Tips for getting the most out of your home recording studio
With the speed in which technology is increasing, many artists have gone to a home recording studio. Midi can take the place of your drummer and software and a 2 channel interface substitutes the tape machine and mixing counsel. Emulation software like Guitar Rig from Native Instruments can even allow you to record a blistering guitar solo with Eddie Van Halen’s tone, without waking up your sleeping children. But with all of that being said, a good recording takes time and patience. You have to record a strong track in order for a professional sounding song to appear. Use some of the tips below to get a pro sound from your home recording studio.
Obviously, creating good music takes talent. If you are a singer, you have to be able to sing in key, hit the right notes, and have a pleasing tone to your voice. If you are a rapper, please, take the marbles out of your mouth, enunciate, and get your message across poiniently and on beat. Recording a strong, pleasing sounding vocal track is a must for your song. You could be the most talented singer in the world, but if you sound like you are singing inside of a garbage can, then no one is going to be able to hear your gift. Your recording will not represent who you are as an artist.
“All I have to do is put these in my mouth, and I can sound just like all the current hip hop chart busters!”
Dead Home Recording Studio
The first step to a strong sounding vocal track is to be in as “dead” of a room as possible; that is, one with little to no reverb or echo. Unless you have a room in your house that has an amazing natural reverb (not the bathroom…please), no flutter echo or transient waves, record your vocals in as tight of a sounding area as possible and use your delay and reverb plug-ins to add life. There are many different ways to get the desired sound for vocal recording with a varying degree of costs. The most comfortable for the singer would be to build a vocal booth. Use sound absorbing foam to remove any undesired echo and standing frequencies. Some of the foam manufacturers will even help you design your space as to eliminate any unwanted frequency build up that will color your sound picked up by the microphone.
If your wife or husband will frown on you using your swear-jar money building an addition in your basement, some companies make portable foam walls that can be a movable vocal booth. They are relatively expensive, however, since acoustic foam is scientifically tuned to eliminate unwanted frequencies. Taking a mattress topper and gluing it to your 1970’s wood-grain siding in your basement will not have the desired effect you are looking for. It will not help increase your home’s value.
“All I wanted to do was make the next ‘Nevermind’ but my wife said I needed to either leave, or put on some pants. Now I’m living in my parents attic, and I’ve never been happier”.
If you are looking for an inexpensive and marriage friendly way to give you a pleasing vocal recording, you may want to look into a reflexion filter. Reflexion filters attach to your mic stand. They will help give you a vocal recording that has dynamic range, and eliminate unwanted reverb, echo, and/or standing frequencies in your room.
Mastering in your Home Recording Studio
Another aspect of home recording many people leave out is mastering. Mastering is preparing your project for manufacturing and/or distribution. This is done by ensuring each song has a consistent equalization and level from track to track. Mastering is normally done by someone other than the engineer at a mastering house. The master engineer will have a very technical ear. They are able to critically listen to each track to ensure a smooth transition from one song to the next. Each song will have the same amount of available headroom between the peak level and the point where the track will clip, causing distortion.
For the home studio musician, there are many options for mastering software. They will give you the desired effect without having to take out a second mortgage to pay for a master engineer. The last hip hop project I completed using Ableton Live 8. I used the internal mastering suite presets to find an overall equalization of my tracks that emphasized the bass. It also helped the vocal track sit on top of the mix to be crisp, but not harsh. Most importantly, not muddled into the track, so the listener can make out the vocals.
There are many different mastering software options available, with a variety of pricepoints that can fit anyone’s budget. From $50 all the way to over $3000, there is mastering software available. Software that will make your tracks sound more professional and pleasing to the ear. But just with everything we’ve talked about, it takes time and patience to master (pun intended) mastering software to get the big studio sound you are looking for out of your home recording.
Wrap it Up
There are many variables when it comes to making a home studio recording have professional sounding depth and dynamic range. Your project will only be able to give you what you put into it. If you rush through your takes or if you are not able to get the levels correct when recording. When you don’t understand what is sonically pleasing in the first place, all the expensive gear and studio foam in the world can’t help you. If you are patient, know your levels, and get a good take, chances are you will create a recording that is representative of you as an artist. After all, we record songs to get other people to listen to them, right? So why not take your time and record something you can be proud of. Most importantly, record something that people will want to listen to over and over again.
Written by: Michael Heely