If you’re just starting out as a musician, you’ll need your music to speak for you. Most people aren’t lucky enough to have contacts in the music industry.
However, due to the proliferation of the internet and music streaming apps, new artists have a better chance than ever. That being said, many think it’s imperative to invest in expensive equipment rather than learning how to improve sound recording.
Ambient noise, scratchy audio, and popping sounds can all be frustratingly present in poorly recorded audio. After all, you don’t want all that songwriting effort to go to waste, do you? Here are 10 strategies for recording better sound for your music album.
1. Purchase an External Microphone
For recording artists and musicians, this is an inevitable purchase. The microphones in your smartphones and computers are just not going to cut it. Even if you purchase an external microphone accessory for your smartphone, it will be better than using the built-in mic.
External microphones are needed to achieve professional sound quality. Due to the proliferation of podcasts and indie musicians, several cheap microphones can be found online. However, you shouldn’t cheap out and buy the least expensive item on Amazon. But don’t go overboard and spend thousands of dollars either. Go for a microphone that is within the 3-figure limit.
2. Purchase a Portable Sound Booth
Another investment that you’ll thank yourself for making is a portable sound booth. If you have a burst of inspiration on your way to a party, you can use this to record. These devices are built for musicians and podcasters on the go.
They feature high-density noise absorption due to the acoustic foam which surrounds the booth. They are very portable and feature a rear panel zipper which allows the insertion of cables from the back. Portable sound booths are also spacious, allowing you to fit plenty of microphones.
3. Control the Mic Distance
This is something you’re going to learn only with practice. You will need to master this for music album recording.You may have seen professional musicians move closer and further away from the mic during concerts. This is to control the volume when they’re singing softly or loudly.
Yes, this is no secret, but very few people know the exact distance to keep from the mic. Even professional musicians have to test equipment before they begin to play. Otherwise, the concert may become very unpleasant for their fans.
Controlling mic distance avoids fluctuations in the volume and reduces the compression needed for the audio file later on.
4. Use a Pop Filter
This is another inevitable purchase. To improve the audio quality of your recordings, you’ll need a pop filter. This minimizes or eliminates the popping sounds from bursts of air. These bursts occur when you’re emphasizing the letter ‘p’ in your lyrics for the word ‘power’ or ‘passion.’
The pop filter prevents those bursts from hitting the microphone directly. Not only that, it helps even out the sound from all directions. Hence, it gives your recordings a more natural sound.
When purchasing a pop filter, use one that is placed in front of the microphone. Don’t go for marshmallow covers that completely encircle the microphone. Most pop filters cost less than $10 so you won’t have to break the bank for this one.
5. Avoid the Zoom Function
Some zoom functions on cameras can even amplify the sound from a source. For instance, the new Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus has that feature. Notably, the features on professional cameras are much better. Yet, they also can’t seem to filter out the zooming sound from the lens zoom.
And trust me, you don’t want your recording sounding like it is being played in the foreground of a workshop. That is unless of course, you need that sound for a specific verse or interval in your song.
6. Control Breathing
This is another practice-makes-perfect tip. You will learn to control your breathing as you go pro. For now, listen and re-listen to your recordings to find out where your voice is cracking. And also make it a point to seek out your limits. If you can’t sing a specific verse without pausing for breath in between, learn to breathe in between words.
There is a great article here for some breathing techniques. It turns out there is a lot more to controlling breathing than just training your throat. All kinds of things matter, like if you’re standing or sitting, and even how you’re positioned before the mic.
7. Improve Your Diction
Not everyone can be Bob Dylan. Most people will be turned off by your music if they can’t understand what you’re saying. Good diction is not only necessary for politicians and debaters; it can go a long way to helping your music.
You can read articles from newspapers or read aloud from great works of fiction. Enunciating long words and improving your command on pronunciation of the English language will help your music sound better.
8. Use Cue Cards
You’ve probably written some great lyrics to your melodies and beats. Whether you’re a pop musician, in to rap, or rock and roll, using cue cards is a pretty good idea. This is not a dig at your memorization skills. On the contrary, when you’re recording, you’re more likely to remember lyrics due to the flow of the song.
However, just in case you forget a single word or stumble over a verse, it’s best to have prompts in front of you. You can use a single sheet of paper to read the lyrics, or you can use a PowerPoint presentation slideshow.
9. Remove Ambient Noise
If you’ve invested in a sound booth and a pop filter, you’ve already done half the work. However, if you can’t get rid of ambient noise, you’re in trouble. Make sure that you record in a place that is devoid of the dreaded background noise. Ask people around the house to be quiet. Choose the quietest time of day for recordings. And always make sure that you’ve closed all the windows and doors to your recording room before beginning.
You can even cover the floor with rugs to dampen sound coming from apartments below you. And you can use towels and drapes and even books to dampen the sound from rooms around you.
10. Develop a Consistent Recording Routine
This is paramount for clearer sound recording. If you can find a time when your surroundings are the quietest, you will undoubtedly get good sound quality. Just remember to set a routine to prepare your room for sound proofing. And also schedule your recordings for a specific time in the day. You probably won’t get second chances later in the day. That way, you’ll be able to deliver regularly and experiment as much as you need to.
Making music is hard enough without the interruptions and technical faults. However, if you can work on these 10 tips, you’ll invariably make better sounding tracks.