Recently, I began to record my own music at home. To say the least, it has been an opportunity to learn more about sound and recording technology. Going into recording with no knowledge is a great way to produce mediocre/inadequate recordings that will probably take away from the value of your music. Here are a few things I have learned so far. For more information about producing your own music, visit the music tutorial section of the blog which is loaded with valuable information.
1. Equipment quality is so important
You can’t polish a turd, people. You won’t sound radio quality without a decent investment. The minimum for your studio should be a phantom powered condenser microphone, pre-amp, cables, and a microphone stand. The two most important elements will always be the microphone and pre-amp. An acceptable microphone for vocals will run you at least $150 and that is the low end. Microphones can get well over $10k. The pre-amp needs to compliment your choice of microphone. Research the best pre-amp for the inherent sound of your microphone. An entry level decent pre-amp is going to be around $100-$200. You ABSOLUTELY get what you pay for. If you can’t afford a large investment now, you can always start with cheaper equipment and upgrade to better gear as your skills improve.
2. Always get the best recording you can
When you’re a newbie on the multi track mixing programs like me, getting a clean, full raw recording is going to be a boon for you. Make sure you get a clear, loud, consistent signal throughout your vocals. The less noise and other sonic garbage you have, the better it will sound in the mix. Perfect your delivery and breath and get a PERFECT take. The less manipulation it will take you to complete the recording, the better when you’re a beginner.
3. Recording environment
Sometimes we can’t choose where to record. If the only space you have is your bedroom, I suggest investing in a sound reflection filter. Its like a wall of foam which is placed behind the microphone. In a typical room, sound bounces off all reflective surfaces creating echo and reverb. A reflection filter will put an end to a lot of that. You can also use egg crate pads for beds in a closet to get a better sound on a low budget. Remember, the amount of sound a material will absorb is dependent on its density, so the thicker heavier material will work better for absorption.
4. Noise reduction
When you aren’t in a sonically perfect environment (your unmodified closet or bedroom) there is going to be noise: the AC, your computer hard drive humming, the beat coming from your headphones, etc. A noise reduction effect will usually do a good job of removing a lot of this. Typically, a noise reduction plugin asks you to “get a noise profile.” This is the effect asking you what you want it to remove. Select a few seconds of “empty” recording before your vocals start as your noise profile. Too much of this effect will make your vocals sound off and empty, so experiment with what sounds best.
Equalization is an important part of the recording process. Finding the frequency of each sound in your mix and accenting it will make for a better recording. For example, vocals are typically most prominent in the 2.5kHz to 4kHz sound range. Use a frequency analyzer plugin to find where your vocals “stick out” and equalize accordingly. You can also reduce the same frequencies in your instrumental to help the vocals pop out in the mix. Watching YouTube tutorials will help you perfect this process.
Less is more when we are talking about reverb. It definitely gives vocals a nice effect, but too much makes it practically not listenable. Mess with your levels and find the right amount for your vocals. It needs to be subtle in my opinion, but mixing and effects are an art. Trust your ears and your gut.
I recommend doing the best you can with what you have when you record at home. When you stay persistent, you will find better ways of getting that perfect sound you want. Recording and mixing is a valuable skill, and if you learn as much as possible, it will pay off.