“To become a singer requires work, work, and again, work!” - Enrico Caruso
Gene Kelly’s global classic “Singing in the Rain” is without a doubt a product of this lesson and there are far too many other hard-working and talented singers to mention.
How many of you occasionally (or always in my case) sing in the shower? Do you dream of becoming a famous singer? Where do you begin?
The first step is to record yourself and see how you sound. However, it's almost impossible to turn your bathroom into an Italian opera house without a lot of money and tonnes of pro tools. You’re not a professional musician, after all, and you don’t have a myriad of assistants and record executives to help you do it.
Someone who sings alone is barely a singer at all. In order to exist, a singer has to produce music. Whether this takes place in a concert hall or a more intimate venue, they should have recordings in order to show off their music.
There are plenty of artists who made it big because somebody important came across their demo. There are also a number of people who’ve become very popular following some buzz on YouTube or social media.
While you don’t have to share your recordings all over the world wide web, it’s important to have some recordings of your voice (if you want to become a singer) in order to share them to the right people at the right times.
It’s also useful to have recordings in order to train yourself to sing better so you can see where you’re going wrong.
If you want to make a digital audio recording, you're going to need to get some mics, recording equipment, recording software, and turn your guest room into a home recording studio.
With that said, let’s have a look at the best ways to make quality recordings from the comfort of your own home. Recording music needn't cost that much.
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Microphones and Audio Equipment: The Fundamentals
Though the answer might seem obvious, do you need to choose top quality equipment?
You’ll definitely need a microphone. You'll need to pick a song to sing, too! However, you needn't buy a digital audio workstation straight away, you could always record the audio using a digital voice recorder or Dictaphone.
While older models could only record onto cassette, you now have the option to put your recordings onto CD, hard disks and pendrives via mp3 files without taking a trip down the studio.
The recording quality can vary massively between low- and top-of-the-range products. For what we’re interested in, it’s worth investing in a digital device with a quality microphone that’ll allow you to directly work on audio files with storage for several GBs of audio files. Brands like Panasonic and Tamashi have been popular amongst amateurs for years and continue to advance with the latest technology. However, the perfect solution is to record your voice directly onto a computer workstation in a studio in your house with a quality sound card.
If you’re reading this, we’ll assume that you have a computer (even though you could be reading this on a tablet or a smartphone). Even if your computer has a built-in microphone, you should consider investing in decent recording gear or at least an external microphone since the quality of sound for integrated devices tends to be very low. This isn’t for Skype, after all!
The best option is to have a large static hanging microphone like they do in professional recording studios or radio stations so that you can avoid picking up vibrations. Otherwise, you could choose a dynamic microphone with a stand like they use for concerts and stage performance.
A preamp is sometimes used. This is particularly useful if you’re using virtual instruments.
A pop filter is also recommended so that your microphone doesn’t pick up plosive sounds. It should be placed around 5cm from the mic itself. Prodipe, Shure, and Behringer make some of the best which can set you back between £25 and £70. However, there are significantly cheaper options.
While speakers or headphones aren’t absolutely necessary for recording programmes, it’d be almost impossible to work without them since you wouldn’t be able to hear yourself or cut and edit parts of your audio. When it comes to speakers, there’s a wide range available that can be connected via USB, headphone jack, bluetooth, etc. Headphones can vary massively in terms of quality and comfort, too.
If you want to make high quality recordings, you’ll need to ensure that you record in the best possible conditions. You should opt for wired products as they’re usually both cheaper and better than the wireless products powered by batteries. JBL and Sennheiser are some of the most highly recommended manufacturers.
For all of these products, you can either check online or at specialised music retailers. We wouldn’t recommend trying to find the right products in massive department stores or supermarkets.
Home Studio Essentials
A home music studio can be built (and improved) in stages. Firstly, you’ll need to start with a computer and basic equipment.
Small streams make big rivers and oak trees grow from acorns, after all. By adding new equipment every year, you’ll eventually end up with an impressive setup that could be used to record instruments as well as your voice.
The goal is to get the perfect equipment without bankrupting yourself, after all. You could invest in a USB audio interface with MIDI ports in order to record both the vocals and instruments at the same time. The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, Presonus AudioBox, and the Alesis IO2 Express offer the best value for money.
In any case, you should build your home studio in a quiet room so that you can start recording immediately.
You could opt for an acoustic screen to isolate the sound you’re recording and there are also “vocal recording kits”, available for around £100 if you’re investing in quality equipment and are sold by most of the biggest brands.
Find out more about the best karaoke apps, too.
Audacity: The Must-Have Programme for Recording at Home
As we said, if you want to become a singer, you have to sing! However, if you want to get better, you’ll also have to listen to yourself. This will help you effectively evaluate your own performance, range, and accuracy.
Audacity is one of the most popular programmes amongst both amateur and professional singers. Undoubtedly, the programme is only as popular as it is because it’s available for free. However, it’s also very easy to use and comes with a large range of functions. It’s not hard to find video tutorials online explaining how to use the programme, either!
Digital Alternatives for Listening to Yourself
When looking at free options, it’s hard to find programmes that are better than Audacity. However, there are a number of options for testing your microphone, messing about, or doing some serious recording.
For example, you could always use the programme that comes pre-installed on Windows: Sound Recorder. However, this software is very very limited.
On the other hand, there are plenty of programmes you could buy. A lot of them also have free trials available so you can see if you like them before you pay for them.
Music Creator 7, a semi-professional solution, for example, is available for around £30 (depending on the options you choose).
To listen to audio, you can always opt for something like Windows Media Player or VLC and you can also compress audio files (while retaining most of the quality) into mp3s so that you can send them to people you know via Dropbox, for example. The files you make in your “recording studio” can also be converted for free thanks to a variety of different solutions.
YouTube: Bringing Singers an Audience
YouTube’s for more than karaoke videos!
While not everyone has the chance to study music or singing in a top university or music school, almost everyone can find a decent music teacher providing private tutorials.
In fact, you can even benefit from private singing lessons online with digital resources and a virtual voice coach. Nowadays, you can get better at singing without even leaving your house. Additionally, making digital recordings is a new way to share your music with friends and people you know.
YouTube is arguably the best resource for this. A new singer can find their audience quite easily using this platform.
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A video (which could just be the song over a static image) could garner a few views and generate some buzz and positive (and negative) comments from other web users. Thanks to combining YouTube with social media channels like Facebook, you can get your music out there quite easily nowadays.