So, you have your new home studio set up and ready to go. If you are anything like me, you are excited, and ready to get recording. You have, most likely, already played around a bit, and you may even think you are some sort of studio genius, producer, engineer. If you take to recording like a fish to water, let me congratulate you, as you are most likely a one in a million, or even more likely you have already a ton of experience in the studio. For everyone else, it’s good to learn some basic foundations of studio recording.
I am writing this guide in the context of recording voice, but these will also apply to recording instruments as well.
The source is the voice of the individual you are intending to record. When capturing a human voice, it is important to think about where the sound is emanating from. What you hear when listening to a person speak originates from 3 separate places on the body. What are these three places?
- The mouth
- The chest
- The nose
Obviously, this is where most of the sound comes from when listening to, or recording the human voice. The mouth if you think about a 3-way speaker is the mid range. You are going to get some low range frequencies, you also find some high range frequencies, most of all you find mid-range frequencies coming from the mouth. This is why generally speaking when placing a microphone, we generally place nearest the mouth, in order to capture the broadest range of sound.
The chest can be thought of as the sub woofer of the human voice. Especially with the male voice. One of the reasons men have a deeper voice, is the male chest tend to be much broader than that of a female. Most people are surprised at the amount of sound that is resonating from the chest. Speak, hum, or sing while placing your hand on your chest. Feel that vibration? That is all the low end frequency emanating from your chest.
If you’ve ever held your nose as you speak, you will notice that change in your voice. This is because there is a spectrum of sound being blocked, by blocking off the nose. Most of the sound that is being produced through the nose is high end frequency, and airy. If we held a microphone directly under your nose and recorded you speaking, you would hear mostly air and high frequency, and in general this would sound like something unusable.
Hopefully, at this point, you are starting think of the importance of microphone placement when recording the human voice. If so, congratulations, you are starting to think like a true engineer! Get this placement correct, and this takes out a lot of tweaking later in the mix of recording. I will write more about the voice and mic placement in a future post.
I have debating on where to place the performance element in this post, as it is probably the most important element of recording. Without a decent performance, the best source and the best room does not really matter in the end, as you will have something that seems fake, robotic and uninteresting.
Whether you are recording a narrative, or recording a singer, emotion has to come through to the listener. Without emotion, the end product will be completely unusable. I allow all of my subjects to move relatively freely in their recording space, or at least with as little as restriction as possible.
The best product comes from recording an artist who is free to act out their “script” in the manner it is intended. If am recording a conversational narrative for example, I will allow the subject to sit, as if they were speaking to a friend in the same room. I have recorded guided meditations and empathetic scripts, where I have literally recorded the entire piece just lying on my back, on the studio floor. If I am recording a happy, energetic, building excitement piece, I want my subjects standing, smiling, and I want see them using their bodies to speak and “act out” what it is they are trying to convey. Even though we are only recording audio, the listener will know in the end, if our body language was conveying the same message that our voice is trying to depict, and if not, then our audio will come across as fake and unconvincing.
Varying Speed, Volume and Tone
Tougher to do when recording music, unless you are writing the music or have the liberty to make those changes. We have less than 60 seconds to capture and keep the attention of our audience. Changes in speed, volume, and tone are great ways to build interest and to point out specific things within in our script. Pausing at certain times is also a great way to build interest within you audience.
These are just some basics of performance in the studio. I will be posting more in depth on performance in future articles, so be watching for that!
The third major element to consider when recording high quality audio is the room the recording is being produced in. There are many components of a room that help comprise the audio quality of a room.
Studio Size Matters
The larger the room, the more delayed audio reflections you will most likely have to contend with. In some instances of recording audio changing or “opening” a room up (changing its size) is an advantage, and is why in many professional studios you may say doors to empty room. These rooms help to make the recording space sound larger.
The contents of the room and the materials with which the recording space is made of make a huge impact on the recording quality of the space. If your recording space is made of brick walls and has a concrete floor, you are going to capture a lot more reflective waves bouncing around, then if your space is made of dry wall and carpeted floors. Likewise, an empty room with little to no furnishings, records much differently than would a room that is furnished.
What’s To Come
In my next post, I will be delving deeper into the room element. I will explain how to calculate the reverb time of your specific recording area, and how to get those pesky reverberations to an acceptable level for quality audio recording. In the weeks to come, I will also post more on the other 2 major elements of quality audio recording as well.
If you are just getting started in home studio recording, I have reviews of the best low cost microphones, and usb interfaces currently available to help you get your studio up and running, at a not so steep price. Check out the following pages for that information.
For those of you just getting started from the very beginning, I highly recommend you check out this article.