12 Tips for Top Notch Home Recordings

Are you ready to produce a recording for family and friends? Maybe you want to try your hand at a YouTube music video, but you don’t know quite where to start. No problem! We’ve put together a list of 12 tips for creating quality recordings that you’ll enjoy listening to and sharing with friends—no studio fee required.

1.     Pick the right spot. Rooms with lots of hard surfaces (like windows, hard wood floors, tile, etc.) will reflect the sound and create an echo on the recording. Choose a room that has carpet, curtains, and not much ambient noise.

2.     Set up the space. Close the curtains and hang a blanket over the wall behind the performer to absorb sound. Position the performer near the wall, not in the middle of the room where frequencies tend to build up. You can also put absorbent material in the corners of the room to reduce echo.

3.     Make the performers comfortable. Make sure the room isn’t too warm or too cold and that no extra people are standing around making performers nervous. Set the headphone mix accurately, and give a little reverb to boost confidence.

4.     Don’t forget about background noises. Nothing ruins a recording faster than a plane flying overhead, the furnace coming on, or someone dropping something in the next room. Plan for these things—record in the basement if possible and turn off fans and heaters.

5.     Don’t skimp on the microphone. Will your singer and instrumentalists sound best with a dynamic mike, a capacitor mike, or a back-electret mike? If you have access to several different options, try each one and see which produces the best sound. If you’re purchasing just one mike, don’t buy a really cheap model. Instead, invest in at least a mid-range microphone that will produce a natural sound.

6.     Position the singer the correct distance from the mic. If he or she is too close, you will get a popping sound with certain consonants and the volume will change significantly even with a slight shift in position. If the singer isn’t close enough, he or she will sound distant on the recording. Six to eight inches distance is a good rule of thumb.

7.     Use a pop filter. A pop filter eliminates the “popping” sound caused by bursts of air at the beginning of consonants like P and B.

8.     Use monitors, not speakers. Monitors deliver untouched sound so you can mix and edit accurately. Use your headphones to hear how the recording will sound to an average listener.

9.     Consider applying compression while recording. Vocalists can sound uneven if you use no compression during recording. Use less than you anticipate needing for the final recording, and choose a neutral compressor.

10. Go easy on the reverb. Reverb gives a feeling of space to the recording, but too much can drown out the quality of the vocal and shift the focus to the reverb itself.

11. Do several takes. It’s easier to fix mistakes by punching-in than by editing. You want to get a perfect recording, but it doesn’t have to be all in one take.

12. Don’t gate during the recording; save it for the mixing. If the gate isn’t set up properly, you could ruin the take. Use the gate to enhance the character of the recording, but don’t eliminate breath sounds. Breaths make the recording sound natural.

Whether this is your first recording or your fiftieth, these tips will help you get the sound you want. As you become more adept with the equipment and process, you’ll be able to experiment more during the recording and mixing stages in order to develop your own unique style.