How To Record Good Vocals at Home

In this article I will try to give you some tips and trick to learn how to record good vocals at home.

First steps

First, make sure you are confident, relaxed and have rehearsed the part enough to know it by heart.

As a general rule record in a room which does not have too much reverb, usually a small room with furniture is the best choice. Hang some carpet on walls to minimise reflection/reverb.

Which microphone should I use to record my voice?

First of all, your microphone should be a condenser one (you can find cheap good ones on the Net). You should also have a pop filter (see image below) and keep the volume moderate. Try never to reach the red peak of your sound card. Stay below it as much as possible to avoid distortion.

Pop Filter for recording vocals with condenser microphone

Secondly, to record with a condenser microphone (like the one in the picture above), you need phantom power and an XLR cable (see image below). Most professional and semi-professional sound cards come with this integrated feature. If yours does not, you can use a mixer which does and connect the mixer output to your sound card.

XLR Cable is used to connect a microphone to a mixer

How should I monitor/listen to myself?

You should use a pair of closed headphones, make sure you hear a proper mix between your voice and the background music (backing track). I prefer my voice to be slightly higher, but this is personal. Always try different volumes to find your personal comfort zone. Open headphones are good for mixing, but not ideal for monitoring, as they do not completely insulate.

First steps before recording you final take

First, try some draft takes of the whole song with the microphone in different positions, check and compare them to see which one gives you the most satisfying result. That should become your microphone position.

Secondly, remember to adjust your distance from the microphone according to the volume of each part or note you’re singing.

Finally, once you’ve done all this drafting and setting up, it’s time to get down to business and start the proper recording.

Now let’s see how to properly record

First and foremost, do not record the whole song at once, but split it into smaller parts. E.g.: Verse, Chorus or Verse part 1, Verse part 2, etc.

Record in a loop, multiple takes of the same part and do not be afraid of recording more than necessary. Five to ten takes are not an exaggerated number. Once you have finished with one part, move onto the next bit, maintaining the same flow and tone you used in the previous part.

Another important point, keep a water bottle within reach. Don’t let your mouth run dry. Sip from time to time, in between takes.

Finally, be natural, be yourself, don’t force your voice. Picture yourself in the song, in the concert. Forget about everything else, and immerse yourself in the music.

Should I use effects when I record my voice?

I recommend recording dry (without reverb, echo or any effect), sometimes some compressor can be used, but make sure you know how to set it.

Last but not least, avoid recording the same song in different days. Your voice colour might change slightly, the position of your mic could be different and the result would sound ‘copy and paste’ of different bits. You want your track to sound smooth and progressive.

I have coached and trained different singers in professional recording studios. This is my approach and it is by no means the only one. Take it as a tip not as a rule. Remember, practice makes it perfect.

Would you like to listen to some home recordings I made?

The following tracks have been recorded at home, with a $100 condenser microphone. This goes to show that you do not necessarily need a $1000 microphone and the fanciest instruments on earth.

How To Record Good Vocals at Home is part of a blog in continuous evolution. Please check my backing tracks if you need some original material to practice your singing.