How to record vocals at home: 9 Big Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

By Rob Mayzes

Recording vocals properly is the cornerstone of a good mix.

They tell the story and set the emotional tone. They tie the entire project together. The truth is, an amazing vocal will make or break your song.

But there’s lots of variables that get in the way of capturing a great take.

In this article you’ll learn 9 common recording mistakes that can ruin any vocal and how to avoid them. Let’s dive in!

1. You chose the wrong room

It’s easy to think that mixing has the biggest impact on the vocal. But in reality, your recording is far more important.

One of the most influential factors during the recording phase is your choice of room.

Recording in a home studio poses many challenges…

You probably don’t have access to a professional vocal booth. You only have access to what you have—maybe just a few rooms in your home:

  • A kitchen.

  • A bedroom.

  • A bathroom.

  • A living room.

  • And so on…

It’s a mistake to simply pick the one that’s most convenient!

The room that an instrument is recorded in always changes the tone. This is ESPECIALLY true for vocals.

If your vocals are recorded in a bad room, it’s extremely obvious by the end of the mix.

Reverb pulls the vocals back in a mix. The more reverb an instrument has, the less it sounds present and “in your face.” It sounds farther away from the listener.

You want the singer to sound up-close and personal. Recording vocals in a very reverberant room will make that intimacy nearly impossible.

Room reflections can also cause compression and pitch correction to sound unnatural. It’ll make the vocals sound “fake,” like they were tacked on at the end of the mix.

So… what room should you pick?

Try to use a small-to-medium sized room with a lot of stuff in it. Specifically, with a lot of

SOFT stuff like beds, couches, pillows, rugs and so on.

All of those items tend to absorb sound, making the room less reverberant and more neutral for getting the best vocal

You also want to avoid rooms with a lot of hard surfaces and windows. So your kitchen and bathroom are probably not the best places to record a vocal.

Rooms: The perfect balance

There’s a flip side to this: You want your room to be dead, but not TOO dead.

If you put so much absorption material in a room that ALL of the room sound is gone, your vocal will sound dull and muffled.

There is, in this case, too much of a good thing. Find a balance.

Contrary to popular belief, a closet is NOT a good room for recording vocals. That myth started because professional vocal booths tend to be small and secluded.

But the difference is that professional vocals booths are often covered in soundproofing fiberglass over 12 inches deep! Unless that’s how your closet was built, avoid it for recording vox.

No matter how many clothes are in them, a closet simply does not have enough absorption material to keep the room resonances out. Because of that, the reverb, though extremely short, will be extra loud in the microphone (especially once the voice is compressed).

So, think about this when you’re recording vocals. You’ll get a better sound with a well

treated room!

2. Your mic placement is wrong