Here's our Top 5 tips you need to know to record great quality demos - or even final versions of your songs! - on a budget.
On a previous blog, we explained how to sell your music online. Now, if you think you've got some great songs the public needs to hear, you must make sure people won't be disappointed with the sound quality!
Several recording studios reached iconic status because legendary acts made classic albums in their facilities, such as Abbey Road (Beatles, Pink Floyd), Gold Star (Phil Spector, Beach Boys), Sun (Elvis, Johnny Cash) and many others. So it's only natural that many aspiring artists, bands or solo acts, wish to do like their heroes and also record on a top, professional recording studio.
But as we explained on a previous blog, since the Sixties many famous artists have set up their own home recording studios - sometimes for convenience, but basically, it shows that even though making a great-sounding recording is essential, doing it in a professional recording studio not so much. This is an important lesson to bear in mind, especially on the early stages of your career, when budget can be a major issue.
Thankfully, today any musician on a budget has more affordable gear options than ever before, so here's a few ideas to help you get those recordings done!
1) If you're only buying ONE thing... get a good mic!
Legendary British folk guitarist Bert Jansch (a big idol for Johnny Marr and Bernard Butler, amongst others) famously recorded his debut LP at home, in 1965. All that was used was a reel-to-reel tape and a single microphone!
It doesn't sound great by today's standards, but it was enough to launch Bert's career as a major force in folk music, selling over 150,000 copies at the time of release.
If like Bert you are a solo acoustic act, one microphone might be all you need to get something well recorded, and with much better results than in 1965! The newly-released Shure Motiv range of USB condenser microphones is a very good choice: an affordable range that gives you studio quality audio, when recording to your mobile device, PC or laptop.
The Shure Motiv MV88, for instance, can be plugged straight to your iPhone and achieve great results! The M-Audio Vocal Studio Pro is another good choice - an affordable package that comes with microphone, audio interface, headphones and recording software, for under £200!
2) Mic Preamps are important!
If you decide to get a good quality microphone that's not USB-powered, you should also consider getting a good mic preamp to get the most out of your microphone, and / or an audio interface, if you plan to record into your computer. A good choice of microphone and mic preamp might just be the most important purchases you'll ever do when setting up your own home recording studio.
3) Have more - and better - ears!
No, we don't mean that you should magically grow new ears! First off, make sure to get yourself a good-quality set of Studio Headphones, to listen back to what you've recorded.
And don't just rely on your ears - it's always good to have a second opinion. Ultimately it's your opinion and gut feeling that counts, but sometimes you may feel too over confident, and sometimes not confident enough, so it's always good to have someone you trust to also lend you a pair of ears!
It's not easy to do it all alone - and most artists you've heard of will have worked with producers and/or engineers. Rather than doing everything on your own, if you're mainly a musician and not a producer, you should always concentrate on the performance first and foremost!
4) Learn how to use Reverb
One mistake many newcomers make when recording at home is that they use no reverb at all on their tracks! It often makes recordings sound a bit flat and amateurish. Most songs you've ever heard by your favourite artists will have featured some sort of reverb somewhere in the mix, even if just subtly. Another common mistake is to use too much reverb, so learn how to choose the right amount of reverb, and how to mix it with your dry signal, for best results!
Reverb helps to add an extra dimension and ambiance to your songs, and most audio recording software will let you add any of the different types of reverb (such as Spring, Hall, Plate, Room, etc.) to your recordings. If you prefer a more hands-on approach with actual hardware, some affordable studio outboard such as the Alesis MidiVerb or Alesis Microverb are pretty good choices.
5) Experiment and have fun!
If you're recording on a budget, at home, you have one thing most artists signed to major labels don't - total creative freedom! So why not use your gear and your time to make the most out of it? Some of the biggest bands ever, such as The Beatles or Radiohead, did their best work once they were in a position they could just mess around in the studio and experiment.
John Lennon, for instance, would experiment with singing lying on his back, flat on the floor, or having his vocals processed via a Leslie rotating speaker (as in 'Tomorrow Never Knows').
For starters, why not check our Top 5 Unusual Recording Tips To Try in 2015, with some unorthodox methods used by some famous artists... you might get inspired! And remember: you got until the end of September to release one FREE 2-song single on iTunes / Spotify / Tidal with Spinnup & PMT House Of Rock!
Please note: Spinnup code expired as of 30/09/2015
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By Ivan Silva