Home recording is one of the most popular ways of creating content for the DIY artist today. From the songwriter’s demo to the yoga teacher’s video for the YouTube channel, you can go about so many different ways about creating your audio. These can range from in-closet vocal sessions, to professional quality voiceovers, which can be used for a variety of products. In this blog, I will go into avoiding the most common mistakes when recording at home. Here are 9 tips to improve your home recording sessions:
- Use the right microphones for the right occasion. iPhone microphones are acceptable quality, but don’t expect miracles from them. Especially based on the type of content you are creating, the variety changes. For instance, for creating your own Yoga videos, you could use a clip on microphone while you demonstrate the positions. Or, you could record your video first and then record audio with a microphone. This second choice will typically require a professional vocal microphone or audio recorder. Especially for tracking vocals, you would want to have a condenser microphone to get the best possible quality. While recording instruments can be done with a dynamic microphone with minimum budget, a good vocal microphone whether it is for singing or for voiceovers will definitely pay off.
- Do not place the microphone too close. Placing the microphone too close might create problems with your levels, such as audio clipping, which will make your audio sound distorted. Moreover, it is possible that you will get a lot of mouth clicks, plosives and many more sounds that might make your audio sound unpleasant. Using a pop filter will be a good solution for avoiding majority of popping sounds, such as plosives.
- Unplug the refrigerator! Along with the refrigerator, it is essential that you unplug any noisy home appliances to avoid unnecessary background noises in your final output. Don’t forget to plug your refrigerator back in when you are done recording!
- Check your levels before recording. While placing the microphone at the optimum distance might be a good solution, your signal might be still too high, or too low. Check your input levels before recording to make sure your recording is not clipping. Also make sure that your levels are not way turned down, as it is always frustrating to have a great take with the wrong levels.
- Tune your instruments! This goes without saying, but unless you’re trying to create a neo-experimental sound, you should probably tune any instruments you will be using in your recording(s).
- Avoid unnecessary effects if possible. Many built-in DAW such as Garageband comes with fancy looking effects such as reverbs, delays and compression. Especially the vocal tracks are full of more than necessary variety of reverb effects that are quite tempting to use in the first place, but in reality they can usually make your recording sound unprofessional, especially if recorded with a computer microphone or iPhone. Just like my music recording professor at Berklee has once said: “Reverbs – they make bad moments last even longer!”. So please be careful when using them.
- Listen to your recording with headphones. A professional set of headphones goes a long way for listening for the minor details, to mixing a track. When you listen back with computer speakers or iPhone headphones, you can hear most of the track, but you miss out on all the minor details that will be very much audible by listeners who will listen to your content with a quality headphone or speaker set. It is very important that you review your material with some good headphones to make sure it sounds professional.
- Avoid ground loops. Ground loops can plague your recordings by creating a hum sound in the background. Good news is that avoiding them is fairly simple. The key is connecting your instruments and/or equipment to the same outlet strip. (Assuming that the outlet’s circuit breaker can handle the current of all equipment).
- Mastering is key. Mastering is significant for making your audio sound professional. So recording is like the foundation and the cement of the house. Mixing is like the drywall you put on it. And mastering is the paint. Sure, you can have a house without paint, but its going to feel unfinished and raw. The same goes for mixing. You can leave some tracks only with a mix, just like how some home are made out of brick and they don’t need paint on it. But when it comes to home recordings, mastering will not only get your levels up to publishing standard, but will also bring your content as close to professional quality as possible.
These are 9 tips to improve your home recordings. What are some tips you have for recording audio at home? Feel free to share them below!
Alper Tuzcu is a Berklee College of Music and Denison University alumni, and a Boston based guitarist, songwriter and producer. You can listen his debut eclectic album ‘Between 12 Waters’ featuring 8 different vocalists on Spotify, follow him on Instagram or Twitter @alpertuzcu, and visit his website http://www.alpertuzcu.com