12 Jul 10 Steps to Recording Better Vocals at Home [Infographic]
Recording vocals at home can be a tricky and frustrating process, especially if you’re new to home recording. Most homes aren’t built to sound great acoustically and there’s a lot of bad advice out there on how to record vocals such as how to set your gain level when recording and where to stand in correlation to the microphone.
That’s why I decided to create this simple infographic to show vocalists, and even budding engineers, how to record vocals in the space they already have and still get great sounding results. The graphic is super simple and is broken down into 10 steps to follow to make your vocal recordings sound better. Check it out below:
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1. Pick the “Right” Microphone
While there is no “right” microphone for recording, a large diaphragm condenser microphone is a popular choice for vocals. These types of microphones are sensitive and pick up the subtleties of vocals well. They also generally give a more warm sound yet capture the high frequencies well in order to deliver a pleasing and crisp vocal recording.
However, if you have a rather echoey/open room, and can’t seem to limit the amount of reverb in your recordings (even using some of the tips below), you may opt for a dynamic microphone. These are often more directional and less sensitive as compared to large diaphragm condenser microphones. The also work well for vocalists in certain styles of metal and rock, specifically screaming vocals.
2. Position the Microphone in the Middle of the Room
Most rooms in your home don’t sound great acoustically. By recording in the middle of the room, you’ll reduce the amount of noise reflected back into your microphone from surrounding walls.
This is because sound waves travel past the microphone, bounce off the wall behind it, come back around and bounce off the wall behind you, then back into the microphone. In a nutshell, this causes your recordings to have a more “open” sound and in some cases, a “boxey” sound if recording in a particular poor sounding room.
3. Set the Microphone Height Level with Your Mouth
Set the microphone level with your mouth for a comfortable recording position. You don’t want it too high to force yourself to have to reach up and strain or too low for you to slouch when recording.
You want it at a comfortable height that allows you to give the best possible vocal recording. Try experimenting. Even an inch or two can make a big difference in your performance and how comfortable you feel singing into the microphone.
Once you find a height that works for you, mark it a marker on your microphone stand so that you can always return back to the exact position.
4. Stand 8 to 12″ Away from the Microphone When Recording
Stay 8 to 12” away from the microphone when recording. This will give you the most accurate representation of your voice without sounding too bassy, thin, or allowing in more room reverb.
When you’re too close to the microphone, your voice will sound boomy, deeper, and “woofey”. Many voiceover artists do this on purpose to get a deeper sound. As you back away from the microphone, your voice thins out. This is known as the Proximity Effect.
The 8 to 12″ range allows you to record a vocal recording that is true to your voice. Get comfortable trying to stay in this range. Using a pop filter can help to stay in this range, which leads me to the next step/tip…
5. Always Use a Pop Filter
Always, always, always use a pop filter when recording vocals.
A pop filter is basically a piece of thin, stretchy fabric from over a piece of plastic in the shape of a circle. There are metal pop filters too.
The pop filter works to stop excessive pop sounds from being picked up in the microphone during recording. These happen on words that start with “P” and “B”. It can also prevent air and “woofiness” from being picked up in the microphone.
Pop filters attach to the microphone stand and usually have a flexible arm that will allow you to position it in front of the microphone.
A good rule of thumb is to position the pop filter about 4″ away from the microphone and yourself about 4″ away from the microphone. This will allow you to stay in that 8 to 12″ range I mentioned earlier.
6. Use Moving Blankets to Get a Dry Vocal
Using moving blankets hung up on walls, your ceiling, or thrown over a mic stand that is “tee’d off” can help to reduce reverb in a poor sounding room and give you a dry vocal recording.
Moving blankets can be picked up for relatively cheap (here’s a good deal for on Amazon for 12 72″ x 80″ moving blankets at $63). You can also pick them up at Harbor Freight for about $9 each.
7. Use Closed-Back Headphones When Recording
When recording vocals, you want to make sure you use over-the-ear, closed-back headphones. These types of headphones will prevent sound from escaping and from being picked up in the microphone.
8. Set Levels on Your Audio Interface Between – 12 & -12 dB
Many make the mistake of recording their tracks “too hot”. This means the signal clips over 0 dB. To avoid this, adjust the gain on your interface so your average recording volume is between -12 to -18 dB. This will give you plenty of headroom. The volume can always be turned up later in your DAW or using the headphone volume knob.
9. Warm Up & Do Several Takes Before Your Final Recording
While these days we can record as many takes as we want at home, you should still do proper warm up exercises and get yourself ready before laying down any final vocal takes. Whatever your process is for warming up, make this part of your routine, even when recording at home.
10. Loop & Comp Your Vocals to Create a Perfect Take
Many DAWs have the ability to loop your recording and do multiple takes. Then, you can choose sections from these takes to create a perfect vocal track. If you want the best possible vocal recording for your track, make sure to use this technique.
There you go, ten steps to curb your frustration from recording at home and to allow you to get better sounding results. If you need more help and want a step-by-step approach to recording great sounding vocals at home, I’d recommend checking out my full video course on recording vocals here.
As always, if you have any questions leave them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them.