Recording vocals doesn’t need to be a complicated process with the right equipment. Whether you’re a seasoned studio vet or someone looking to set up a home vocal studio for the first time, there are some crucial pieces of equipment you’ll need.
Depending on the space, the gear list changes slightly, so it’s imperative you understand your room and requirements. Each situation is different and getting the best quality from home is a personal process for everyone.
Stick to these guidelines and you’ll have all the studio equipment you need to start recording vocals at home.
Evaluate Your Room (And Get Rid Of It If Needed)
You could have an incredible, high-end recording setup and it wouldn’t mean a thing if your room doesn’t sound good.
One of the most common misconceptions about home studios is that you can just set up a mic and get to work. Anyone who’s recorded vocals in this manner would probably advise against it. Every room has its own quirks.
Some of those quirks can include echoes, bass build-up in the corners, and boxy-sounding recordings. Treating those issues can be tedious and expensive, especially without formal acoustic design training.
Most home studios choose to address these problems by removing the room from the equation altogether.
A budget solution is to hang heavy blankets behind the microphone, dampening the voice when it goes beyond the mic. Beyond that, blocks of foam and high-end solutions like portable vocal studios are able to provide more detailed control. Investing just a few hundred dollars on this one aspect can save you thousands in treating the entire room.
Choosing the Right Microphone
You can’t record a thing without a microphone – can you?
Picking out the right microphone for your studio is possibly one of the most important decisions you’ll make when first getting started out. Don’t leave the decision up to the masses; make your own choice based on your own experiences and preferences.
Performing a mic shootout is commonplace in major studios. A singer can go through a series of microphones and quickly audition each to find the right one for their voice. Often for major artists, the winning selection will stay with them for years of their career – it becomes part of their sound.
In order to pick the right mic for your home recording setup, you’ll want to audition as many options as you can. Find a local music shop or studio and see if they’ll let you demo some of their equipment. Even if you have to pay for an hour of studio time, it’s a worthwhile investment if it means you can try out all of the frontrunners in your microphone search.
Listen for things like the high-end of the vocal to see if it’s airy and smooth or harsh and brittle. If you can, take the recordings you’ve captured of each one home and test out some various vocal processors on it, such as EQ and compression. Too many beginners make the wrong choice of choosing an overly bright cheap mic just to find out it doesn’t take dynamic processing well at all. It’s an easy problem to avoid with a bit of patience.
If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t get to a location that enables you to try out your mics, spend plenty of time doing your research online. Look up the mics in your search on audio forums and YouTube. Watch video demos through studio monitors or headphones with HD streaming enabled for maximum detail. If possible, find a singer with a voice similar to the vocals you’ll be recording.
Everything about your search should revolve around what you can afford for your setup. Yes, there are microphones out there that sound amazing and cost thousands of dollars, but if you can’t afford it, it shouldn’t have an influence on your search.
When determining your budget for a mic, you’ll also want to consider one other piece of equipment…
Your Mic Pre
There’s a chance many of you reading this right now already have a recording interface, but if you don’t, we’ve got a whole guide on choosing the right one for your studio. Take the rest of our advice here into consideration as you start your search for the brain of your studio.
For the rest of you, the interface is a great start, but if you’re looking to level up your vocal recordings, the preamp might just be the next place you should look.
A microphone can only sound as good as the signal chain you’re recording it through and a budget preamp built into an interface is just that – a budget preamp.
The whole purpose of your interface is to do a lot of things moderately well, but you’re rarely going to find that an interface’s mic preamp is going to beat out a dedicated one (especially in most affordable home recording options).
Consider letting your interface act as the audio converter for a dedicated preamp instead. Preamps can easily cost more than many interfaces, but they offer a level of quality that is unparalleled. A good preamp is the perfect compliment to a good microphone.
I’ve heard skeptic engineers say that upgrading their preamp sounded like pulling a blanket off of their vocal recordings. It really can make that much of a difference.
Taking Your Vocals From Recording To Mix
Your vocal recordings aren’t going to be mix-ready the second you hit record, but following these steps will give you a great start. Taking your vocals from that first stage to the final mix requires comping, editing, mixing & more.
If you’d like to understand how this process works, The Ultimate Vocal Producer’s Handbook is the perfect resource for you. In the handbook, we cover each step of the vocal process and provide tips & tricks used by the pros to get chart-topping vocal mixes.