Let’s face it. Sometimes your synthesizers just don’t cut it. Sampled guitars don’t work and vocal loops can sound stale. You can build interesting beats filled with otherworldly textures and complicated synths patches but if it lacks a human feel then maybe it won’t work so well for human ears.
Your target market are humans right?
When your new electronic song starts to sound just like the one before it, maybe it’s time to record a few instruments to spice things up.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge fan of electronic music and all the interesting soundscapes the genre uses. My respect for people who can create complicated electronic beats and dense colorful synth sounds is immense. But I’m a recording engineer type of guy so here are a few tips you can use when you want to record a few real instruments to complement your electronica.
You can record most things with a decent large diaphragm condenser. Condensers are preferable to dynamic microphones, since dynamics have a narrower frequency range and a dirtier sound. Recording vocals over your trance track is easy if you have a nice full range condenser that captures the full tonal range of your singer, with every nuance of the performance coming through. Microphones get cheaper every day and there are many budget options out there for less than $100. Check out a few of my recommendations for cheap condenser microphones here.
Most bedrooms aren’t designed for music recording. The sounds you get out your microphone in the middle of a untreated bedroom can sound ringy, roomy and boxy. And that’s not something you want on the back of your single.
“An incredibly ringy production! The boxiest vocal in modern music!”
Not the ideal result you were looking for from that microphone you just bought. Before you run back to the store and buy some more equipment that you will be convinced that you need, see if you can’t get a better sound out of your room with a little treatment.
High pitched ringing can be dealt with by using blankets to absorb high frequencies. Hanging blankets around your microphone can get you a better sound instantly, without you needing to buy expensive room treatment products. The thicker the better.
Dealing with lower frequencies and bass can be more problematic as you sometimes need to either buy thick bass traps to absorb the low end of your room or you can create them yourself, which is much more work than just hanging up blankets and duvets. Check out the some essential home recording equipment at Audio Issues for more information on acoustic treatment.
If you have done all you can to treat your room and are satisfied with the sound of it, the next step is to find a good spot to record in. A good trick for recording with only one microphone is to evaluate the width of the instrument you are trying to record and then place the microphone at the same distance. That way, you should capture the full tonal range and sonic information of the instrument. If you have a large room try placing yourself somewhere in the middle and hang duvets and blankets around the instrument and microphone. Do a before and after recording to hear the difference. You don’t want to completely kill the reflections when you are recording acoustic instruments so it’s important to find a spot in the room that your instrument sounds good in.
You can create a dead vocal recording space easily. Closing yourself off in a very absorptive closet can deaden a vocal immensely, enabling you to get a completely dead but very processable sound that you can mix with whatever reverb and effects processors you want. I always go for a dead vocal that will give me more options in the mix down phase.
Adding a few acoustic touches to your electronic mixes can give new life and edge to your productions. If you had any doubts as to how you would start adding recorded sounds from your bedroom into your music, then I hope some of the tips above shone some light on how easy and approachable bedroom recording is.