Almost everyone who sends in their songs to our mixing and mastering service, wants to know how they can improve their vocal recordings.
And you’re just in luck cause in this post, I go over 8 no nonsense tips to improve your home studio recordings.
Let’s get into it!
1. Get a Better Microphone
If you’re recording on anything other than a condenser mic, you’re not going to get the same sound quality as major label artists.
Yes some dynamic mics, may work or get you a specific sound, but if you’re using a bluetooth headset or computer mic or your phone’s mic you’re not going to get studio sound quality.
I’ve mixed and mastered songs where the person was in jail recording of their phone.
And yes it sounded horrible.
But after it was mixed and mastered it sounded less horrible, so the artist was happy.
And that’s what it’s really about: are you happy with your recordings?
But I’m guessing you’re not because why then would you be reading this article.
2. Get a Mic Shield
I’ve used mic shields in the past and if you’re not able to do what I’m going to suggest in the next tip, than this is likely your best option.
A mic shield is a nifty invention that’s supposed to absorb some of the room reverb caused by your vocal’s sound waves crashing into the hard surfaces of your room and bouncing back into your microphone.
The problem with a mic shield is it can’t absorb all the sound coming from your beak.
So what I’d recommend is placing the mic shield in front of something large and soft like an upright mattress (though you could record straight into an upright mattress and due away with the mic shield all together).
You can even place the mic shield in front of a couch that way it’ll catch some of the sound that would have bounced off the floor and corners.
The main thing to consider is to figure out creative ways to absorb the mic shield’s blind spots.
3. Put up Acoustic Panels or Acoustic Foam
I’ve always used acoustic panels because they work great and you don’t really need a lot.
In fact, I don’t even recommend completely deadening your room (meaning: covering every inch of your wall), cause you’ll want that room feedback to tell you how you sound.
For rooms with four walls (which is probably 98% of rooms), I’d recommend putting up acoustic panels on three of the four walls.
And for god sake, experiment with which walls to place the acoustic panels.
I’ve had times where not placing one acoustic panel up made the difference between ugly room reverb and great room reverb.
You can test this by simply clapping your hands and listening for any ugly metallic sounding reverb (technically called flutter echo).
4. Get a pre-amp
A dedicated powered pre-amp allows you to get better recordings because you’re microphone doesn’t have to rely on your computer’s preamp (which won’t be able to power a condenser mic anyway).
Not only will a pre-amp be able to provide the adequate phantom power for your condenser mic, it’ll also be able to reduce latency.
What is latency you ask? It’s the delay in time between when you say something into your mic and the time it takes for you to hear it in your headphones.
If you want to be able to have laser precise vocal recordings that tightly fit with your beat, a must for rap or any vocal recordings really, you need a pre-amp that provides zero latency.
5. Get Flat Response Studio Headphones
I love going to the gym and have been going for many years.
I recently started going with my wife and got her to film me doing my favorite exercise, the dead-lift.
Once I saw the footage, I saw the flaws in my form and could now learn to correct them.
This is what happens when you get flat response headphones as opposed to using some regular ol’ pair of cans.
Normal headphones are going to exaggerate certain frequencies and make you hear things that are not really there.
That’s why the best way to record is to use headphones with a flat response.
A flat response is simply a true to life audio signal so you can hear how you really sound, flaws and all.
Think of it as an audio mirror.
Flat response headphones will take some getting used to because you’re probably not used to hearing all your flaws.
But with some practice, you’ll make adjustments to your vocal performance because you’re getting a more accurate feedback from your audio mirror (aka your flat response headphones).
6. Really Listen To Yourself
Listen back to your recordings and compare them with your favorite artists.
Could they be played back to back without the proverbial record skip and someone saying, “Hey turn this crap off!”.
Listen to the tone of your voice, your cadence, your phrasing.
Do you have an accent that’s different from your target audience?
Do you have a speech impediment that’s causing you to say words differently?
I should say having these things doesn’t mean you can’t have a fanbase and you don’t have to necessarily change the way you sound.
But it is important to be aware of your sound.
7. Build a World
Every Star Wars movie is different but the same.
You can expect to see spaceships, aliens and a story about good vs evil.
If a Star Wars movie came out that took place in rural China, that wouldn’t be a “Star Wars” movie.
You have to do the same thing with your songs and albums
You’re creating a sonic world for people to visit.
And the cool thing is you’re the architect of this world.
You create all the rules in this universe.
You’ll notice the best artists from The Beatles to Davie Bowie to Kanye West try to do this with every album, they create a whole new world, instead of adding to the existing world they created with their first album.
So instead of considering yourself a musician, consider yourself as a world builder.
8. Your Recording Is Another FX
When indie rock god, Bon Iver, recorded his first album For Emma, Forever Ago, he did so held up in a log cabin in the woods in the dead of winter.
And this is exactly what the album sounded like.
It didn’t sound like he recorded it a multi-million dollar studio and that was the point.
Many indie rock bands have learned this trick a while ago that where you record acts as just another fx in the song.
So how can you use this to your benefit?
If you recordings sound bad, maybe they’re supposed to sound bad on purpose.
For example, earlier I mentioned about mixing a rap song that was recorded on cell phone in jail.
That song is supposed to sound bad! Because being in jail is bad.
I guess the point of this tip is that it’s better to sound authentic than it is to sound “good”.