November 30, 2017
There is a time and place to record an album at home. It’s different than recording in a professional studio and there are pros and cons.
- It can be more budget-friendly
- You may feel less pressure while playing
- You can take as long as you want
- No one is staring you down through the glass
- You may not have access to as much gear
- You may not have ideal acoustical treatments
- It can be helpful to work with deadlines
- A producer can provide constructive, objective feedback
That said, there are ways to make your home recordings sound their best that will also deliver good material for your mixing engineer to work with.
Here are a few tips for better vocals:
- Turn off your cell phone – I know it sounds obvious, but phones go off in the studio more than you’d think and it’s the worst when it ruins a great take. It takes two seconds to turn it off and it will help you feel more connected to the song. Do it.
- Enclose yourself – If you can enclose yourself with mattresses or blankets, your vocals will sound cleaner. Remember, you can always add roominess and reverb in mixing. But it’s more difficult to remove reverb in the mix.
- Mic placement – Experiment with where you place the mic. For intimate sections of the song, try singing close to the mic. For choruses, try pulling the mic back a few feet. There is no perfect way to position the mic; only trial and error until you get a good sound. And there is never a wrong way, so get experimenting!
- Record multiple takes – Many times when you are home recording there is someone else that will be mixing it in a professional studio. Giving that person the option to have different takes can be helpful. It also allows the opportunity for variation or layering.
- Know when to say when – There is a time and place to record 87 takes. We’ve all done it, but it’s also important to know when you are approaching diminishing returns. Stop before that.
- Gear – Don’t fret too much about gear. A Neumann U87 isn’t going to make your song better, but getting the perfect emotive take will.
- Notes – When you send your song to be mixed, take notes for the engineer. Label the takes that you like the best.
- Vibe – Get the take you want by getting in the zone. It may sound cheesy, but push away distractions to perform your best.
- Sibilance hack – If you dont have a pop filter you can wrap a rubber band around a mic and slide in a pencil. This will literally wrap the “ess-es” around the bend of the pencil.
- Prepare – Make sure you spend time rehearsing. Ensure you’re hydrated, eating well and have had enough sleep. Depriving yourself of basic necessities will only make you cranky and make getting a solid recording more difficult.
There are good reasons to record at home. We mix home-recordings often and they’re often masterpieces. Take your time and you’ll get it!