Hellooooo, how are you all?
I hope you enjoyed last month’s blog and hopefully got something useful from it!
Sort of following on from gigs, I wanted to talk about recording this time. And actually, this isn’t just because it’s obviously an important part of being a musician… duh… but also because lockdown really messed up a lot of my friends’ recording plans!
We went into lockdown, and studios closed, 2020 got cancelled…but people consumed more music and other entertainment because there wasn’t a lot to do.
So, arguably releasing something during lockdown is actually pretty beneficial but if you don’t have access to a studio or recording equipment, and no pre-recorded material, you’re kinda screwed!
That’s why I highly reccomend investing in even just a super basic recording set up. These days, you can get decent mics for really cheap and with something like that, at the very least, you can make some demos and keep moving forwards with some sort of release plan.
But I also totally understand that it’s not easy for everyone to get their head around or pick up. I’m lucky in the sense I did an audio production degree and ‘accumulated’ (shall we say) some equipment so that I could technically make a whole record at home (pretty much how Firecracker was done by the way). But not everyone has done that, and I’m not saying all artists should become shit hot producers. Cool if you can and are, but don’t stress if you only get to grips with the basics. And to maybe help with that a little, here are some basics! These might also help in a studio environment with a producer, so you can have more control over your session too.
So say you’re a singer and you want to lay down some vocals at home. What you need is some recording software (anything will work but Logic Pro is an easy to use industry standard and it could help with sharing files with producers and such if you wanted to do that as most have that programme). You will also need a microphone and an interface if you aren’t using a USB mic. I reccomend using an interface as it gives a little more control over your ‘gain’ (how loud you mic is as it goes into the computer).
You will also of course need an XLR (the three pinned cable that goes into mics) and preferably a stand. Using a stand and a mic clip or shock cradle will prevent any unwanted noises from handling the mic you might get, but this is totally up to you. Some singer prefer holding the mic as they sing.
There are a couple types of mic you might want to be aware of when home recording. These are called dynamic mics and condensor mics. Dynamic mics are the ones you will have been using live. This is because they are pretty robust and they can handle loud sounds and ‘bleed’ (noises from sources other than the one intended for that mic) better.
If you already have one of these mics, it’s fine to use it. However, if you want to be more serious and high quality in your home recordings, I reccomend getting a condensor. These are the ones usually found in the studio. They’re more sensitive to sound and pick up more detail than a dynamic mic but they are also more fragile and expensive.
Having said that, they are not overly bank breaking and cheaper mics are getting better and better. I started off using SE X1s (lol) and they are good quality for beginner home recording.
All of this is personal preference by the way! It is totally up to you how to record.
If you are going to use a condensor, it’s wise to have (or make) a ‘pop shield’ (the fabric or sometimes wire circle that goes infront of the mic. This just stops the plosives from hitting the mic so hard and making a popping sound. You can buy them pretty cheap or make one using a wire coat hanger and a pair of tights.
So, setting up to record. Get comfy, set your mic to around your eyeline. A nifty trick is to set it so the middle of the mic grill (when using a condensor) slightly above your mouth, this helps more with the plosives and the harsh sibilance you can sometimes get. (S sounds)
Pop your pop shield about 3 or 4 inches infront of your mic. You can get as close to that as you want to, and positoning it slightly away from the mic grill helps reduce the bassiness so your voice doesnt sound ‘wooly’ (weird technical term that somehow works).
General rule is your mouth should be the distance of your thumb to pinky when you do that surfer dude hand position from the mic. (Just trust me on this one)
If you’re using a dynamic mic like your live mic, they’re made for singing close to so just do as you usually would live! Easy peasy.
Once youre all plugged in and set up with the computer, there’s just one more thing you’ll need before hiting record.
Adjust your level so that you’re loud enough but not ‘clipping’ (reach red or top bit of the sound bar). This can cause distortion and create some dodge recordings. Ideally you’ll want the bar to be ‘kissing’ the yellow bit or about 2 thirds up at loudest part.
NOTE If you do use a condensor you need ‘phantom power’ this is the +48v and it send a small electric signal to the micorphone to power it on. This is because they have ‘preamps’. Feel free to research, we’ll be here for days if I start going into it all!
So that’s the basic way of recording vocals!
Acoustic guitar, place your mic around 15cm from the guitar at the 12th fret if you want an even sound. You can also move the mic along the guitar for different tones: e.g. Moving it closer to the hole makes a bassier tone, further up the neck a trebly kind of sound.
Electric guitar: place your mic in front of your speaker cone.
*top tip* use a torch and shine it through the grill (cloth) to see your speaker cone.
You can put the mic touching it for an intense sound or pull it away for more room sound. If the mic is closer to the middle of the cone the tone will be trebly, away from the centre it will be bassier and ‘wooly’.
I could definitely go on about all this but for the sake of not boring the life out of you… I’ll wrap it up.
HOWEVER, if you do want to learn more with me, please feel free to get in touch as I’m going to be running some zoom (waits for the collective sigh) lessons on all this home recording shit!
Thanks for reading and if you made it this far, I genuinely applaud you!