Create Better Quality Recordings Your Fans Will Love To Listen To
So, you’ve had a go at recording your own music yourself. Maybe you were happy with the results. Or, maybe you weren’t. If you feel your recordings don’t do your music justice. Or, they don’t have that pro sound; help is on hand!
A record producer now; however my first attempts to create better quality recordings were back in 2000 with a humble pc microphone. As my gear, knowledge, and expertise improved so did my understanding of these principles of recording.
So, whatever level of gear you have, these 3 tips will help you create better quality recordings that won’t give your music fans an earache.
#1 Mic Placement
Whatever the microphone picks up will be the sound you have to work with throughout the rest of the music production process. This makes mic placement one of the biggest factors in capturing the audio source in its most accurate (or sonically appealing) form.
The easiest way to test your mic placement is to have your audio source making noise (i.e. the guitarist strumming, singer singing) and listen to the microphone through a pair of good over-ear headphones.
You then need to slowly move the mic around until it sounds the most natural or pleasing. This can vary depending on the instrument you are trying to record and sound you’re going for but trial and error are recommended.
#2 Room Acoustics
All spaces have their own acoustic characteristics. This can be good or extremely bad for your home recordings and you can even get creative with different sounding rooms. The shape of the room and materials within a room i.e. carpets or hard floors can drastically alter the recorded sound.
When deciding where to record, stand in the space, clap, shout, play the instrument you’re recording… and listen. If you hear any weird echos (a.k.a. flutter echo), booming notes (a.k.a. room modes, especially obvious for instruments that can make frequencies below 300hz) or dullness. Unless you can alter the shape or surfaces in the room; avoid that space.
However, if you are going for a more creative approach, you can use interesting spaces for your own natural reverbs. Think of rappers recording in their hotel bathroom suites or the Beatles in the stairwells of Abbey Roads.
For some advanced acoustic advice check out this article
#3 Gain Staging
A gain stage is a point during an audio signal flow that can be adjusted, such as a fader on a mixing console or in a DAW. There can be many different gain stages in the audio chain before it reaches your DAW or tape machine depending on your setup. The benefit of getting your gain staging right is to prevent the introduction of noise and distortion.
The basic premise is that you need to feed adequate signal from your source to the next part of the gain stage. In a simple setup this could be, Audio Source > Mic > Audio Interface > DAW. With this setup, all you need to do is make sure your audio interface input is around -15dB (or within the green on your LED meter) and then use your DAW to process the signal to an adequate level within the mix.
Put It Into Practice
These three tips will help you create better quality recordings that your fans will love to listen to. But, now you need to go practice your new-found knowledge. Be clap-happy in your recording spaces, move your mics about, watch out for distortion, and always use your ears for best judgment. Feel free to leave any questions below and thanks for reading.
About the Author:
Alex Dudley is an award-winning entrepreneur, record producer, musician, software developer, inventor, husband and father to three kids with a passion for collaborating with other singer-songwriters.
Currently based in Hollywood, Birmingham. Alex has been involved in various aspects of the music industry for over 18 years.
He studied Sound Production at the University of Wolverhampton under the mentorship of renowned Birmingham engineer & producer Phil Savage. Alex later went on to obtain his Master’s degree in Audio Technology and founded dAudio Music Group in 2015.
Alex’s accolades include the Studley High School Musician of the Year in 2004 & dAudio Music Group winning the BAA Graduate Start-up of the Year award in 2017.