How to record vocals at home: five essential tips

How to record vocals at home: sound treatment

A traditional studio typically features a dedicated booth made for recording the vocals. However, it’s easy to record vocals in the same quality at home – as long as you have the right equipment and an understanding of why they had a booth made specifically for vocals in the first place.

Imagine you’re standing in a cave. It’s dark, and you have only limited senses, the main ones being your ears. What do you hear? Echoes? Reverb? This is exactly how a microphone works – it only has the ability to hear. Reflections and room sound can be a huge problem when it comes to mixing. If you capture enough reflections from your room when you come to add compression and reverb, you’ll find the vocals sound messy, noisy, and the reverb won’t sit well in the mix.

With this in mind, the vocal booth was conceived, and acoustic treatment was the mainstay of this creation. While vocal booths made to a professional standard are very expensive, thanks to major advances in recording, you can now achieve similar by using a reflection shield. These are designed to absorb the first reflections and eliminate the need for the expense of building out a major booth. You should also think about room size and your ability to control reflections – soft furnishings such as curtains and rugs can help compared to ‘hard’ furnishings such as wooden floors and book cases.

Companies such as Vicoustic can supply all in one kits to set up the room too, depending on your budget.

How to record vocals at home: using a pop shield

A second major must for recording any vocals is a pop shield. An old trick to get around this and the way the pop shield came into fashion was by engineers taping a pencil to a microphone to separate the airflow and push it around the microphone rather than a large gush of air suddenly hitting the capsule. This stops plosives and sibilance from a vocal ruining a good take or overpowering the microphone with a sudden rush of air from syllables such as ‘P’s, ‘B’s and ’T’s.

How to record vocals at home: finding the right microphone

Finding the right microphone is the key ingredient when it comes to recording world-class vocals. You need a microphone that brings out every detail of the vocals, and one that will be reliable across the board with several vocalists. World-class recordings usually use very expensive microphones, made by well-known vintage brands, and cost thousands of dollars that most of us simply don’t have.

Luckily JZ Microphones has created a range of mics that compete with these. The Black Hole Series BH1 and BH2 are of outstanding sound quality, hand-built- and made to work with any vocalist in mind. The lightweight aluminium capsule equipped with the Golden Drop technology captures transients much faster than its gold plated counterpart, meaning you can capture far more detail and clarity in the voice than the average microphone.

Here’s what 13-times Grammy Awards-winner Rafa Sardina thinks of the Black Hole series: “When it comes to microphones, I keep my Black Hole at the top of my mic arsenal. Truly stunning on acoustic instruments. So clear, smooth, and versatile. A real winner in all applications!”

How to record vocals at home: getting the right microphone placement

So you understand how to set up your equipment and you’ve found the right microphone, but without the right mic placement all your hard work will be for nothing. Some important things to remember are to place the mic as far away from the walls as possible, however, you need to also make sure the mic isn’t in the exact centre of the room. This will help keep your recordings clear from any unwanted room resonances, and JZ Microphone’s Golden Drop Capsule technology will also help to reduce colourations and distortions.

“I love the Black Hole microphone. It is such a versatile workhorse that I’ve been using it on all sorts of things. It has great detail and depth, it’s very accurate and can take a lot in without breaking a sweat. It does very well when compared to many other mics that cost a lot more. It has definitely become one of my favourite microphones to use,” says Rob Chiarelli (Christina Aguilera, Pink, Madonna).

Romesh Dodangoda (Bring Me The Horizon, Motorhead, Funeral For A Friend) adds: “Truly stunning on acoustic instruments. So clear, smooth, and versatile.”

How to record vocals at home: getting the right vocalist placement

Now you have your microphone in the perfect placement in relation to the room you’re working in and the equipment you’re using, you need to make sure the vocalist is positioned correctly so you can fully utilise the set up you’ve just created. For example, place your vocalist 5-inches away from the microphone and get a warm and intimate recording. But place them 12-inches away, and you create an open and airy sound. 

The Black Hole Series microphones as ideal for handing the diverse array of vocalists and vocal styles you may encounter.

“Besides having a beautiful and unique design, the Black Hole is a versatile microphone for many applications including acoustic guitar, piano and vocals. I love this mic, it is a work of art,” comments Sylvia Massy (Tool, System of a Down, Red Hot Chili Peppers).

For more information on the JZ Microphones range, head to the official site at JZ Microphones.