Tips for Recording Your Vocals at Home

Tips for Recording Your Vocals at Home

The damage caused by COVID-19 on the live music scene has had an impact on Canadian independent musicians. A recent report from the Canadian Independent Music Association noted key challenges, including a drop of $233 million CAD for the indie music industry, which has been felt most acutely by emerging artists and their representatives. Independent sound recording and publishing companies are also estimated to see a 41% decline in revenue from 2019, and the industry is not expected to recover back to pre-COVID levels until 2023 to 2024 in the best-case scenario.

Not all hope is lost, however. Many artists managed to pivot their production in at-home studios. Musicians, songwriters, and producers also figured out how to collaborate over Zoom sessions, allowing the industry to exercise its creativity, flexibility, and resilience. Indeed, an at-home recording set-up isn’t a bad idea at all. If you’re thinking about joining this trend, here are some tips to consider for a smooth-sailing experience:

Prepare your recording space

Maybe you followed the QMusic songwriting tips we discussed a while back. You spent two weeks writing a song every day, and got inspired enough to overcome writer’s block. Now that you’re ready to record, you’ll need a good space to do it. In a non-professional environment like your house, you should look for a dry, neutral room. A cavernous area with wooden floors may work for classical vocals, but the reflections and reverberated sound will affect the quality and the control later in the mixing process. Your closet or your bedroom would be your best bet, because clothes, blankets, curtains, and even your mattress work as excellent sound absorbers.

Invest in a good mic

A good vocal mic is essential to capture quality sounds according to your genre. For instance, dynamic mics work well at live shows and ribbon mics fit the classic sound. One of the most popular vocal mics to use in a studio is the condenser mic. The best microphones for vocals on Shout4Music lists U87 Neumann microphones as they are large-diaphragm condenser microphones designed specifically to capture vocals. Although Neumann is a bit costly, their mics can create a rich, vibrant, and lush vocal recording that’s well worth the price. If you’re looking for more affordable copycat mics, keep an ear out for something that gets closer to the U87’s balance. Do experiment with your sound by moving closer or further away from your vocal mic, and listen with your headphones to see which sound works best on the track.

Do a few takes, then break

In April 2021, a clip of Ariana Grande’s recording process went viral for showing how recording is repetitive, rigorous, and highly technical work. Grande tried different vocal techniques to add harmony layers, and even found new note combinations in the studio. It just goes to show how even the most talented vocalists won’t always get the sound they’re looking for in one try. A rule of thumb is to do three to six takes, then stop for a break. It helps to take more breaks than you think is necessary, because overdoing the recording will strain your performance and voice. When you feel frustration building up after delivering a few bad takes in a row, take it as a sign to take five for yourself.

Finalize effects later on

There are different ways to manipulate your vocals: compression, reverb, delay, and so on. Save these effects for after you record. You can easily load a clean vocal track with lots of effects, but it’s impossible to strip away a vocal recording that already has a bunch of effects thrown into the mix. After you have a record you’re satisfied with, you can explore and experiment with different software, plugins, and editing tools. The MetaVocals plugin from Sknote, for instance, can automatically tune vocals over faulty sections so the intonation sounds smooth and natural. Playing with plug-ins would allow you to train your ear on what works, and polish your track as a whole.

Written by Aliyah Bea Cox
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