Recording Vocals At Home

Recording Vocals At Home

So you wanna record vocals, huh? You’ve done all your vocal warm ups, you’re inspired, you have a melody in your head since this morning and it’s ready to be sung. You record it passionately using the microscopic mic on your MacBook and then you play it back. The idea is saved but it sounds like your voice is being smothered by a pillow. Respect yourself, your voice and your creativity by recording it properly! But how? This short article outlines all the necessary tools you’ll need to capture professional-sounding vocals in your home.

SKIP TO: DAWs | multitrack compact studios | tape | mics | pop filters | input | stands | headphones | mixing monitors | next level


Get it “in the can”!

First of all you will need somewhere to get your audio signal into, something to record into. The most common way these days is by using a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) on a desktop computer or laptop. Some of the most popular options are:

Please, NO MORE SCREENS!

If you work all day in front of a computer screen (or multiple screens) and can no longer stand it, try a multitrack compact studio and create music using primarily your ears, the classic way! More recent models capture your music onto SD card and have USB ports for easy transfer to your computer (for when your eyes are rested). Of course, you can also just mix it on the device (that old tactile sensation!) and export the mix when done. Here are a few options for you:

I’m a tape guy / gal!

If you’re a vintage lover and want to record the old-fashioned way get yourself a tape machine (usually second-hand and quite expensive) and a couple of reels of magnetic tape. You’ll need some sort of pre-amplifier to boost your signal before it goes into the tape machine. For this you can either use a simple standalone pre-amp or a multi-channel mixer (examples below)…

Rock the mic!

The next step is to get yourself a vocal microphone, or any microphone that captures your voice the way you want it to. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find the right mic for your unique voice. This can include dynamic mics, condenser mics or ribbon mics. Remember that even mics that are generally intended for recording instruments might sound great with your voice. Here are some popular choices:

Input

If you’re using a computer you will need a USB audio interface, which is basically an external sound card with pre-amplified inputs for microphones (or instruments or MIDI). The built in pre-amps boost the signal nicely and the knobs on the interface allow you to control recording levels (gain). Some popular options are:
You will also need a microphone cable, called an XLR cable, to connect your mic to your USB interface, recording device or console.
the sssnake SM6BK

the sssnake SM6BK


Support it

A microphone stand is essential unless you prefer to always sing with the mic in your hand. But be aware: Doing this can cause unwanted noise in your recording, and can be very inconvenient when you need to use both hands for preparing your session. Consider some of these options for the floor, for mounting anywhere or for your desktop:


Snap, Crackle, Pop

You’ll also need a pop filter to reduce those annoying “plosives“. Plosives are the bassy, distorted sounds that are captured when an air blast hits the mic’s diaphragm. This usually occurs when we sing the consonant P but also happens with T, D, K, B and G, depending on which language you sing in. These simple devices will eliminate, or greatly reduce, that distortion:

Output

So far everything we’ve covered allows you to get the vocals recorded, but to play them back you will need either some headphones or some monitor speakers (or both!). Headphones are also very important for monitoring, which means hearing yourself clearly while singing. Every DAW and most devices have a switch to turn monitoring on or off, according to your preference. Some singers prefer just to take the headphones off of one ear and do it that way. Here are a few popular options for headphones in order from very affordable to high-end:

Monitor speakers also range from quite affordable to very very expensive. Since we are discussing home recording, the most practical solution is active nearfield monitors which are designed to be positioned approximately 1 to 2 metres away from the listener. Here are a few of the most popular options:


These are the absolute essentials. Now, if you want to take your vocal recordings to the next level you might want to consider some of these products:

 

TC-Helicon Ditto Mic Looper

It’s hard to get people together for practising… especially singers. Often in the beginning, singers are shy or uncomfortable experimenting in the presence of others. That’s where this TC-Helicon Ditto Mic Looper comes in handy, allowing you to loop your own voice, add layers or practise new harmonies or backing vocals over your lead vocals. Solitary fun and great practice for your recording session!


Effects (pre-production)

Just like guitarists, vocalists also have effect pedals, and they love them equally as much. These can be used for live, onstage, singing or for recording, especially if you won’t be using a computer / DAW. Simply connect some of these effects in the signal chain before your recording device to add flavour or presence to your vocals using delay, reverb, doubling, harmonising, compression, pitch shifting, etc. Check out these great vocal effect pedals, and many others, in our shop:


Effects (post-production)

There is a plethora of effects that you can put on your vocal recording after recording in your DAW: Reverb, delay, saturation, doubling, EQ, compression, pitch modulation, pitch correction, vocoder and many more. Check out some of the software plugins that are most popular in our shop:


Professional mic pre-amps

If you want to step it up a few notches, and have the budget to do so, consider getting a professional mic pre, for a rich, ultra-clean sound with higher gain capabilities. Some popular, and legendary, options are:


the t.akustik vocal booth

the t.akustik Vocal Booth

Living in cities can make it hard to record at home with traffic noise and general city hum constantly sneaking into your recordings. This t.akustik vocal booth will give you a sound-proof environment as well as privacy, which some singers need in order to give their very best performance. This is for serious singers!

back to the top

Author’s gravatar
Joe started playing the acoustic guitar when he was 10 and has been using it as a songwriting tool ever since. He is passionate about melody and harmony and admires singers who create these in unique ways. Check out his indie-pop band Best of Feelings.

Leave a Reply