Recording vocals can often be fairly problematic in home studios. There is a tendency for your room sound to creep into your vocal track. And when you end up with a roomy sounding vocal track, it can be really difficult to try to "mix it out", if not downright impossible.
Acoustic treatments are all well and good, and there are some very cheap options out there. Panels from Auralex are a great way to treat your room economically without spending too much money. I use the Auralex Mopads for my monitors and I highly recommend them.
Sometimes you don't want foam on your walls, especially if you are recording vocals in your living room. Given the choice, I don't think that your wife/girlfriend/significant other would choose a foam panel over a nice painting on the living room wall. But luckily, there is a solution that works well to get a close to a professional sound, and all without hanging foam panels or using power tools.
My bedroom has a pretty bad room sound, higher frequencies ringing all over the place and standing waves posing a lot of problems when it comes to mixing, and especially when recording vocals. In a word, sounds pretty bad.
But sometimes you have to make do. This usually involves me recording a lot of DI, plugging things straight into the computer, avoiding the room completely. But during my struggles with recording vocals, I found a solution that circumvented my problem and actually gave me a pretty good vocal sound.
have a small hallway that leads into my bedroom. By using
this hallway, putting up rugs and blanket I created an amateur vocal
booth that I could use. I was impressed by how much better the vocal
sound got, with only a few blankets and a little ingenuity.
At first I collected all the blankets I could find in the apartment. I have tiles on my floor so I put the thickest blanket on the floor, trying to cancel all the reflections from the tiles.
As an extra plus it was quite comfortable to stand on, and I would almost go so far as to say that it enhanced my vocal performance. You can see the thick blanket on the floor in the picture on the right.
The door to my bedroom was used to fasten the next blanket. I closed the door on the blanket, fastening it firmly. This covered one side of the wall of the vocal booth.
Keep in mind however, if you have a similar situation, you are locking yourself inside and will not be leaving your room until those vocals are done! So please inform for your family or flatmates that you are recording vocals and are not to be disturbed.
The last blanket was used as a makeshift door, closing myself off from the rest of the room. Being closed off inside a fuzzy space like this I felt more comfortable singing, and as many producers will tell you, the psychological aspect of performing is very important.
Lastly, as I had two bare walls left, but no blankets I tried to figure out a way to treat them in the most economical way possible. I had some egg trays lying around(who doesn't), so I taped them to the wall to try to act as diffusers. By clapping, singing and shouting wile moving the egg trays around I tried to find positions that seemed to make my little vocal booth sound better.
I am not really convinced of the effectiveness of the egg trays because I had so few of them, but if you have access to a lot of them it won't hurt to place as many as you can.
Now, I know that many of you, if not all do not have this type of bedroom. It's a very weird design, although it does lend itself nicely to a little vocal booth DIY. Most of you are sure to have regular rectangular rooms without hallways, struggling to find a good spot to record your vocals in.
So here are a few ideas for you to come close to a more professional sound when recording vocals.
If you have a tall closet, you can use the doors as absorbers if you hang blankets on them. By facing out from the closet and your clothes absorbing the reflections from the back you can get a similar result.
You can also hang a blanket where the clothes are, fastening it by some books or something on the top.
If you have a walk-in closet it is even easier to do as you have a ready-made vocal booth already. The only thing you have to do is treat it with some thick blankets to absorb the reflections.
Other options include buying specially made stands that you put around you microphone to avoid cancellations. These are not only designed for recording vocals but also for instruments. The SE Electronics Reflexion Filter is a very popular option. I have used them on occasion and they have come in very handy.
In the world of digital recording and the home studio, there
is certainly less and less need for a great room. All the amp
simulators and the synths on offer are always increasing in quality and
the need to mike things up are is getting less important when making
demos in your bedroom. Plug in your guitar, throw in a few drum loops
and play some synth lines on top and you've almost got yourself a hit
But your voice is never going to be plugged in, that's impossible. Like George Martin said to John Lennon:
"Well, you'd have to have an operation first so we could implant a jack socket in your throat."
This is recalled in the Geoff Emerick interview of the book Behind the Glass - Top Record Producers Tell How They Craft the Hits by Howard Massey.
But with a few blankets, some ingenuity and a little DIY you can easily overcome the annoying room sound of your bedroom. So grab your blankets and concentrate on getting a better vocal sound.
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