September 17, 2018
Recording vocals can be like capturing lightning in a bottle at times. But it doesn’t have to be.
When recording vocals at home in your basement you can ruin a great performance by the following acoustical issues:
- Room Noise – Air conditioning and heating hum, hissing radiators, dogs barking, phones ringing, cars driving by – all things that don’t typically appear in an acoustically isolated recording studio.
- Uncontrolled Room Acoustics – If you are recording in a studio with parallel walls, low ceilings and walls that are close together, you are most likely introducing a lot of fundamentally poor acoustical issues.
- Plosives – These are syllables that produce a lot of physical air, like Ps and Bs
- Sibilance – These are the sounds that produce a very punctuated hissing sound with letters like S, Th, F, Z, V.
If you follow these few hints you will record better vocals in your DIY studio.
- Use A Pop Filter – Using a pop filter can help with plosives and sibilance right off the bat. They are relatively inexpensive and are worth their weight in gold. You can even make one from pantyhose and a hanger if you want to get super DIY! And for another DIY hint, if your sibilance is off the charts you can always put a pencil in front of the diaphragm and wrap a rubber band around it. That way the directional sibilance will literally wrap around the mic and capsule and most of that sound won’t actually reach the capsule.
- Control Your Room Acoustics – Put up anything on the walls to absorb sounds and reduce reflection. Carpets, mattresses and pillows can do a good DIY job. But also putting up some professionally made acoustical panels would be even better! Primacoustic have some decent panels that won’t break the bank and will improve your sound tremendously.
- Choose The Right Mic – You probably don’t have a mic locker loaded with a ton of Neumanns and Royers like your professional neighborhood recording studio might have. And that’s ok! Going for that 57 might be the right choice, but it might not be. Of course you need to use the right tool for the job. Generally a condenser mic is the right choice for vocals. “What is a condenser mic”, you say? Read this article on what microphones are. However, it’s not a binary decision. The SM7 is a great inexpensive dynamic mic that was plenty good enough for Michael Jackson. Prince was a huge fan of the Sennheiser 431 – again another dynamic mic but he also loved a tube Telefunken 47. And Bono has been known to kill it with a 57 in the studio. Inexpensive mics CAN work! But like cooking in the kitchen there is a knife for every circumstance – and there are different mics that work better for your voice.
- Turn It Off – It should go without saying, but turn your cellphone off, turn off the A/C when you are recording (and turn it back off when you are playing back). If you live on a busy street, record at night when traffic is less consistent. Now this DIY hack is the least expensive one and might even save you a few bucks with the AC off!
- Track With One Headphone Can Off – It sounds weird, but sometimes hearing yourself in the room helps you sing better than hearing it playback in close proximity like with headphones.
Using these simple helpful hints will yield better result in the long run and will make your records sound and feel better.