Recording your voice can be one of the greatest and most awkward things you’ll ever do as a singer.
Unless you’ve recorded a lot, it can be just like performing live for the first time. And while both require singing, they are two very different ballgames. So let’s talk about how to get the best recording of your voice.
Choose the recording software that is easiest for you to use
If you’ll be recording yourself, the software that’s easiest for you to use will be the one you get the most done in. There are always bigger, better programs but unless you’re really up for a major learning curve (or are already comfortable using ProTools or Logic, etc.) stick with a basic software (or hardware.)
If you don’t have recording software, Audacity is a free basic software available for both PC & Mac. Google for tutorials to get up and running fast.
If you have a Mac, GarageBand is a great piece of software that’s even easier to use. It offers more features than should be allowed in software at this price (free with iLife) In fact, some professional labeled bands have been known to use it to lay down vocal or instrument ideas or even record full projects in GarageBand.
If you have GarageBand but aren’t sure how to use it be sure to join us this Thursday for our webinar where we’re being giving some great producer tips for recording in any software plus a tutorial specific to GarageBand.
Use a recording mic – not a live mic
A condenser microphone is made for recording in a studio environment and buying one doesn’t have to cost much. A live mic looks like the traditional ‘lollipop’ live mic. A mic that does not specify that it’s a condenser microphone is most likely a live/dynamic mic, so look for one that does.
Watch the tutorial video on how to choose the right mic here. The video goes into the main differences between a condenser and dynamic microphone, how much to spend, how to test mics and where to buy a good one. If you have very little budget (under $60) just stick to good brands (listed in the video) and wait for them to go on sale, especially around Christmas and spring online and in music stores. You’ll get a much better product than going for a cheaper brand.
You don’t want to use a built in microphone, a webcam microphone or a USB microphone that says ‘dynamic’ anywhere in the name or description when recording vocals. Again, the video goes into detail so I’ll skip that for now but the main reason is that you’ll never have a prayer of sounding nearly as good in the end as you will using a condenser microphone. And isn’t that what we really want? 😉
Use the right headphones the right way
You always want to use headphones when recording but skip the earbuds. You want headphones with padded ears. Pick up a great pair of Sony headphones for under $50 but skip the cheap or unknown brands. A quality brand gets great deals on parts because they buy a lot and can build a lower price point product that still has higher quality parts than a little know or knock off brand.
Once you have the right kind of headphones to hear what you need to hear to sound your best when recording your voice you’ll need one more headphone tip: only listen to 3/4 of what you hear.
You may have seen people record with one headphone off their ear. But the best way to hear what you need is to have one side fully on and the other half off. The reason is that if you completely remove one ear it throws off your pitch reference. If you’ve been doing it this way you may have gotten used to it. But is sounding even a little better worth trying it a new way? Try it!
Understand that you will ALWAYS sound your worst when recording
This is the #1 thing I wish someone had told me when I started working as a jingle singer at 15. I had no recording experience so I just assumed I had suddenly lost every bit of ability I thought I once had.
Why is this true? Simply because you will be hearing your true voice without room noise, effects, or any other sounds that come with singing live plus you’ll be hearing it all in headphones with no way to escape. This means you’ll probably hear mouth noises, cracks in notes and all sorts of things you didn’t think were there.
You’ve been warned.
Now that you know that, expect it. Don’t let it freak you out or keep you from recording. Just understand that effects, music, etc. should all be added and adjusted after vocals are recorded for the best sounding recording. Never give into the temptation to add effects when recording. You’ll actually sing better if you hear all the flaws than you will if they’re hiding under effects when you record. It won’t feel like it, but you really will.
Sounding horrific in the studio was my main driving reason to get better. It’s responsible for being able to work (ie. make a full time living) as a vocalist for decades. So let the things you hate drive you to get better. Better yet, tell your Voice Club instructor what you didn’t like and we’ll make it better even faster!
Warm up and don’t over do it
Unlike singing live, you can go on forever recording. And it’s not uncommon for a vocalist to push way to hard way too long when recording since they still hear mistakes and the show is technically never over.
So do yourself a favor and sound your best by following these two tips:
1. Warm up
Bubble the way you were taught a good 4-7 times nice and slow. This is not time for exercises or other workout tools. This is warmup time only so stop after your bubble has bubbled it’s last bubble.
2. Watch for signs of fatigue.
If you start sounding worse than the last take and this happens a couple times, it’s time to wrap it up. Once your voice begins to fatigue everything will become harder, you will hear it all more clearly and try to compensate and the cycle will continue until you and your voice are way more burnt out than you should be.
When this happens just plan to come back to your recording another day. Just be sure to follow 1, 2, and this next tip when you pick back up:
3. Choose the best take – because there is no perfect take.
Whether you or someone else will be mixing down your recording, no one is going to want to listen to twenty takes (times through) of you singing your song. And if you’re paying for someone’s time you don’t want them to!
The more you record, the fewer takes it will take before you really feel like you’re doing pretty well. In the end you want to have 2 or 3 takes you like to choose from. Even 1 or 2 is good.
If you’re doing your own recording and have little to moderate experience, knock it down to one so you can focus on putting it all together. If you don’t it might never get done.
You will learn more, grow more and accomplish things you didn’t think you could as a singer by going through the recording process. So do it as often as possible. There’s no excuse! You now know more than most singers when they pay big bucks to record in a full blown recording studio. So get recording!