Unfortunately, not all of us have the
luxury of recording in multi-million dollar studios but there are a few things
we can do to get quality recordings from our gear.
If your hardware supports it, record your tracks at 24
bit/96 kHz. Check your owner’s manual on how to set up your gear to record
at these settings. True that CDs are only 16 bit/44.1 kHz, but it’s better
to record at higher settings and then convert downward. There’s lots of good
information on the web about the benefits of recording at 24/96.
Eliminate as much background room noise as possible when
recording with microphones. Shut off fans, close the windows and doors –
find a good time when there’s little noise around you so that you’re
recording the instrument or vocals as pure as possible.
Make sure your recording levels are strong but not
clipping. It’s important to have a good strong signal when you’re recording
so that the signal-to-noise ratio is high.
In other words, if your recorded track is low in
volume, we need to manually boost it up in the studio so that it has
some guts to it. In doing that, we also increase the background noise
which is a bad thing.
Your signal should be bouncing around in the yellow
area of your volume meter – but never in the red! Anything in the red
area of your meter means potential distortion / clipping and that’s also
Never record a track with effects on it. Leave the track
dry as the effects are added later in the mixing process. For example, many
keyboards have tons of effects to make them sound great for live
performances (i.e.: piano with reverb). All these effects should be turned
off when recording.
As with any rule, there are exceptions. Guitar
players are pretty picky about their sound so it’s not uncommon to
record the guitar tracks with effects like distortion, chorus, wha-wha,
Drum recording tips
Drums are probably one of the hardest instruments to
record because it’s not just one instrument, but a collection of individual
instruments that all need unique things done to them in a mix.
If you’re recording a live drum kit, it’s a really good
idea to mic up each piece individually. It takes time to this but it really
pays off in the end. Again, lots of good information on the web about this
topic and you should spend some time on this since the drums are key to your
If you’re using loops or midi to lay down your drum
tracks, the same tip would apply. Try to record each drum piece on an
individual track if possible. Some loops come already packaged together in a
single audio file and that’s fine as long as you’re happy with the way the
Guitar and Bass Guitar
Every guitar track inevitably has some amplifier buzz or
hiss to it. That’s the nature of the beast. Most of the time, we can filter
it out during the mixing process but you should try to eliminate as much
buzz or hiss before you record the track. Try a different power outlet or
patch cable and see if that makes a difference. Toggle your pick-up switch
to see if one setting sounds better than the other. Like all the other tips,
the more you can fix before you record, the better it’ll sound in the end.
In order to help us filter out the noise in your track,
you should record about 5 seconds of just the amplifier buzz / hiss either
at the beginning or the end of your track(s). Don’t play anything – just
record the amplifier’s noise. During the mixing process, we’ll use it to
calibrate our noise reduction filters for the track.
The bass guitar should be recorded without any effects
(unless you want a particular sound / effect for your song). Keep the EQ
settings flat on the amp – we’ll tweak the sound in the mix process.
Acoustic guitars should be recorded with a microphone
because it will pick up the “sparkle” of the strings and makes the
instrument sound more realistic to the listener.
While there’s nothing wrong with recording it through
an amplifier or via input jack, the pick-ups tend to be a little darker
in tone because it’s only picking up the sounds from inside the body.
Ideally, record both with a microphone and through an
amplifier (put the amp in another room!) or input jack on separate
tracks and then blend the two together during the mixing process.
Vocals recording tips
Vocals are the most important part of any song since it’s
the lead “instrument” and one that really needs to be clear and
If you can, invest in a good vocal microphone – you’ll be
glad you did. Most vocals are recorded with a condenser (also called
capacitor) microphone. These usually require “phantom power” in order to
operate. Your local music store can help you find a suitable one in your
Invest in a pop filter which eliminates the harsh “P” and
“B” plosive sounds when your breath hits the microphone. While all
microphones have a wind screen on them, they’re not designed to block the
plosives in vocals. You can also make your own using coat hanger wire and
nylon material, but for what they cost at your local music store, it’s a
better investment to buy one that’s made professionally.
No matter what style your recording, enunciate when you
sing! Don’t slur your words together or cut off consonants at the end of
words. You’re telling a story when you sing and if no one can understand
you, it won’t be a very good story. Listen to the radio and most of the
time, you can hear every “k” or “t” at the end of a word (i.e.: heart or
These are just a few tips to help you get the most out of
your recording adventures. The most important thing is to have fun while you’re
recording because it truly is a unique and rewarding experience.
Our job is to help you achieve that chart topping
sound that your songs deserve!