Many successful musicians got their break by producing their songs independently using a home studio. With the right equipment, it’s very much possible to record a song without paying a lot of money for a studio. Whether you’re just recording vocals, playing with a band, or mixing, everything is possible. With a course like Singorama, you can learn how to sing if you’re just starting as a vocalist. You just have to know the basics of how to record a song at home.
The quality of the song you end up recording could vary based on the equipment you use and the acoustics around the house. Still, in all likelihood, it would be acceptable to be released on the internet or sent to studios.
How to Record a Song at Home
To help you record a song at home, here's a quick, comprehensive guide for you.
Things You Will Need
There are some pieces of the basic equipment you would need to record the song, but they're nothing fancy so you can buy them easily even if you’re on a tight budget.
You probably already have a PC or laptop to record a song on, and that’s what you’ll use for the majority of the work. Besides, you don’t need any high-powered, resource-rich laptops; you can make do with the one you already have, provided it can support some software.
Other than that, you need the following:
1. DAW or Digital Audio Workstation
A DAW or Digital Audio Workstation is software for recording, editing, and mixing music that changed recording completely since you do not have to record the whole song in a single go. You can find many DAW software online, and many of them are absolutely free. You can use this kind of software for both recording vocals and instruments, but some may be better than one of them. Make sure to find one that offers the best features for the kind of recording you’re going for.v
Audacity is a free DAW software, but since it’s free, you cannot expect much from it. If you have the budget, you can go for one of the paid ones that offer a user-friendly interface and many features.
In case you have a Mac, you don’t have to look for software elsewhere since your machine already comes with one, which is GarageBand.
Your laptop already has a microphone, and depending on the machine, it could be quality enough to record a song. However, in case yours is not quality enough, or you simply want the best possible, you’ll need to buy a standalone microphone. The best home studio microphone will give you better quality than your laptop’s microphone.
You can find ones that are especially great with vocals, and some are pretty universal, so you can use them with any instrument. If you have the budget, you can buy one microphone for vocals and another for your instruments.
Additional accessories you would need include:
- Microphone Cable: In addition to the microphone, you’ll also need a microphone cable that’s at least 10 feet long.
- Pop Filter: Although not absolutely necessary, a pop filter can make quite an impact on your vocal recordings since it eliminates popping sounds normally created when we say the alphabets P and T.
3. Headphones or Monitors
You also need headphones or studio monitors for production when recording songs at home. These headphones are specifically designed for production and recording, so they help you analyze the sounds you’re recording.
For a home studio, you can go with either headphones or studio monitors, but most people use headphones since they are more affordable and portable. Also, working with a pair of headphones is easier than monitors that require adjustment according to the room and the ambiance.
4. Audio Interface
The last thing you need is an audio interface to convert the audio signal from the microphone and transfer it to the computer. The USB audio interface can do the job and comes in a wide range of prices, but you can pay more to get even better quality. Some laptops may have an XLR port, in which case, you will not need a USB audio interface.
Things to Do Before You Record a Song
Before you record a song, you’ve got to ensure that the set up is according to the requirements.
There are two things to do:
1. Set Up the DAW and Microphone
Install the DAW of your choice and familiarize yourself with the interface. Check what tools and features it offers and how they can help the kind of track you’re hoping for.
Now you have to connect your audio interface, which would typically have two kinds of cables: USB and AC supply.
Depending on your machine, the audio interface may be recognized as a USB device, without needing any drivers. Make sure that it’s connected and recognized by the computer; otherwise, troubleshoot the problem by installing appropriate drivers (if there's any).
Now, use the XLR cable to connect the microphone with the audio interface. The cable would have a male and female end, usually distinguished by the colors.
You should also connect your headphones to your computer, and check if they are working fine.
After making all the connections, you’re ready to check the levels on your microphone. This you can do with your software, although the exact process may differ for each. Do make sure the gain is turned up on the audio interface, or there will be no volume on the microphone.
2. Create a Guide
Before you actually record anything, you need to create a structure for the song and come up with a guide, which will help time other instruments and the vocalist to know when to jump in.
This is just a guide to recording different instruments and vocals and can be discarded later when you have a finished recording.
Typically, you could have the drummer lay down the beat. If there is no drummer, then use a pre-recorded drum loop. This is better than a simple click or metronome.
Steps to Record a Song
Now, you’re ready to record the song. Follow these steps to save you time and keep everything in check:
1. Record the Rhythm
Rhythm is the most important component of a song, so naturally, that’s one of the first things to master.
If you’re a band recording a song, you want to follow the drum or bass, as in most studio productions, that’s the norm. In case your song does not feature drums, you can go with another instrument like an acoustic guitar.
When developing the rhythm, the most important thing is the tempo, which will ultimately guide the other instruments. Therefore, take your time setting the tempo of the rhythm.
Experiment and see what works best since that’s one of the benefits of recording at home; you do not have to worry about time.
2. Record Vocals and Instruments
Now that you have a guide and appropriate rhythm, you can move on to recording various instruments and vocals. Some artists like to record vocals alongside instruments, but the point of having a DAW is to be able to record everything separately to get the best out of it. Thus, you can record the instruments and vocals separately, in the order of your preference.
In any case, it would be best to record the music first and then move on to the vocals because the music will guide your vocals. As for instruments, you should ideally record bass guitar or drums first. This is how most professional musicians and recording artists go about recording songs.
There are no hard and fast rules, so you can do your own thing, as well. That’s part of the fun of recording a song at home! You can make two or three duplicate tracks of each instrument, as well as the vocals, and this will give you a slight variation in terms of quality, so you can choose the best one.
A lot of this work would depend on the kind of song you’re recording and what kind of instruments it will have.
Editing the Tracks
Once you’ve recorded everything, most of your editing work will take place on the computer with the software. You can cut off parts of the track, duplicate, and play with the sounds until you have what you want. Your editing phase would typically consist of five parts: arranging, comping, reducing noise, editing time, and editing pitch.
Since you’ve recorded in the house, the most challenging part could be noise reduction, and this is where you’ll get rid of all the unwanted sounds that were obviously beyond your control.
That said, it’s not a difficult task, and if you have a soundproof room in the house, then you will not have much noise reduction to do in the first place. If you’re using the DAW for the first time, it may take some time to get used to it. With time, of course, you’ll get better and will know the tool like the back of your hand. This is one of the reasons why you should use user-friendly software.
If you want to add auto-tune and other sound effects, you can do it over the instruments and the vocals.
Mixing and Mastering
Once you have the tracks as you want, it’s time to mix it, which is basically putting together the tracks to make a complete song. This is the final step of the process and would require a lot of attention to detail.
Mixing is a whole another chapter when it comes to recording a song, and there are many ways to go around this, but it boils down to a few basic tasks. You have to balance faders by ensuring no instrument sounds too louder or softer than the others. Give each instrument its own space.
Achieve equalization by creating a unique spectrum of frequencies with each instrument having its own band of frequencies. Use reverb to add depth to the song by giving it a sort of a three-dimensional feel. Mixing is pretty fun and challenging at the same time, and can easily be done at home with your laptop and headphones.
After mixing, you’re ready to master the song. For this, you have to record all the tracks on a single file. Mastering can be done by an expert.
Most people recording songs in a home studio usually outsource it to mastering engineers since they have the right tools and years of experience to make the final product better than after you’ve mixed it.
This will be the final product that you send out for distribution or audition, so it has to be high-quality. Nevertheless, if you’re mastering it on your computer, you can add some final touches.
Before finalizing, you can widen some of the frequencies or maximize loudness.
How Singorama Can Help You Record Songs at Home
If you're looking to record a song at home, chances are you have not had professional vocal training. That’s not a problem at all since you have different avenues to learn and be trained at, without spending an exorbitant amount on a vocal coach. Singorama is an online vocal training course or website that presents all the ingredients to become a good vocalist.
It is especially great for those having trouble with higher notes, which is commonly the most problematic area in singing. The new product Singorama 2.0 is a massive upgrade with 28 interactive lessons. The best part is the mini-recording studio that allows you to record yourself and listen to check your progress.
Tips on Soundproofing
When recording a song at home, your biggest trouble would be the background noise.
Depending on your home and neighborhood, there could be many different sounds that find their way into your recordings. You can edit those out later, but it can be a tedious task, one you can avoid simply by soundproofing. The room you’re recording in can be made soundproof quite easily. You do not need a company to redo the walls and ceiling to change the acoustics of the room. You basically just need to fill up all the holes and openings in the room, as well as make sure all the doors and windows are closed properly.
For the gaps between the floor and the door, you can use adhesive weatherstrips. Similarly, you can use a sound maze to prevent noise coming from vents, if there are any in the room. Try recording when no one else is home so that there are no sounds or vibrations for the microphone to pick up.
If you know how to record a song at home, you can save yourself so much money that you would otherwise be spending to pay studio time.
When recording at home, you have the flexibility of time, so you can record when you want, however long you want, and with whomever you want. The sound produced at home is not bad, if not exactly like that in the studio, provided you have the right equipment and vocal training like with Singorama. It’s a constant learning process, one that you will master only with time.