How-To

5 Big Mistakes To Avoid When Recording In-Home

Jon Ostrow on Jan 17, 2012

It is becoming more common than ever before that songwriters are setting themselves up with their own in-home recording studios to forgo the process of booking and paying for studio time that they need to rush through in order to get everything done within the allotted time.

However, even with the expense of paying for studio time, there is no denying the obvious benefit to the professional recording process; the ability to work with professional equipment and a sound engineer.

The in-home recording process may not include these luxuries, but that certainly doesn't mean you can't make your next project in-home with high-quality results. As long as you understand the mistakes that are made all too often by songwriters who take the in-home recording route, you will have the opportunity to make your next recording project a success even on a budget:


1. Over-using effects


A common mistake that songwriters make when attempting in-home recording is to rely on effects, both pre-amp and post-recording, to make up for the lack of clarity, warmth and overall quality of a recording.

The most commonly over-used effect is reverb, which is all too often used to make recordings sound less 'flat' or 'more professional'. Truthfully, pinpointing the proper amount of reverb to use to remove the flatness of a vocal recording is rather difficult and is why so many make the mistake of drowning out their recordings by making them so 'wet' with reverb that the notes become slurred together and indistinguishable.

A rule of thumb should be to always try to record as clean as possible, avoiding pre-amp effects whenever possible, and then only using effects to do minor touch-ups or additions afterwards.


2. Cheap cables


Your recording equipment is only as good as the cables you have connecting your rig together. This goes for all aspects of your recording, from the cables you use for your instruments and microphones to those used to connect your recording equipment together and to your computer. Each cable used is carrying the signal of your recording and any cheap cables in the mix can add unwanted distortion.

You don't need to go out and buy solid gold cables, but just be wary about the cables you are buying, and try to avoid the extreme discounted cables at all costs.


3. Only using one set of speakers


This is especially important for bass-heavy music such as hip-hop. A big mistake that is made when doing in-home recording is to use one set of speakers for mixing, assuming that the bass levels on those speakers will be consistent with any other set. They won't be, so don't do this!

You want to test your mix on a few separate sets of speakers to make sure your bass isn't either too weak or way too overpowering. You should obviously be using monitor speakers in your studio, but you may want to test out how the music sounds on lesser speakers as well, such as computer speakers, iPod headphones and a car stereo since those are some of the most common places people listen to music.


4. Recording quietly


This mistake can be costly if overlooked! You want to make sure your input signal is as loud as possible without redlining the recording - this can also be bad news by leading to distortion on the recording. The reason for wanting a loud input signal is simple; you can always make your recording more quiet, but you can never make it louder without distorting the final product.


5. Ignoring intonation


This is particularly important for songwriters using string instruments in their recordings. When you decide to record your music, make sure you buy brand new strings and take the time to properly tune each string both to a tuner and to each other to ensure your music comes out clean, warm and accurate. Now, another way that you can ensure proper intonation in your recordings is to make sure the neck of your guitar is properly straightened out, as a bowed neck can also lead to inaccurate tuning and an overall poor quality recording.

A big way to help our community learn from each other is to share your own in-home recording experiences. Leave us your ideas and solutions as a comment below!

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