Recording your voice at home in the most professional manner is somewhat subjective. Depending on the clarity, tone, or overall sound you desire, your idea of developing, mixing, and mastering perfect vocals can differ significantly from another musician or recording artist.
One key aspect that all musicians have in common is the idea of laying down their vocals and getting the best possible sound for their original music. Recording vocals can be a challenging undertaking while doing all production from home.
Musicians can submit their mixed and mastered original tracks to licensing companies, music producers, supervisors, and more. But the first step is to tell the difference between how your vocals can sound more professional since one of the biggest indicators that these companies and producers can usually decipher is in the vocals.
While many musicians and independent artists strive to record in a big, expensive voice studio with a producer and hands-on sound engineer to create the best sound, it is not in the budget or even possible for many. However, there are some bare essentials and simple knowledge of audio software and voice production that you can obtain to record within your home and still produce professional-sounding vocals.
Room and Voice Preparation
You need to prepare your space for recording your vocals, and this covers multiple areas. Creating an ambiance within your recording space to quickly get yourself into the proper mindset for recording is helpful. Set the mood with some lighting, and do it in an area where you feel the most relaxed and your voice feels warmed up and ready for performing.
Whatever room you decide to use to record your vocals, be sure to be quiet, calm, and dry. There should be no humming noises from furnaces or fans, and you also want to avoid damp or very open rooms where the sound reverberates or echos since this will not capture your voice well. Try to control the quality of your voice as much as possible by having a controlled, quiet, possibly even sound-proofed area in your home.
If you want to try and create a more soundproofed area, for example, in your bedroom, you can build a vocal booth for yourself using curtains, blankets, and pillows to drown out the sound around you. Put them across or enclose them within anything where your voice might bounce off, such as a hardwood floor or a space.
Make sure you also warm up your voice so that you are feeling in a good voice for singing. Take some singing lessons with music schools online so that you can work with a professional and voice expert. The instructor will help provide you with proper warm-up techniques and how to sustain your vocals. The recording process could take some time, so be sure your voice is ready for the lengthy session. Keep water nearby so that you can stay hydrated.
Another part of preparing your voice is to ensure that you know the lyrics and melodies well. If you have not memorized all of the words to the music you are recording, you will run into problems. While you can go back and re-record if you want to get the most out of the recording session, you should be as well prepared with the songs you will sing as possible.
Vocal Recording Equipment
To produce a higher-quality sound from your vocals, you should make or will need to make some investments in specialized recording equipment. A few of the more essential necessities that you will need for recording are:
- Microphone – You can choose to use a condenser or dynamic microphone, with the latter being the more commonly used type because it is less likely to pick up any extra sounds. If you choose a condenser microphone, you probably have a more studio-type of setup for your recordings, such as a quiet, soundproof box or a tiny room dedicated to recording vocals.
- Headphones – You need to hear yourself and how you sound since we always sound different to ourselves than when we hear the recordings played back, so having a set of decent, noise-canceling headphones will be essential.
- Pop Filter – The pop filter goes directly in front of your microphone. A pop filter is so important because it tames the boom that comes from sounds that “pop,” such as Ts and Ps. If you don’t want to invest in a pop filter, you can make a homemade one using stockings and a wire hanger.
- Audio Software – When mixing and mastering the audio, the professionals at Marmoset’s music production services state that besides investing into the equipment, you should also invest in some audio software that you can use to modify and accentuate or manipulate the sound of your vocals to help them sound the best. While many audio software programs cost money, some are free to use if you have a tight budget.
Positioning and Levels
Place the microphone facing your lips, sometimes at an angle, and test the sound multiple times until you are satisfied, listening with your headphones to identify all of the differences as you move around the microphone. You can try being up-close or distancing yourself from the microphone as well.
You want your microphone levels to be safely below that dreaded red color so that you don’t get any distortion. You should also check that you aren’t getting any feedback or picking up any other sounds within the room before you begin recording your voice.
Record Multiple Times
Even if you think you have nailed the vocals in your first recording, re-record it, and maybe again two or three more times after that. Relax and enjoy yourself singing the whole way through, and then go back and re-record more specific trouble spots or areas you want to change. It is helpful to label everything as you record “sections” or “whole songs” to reference it when you go back to edit easily.
If you need to, take a break. There is no time constraint on getting everything done, even with multiple takes of recording. If you start to feel your voice strain or get tired, just leave it and come back to it another time, or even another day if you need to.
Vocal Editing Tips
Depending on the audio software that you utilize when mastering your vocal recordings, you may have to learn and acquire some skills to use it. In addition, there may be plugins and editing tools that you will want to help create the most professional sound, and to do so, you must feel confident when working with your software.
It might help if you enlist the help of a friend who may have experience in doing sound engineering or has worked with your program. You do not want to rely too much on the editing tools or overuse plugins to where the voice doesn’t sound like yours any longer. In some cases, you may want to utilize something like Autotune or Melodyne for the sound you desire, which is fine.
Some suggestions for plugins and tools you may want to use are:
- Delays (short, medium, and long – you can use them in different parts of the song)
- High-quality reverbs (look for one that says “studio” if your software has it)
Try to experiment with these and notice the differences in your vocals to eliminate what tools you don’t like. Then you can set up your own preset from what you feel sounds best, making it easier to edit the rest of the vocals. Finally, play around with some more effects to see how they change the vibe and production of the song until you are delighted.
Once you have edited the vocals, you are ready to export them as a master file. Take Again, take time and be sure to listen to the tracks multiple times and across multiple days so that you feel good about the overall quality of your sound, and before you know it, you’ve become a vocal-sound pro!