Home Recording Basic Prep
Updated: Nov 15, 2019
Hey guys recently I've had some artists record either their vocals or some additional instruments from home to send to me for adding to the mix. I wanted to cover some things that came up in the conversations to help them prep and be aware of some of the basics.
1. You Can
You can record from home and get some amazing stuff!
Be confident that you can record at home. It's going to take time to find the best places where you live to get your tracks and get the basics down but you can do it and it doesn't have to be the most expensive gear.
Timing can be one of the most important tells between a pro record and an amateur recording. Take a moment before you get into recording and find out what tempo your song is. There is a free app I use on called "Metronome" that you can tap to tempo meaning you can tap while you play and get the tempo of your song. You'll notice different parts of your song may have different tempos and you can figure out how to patch them together later but You need to collect this information so you can create consistency.
In almost every recording software there is a place you can map out or choose the BPM beats per minute or the tempo of the song to play with a click track. By choosing what tempo fits your song best beforehand and setting up the framework of the click track your going to record alongside you are giving your self a end all be all frame of reference to be consistent with. For different styles of music and different feels you don't always have to be perfect with a click because we are human and people will hear how inhuman your timing is if everything is perfect but you need to be able to gauge and control how much imperfection you allow. Find your tempo and record with a click. If you've never recorded with a metronome I encourage you to practice with it over and over until it feels more natural before you start recording.
3. Garbage in = Garbage Out
I just told you that you don't need the best equipment ever to record at home....it's still true but that doesn't mean you can use something out of tune, with strings from 5 years ago, or record a weak song. You can make an amazing song on basic equipment sound amazing but you can't make a bad performance or song amazing.
I recommend putting a fresh set of stings on your guitar or bass the week of recording and play it a few times to try and get it prepared for staying in tune and sounding crisp. Also between songs or even takes it can be nice to check the tuning to be sure your staying in tune especially if you have noticed the instrument has been fluctuating a lot lately or the temperatures is crazy in your environment.
If your a vocalist and your recording know that when you track right when you wake up you might have a harder time with pitch and control because you haven't spoken at all during the day, if your a screaming vocalist you might want to be careful recording at midnight if you've been out all day at a sports game. Think about the elements your about to record from and remember that it is WAY easier to make a good song and good recording sound amazing but its hard to retune or fatten up something that is already hurting.
4. The Space
Your recording at home not a commercial facility hand crafted for sound so it won't be perfect. BUT there is a technique to finding the right spot. Try recording several times in different locations and directions in your space to find what sounds the best regardless of what your mind says. The sound of it is key so it doesn't matter what SHOULD be the best spot. Many times I see artists create the classic foam closet where they coat all the walls and ceiling in foam or worse actual egg cartons to try use for a vocal booth. Sometimes these work but most of the time they still have issues with too much bass or mid frequencies and the foam doesn't help the issues of the space. Foam is usually helping with reflections but all foam and spaces have certain problem frequencies and if they aren't being addressed your now going into a smaller space for your voice to create issues with them. Try recording in the middle of the room and be aware that the most dangerous sounds come from BEHIND you. Your mic isn't paying attention behind itself but the sound your making goes past the mic and often bounces back. Because most mic's don't look behind themselves anything that bounces off the wall behind you is a big problem because it's looking for that. Try to address what's behind you or position yourself in several spots to hear what is happening. The cleanest vocal with the least sound from the room is usually what you want if your not trying to make an effect of artistic choice.
5. Setting The Right Level
This ties back to what we were talking about what is coming in? We don't want the audio to come in so high that it distorts but we don't want it so low that we get a lot of the room sound and background noises when we mix it later. Try setting the level capable of handling the LOUDEST thing your going to do so there is not chance it can distort. Digital distortion is almost never used as a tool for sound because it just doesn't sound good. I love metal and rock so I love distortion and dissonent sounds but I hate digital distortion. It's your sound card trying to figure out what the sound would have been and hitting it down extremely hard to keep it controlled. YOU want to be the one who decides what sound comes in. I think recording at around -12 DB on your meter is a safe guideline but look for your audio to be a health strong signal so it's the whole sound and range but not too loud because you can ALWAYS make it louder.
When mixing many things will end up getting compressed so the loudest and quietest parts of the audio will get closer in sound. When you record too low and that gets raised up then you get all the background sounds. You need the middle.
6. Don't Put Things On To One Track
Sometimes people send me drums or other instruments as one track. This drives me nuts because I have special things I want to do to affect every individual instrument spatially and with processing. If you create electronic drums or other instruments and are sending them to someone to mix or getting them from someone for your song make sure you have access to all the files separate or you have less options and control. Sometimes you don't have an option because of the source but when you can it is preferred.
Alright guys those are my basic prep tips. I'll have some videos out on the youtube channel to break down elements further and keep please feel free to comment or email me for questions on these or your own tips.
Keep creating, Cheers