Music Production and Promotion Tips

Recording Vocals at Home

Posted on | May 11, 2012 | No Comments

Home Studios are increasingly popular among musicians and aspiring musicians, if you’re looking to make music from the comfort of your own desk, vocals can often be the big stumbling block. There’s no way to plug a human straight into a PC (not until sci-fi films actually come true, anyway), which means we have to record the actual sounds in a room. This causes problems with microphone placement, ‘pops’, unwanted background noise, reverberation, flies coming into the room, and tons of other stuff. Here is Zedara’s guide to recording clean, professional vocals from the comfort of your own home.

First off, you need a good microphone! Trust me, there’s no point in recording vocals on a track you want to sound professional on a mic you bought from a toy shop (unless that’s the effect you’re going for). Fortunately for you, microphones, like many other musical technology items, have come down greatly in price over the last 10 years. I recommend using either the industry standard Shure SM58 Vocal Microphone, a brilliant, inexpensive Snowball USB Microphone (yes, USB) or an sE microphone. The last one of those links includes a reflection filter, something you’d be best off buying to go with your microphone as it will make sure you get no nasty reflections off the walls, but there are some inexpensive ways around that, too.

You’ll need to get the room ready to record, too. Firstly, you need to make sure you’re not getting any ‘pops’, this is the nasty sound that the microphone picks up on certain syllables. To do this, you can buy a pop shield, or you can make your own out of an old metal coat hanger and some pantyhose (or tights to us brits). Trust me, it works a treat. In terms of reverberation, you need to put as much in the room as possible which will absorb the sound, so that it doesn’t sound like you’re recording in an aircraft hangar or in a cave in the middle east. My top tip is to hang up every towel, dressing gown and duvet you can possibly find. Surround the room with them if you have to, hang one on every wall. You can of course (if budget allows) buy the professional sound absorbers which will deal with nasty reverb, but you simply might not have the cash.

Pop shield and reverb absorbers in place, you need to have your recording software set up, and your microphone running through a DI or a mixer. Be careful, if you have a condenser microphone, you might need ‘phantom power’, if you have a dynamic microphone, you definitely don’t and turning on your phantom power could ruin your mic. I recommend picking up an affordable mixer from amazon or eBay, as long as it does the job. Next up, you can feed it into your choice of software, be it fruity loops, logic, protools, cubase or reaper. Most of the DAWs you can buy are intelligent enough to recognise what’s been plugged into your computer, and will go ahead and set up an audio track for it. You might need to do this yourself, so make sure you refer to the software’s manual.

Another top tip: While recording, don’t let the microphone ‘hear itself’, so in other words make sure that the microphone can’t hear and record what it has just recorded. You’ll end up with a horrible, deafening feedback loop. Use headphones for this, and make sure your priority is to make sure the person recording has a set of cans on his/her ears, not yourself, no matter how badly you want to hear! Make sure they have a copy of the tune, even if it’s just a rough mix, to sing along to, this will help them to sing in time.

And you’re ready! I could write for days about what to do once it’s been recorded, but I wont do that just yet. Make sure you give whoever you’re recording plenty of opportunities to get it right, and create a chilled out recording atmosphere. Happy recording, folks.

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