When you’re simultaneously artist and engineer, singer and producer, there are plenty of steps you can take to lay the groundwork for a successful recording session.
Recording your band’s lead vocalist or a professional session singer in a dedicated studio is one thing — tracking your own vocals by yourself in a home studio can feel like something entirely different. When you’re simultaneously artist and engineer, vocalist and producer, how do you optimize your chances of recording success?
Just like recording a singer (who isn’t you) in a pro studio, there are plenty of steps you can take to lay the groundwork for a successful recording session. Here are some tips to get you started.
A recording studio is a place, by definition, where you go to make and record music. Your home, of course, has many other functions. If you find yourself susceptible to getting sidetracked, do what you can to eliminate temptation. Unplug the TV, stash the phone, stick the Xbox in a closet — do everything you can to tailor your space purely for making music. Even if it’s just temporarily, it will go a long way towards recording success.
“When I’m recording my own vocals at home, my first thing during my set-up is eliminating as many extraneous sounds as I can,” says Onyie Nwachukwu, a New York-based artist and session singer who has contributed vocals to productions like Cirque Du Soleil and the national tour of Rent. “That means radiators, open windows, roommates, what-have-you.”
Beyond closing windows and shushing roomies, this means searching for anything that might hum, buzz, beep, or ring, and turning it off or otherwise muffling it. If you live in a home where the doorbell or knocking would be disruptive, consider leaving a note on your door asking visitors not to do those things, except in emergencies.
Give thought to where you set up
When you’re recording vocals at home, chances are you won’t have access to a room that’s been perfectly treated for recording or an isolation booth that blocks all outside noise and reverberations. Given that, where you position your microphone can have a big impact on how your recorded vocals will sound.
Generally speaking, try to track in a room where there won’t be a lot of uncontrolled reflection of sound off of the walls, floor, and ceiling. Carpeting, blankets, pillows, and wall hangings can help with this, as can specially designed sonic treatments that are built for both home and pro studio use. Something as simple as a portable isolation set-up can work wonders.
That said, trust your ears and your gut. If you set up your mic in your shower stall and love the ambience that environment brings to your vocals, go with it.
“I always make sure I have water nearby when I’m recording my voice at home,” says Nwachukwu. “Sometimes I’ll steam the apartment with my shower a bit, so when I close my door to record, the room is left slightly steamed, but not enough to affect equipment or anything electric. Just enough to make my larynx really happy.”
Set the stage
One nice thing about recording in your own home is that you have complete control over the environment. Will you feel most inspired while lying on your back in your bed, or in darkness with incense burning? Would building a pillow fort and tracking your vocals while wearing something ridiculous take you to where you need to be to deliver a great performance? It’s your space, and nobody’s watching or judging, so do what you have to do to get the performance you want.
When it comes to tracking your own vocals at home, these tips are just the beginning. Do you have any tips of your own? Tell us in the comments below.
Disc Makers’ regular contributor Michael Gallant’s debut trio album Completely received a four-star review from DownBeat magazine and a five-star review from Critical Jazz, which stated: “This, my friends, is the future of jazz. Fresh, invigorating, progressive – there are simply not enough positive adjectives to list here.” Learn more, download through iTunes, or purchase through CD Baby. Follow Michael on Twitter at @Michael_Gallant or on Facebook.
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