Recording audio is tricky business. There are many things to consider when looking for the ideal place to record at home: room noise, outside noise, electrical hums, size, amount of acoustic dampening. The list could go on and on.
We would all love to record in spaces designed specifically for what we do, but unfortunately we don’t all have that luxury. If you’re like me, more often than not you’ll find yourself having to record at home. Recording from home is not necessarily a bad thing, there are just many more factors to consider when doing so. Plus, depending on where you live, the control you have over those things will vary.
I have recorded several complete songs from my own bedroom. Now, it hasn’t been easy every time, and I have definitely had to re-record several things. BUT, I did learn a few things along the way that I believe are game-changers in the process of recording from home.
I’m happy to say that I’ve now upgraded my studio space from my bedroom to a chair storage room at my church. This is still a make-shift space, but it has given me some more unique challenges that I am excited to share with you as well!
These simple home recording tips will save you HOURS of time editing and fixing things by eliminating the problems at their source. They will instantly clean up your audio and provide a much more professional sound from before you even press record. Finally, they will give you a new and fresh look at recording audio from cool and unique spaces. So are you ready?
So let’s dive in.
1. The 4 Items You’ll Need
In order to record from home, you will need several items.
For starters, you will need to have a computer, your phone, or some other kind of high quality recording device. I recommend using a computer, because it will give you the best quality and the most versatility in editing. However, if this is not possible for you, you can still get your feet wet with recording by using your phone.
If using a computer, you will need some kind of recording software, also known as a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). There are a number of these that you can download for free from all different developers.
If using your phone, you can download apps like Garageband for iOS devices, Easy Voice Recorder for Android, FL Studio Mobile, Beatwave, or a number of other voice memo recording systems.
The next item you will need is a microphone. There are many options for mics out there, but I suggest getting a large diaphragm condenser mic. There are some of these for around $100 that will get you a decent sound. I point out a few of my favorites in this post.
In addition to a mic, you will also need a mic cable. This is what they look like:
An audio interface will connect your microphone to your computer, and will also clean up your audio in the process.
For a more specific list of what you need to record at home, and suggestions on where to get those items, check out my list of 8 Essentials for the Home Recording Studio.
2. Set Up Your Space
It is ideal to have a space that is far away from outside walls, windows, or other places where outdoor noise could creep in. While you can somewhat control what happens inside your home, you have no control over the weather, traffic, or nature that may decide to knock on your window outside.
Look for a space that can be closed off from other rooms of your home, like a bedroom, closet, storage room, or other medium-to-small space.
The next thing to do is to add noise-dampening items to the space, such as carpet, blankets, tapestries, or acoustic foam if you have any. If there are any parallel bare walls, it is most important to hang acoustic treatment on these. This will reduce the amount of echo that will happen when sound bounces between those walls.
If recording in a very small space, it is even more important to treat your space, because the sound will bounce back even quicker due to the close proximity of the walls.
When recording vocals, back the mic up to an acoustically treated space, leaving a wide open space behind the singer. This will minimize the bounce back of the vocal from behind the mic. Have your singer get within 6 inches of the mic in order to get the cleanest and most detailed sound. If you are using a pop filter, place it exactly where the singer should stand. This will make both of your jobs easier.
Here is my personal setup for recording vocals:
When recording instruments, place the musician in the middle of the space, as far as possible from any walls. Then place the mic directly in the sweet spot for that instrument. Here is a great article from Shure that will help you find the sweet spot of an instrument.
It is also a good idea to invest in either purchasing or building a mic shield. Using a mic shield CHANGED the way that I record at home, and instantly made my recording cleaner. It won’t fix every problem, but by eliminating unwanted surrounding noise, it will definitely make your job easier. Here’s a great tutorial on how to make one for under $10.
3. Final Adjustments
THE CLAP TEST
Once you have your space setup for recording, it is a good idea to do the clap test.
Start recording audio and clap several times from the center of the room. Then walk slowly around the room, clapping in several different spots, finally closing in on the mic. Take note of the amount of reverb of the room, or any spots that seem to echo more than others. Then listen back to the recording on a set of headphones.
Pay attention to the amount of reverb at the end of every clap. Is there a long echo? Short echo? Was it barely noticeable?
Also make note of any electrical hums or AC noise happening in the background. These things are rarely noticeable to us in person because we are so used to constant noise. Our brains tend to make noises seem quieter than they are, but microphones pick up everything, revealing many sounds that we didn’t even realize were there.
ADJUST THE SPACE
If there is more room noise than you are comfortable with in your recording, hang up thicker blankets, reposition your microphone, turn off florescent lights, and try again.
On the other hand, if you decide that you can live with the slight amount of noise being there (and I’ve done this from time to time), then you are ready to begin recording! Just know that you may encounter some issues with these files in post production. Sometimes it is okay to dismiss things like AC noise, but it is your decision on if you will want to spend time fixing things later!
Time to Record!
Just like that, you are ready to record! You don’t have to be a professional to make music from home, and you certainly don’t have to own a multi-thousand dollar recording space to do so either! Recording can be as simple as scouting out a space, setting up your equipment, and pressing record.