We regularly receive questions from Blue users on how to achieve better recordings at home. While many users are in commercial studios, many more are recording with home setups in their bedroom, living room, basement or garage. In this article, we’ve put together a list of 15 pointers to get studio quality results in your own home studio, including acoustic treatments, microphone techniques, gear configurations and more. We’ll also show you a few missteps to avoid
1. AVOID HARD SURFACES
The number one factor that impacts the sonic quality of your recordings is the environment you’re recording in. Reflective surfaces like hardwood floors, concrete walls, glass windows and countertops can cause the sound to bounce around the room and create an echo that obscures the natural sound of the source. Take advantage of absorptive surfaces like rugs, curtains and fabric couches to minimize reflections and create an acoustically sound environment.
2. USE REFLECTION SHIELDS
When using omni- and bi-directional microphones, use reflection shields to minimize the sounds being picked up from the back and sides of the mic. When using a cardioid microphone, which picks up sound mostly from the front and rejects sound at the sides and rear, place the reflection shields behind the singer to minimize reflections being picked up from the front of the microphone.
3. DIY ACOUSTIC TREATMENT
If you don’t have the budget for commercial diffusion panels, the easiest and most cost-effective way to treat your recording space is to hang a thick blanket on the wall, shelf or bookcase that is directly behind the vocalist. Be sure to cover as much of the surface as possible.
4. DON'T RECORD IN THE MIDDLE OF A ROOM
Don’t record directly in the middle of your recording space. Frequencies tend to build up in the middle of a room, creating “standing waves” that severely throw off the balance of recorded sounds, so it’s best to avoid the center of your space when recording. Also, avoid recording near any desks, which are notorious for allowing bass frequencies to build up underneath.
5. WHERE TO RECORD
Instead of recording in the middle of the room, back yourself or your performer closer to the blanketed wall than to the opposite wall. Wardrobe closets also make great vocal booths in a pinch. The clothes in your closet naturally absorb sound, and closets themselves are often carpeted, further minimizing the possibility of harmful echoes.
6. KEEP IT QUIET
The best recordings are made in a silent environment. Make sure that background noise is minimal or non-existent when the record light is on. Turn off the AC, the television, the washing machine, the microwave, the fan and your fish tank. Or just move the poor fish (or other very-lovable-but-very-distracting pets) into another room.
7. HEADPHONES VS. MONITORS
Headphones and monitors have their pros and cons, so it’s best to learn when to rely on one or the other. Monitors are great for playback and mixing, as they give you a better idea of how people will hear your music on most speakers. However, turn the monitors off and use your headphones when recording, so the sound of the microphone doesn’t leak back into itself from your speakers.
8. CLOSED BACK VS. OPEN BACK HEADPHONES
When recording, closed back headphones like Mix-Fi are best for keeping your click track or cue mix from bleeding into the microphone, with superior sound isolation that enables you to focus on your performance. Open back headphones are great for critical listening and checking your mixes, as the design allows the sound to breathe and creates a more spacious listening experience.
One of the biggest enemies of a solid recording performance is latency. Latency is a delay in sound being processed digitally and results in the disconcerting sensation of hearing your notes AFTER your play them. Many interfaces (and even Blue USB microphones like Yeti, Yeti Pro, and Raspberry) feature zero-latency direct monitoring so that the performer can hear them self in perfect time, with no delay.
10. A PERFECT TRIANGLE
To get the most accurate image of your music, it’s important to make sure you physically place your monitors in a proper configuration. Imagine a perfectly equilateral triangle, with your head and each speaker representing the three points. Using a tape measure, shoe string or audio cable, measure the distance between each monitor, and then make sure your ears are the same distance from each monitor. After you’ve found the sweet spot, pay attention and try to always listen in this position.
11. SET YOUR RECORDING LEVELS
Before recording with headphones, be sure to set your headphone volume levels to a comfortable level using commercially released music as a reference. If your headphone volume is too low, you risk overcompensating with input gain and causing digital distortion or an overly saturated recording. Pay attention to your input levels on each track, and if you see any clips or dangerous peaks, turn down the gain on that preamp.
12. STOP THE POP
Condenser microphones are great for picking up the subtle details in a singer’s voice, but are also vulnerable to “plosives” or bursts of air on certain consonants that ruin a vocal recording. A quality studio pop filter like The Pop will help to keep these take-ruiners out of your recordings. But if you don’t have a pop filter, angle your mouth to the side and sing past the front of the microphone to reduce the direct burst of air away from the diaphragm
13. KEEP YOUR DISTANCE
The distance between the singer’s mouth and a condenser microphone capsule can make a huge difference in the tonality of the recorded voice. As you get closer, the microphone begins to emphasize more low frequencies. This muddy sound is known as the proximity effect. To avoid this, position the vocalist approximately six inches from the microphone. Podcasters can be even further away to capture a more natural discussion-in-a-room sound. We encourage you to experiment with placement and distance to find your desired sound.
14. PATTERNS MATTER
Condenser microphones can pick up sound from either one or multiple directions, depending on the capsule’s polar pattern. Be sure to learn which patterns your microphone can perform and select the appropriate pattern for each recording situation. For example, a cardioid mic might work best for a single performer, but an omni-directional mic will pick up sounds from all directions, which is great for a choir or ensemble. Above are examples of use cases for various patterns.
15. SINGING TO THE SIDE
It may seem obvious to some, but when using a side address microphones like our Yeti or Yeti Pro, it’s very important to sing into the side where the diaphragm faces. The a side address microphone capsule faces outward, not upward.
For best results, talk or sing into the side of the microphone as shown above.
Although you could write a library of books on ways to make better sounding recordings, these are just a few of the most important tips to get you started and perhaps inspire you to learn more.