Recording Vocals in a Closet? Try This Instead

Recording Vocals in a Closet? Try This Instead

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Recording Vocals in a Closet? Try This Instead

by Andre Gonsalves

by Andre Gonsalves

Ah the closet booth. I have such fond memories of setting up a “recording booth” in my bedroom’s tiny closet as a teenager that it warms my heart a little. I did everything I could to get rid of the echoy noise I would hear in my recordings, later I found out that echoy noise was called reverb. I would put big comforters along the top shelve so that the ceiling’s reflections would be dampened, I would put blankets over my clothes so I wouldn’t spit on them. I literally tried every configuration of blanket placement and do a whole bunch of tests as a kid to get the optimal vocal recordings. And what I found much later in life is that you don’t need all that shit.

The problem with “padding” your closet with whatever you can find is that you are going to affect the reverb times. Many people think they need to “pad” their entire closet so that there’s no reverb, the problem with this is that it creates a sort of dead room. It’s very difficult to hear yourself in a dead room and not an optimal place to record in. The reason is because you’ve essentially killed all the reverb in the closet, you are not going to be getting any feedback on how well you’re singing or rapping. This is because the sound waves coming out of your mouth are being absorbed into whatever it is you’ve tacked up to the wall and barely nothing is bouncing back into your ear. It’s similar to when you walk into a movie theatre and you notice your ears feel stuffy because you’re getting little audio feedback.

Another issue with the closet is that even if you do half-pad it, so that the closet isn’t dead, the reverb times will be very short as the distance between you and the walls and ceiling is very close. So the sound is coming out of your mouth and bouncing off the wall and back into the microphone. I can identify closet recordings or recordings done in tight spaces easily by hearing the reverb time. In small spaces, it’s that annoying harsh reflection sound of the vocals. If you want to hear it just go about a foot away from your drywall and start singing or rapping and listen closely. Sounds ugly.

Mic shield

What you want is a room where the reverb is controlled, not dead. I previously did a post on 5 tips to help record good vocals, but I’ll elaborate on the first point “Cut out room reverb”. Specifically, what I’ve found best is using a mic shield placed closed to the center of the room.

If you have hardwood floors, you’ll want to get a thick rug and lay it down under the mic stand to catch any of the floor reflections. If you have carpeted floors that’s probably ideal.

The next thing you’ll want to do, if your budget permits, is hang some acoustic panels. The first acoustic panels I ever used I actually made myself out of some Owens Corning 703 fiber glass, 2x4s and burlap (My next blog will be on how I made them). Obviously the reason I made them back then was to save money, in retrospect it is probably a better idea to save up and buy some nice looking ones. I personally recommend getting ones that are 2 feet in width and 4 feet in length and that are between 3 and 4 inches thick. Depending on the size of your room, and let’s face it most home studio’s will have the smallest room, they do wonders to absorb reverb. I would say in small rectangular size room, you’ll need about 8-12 panels (3 on each wall). Depending on your room, you can even get away with less acoustic panels. For example, if you have a couch or bed behind your mic, you can get away with not putting panels on one of your walls. In fact, it may even help if the room is sounding too dead. If you want to even take it further, you can place bass traps in the corners of your room, but that’s more so if you plan on using your “recording booth” as a mixing room as well.

Before I end this I feel I should say something about the old egg cartoon on the wall thing. First of all they look ugly. So if you want to be surrounded by ugly egg cartoons (you’ve collected for years) while you record, more power to you. Maybe you’re recording a song about chickens laying eggs. Secondly and most importantly they wont work anywhere as well as acoustic panels. Sure they’ll help absorb a tiny amount of reverb but so will a comforter and much better. Also you have to think about the sound that will be made once it bounces of the egg cartoon and into your mic. Is that the sound you want? I’m not sure.

Andre is the head audio engineer at ADG Mastering. When he’s not in front of a mixing board with his eyes closed, he’s having impromptu dance parties with his son and daughter: ages 2 and 4.

2 Comments

  1. Hello, I was educating myself on you guys blog. I hear you guys are the best at mixing and mastering. What is your pricing for mixing & mastering?

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