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10 Great Tips For Home & DIY Recordings

1. Start with some good gear A good microphone coupled with a good audio interface is the very foundation of a good recording. You don’t need a $1000 mic, but a decent microphone will do the job. The audio interface needs to have clear preamps and introduce minimal noise in the recordings. Your recording software needs to be good, so that there are no latency issues. Take some time to know your gear well before starting to record.

2. Correct recording formats: You need to decide in advance what recording formats you want to use. You can’t expect great results if you record at 8 bit, 8000 khz. The best format to use for recording is either wav or aiff. Use 44,100 Khz and 16 bit settings for best quality (this is the minimum setting. You can always go higher than this). It is always advisable NOT to record in mp3, as the format cannot capture the entire pristine spectrum of audio frequencies. But if you have to record in mp3, record at no less than 320 kpbs.

3. Mic placements: The mic has to be placed at the right distance from the mouth to capture the full sonic range of the audio. As a rule of the thumb, start with 9 inches of distance. Too near, and there are chances of capturing breaths and pops. Too far, and the vocal will sound boxy and weak. You also need to use a pop screen so that the breath and explosive “b” and “p” sounds can be filtered out. These pops and explosive sounds are very difficult to fix later on.

4. Levels and more levels: Make sure your recording levels stay in the green! This is very important, because if your audio starts clipping (the signal levels go above 0 db or in other words become red), you will get a nasty distortion in your recording, which sadly can’t be fixed later on. But, don’t keep the level too low, as that will result in more noise in the signal. A healthy -6db to -4db levels are good starting point. Keep a close eye on the levels throughout the recording session.

5. You can’t fix it later: Don’t leave your mistakes to be removed later in mixing and mastering. The later stages of post-production can polish your sound, but the results depend on the quality of the raw recordings. Good recording=good mixing and vice versa.

6. Noise-Your enemy: make sure you have switched off the fans and the air conditioner. Close all the doors and make sure your neighbor’s dog is not barking. Always record away from your computer, so that the cpu fan noise stays at the minimum. Always place the microphone on a stand. This will minimize any noise resulting from hand movements.

7. Stay in tune: always check the tuning of your instruments. Many instruments go out of tune during sessions and it’s important to re tune them. When singing, don’t have the mindset that the auto tune can fix everything. A good recording in perfect tune might take a few takes, but it is well worth it.

8. Record dry: it is best to record all vocals/ instruments without any audio effects. That way, you have more flexibility to play with during post production. Once you introduce an effect while recording, it becomes a permanent feature of the audio and can’t be removed later on. If you have to introduce some effects, try to keep them to the minimal

9. Train your mind and ears: your recording will be as a good as your ears. Listen to some great voice overs or commercial recordings. Compare your own with them. How do they sound when compared to yours?  If you are not happy with how your audio sounds, then do some experiments with your gear and recording techniques, read some more great tutorials and learn. There are no short cuts to experience and knowledge.

10. Don’t be dejected: We all learn as we go. Your first recording won’t be Grammy winning, but it’s a good starting point. We all make lots of mistakes while recording, even for experienced artists and engineers. If you can’t get it right, don’t fret, do it the next day. Don’t be satisfied with mediocre results, always strive for excellence, and who knows, you might just win the Grammy! All the best for your recordings!

Rajiv Agarwal is a mixing and mastering engineer. he is the founder of AudioShapers which provides cutting edge audio post produtuin services. you can check out his services here:


<a href=””>AudioShapers</a>

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Reader Comments (13)

Nobody should ever be recording in 16 bit in this day and age. 24 bits give you much more resolution and room for the noise floor, at for only 50% more resources.

Well explained article, another good tip is try to work in a quite place. =)

Great post. One thing I would add is to KEEP YOUR HARD DRIVE ORGANIZED. Yes, I shouted that because I have struggled with this. I use Pro Tools and it does a good job of keeping sessions in folders and making organization pretty painless but still entropy found ways to creep into my life. Drive space is so cheap I would happily copy stuff, duplicate stuff, etc., and over time I had multiple folders for the same session and worse. My advice: have a record drive and do not be tempted to just add drives instead of doing a bit of organizing; you'd be amazed at how much space today's drives have. And, of course, back up often to a separate drive (I'd recommend a Drobo because they are resistant to failure thanks to a multi-drive design.

Good tips! But I don't worry about catching breaths on vocal takes. Breaths are natural. There's no need to edit natural occurrences. Plus, passion is heard in those small breaths. Just check out Say Anything's "...Is A Real Boy" album

May 21 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

Great article, thank you. One thing though, it's quite possible with most DAW's to record your vocals with reverb, as a crutch, without being stuck with the reverb applied to the track. I agree that recording dry is best but sometimes a little verb helps a singer get a better take. You can always take the verb away after getting the chosen take. This is in regards to #8.

May 22 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

A good article, with one exception: The author claims recording at 44.1 / 16 bit is sufficient. This is simply incorrect: With the power of today's computers and robust storage options, there is simply no reason not to record at 24 bit. Even in the most modest of home studios, doing so is advisable.

May 25 | Unregistered CommenterDSS

It's so hard to have a good recording when you don't have quality stuff. Try to develop your equipment as your needs become more sophisticated. Quality doesn't have to be expensive, just learn and ask from fellow enthusiast online or in your community.

May 26 | Unregistered CommenterM24308

Most important to remember: garbage in = garbage out. It doesn't matter if you have the highest quality equipment --- if you are not yet a skilled musician, take lessons and hone your craft. There is always room for improvement there.

May 26 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

Thank you everyone for their comments. I agree that more the sampling or bit rate, the better the quality of recording. That is why I have mentioned- "this is the minimum setting. You can always go higher than this". 44,100 Khz and 16 bit is a starting point.

Just so as not to confuse any beginner engineers, 44,100 Hz (not kHz) at 16-bit is a good starting point. It is also sometimes notated as 44.1 kHz, but never 44,100 kHz, which would be 44,100,000 Hz.

June 1 | Unregistered CommenterRiley Lynch

I just posted a new song/video for which I documented my home recording process

Obviously I'm going for a pretty quirky sound, and this blog has great tips, but I feel like a lot of home recording blogs miss the biggest point, which is to work with what you've got, instead of getting hung up on what you don't have and just start being creative and pumping out material. Its the best way to learn, and in the end thats what people will care about

August 27 | Unregistered CommenterFronz Arp

This are fantastic tips for novice like me. I like great sound, and this has been a good tutorial.

February 23 | Unregistered CommenterScipture in context

pussy bullshit. inventiveness is greater than this cookie cutter bs. a "shitty" four track recording done interestingly is a hundred times better than this by the books, dull as day, dull dumb assery

April 22 | Unregistered Commenterbbbbbbbb

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