steamboat. They liked what they heard.
"It was really flattering," Wipperfurth said.
As a small studio that only charges $25 an hour, Wipperfurth sees Big Idiot Productions as a place where musicians can work on their parts without the financial pressure that comes from paying for a $1,000-a-day studio.
"I see my place as a good jumping-off place for people," he said.
Although Wipperfurth only opened his new studio's doors to the public two weeks ago, he already has big dreams for his endeavor.
He pictures having a piece of ranch property where musicians can come with their families for months at a time to work on a project isolated from the rest of the world.
For now, he'll start small, recording music in his shed and finding his niche in the ever-changing and ever-more-accessible world of music production.