You may be willing to record yourself for any given reason, perhaps you are a singer, songwriter or maybe you are just curious. For this article, I will talk about recording vocals.
Let’s start by saying that depending on the result you are looking to achieve a technique and equipment may be used and that there are many products out there to help you obtain a pristine quality.
This article is introductory to the topic to give you a direction on what could be the cheapest solution with quality enough still. Nowadays, the advancement in technology made it possible to purchase the equipment at an affordable price.
First of all, in music and sound engineering is well known that the recording must be taken in the best way possible. What is recorded will be processed to match a target result, a lot of things can be done to an audio file, and some not. There is part of things that require expensive software, equipment, or advanced knowledge. Think of mastering for example.
Back to the suggestion on how to start recording yourself, some may say that a mobile phone is enough, I will say that it depends on what you need the recorded audio for. You may record with an iPhone or Android without any microphone plugged in if you are taking notes, or recording for something that is not expected to sound in a certain way. If you want to record for a podcast use an external mic plugged into your mobile phone and record in a quiet place. Remember to set the file set to lossless and choose the higher frequency, if possible.
Usually recording for a song is a bit more complex than that. To record a decent vocal track, at its minimum it requires:
- a computer (or digital device that can run a DAW software)
- a DAW software
- an Analog to Digital audio device (A/D)
- a set of headphones
- a microphone.
Make sure the computer can run your DAW, read the technical info. DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation. It’s software that can manage audio recording, editing, some composing with MIDI, automation, mixing, and more. There are many this day available and mostly are user friendly.
You will need an A/D audio device to plug your mic into. The A/D device connected to your computer will transform the audio signal into digital data into your DAW. Usually, these devices are also known as AD/DA which means Analog to Digital / Digital to Analog. They transform an analog signal into digital data and back.
Some people maybe don’t use an AD/DA audio device and plug the mic directly into the computer which is not great for recording audio for music purposes. There is a USB microphone that also skips the AD/DA step because they do already have an Analog to Digital built in to transfer the information into your DAW.
A pair of comfortable headphones to listen to the instrumental. Make sure you can plug it into your AD/DA or computer.
Finally what most people are wanting from the beginning of this article, is microphones. As said before you may consider a USB if you just want to record and don’t need a recording setup. For vocals, a condenser microphone with a cardioid shape will work fine, either USB or plugged into your recording setup. Maybe you’d like a pop filter to stop unwanted sound to get to the mic.
The key factor to know when recording is the correct distance between your mouth and your mic. Your goal is not to clip (distort the audio signal because it’s too close) and not to be too distant (resulting in a low recorded signal). Try a bit and when you find your sweet spot, you are set. Also, the location where the recording happens is important because of background noises or natural reverbs. This is a whole topic, I will resume that it is good to record with no background noises (a quiet place) and with low to no natural reverb.
You might consider first learning which types of microphones exist and what they are used for (and how) in order to make an informed decision. But unless you are planning to build your own recording studio this will do just fine.
Tips: do research based on the suggestion in this article to know actual market prices, decide on a budget to track your expenses before any purchase. Define your goal, what you want to be able to do, and compare equipment to find your cheapest solution with the best quality. And use some of the extra money to purchase instrumentals or to hire a music professional to mix and master your songs.
In conclusion, a quick setup to only record vocals can be very cheap or very expensive. There are packages of solutions out there to make life easier. But again, first, consider what is you want to achieve and therefore what is you need. From there compare prices and choose what is best for your goals. Clearly, if you are music passionate and what make songs the budget must go higher, even it is you doing it all by yourself, or hiring music professionals. Today you can book highly qualified producers and sound engineers at a reasonable price so you can focus on recording.