As a independent recording artist… What do you need to record a quality song, album or mixtape at home?
Here's 6 tips and items you will need to get started…
Having your own recording equipment is everything... You can record and edit at ease without being in a studio with an engineer and the pressure of paying for hourly studio time. When recording at home... You have the luxury of writing and recording on your own time. The cost of equipment is not as expensive as you may think... You just need to know what exactly you need and at the right price.
Here's 5 pieces of equipment you should invest in:
Your computer will be your workstation for everything. You can purchase a basic laptop for $500 that has decent processing speed.
Make sure the processors are at least:
2 Ghz Intel Pentium 4 / AMD Athlon 64 (or later) compatible CPU with full SSE2 support
WINDOWS 7 or later / macOS 10.11 or later
4 GB or more RAM recommended
4 GB free disk space
Soundcard with DirectSound drivers. ASIO/ASIO2 compatible required for audio recording
The DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is the software used to record, edit, and mix music on your computer…
And the Audio Interface is the hardware used to connect your computer with the rest of your gear.
Some recording software items you may consider are - "Pro Tools and Cakewalk Sonar"
The "Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD USB Audio Interface" is very affordable at $149 . It connects to your computer via USB and is compatible with all DAW.
Other DAW/Audio Interface Combos offer both the software and hardware for recording.
Home recording enthusiasts fall into the trap of buying excessively expensive monitors for playback... That's not necessary. The only important thing is to simply know the characteristics of your monitors compared to other speakers. Listen to your tracks (as well as commercial recordings) on headphones, car stereos, and cheap computer speakers and compare what you hear to the sound profile of your monitors.
We recommend the KRK ROKIT 5 G3 5" Powered Studio Monitor.
Make sure you grab a condenser microphone but they require power from a battery or external source such as a pre-amp that should be built into your audio interface we previously referred to.
Since most people start out just recording vocals, the “classic” large diaphragm condenser vocal mic we recommend is the:
Pop Filters - Pop Filters help control the low frequency blast of air caused by the pronunciation of “P” and “B” sounds.
Grabbing the best studio headphones are in our opinion just as important as investing in a good bed... you know you’re going to use it everyday and if you invest in a pair, they will last you many years. Just because certain headphone models and brands say ‘studio’ in the title doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best — this is something our society has gotten accustomed to with the emergence of “Beats by Dre” and other mainstream brands using the word for marketing purposes freely. You need to really get down to the gritty specs, what exactly you need them for, overall price as well as what other experienced users of the product have said about it.
We recommend for starters - Audio-Technica ATH-M50x or Sennheiser HD 600
As a supplement to your headphones, we also recommend an extension cable… since standard headphone cables are always too short.
2. Pronouncing Your Words Correctly and Clearly
Making sure you’ve pronounced your words correctly and clearly is extremely important. This is what separates the amateur hip-hop artists to the professionals. Unless your music vocals are deliberately unclear (such as mumble rapping), then you should focus on making your vocals are clear as possible.
A great tip to improve your pronunciation is to open your mouth wider while you record. After I practiced this in my own recordings I could clearly see the difference in the clarity of my vocal recordings.
If you compare any hip hop artist (Jay-Z, J. Cole or Jadakiss) all their pronouncing is on point and is easy to understand.
3. Short Shallow Breaths
Taking short shallow breaths instead of long deep breaths can make your vocals pronunciation sound much clearer. You can also rap much quicker. This is a breather technique rappers such as "Nas and Eminem" use. When you have mastered this breathing technique you will be able to rap for longer without being out of breath.
Another great breathing technique is to take very deep inhales and exhales just before you start rapping. This expands your lungs and will let you hold more oxygen for a longer set of time.
4. Hydrate Yourself
Keeping yourself hydrated is so important and is often underappreciated and not taking as seriously as it should. A dehydrated throat can sound harsh and croaky. It can also stop your voice from being as clear as it could be, and may not be able to travel across the room as well as it should be when performing live.
5. Stacking Your Vocals
Rappers such as Tupac and Kendrick Lamar use to stack their vocals to make them sound more prominent in the recordings. This way they stood out in the mix and were more clear.
When you stack a verse you record each line twice and put them on top of each other. Rappers also do this at the end of the lines to make them stand out. When artists perform live they will often have a hype man do this for them.
Simply duplicating a track and adding a slight delay can also be used to make the vocals sound more ‘full’ in the mix.
6. Always finish your mix after a good night’s sleep.
Do not finish your last mix tweaks late into the night, your hearing will be tired and you will be less perceptive. The final tweaks are normally better the next morning with a fresh brain, fresh ears and coffee.