Whatever your goal, whether you are a producer, singer or podcast creator, you will need a high quality vocal chain ready to rock at home. It used to be an impossible dream to record vocals at home. Now it is a reality. The barrier to entry is no longer money.
Because you must know how to use the software and hook up the equipment, you will need to have the knowledge to make the right choices. It sounds daunting, right?
Don’t worry. Don’t worry. The question isn’t “How do I record vocals?” It is about how to achieve professional-sounding results.
This broad question can open up a world of possibilities that could lead to a long discussion that could last for weeks. We’ll skip the details and get to the point quickly.
I will even wrap it with some compression and equalization tips to make your recording sound polished and ready to go for your listeners. We’ll be exploring each sub-topic further in the future.
To help you understand what we are going to cover, here’s a table:
- Acoustic Rooms
- Mic Stand and Shock Mount
- Pop Filter and Wind Screen
- XLR Cables
- Tips for Vocal Mixing
- A perfect example of high quality vocals
You will be able to produce decent results if you know the basics of each area.
You’ll be able to achieve stunning results if you put in the effort and trade up the quality equipment over time.
I joke, but it is possible to compete and charge money to assist others in achieving the results they desire. Let’s get started. Let’s get started. I’ll show some Abbey Road results that will make your mouth water.
Note: The “recommendation” links below will take you to Amazon so that you can see the price and other details. So you have a reference point, I will show you my top budget option, and then my absolute favourite, regardless of cost.
These suggestions will still work for you even if you have a tight budget. Sometimes, you won’t see this or that product because it is all within your budget. Because we are here to learn, I will show you other types.
How to record vocals at home
Do not worry about how the various pieces of equipment are placed within the signal chain. This will be covered in the next sections. It’s easy and you will see the benefits.
MICROPHONE-ACTUALLY RECORDING VOCALS
A microphone is, of course, the device that captures the vocal chord fluctuations. Quality does not always come at a price when it comes to microphones. The top vocal microphones can be purchased for a fraction of the cost of other models.
You should also be familiar with the different types of microphones available. You should also be familiar with the different types of microphones that you will use to record vocals.
DYNAMIC MIICS – FOCALS LOUD & FAST
Shure SSM57 Dynamic Microphone
A dynamic microphone is best for recording heavy metal screaming or rap vocals. These microphones can withstand the air pressure coming out of your mouth and will not lose their ability to record when humidity surges past the diaphragm.
Budget ShureSM57 “The Industry Workhorse”
It will take you far if you give it a good preamp. It’s a default choice for many applications in big studios.
CONDENSER MICS- FOR SENSITIVE VOCALS
Rode NTK Condenser Mic
A condenser microphone is best for recording singers who have beautiful voices and subtle nuances. There are many types to choose from, but you should go with a large diaphragm cone condenser microphone. It is larger in diameter and more sensitive to every sound wave it receives.
This means you should not shout directly into it or allow spit to fly into it. It is not a good idea to record rappers or other “screamo” vocalists on it. Instead, use a pop filter and windscreen. You can expect lots of sibilance, and sometimes plosives from any type of vocalist.
Budget MXL990 – “As Good As the Rest of Your Chain.”
Based on your other gear, my feeling is that this mic will perform as well as you allow it to. It will eventually need to be upgraded, but it will get you started. However, it will be your bottleneck for quality in the future. (You can also choose the Oktava K-319).
Favorite: Rode NTK – “Crystal Clear High-End”
This mic is my favorite, and I even love it more than my cat. This mic is great for any vocalist, except if they have a lot bass. This microphone is great for anyone who has a high-frequency voice. You can make it even better by pairing it with higher quality preamps.
As you read on, here’s some information to keep in mind. Many mics come in different casings, which means that you will need to use shock mounts.
If you purchase most mics new (and I recommend that you do so for condensers as it will be treated more carefully), you’ll get your own shock mount and adapter. You should not order more than one item at once.
The Best Place to Record Vocals at Your Home
People are curious to know whether they should put a mattress against the wall or record in the closet. Should Use acoustic treatment, even cheap stuff, in your main space and a reflection filter. Not hiding in a corner or closet.
ROOM ACOUSTICS – GETTING CLEAR VOCAL RECORDINGS
Many people forget to consider that recording environments are just as important as the equipment they use. To avoid these problems, many home studios use their closets as vocal booths. However, this only makes the problem worse. What’s the problem? Acoustics.
The room’s acoustics is influenced by the size, orientation, and smoothness of walls. These variables can also affect the studio monitors. These factors affect the way sound waves bounce back to microphones. These “bounces”, also known as reflections, are called sound waves.
They can cause delays, reverbs and constructive or deconstructive interfering at different frequencies. These problems can be solved with the tools described in this section. There are two options.
ACOUSTIC TREATMENT-STOPPING PHASE ISSUES AND MUDDY QUALITY
People will tell you that you don’t have to treat your entire room. Just close the mic on everything. Don’t listen. You will need acoustic treatment if you wish to record in your studio or vocal booth.
It’s a bit of a story that I will tell you, but you can read the full article on acoustic therapy. You will lose your mind and get addicted. It’s an interesting topic. Professional Acoustic Treatment (Panels and a Diffusor at Bottom)
To be completely honest, this is not something I would recommend to anyone who records vocals only. This is the right tool for you if you are mixing and recording multiple bands at once.
There are two options for acoustic treatment: the less efficient egg-crate foam type and the more attractive paneling option. Both include reflection panels, clouds and bass traps.
If you’re interested in this route, please read the full article. It’s far too extensive to include here.
Budget Egg Crate Foam Kits “The Ugly Option”
These kits would be used only in a vocal booth. While some people would be happy to have this stuff plastered on their walls, I wouldn’t want to see it. It’s much cheaper than other options and it does make a difference.
Favorite – Professional Paneling – “The Now We’re Talking Option.”
These can be ordered from GIK Acoustics. This is the only option I would consider if I didn’t make my own high-density insulation.
REFLECTION FILTERING – STOPING REVERB & COMB
Let’s face it, if you are primarily focused on your vocals, then let’s be real. A reflection filter is a better choice than all the above. These miniature acoustic treatment panels attach to your microphone stand and envelope your mic.
They will block any reflections that may be coming back to your mic. Additionally, they will stop reflections from the critical directions (based upon the pick-up pattern for your mic which should be cardioid in order to produce vocals). A picture of one will help you understand it better. Auray Reflection filter
It absorbs only middle and high frequency frequencies. This is the cool part about egg crate foam. The bass frequencies are allowed to pass through it so that they don’t bounce at you. This is an issue in small rooms such as closets or vocal booths.
If you are only recording vocals at your home, this is your ticket to the big leagues cheaply. You’ll be delighted with the results if you follow the EQ tips that I share at the end.
Budget SE Electronics Relations Filter “The Rav-4”
Although this guy does the job well, you only get the one-half-circle shape. This is not a deal-breaker.
Favorite: Auray Reflection Filter – “The Aventador”
Auray’s option is more durable, and you can also change the shape to create a different ambience in your room.
I’ve said my piece. You can start with a reflection filter to save yourself from the acoustic treatment nightmare. Once you are ready, expand your horizons. This will make the nightmare a wonderful fantasy you cannot stop imagining. This is my absolute favorite part of owning a studio.
The Last Noises that Sneak in to Vocal Recordings at home
Three other things to be aware of Your mic can be irritated by noises from your feet vibrating (or other people walking around in another room). The strange sounds that our ears can’t pick up, such as plosives or sibilance (pops or hisses), can also be heard.
MIC STAND & SHOW MOUNT – STOPPING FOOTNOISES
Although it is not as much fun as the other parts, this part is crucial. There are two options for mic stands. There are two options: a traditional standing mic stand or a desktop stand. It all depends on what you are doing.
You might want to sit down if you are podcasting or recording audiobooks. It will take some time. You’ll need to stand up if you want to give your best vocal performance ever.
You can think about whether you would like to add a boom (the part that extends out so it doesn’t just go straight up and down) to your standing stand.
Consider how heavy the shock mount and reflection filter are, as well as the mic. This will help you choose a boom and make the crucial decision about whether you want tripod legs, or a heavy circular base. I prefer legs. Various types of mic stands, including booms and desktop styles
Tripod Legs To use a boom, a stand is necessary. This type of stand allows you to angle the boom to prevent it from tipping. You should use a reflect filter and a heavy condenser microphone.
Circular Base: You can use a tripod , or a circular base to replace a boom. To prevent tipping, the circles are often made of very heavy metal. You are less likely to trip on a leg or knock the entire set over (which can be dangerous for a condenser tube).
A condenser microphone should have one custom-fitted shock mount. They can be purchased for dynamics but not as often.
They suspend the mic mid-air from the mic stand using rubber bands. This prevents bass vibrations from moving up the stand and into your recording. You can search for a universal mic mount if you have a random microphone but no shock mount.
POP FILTER & SCREEN – BLOCKING OUT POPS
This is all there is to it. Pop filters are exactly what they sound like. They help to dissipate bursts, also known as plosives (bursts of air) that occur during syllables starting with letters “B” and “P”. The pop filter with a flexible arm that extends towards vocalists is my favorite.
It can be oriented in a specific way to achieve two outcomes: One, you can stop the vocalist from jumping up on the mic, spitting all over it, and then, you can trick them into staying slightly off-axis.
Pops should be eliminated by this distance and off-axis orientation. Volume automation can be used to mask any vocals that aren’t quite clear. The WindTech PopGard is one of the most innovative pop filters.
Pop filters and wind screens can be combined if your vocalist is a bit too loud. A pop filter is made from a thin piece or fabric that is stretched out, like a pantyhose. A wind screen is thicker foam that wraps around the microphone (like a sock). If you have a vocalist who prefers to hold the microphone in one hand, wind screens might be more useful.
Pop filter: This is an example of a typical pop filter. It’s not as clever as the one shown above. These filters are affordable enough to put up two of them if needed.
Windscreen: These are your basic winds screens. These are only $1 to two dollars each and can be purchased in singles or packs. You can also get any color in the rainbow.
You should at least have one of each, but you can also pick up a few windscreens and a pop filter. Both are affordable enough and well worth the investment. You don’t want the perfect take to be ruined because you are a cheapskate.
Connecting Your Home Vocal Recording Studios
While we’ve covered the most important and fun gear, there are still many more. A preamp, cables and software are required to record and edit final results.
XLR CABLES: FROM THE MIC TO THE PREAMP OR INTERFRACE
Notice that I did not just say “cables”. I wrote XLR. Any microphone that is worth its weight will expect an XLR cord. You should never use a microphone that requests a USB cable. Typical 3-Prong XLR Cable
The primary reason I want to talk about XLRs is to help you save money. Audiophiles with more sense than money believe that expensive cables are superior to cheap. This is one of the biggest myths in audiophiles.
To a certain extent, it is true. It’s not a good idea to be so low that your cables have no shielding and pick up tons 60 Hz hum as well as other electrical interferences.
These cables are a waste of money and can be expensive. You don’t need a cable that tells you everything about its 24 karat-gold micro-weaved, braided shielding and quantum vibrational flux capacitors.
This scam is well-known, but there’s one company you should be aware of. I will point you in the right direction. Please note the length of any cable before ordering. ):
Budget There are many budget cable companies. Hosa does an excellent job. Livewire is good, and Monoprice comes to mind. These aren’t cheap, but they are more affordable than the standard price.
Favorite If money is tight and you want peace of mind, I use Mogami cable to power my vocal signal chain along with my monitors. They are professional and don’t charge extra.
This applies to all cabling types. Don’t fall for the marketing ploy. The one truth is that you shouldn’t use a lot of length on your cable if it’s not balanced.
This creates more opportunities for interference to be picked-up. It doesn’t really matter if it is balanced. This topic is beyond the scope of this article. You don’t really need a 30-foot cable if you only have 6 feet.
PREAMPLIFIER – BOOSTING FROM MIC LEVEL – LINE LEVEL
This is something I want to stress because it is not easy until you have had the experience. It is literally night and day the difference between a poor preamplifier or a high-quality one.
Yes, you should have one. This is because you need to increase the signal level in the cable from mic level to line level. Things like electric guitars and keyboards are already at line-level, but mic levels is very quiet.
Some people will just turn up the volume on their inputs to avoid having to purchase a preamp. You’re just creating a lot of noise. Preamps are used to increase the signal but not also boost the noise.
This part of the discussion will be prefaced by me letting you know that Interfaces come with preamps for most channels, which you can bypass or leave. If you don’t have the budget for an outboard preamp, it’s better to not buy one and add some cash to your interface purchase.
You can buy a desktop or stand-alone preamp if you have the money. But only if it is affordable enough to upgrade to the best quality. The cheapest preamps on the market can damage your signal more than they help. However, the best mic mic preamp will unleash the full potential of your mic. FMR NNP Preamplifier The Really Nice Preamplifier
Also, I mentioned earlier that microphones can provide quality recordings. A bad preamp can make a microphone sound terrible, but it is possible to help it reach its full potential by connecting it to an excellent preamp. Do not skimp on quality and do not be cheap. This step is crucial!
Budget FMR RN – The Really Nice Preamp
This pre is a wonderful product. FMR reduced the cost by making the casing plain plastic in a desktop format. But the electronics are amazing. There are many options for racking them. You can check out Funklogic options. This is how I racked both my RNP & RNC together.
Favorite Great River MP-2NV “The I’ll Never Use Another Preamp Again”
Since I had the opportunity to play with one, this is on my wishlist. You can have different flavors depending on your preferences, according to the experts. This is my flavor. It is pristine and does not add any color or warmth to the signal.
Preamplifiers are second in my list of favorite studio equipment after acoustic treatments. It’s second after acoustic treatments. This is a hint. If you’re able, get the RNP!
INTERFACE – ANALOG-TO-DIGITAL CONVERSION BEFORE THE COMPUTER
Most people are unfamiliar with the process of recording audio. They don’t know how it is done. This is the function of an interface.
Many novices will try to use the sound card of their computer. However, it does not have all the necessary components and the ones that it does have are not sufficient. An interface is a glorified sound card that adds additional features to your computer.
An interface is a combination of several elements from the signal chain. Keep in mind that most interfaces will have at least one, if not more, channel that includes a preamplifier.
It will have analog-todigital and digital-toanalog converters that allow you to move the signal into your computer and back out again so you can hear it through the monitors. This is the fundamental concept. Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 Racked Audio Interface
Let me be clear. This is not the place to save money. Do not buy a $50 inexpensive audio interface expecting any of its components to be worth anything.
A lot of interfaces come with DAW installation disks. We will discuss this next. You should be aware of what you are getting to ensure you don’t purchase the same thing twice.
You’ll also find many options for connecting the interface to your computer. There are many options for connecting to the computer via interfaces. These include Thunderbolt and Ethernet, Firewire, Optical TOSlink, Thunderbolt, Ethernet and Optical TOSlink (Lightpipe). You should not be concerned about USB or Firewire at this stage.
Both can record at speeds of up to 10 tracks per minute. It’s a matter of personal preference. Firewire is what I am using right now.
Budget Scarlett Solo “The One-Man One Channel Option”
Focusrite interfaces are known for their high-quality preamps. This is a great money-saving option if you only record one voice.
Favorite Focusrite Pro 40 – “I’m ready to record a whole band”
You can record a whole band with this bad boy’s many inputs and outputs. However, you will need some preamps to make it all work. Focusrite also offers expansions that you can daisy-chain with the main interface. Focusrite is my favorite.
There are many interfaces on the market, but I have only used a few. This is partly because you can buy one and then you won’t need another unless your electronics get damaged.
Mark of the Unicorn (or MOTU) makes solid stuff. While I enjoyed the two I tried, I am currently using the Saffire Pro 40 and I don’t plan on leaving Focusrite.
DAW SOFTWARE-RECORDING AND EDITING AUDIO
Make sure that your DAW (digital audio workstation) is not included with the interface before you buy one. There are many options when it comes to choosing the best DAW.
I’ll list a few: Avid Pro Tools and Apple Logic Pro. Ableton Live, Image-Line Fruity Loops Studio. Steinberg Cubase. Steinberg Cubase. Steinberg Cubase. Steinberg Cubase. Steinberg Cubase. Steinberg Cubas. Steinberg Cubase. Steinberg Cubase. Steinberg Cubase. Steinberg Cubase. Steinberg Cubaser. Steinberg Cubase. Steinberg Cubase. Steinberg Cubase. A typical DAW user interface
Pro Tools and Logic Pro are great options to help you make the right decision. If you have an OSX Mac, this is my favorite. These are the leaders and you will be able to master them all.
DAW stands for digital audio workstation. It is a piece software that connects to all the hardware we have been discussing.
The program will take your recordings and place them on a multitrack. You can then signal process and make your vocals even more amazing. If you want to achieve the results that everyone wants in today’s modern world, it is not an option.
Windows: Get Pro Tools. It’s possible to get it for Macs too, but Avid doesn’t keep their updates as current for Macs. To use Pro Tools, you will need either an Avid interface (or a USB dongle). This is how they prevent others from stealing their software.
Apple Mac: Get Logic Pro. It is intuitive and beautiful. It’s made by Apple so you can be sure it will work on your Mac, and keep up to date with the constant operating system updates.
Mixing Home Vocal Recordings Tips
I would be really stupid to talk about all the tools you need to record, but then leave you hanging. This article will not cover how to set up your DAW, sync it to your interface, tell your multi-track mixer which inputs you want, or provide a complete guide to mixing.
It is important to take the time necessary to learn the DAW. Everybody has to, but only one time. You’re good for the rest of your life.
Here’s a guide to help you get started. Once you are familiar with your DAW, and its plugins, you will be able to understand the entire process. Understanding how to compress vocals is the most important part.
EQUALIZATION- MAKING VOCALS LOOK CLEAR
You’ll need to adjust the values of vocals depending on whether you’re using them for a podcast or mixing vocals into a song. These principles will not change. Find a parametric EQ plug in your DAW and apply it to the track.
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You’ll see five nodes in the plugin that you can use to alter the frequency spectrum of vocals. Play the track and you should be able see the signal on the plugin. Oceanturtle’s Fnequalizer Plugin
Apply a low-end rolloff to the left side. It’s best to start it between 60 and 100 Hz to get the most impact. The sub-bass frequencies will be removed from your vocals as it veers to the left.
It won’t affect your voice but it will eliminate any low-frequency noises from your recording. You can increase this value to 150 Hz for mixing kick drum and bass. You can also change the rate at which the roll off descends to make it more rapid.
The same can be done at the top end, or vice versa. Make the right decisions with your ears and not your eyes.
Set up another node, create a Q curve of medium width and subtract anywhere between 2-6 db of ampltude. Then start sweeping it from 200 Hz to 500 Hz.
The sweet spot between a feeling of muddiness and clarity will be found. This refers to removing any boomy feeling your room may be experiencing due to a lack of complete acoustic treatment.
You can do the same thing as above, but you should use a wider Q curve (boost wide, cut thin). Add anywhere from 1-3 db boost between 2.5-6 kHz. Play around with the curve and find the sweet spot.
This is where the human voice can be heard clearly. This will make your words more understandable. It will have a lower value for females than for males.
COMPRESSION – REDUCING DYNAMIC RANGE
After you have EQ’d your vocals you can remove the “nasty frequencies” or turned them down until they aren’t easily recognizable. Now it’s time to compress. It is not a good idea to compress vocals without first doing the preliminary EQ. Otherwise, you will only be adding to the problem. Logic Pro’s Compressor Plugin
There are four variables that go with compression: Ratio Threshold Attack Decay, Threshold Ratio and Threshold. You can often get away with very rapid decay and attack for vocals. These are the speed at which compression is applied after the amplitude exceeds or dips below the threshold.
The threshold can be measured in decibels. It is the point at which you want to apply compression. This ratio is similar to an inverse gain knob.
You can use vocals as low as a 2:1 or as high as 5:1, depending upon the type of vocals you are using and the genre of music. Rap and Pop may require more to replicate the same feeling.
This means that vocals exceeding the threshold of 5 decibels will result in a reduction of 1 decibel in volume. It will reduce it to 2 decibels if it exceeds 10 db. This equalizes the volume of your vocals, so that spikes and dips will be less frequent.
After the compression is complete, you might want to add an extra EQ plugin and do some more work. It shouldn’t be too much. It is possible that you are doing a lot more EQ work than you did before compression.
EFFECTS – SWEETENING YOUR VOCALS
This is where the fun begins. You can play with delays, panning, flangers , pitch shifting, reverbs and many other options to see the range of possibilities. Logic Pro’s Space Designer Plugin
Some effects are more suitable for certain songs and applications than others. However, this is largely down to the creative control of your mixer. You can also apply compression or EQ to the effects by sending them to another track via bus.
High Quality Home Vocal Recording Example
Without giving you an example, I cannot leave you to your task. Here’s Paul McCartney performing Golden Slumbers on the Beatles’ album Abbey Road. Recorded at Abbey Road’s amazing studio!
(Editor: This video was removed from YouTube. Another excellent example is from Boyz II Men, singing The Beatles song Yesterday! https://www.youtube.com/embed/YgtByWlBSdA?feature=oembed
You will notice the increased clarity caused by the reduction in extreme low-ends and the muddy areas, as well as the compression that maintains the average volume across segments.
Listen for the subtle reverb tail. These results can be achieved at home by using the right studio equipment and practicing. Keep believing and working hard.
It’s easy to record vocals at home!
This is it, friends. Really. Recording vocals at home is possible in three ways. They follow the audio signal chain chronologically.
The signal is sent to your DAW software via your hardware. Next, you do some post-processing. Once you have done it several times, it’s easy to master. We have 13 voice recording tips to help you!
Take your time and experiment. Once you have mastered the technical aspects of recording, your brain will be ready for the creative side. Your world will expand to the limitless possibilities.
You’ll be able to do it in no time if you are patient and diligent. These skills can also be applied horizontally to recording instruments! You are now on your way to being a professional studio engineer.