Tips For A Better Vocal Recording



So you have been recording music on your own and you have some great sounding instrument tracks. Now it’s time for vocals. Vocal recordings can be tricky because, unless you want lo-fi and artsy sound quality, you have to be sure to make them clear and professional, and this can be difficult when you don’t have the money to walk into a studio and use their industry standard sound booths and microphones. In some ways the vocals are the most important part of a song, so be sure to follow these tips when recording at home.

Choosing Your Room

The room in which you record will have huge effects on your vocals. The brightness, clarity, and reverberation of the vocal track is at the mercy of the room size and shape, so choose a room that suits your style. I find that most projects work well in a small, “dead” or soundproofed room. If you choose you bedroom for instance, try standing a mattress up against a wall or hanging blankets around you. This will help to limit the room noise and provide a pure recording space. You can also invest in noise reducing foam which does the same thing in a more professional looking way.

Check out this Instructables page on making a soundproof studio.

Choosing The Microphone

Every microphone is different and will provide unique tone qualities for your recordings. While the overall tone of your vocals is up to you to decide, you should make sure you know what type of microphone will work best for your track. For most contemporary projects a small diaphragm condenser will work well, clearly balancing the vocal tones and capturing even the most subtle sounds. However, if the vocal part is especially loud (or requires a flatter and warmer sound) many artists, such as Bono of U2 and Brandon Flowers of The Killers, choose to use dynamic microphones like the Shure SM57.

Using The Right Equipment

To ensure a quality recording, it’s important to minimize noises and bleed through or “spill.” While a soundproofed room will definitely help, noises from your headphones may bleed through and get picked up by the microphone. Avoid this by using noise cancelling headphones, turning off the click track or metronome (if possible), and simply turning down the headphone volume as much as possible.

It’s also important to remember to use a pop filter when recording. This will greatly reduce the annoying mouth noises that come with singing, such as clicking and popping as well as the “whooshing” of breaths.

Be sure to check out these weird vocal tricks too, courtesy of Izotope.

Have you ever recorded vocals at home? What tips do you recommend? Let me know in the comments below!


Recording Drums At Home: Part Two

So you just successfully tracked drums and everything is going well, but when you play them back in your DAW they seem stale and lifeless. So what’s next? Mixing the drums is the next step and, while this is more difficult, this is also where you get to take full control of the sounds you want.

Here are a couple basic techniques that will offer huge benefits for your drum recordings.

Dealing with phase

Since drums use many microphones, phase issues always arise. Phase is quite simply the misalignment of audio wave forms which results in conflicting and sometimes cancelled out sounds. I like to group the overheads together and then look for a kick or snare hit to sync up with.

By zooming in on your wave forms and lining up the hits, your drum sound will sound much bigger and more clear.

Here is some more information about phase.


Panning is essential for all instrument tracks within a mix, but the drums especially benefit from it due to, once again, the many different parts of the drum kit that have been recorded. Panning is the amount of stereo signal going into the left or right speaker. My favorite drum sound is produced by panning each of the overhead tracks 90% onto their respective sides. Then I pan the rack tom usually about 40% to the left and the floor tom 40% to the right, to give the illusion that the drums are surrounding you. With this little bit of panning, the drums are given much more space and room to breath.

Check out Ask Audio’s 5 Mistakes To Avoid: Using Panning.

Setting levels

Before you add any plugins to your drum tracks, you must make sure you like your volume levels. This is when you change the level for each recorded track in order to get the foundation of your drum kit’s sound. These settings are always different for every project, since different styles require different sound balances, but most people like use the overheads as the base of the sound. Then you can drag each remaining drum level up until you find a nice balance. Having well balanced levels is integral to giving your drum recording a good sound.

After that you should start adding plugins and effects, like compression, EQ, and reverb, to really personalize your mix and to bring your drums to life. Check out my introduction to these tools here

In case you missed it, check out part one where I cover the basics of recording a drum kit.

What are your drum mixing secrets? Are there any things I should try? Let me know in the comments below!

Recording Drums At Home: Part One

Recording drums usually feels like a daunting task. They are the most difficult instrument to record, often requiring many different microphones and techniques, so most people prefer to leave it to professionals in the recording studio. Personally, I’ve found that with a little practice and average equipment, I’ve been able to record exceptionally good drum takes (for being in a bedroom). Here’s how I record my simple four piece drum kit.

First off, you need the right equipment. This includes at least one overhead mic, for cymbals and a general sound of the kit, regular dynamic mics for each drum, and a specialized low end mic for the kick drum. You can find great starter sets at places like Guitar Center or Sweetwater that come with all required microphones, and I have arguably the cheapest but most surprisingly powerful Pyle PDKM7 set. I also use a Shure SM57 and a Shure Beta 52.

Starting with the kick drum, I find that my favorite sound is gathered just outside the porthole on the resonant head. I use a Beta 52 and set it on a pair of boots that are luckily the perfect height (obviously you should try to use a stand or something equally stable).


Next is the snare drum which always sounds best with an SM57. I clip that onto the top head and angle it towards the very center of the drum to capture the “full body” sound. Most people also mic the bottom to capture the snare wires, but I find that it is easier to just let the overheads deal with those shenanigans.


Then for the rack tom I use one of the little Pyle dynamic mics. These mics work much better for toms than snares, so I clip that on the top head as well, again aiming it toward the center of the head.


For the floor tom, there are many mics and placements you can use, depending on the sound you want. Rather than a regular dynamic mic, I use the kick drum mic from the Pyle set, since I don’t need it for the kick drum and because it has a better low frequency response.


Finally, the overheads. Overhead mics can be any condenser microphone, since clarity and brightness is the priority. While I have a few AT2020’s, I find that the simple Pyle condensers work well. I use boom stands to position them roughly three feet above the kit, usually aiming them together at around 45 degree angles. This allows for nice stereo coverage of the entire kit.


Once these are all plugged into my durable Tascam US1200 interface, all that is left is recording!


Be sure to check out part two where I cover basic drum mixing methods.

Have you had any luck recording drums at home? What mic placements do you use? How much better is your equipment? Let me know in the comments!