Tips to record in your home studio.
Although today we can find studios where you can reserve the recording time between $ 20-50, not all people can afford to record in a good studio with professional equipment and trained staff. The truth is that there are more and more people who record their songs at home in their home studio, either to use it as a demo of their project and then record on another site or directly to send the tracks to an engineer who mixes them. That’s why I’m going to give you some tips so you can record your voice at home and get good shots with professional quality.
What equipment do you need to record your voice.
When we talk about the equipment necessary to record, the first thing you have to think about is the budget you have to spend, as now I will not give you 2 examples with 2 different budgets to help you make a faster decision, but first We are going to see some common mistakes when choosing the equipment.
• Buy everything as cheap as possible because the one in the store has told you that with that equipment you have enough to start. When you do this, I know from experience that when you take a year or even less, you will need better equipment because you are going to want more quality, so you will end up buying 2 or 3 times.
• Buy the most expensive because you want to sound professional. It is not necessary to buy the best to sound with professional quality, you can get the same quality with cheaper equipment.
• Spend a lot of money on one thing and the rest cheaper. If you spend a lot of money on a microphone but you have a very cheap preamp, you will only get the so-called bottleneck effect, that expensive mic will not sound 100% of its quality because the preamp or the audio interface will reduce its performance.
• Buy equipment and not treat acoustics. For me, acoustics is the first thing you should correct when you are thinking about recording, something I recommend is to do with an anti-reflection filter, but regardless of the filter, there are areas of your room that must be treated to remove ugly resonances and reverberations in the recording .
We go with the two examples of equipment that I have selected for you, with both you will get professional quality and you will not need to improve that equipment in many years, probably never. You need to have a computer that is capable of running smoothly with the daw that you are going to use to record, with all the ram you can afford, at least 16 GB of ram and a good processor will make everything flow smoothly.
Equipment budget for home studio recording amateur. (€ 655)
1. Audio interface – Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen (€ 111 approx). It is the 3rd generation of a card that has become a best seller, USB-C connection, 1 micro input, 1 line / instrument input and 24 Bit / 192 Khz quality. See in detail.
2. Microphone – Akg C214 (€ 279 approx.). It is a micro SUV with which you can get very good quality in vocal recordings, I used it for years and I can assure you that it is a beast. See in detail.
3. Headphones – Sennheiser HD-280 Pro (€ 98 approx.). Closed headphones of very good quality, ideal for recording since they have an attenuation level of 32 db, which is not bad. See in detail.
4. Daw – It is the program that you will use to record your voice, add effects, mix … etc. The most used are Cubase, Logic pro x and Ableton Live. All these brands have versions for beginners that can be purchased for about € 90 and more professional versions somewhat more expensive, for now I recommend you try versions for beginners and you will always have time to improve your software.
5. Anti-reflection filter – SE Electronics Reflexion filter X (€ 77 approx.). If you want to make recordings in your home studio and you do not plan to make a voice recording booth, an anti-reflection filter is a mandatory purchase and will help you a lot to get very good quality recording shots. See in detail.
Equipment budget for medium – high quality recording. (€ 2335 + Daw to choose)
1. Audio interface – Universal Audio Apollo Twin MkII Duo (€ 799 approx). It is an audio interface that is a real delight, it supports the UAD audio plugins that are also processed in the DSP of the card, so it does not consume computer core performance, I use the first version and I can not be more happy with her. See in detail.
2. Mic pre amp – In this aspect I could recommend some of the hardware type such as UA LA 610 MKII (€ 1700 approx.) Or one less known but with incredible quality such as the SPL Electronics Frontliner Channel Strip (€ 1650 approx.). But I recommend that if you have a card like Apollo, you take advantage of its full potential by acquiring a previous software with UAD Unison technology (the best plugin previews in the world), and I especially recommend the Manley Voxbox Channel Strip (€ 299 approx. although you can get it at a better price on offer dates), it is a recording channel – previous with an impressive quality that in its hardware version can cost you almost € 2000 and sounds luxurious. See in detail.
3. Microphone – Neumann TLM 103 (€ 900 approx.). Although sometimes we do not have to look at the mark of something to know if it is good, Neumann is synonymous with quality, and this micro is a classic in many studies today, it has incredible clarity. See in detail.
4. Headphones – Sennheiser HD-300 Pro (€ 158 approx.). Closed headphones of very good quality, ideal for recording and are also very comfortable. See in detail.
5. Daw – It is the program you are going to use to record your voice, add effects, mix … etc. The most used are Cubase, Logic pro x and Ableton Live. The price depends on each brand, Cubase Pro around € 500, Logic € 229 (Mac only) and Ableton Suite € 599.
6. Anti-reflection filter – SE Electronics Reflexion filter Pro (€ 179 approx.). If you want to make recordings in your home studio and you do not plan to make a voice recording booth, an anti-reflection filter is a mandatory purchase and will help you a lot to get very good quality recording shots. See in detail.
What to do to get better recordings.
You already have the equipment, but not because you have the best mic and the best preview you will sound better than anyone, it is one of the things I like most about music, when I see someone with few media that achieves great results. That is why there are some aspects to consider when recording that can greatly improve your recordings.
1. Record the best shot in the shortest possible time. After 15 years recording different artists in my studio, I can assure you that when they try again and again to record the same shot, they lose concentration and freshness.
2. Maintain an adequate distance with the microphone. About 15 cm is usually a good distance, if you get closer there may be a proximity effect that does not understand well what you say and if you move too far the signal will be more affected by the lacks of the room.
3. Use an anti-pop filter. Large diaphragm microphones often exaggerate the “P” and “B” so using this type of filter helps reduce that ugly effect of the recordings, it also works very well to calculate the distance with the microphone, separate it 10 cm of the micro and you leave about 5 or 7 cm between your mouth and the filter.
4. Use an anti-reflection filter. This is very important, especially if you are not recording in a recording booth. If you want to record in the same room where you have the computer, no problem, even Dr. Dre prefers to do so with the artists he records, although of course it has a booth of many thousands of euros. What they do is to isolate the micro from annoying noises and reflections produced by the rooms, they have different positions to place the micro and get more or less dry voices according to your taste.
5. If you are thinking of adding some effect, I only advise you to use compression when recording. This is something more personal in my way of working, I do not usually equalize the voice, or put de-essers, or add any other effect that is not compression, I prefer to do it in the mixing phase, you will save yourself having to repeat recordings when you make a mistake by equalizing or reducing the “S” too much if you don’t have enough experience. Also when you compress try to reduce from 2 to 3 db at most, just to try to get a more uniform volume.
6. When you record try the voice never exceed -9 dbs. Leave enough headroom so that your voice can be treated by the person who is going to mix it and have enough space to work. When you record at a volume of -2 or -3 db the voice will sound very saturated. Also do not record very low because when raising the gain of the voice will also rise unwanted sounds.
7. If you are going to record several songs the same day, be sure to take a few breaks between songs, because the voice can be affected and the last shots will not be like the first ones.
8. Do not record the entire song on a single track, take several main shots and add secondary tracks. Later I explain how many tracks to record to take advantage of the vocal part.
9. Learn to breathe well between words. The breaths can always be worked in the mixing part but the better the main voice, the more natural everything will sound.
10. Do not record thinking that a bad shot will be fixed in the mix. Think about recording your best and give it an improvement point when mixing.
11. Rehearse before recording and learn the lyrics. If you want to flow over the song you have to go for it for sure, if you are going to be reading a paper while recording you will forget the interpretation.
12. Write the letter on paper and underline where you want to put chorus, where you want to breathe, where to leave gaps to reinforce with a secondary voice, where you will put a scream, a laugh, an ouuu. This will help you finish the recording before and avoid long pauses that only make you cool. You have to prepare a recording structure and be prepared.
13. Never edit any tracks until everything is recorded. In the end you can touch up what you need, but now you are in front of the mic and that time is sacred.
14. The environment is very important. If you are going to record a song with a lot of feeling that you want to sound very intimate, leave only a small light on, it seems silly but these things can make you manage to convey in a brutal way the feeling you had when writing the song.
15. Mood influences messing. If you want to record a song talking about your mother’s love, you can’t go on recording if you just discussed with your girlfriend, only then will you be able to convey to the listener what you really wanted to convey. It is not a bad idea to have a picture of your mother in front while you are recording.
16. As today we do not separate from the mobile at all, be sure to put it in airplane mode at the time of recording if you do not want to take surprises when you have achieved a perfect shot.
As you can see, there are many things that seem silly but have a great importance in the final result. Don’t forget that a song is art and art is feeling.
How many vocal shots do you need?
This part depends a lot on the way of working of each artist, I am going to advise you according to the experience I have and how I get the songs that I mix sound as I want. It is a scheme that I usually give to the artists who send me their songs to mix, both for the voice of the verses and for the hook. The best way not to lose concentration by recording is to be clear about what you should record for sure, a plan, and then once recorded add all the extra that the body asks for.
Voice tracks in the verses or stanzas.
1. Lead voice or main voice, in this track you would record the main voice of the stanza.
2. Voice of reinforcement, is a secondary track, very similar to the main track but reinforcing certain parts of the verse, here it is not worth duplicating the main voice, they have to be different shots.
3. Voice L, is a track where we highlight parts of the verse with more emotion and that will sound on the left side of the stereo field.
4. Voice R, like the voice L, in the same parts of the verse but will sound on the right side, it is not worth doubling the voice, they have to be different shots.
5. Voices Ohhs, on this track we record the ohh, praaa, shuuu, laughs … etc.
Voice tracks on the hook.
We are going to record the same tracks as in the verse but we add:
1. Voice L extra, where we record the same shot as the main voice but singing more serious or more acute and will sound from the left side but less open than the voice L.
2. Extra R voice, where we record the same shot as the main voice but singing more serious or more acute and will sound on the right side but less open than the R voice.
With these 2 extra clues we managed to give the hook a force to make it stand out. I also recommend recording the intro and outro also separately to have a better structured recording. This is a base so that you don’t go crazy recording 3 equal main vocals for example, or you find yourself at the end of the recording with 20 – 30 tracks without knowing which one you will end up using. It is so bad to record few tracks as to record too many, there are artists who work differently but according to my experience this scheme is a good starting point, which you will improve according to your tastes.
Export the tracks for the mixing phase.
Once you have finished the recording, the best thing you can do if you want to get a professional quality in your song is to send the tracks to a qualified person, and I am not talking about the friend who defends himself mixing, I talk about experienced people who know how to give him a plus quality to your song, because a poorly mixed song is not going to be heard, you can be very good but if you don’t sound good directly you don’t sound. I know many people who even knowing how to mix, prefer that another person mix the song because that person will listen to the tracks with another point of view, and will see more easily where to improve your tracks.
Finally, export each track separately with 24-bit wav quality. Without any added effect. In one folder he puts the stanza files and in another he puts the hook files.
I hope I helped you to have a little clearer how to get some voices with very good quality and everything that influences this process. If you have any questions, I am happy to help you. You can contact me at my email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Malakkor Music producer since 1997.