There are many reasons why you might want to record yourself as a singer. Whether you’re a beginner enjoying the novelty, recording yourself at certain intervals to hear your progress, or recording your own music, at some point recording yourself is something you’re going to need or want to do.
Below is a list of the essential equipment needed to record yourself well at home. There are certain things to say about this list. Firstly, it excludes the actual recording device or software. There are so many different types of recording devices and software you can avail yourself of for all different setups, budgets and purposes. Including some excellent ones that can be acquired free or very cheaply, if budget constraints apply.
This brings me to the final thing to say about this list. In relation to budget, I’ve tried to offer a balance here. This may not be the cheapest gear around but we offer budget friendly versions of every component. However, it is not a bank-breaking, top-of-the-range, no expense spared kind of a list either.
The items on this list strike a balance between quality and price, something you should always aspire to do when acquiring new equipment!
If budget constraints really are tight, it’s advisable to build up your equipment over a period of time, and start with the absolute essentials, which in this case would probably be the microphone itself and the cable.
The remaining items are desirable and should be acquired as soon as possible, but these will get you started!
1 – A Microphone!
First up – this is kind of an obvious one. A microphone is absolutely essential for any kind of vocal home recording.
There are so many types of mic available out there, condenser and dynamic, along a whole spectrum of prices, varying in features and so on. It can at times feel a little overwhelming considering which mic to opt for.
In which case, it’s best to play it safe with something like the Shure SM58S Microphone. The SM58 has been an industry studio standard for a long time now, and with good reason.
It’s a unidirectional dynamic microphone designed specifically for use when performing and recording lead and backing vocals. It’s a sure-fire, safe bet, and comes highly recommended.
2 – An XLR Cable
Also kind of essential, unless you want to mime! This is the cable that connects your microphone to the mixer/interface/wherever the input is, depending on your recording device or software.
There’s a saying among sound engineers that goes something like “Your equipment is only as good as the quality of your cables” and to some extent they’re correct. You’re not going to get the best out of a $100 microphone by running it through a $5 cable.
However, as established in the introduction, when starting out it’s important to find that balance between quality and price – you don’t need to go breaking the bank in the first instance.
For this reason, how about the PigHog XLR Cable for example? It’s an extra-thick, durable, quality cable that comes strongly recommended and reviewed. Also, it comes in 5 different lengths ranging from 3 feet up to 50 feet, so it’s really useful to have options depending on your setup.
3 – A Pop Filter
A pop filter is a kind of shield (very often black and spongy!) between the singer and the microphone itself, designed to absorb those particularly plosive syllable sounds (“p” and “b” for example).
Making these sounds naturally involves a certain sharp expulsion of air from your mouth, and this – into a mic – can make a big booming “pop” sound. (Hence the name “pop filter” – we’re literally filtering out the “pop” sounds!)
The Tascam TM-AG1 Pop Filter is a really great choice. To find a pop filter of that quality under $20 is fantastic, and well worth being added to your setup. It has an easily adjustable gooseneck design, so it’ll work with just about any microphone stand. Which brings us neatly onto the next item on the list!
4 – A Microphone Stand
A microphone stand will hold your mic securely at your chosen height, meaning it’s especially useful for those who play an instrument while singing, or simply those singers who are demonstrative with their hands or move around a lot.
There are also a couple of equally important technical points though. One is consistency – if the mic’s in a stand, it’s much easier to control your distance from it, as it’s in a fixed position. The other point is unwanted noise. Holding the microphone is fine, especially in a live situation. But recording wise, it can pick up unwanted noise when moved around, particularly if you’re a finger-tapper!
The Samson BT4 Telescopic Boom Microphone Stand comes highly recommended. It does the job very well, is fully adjustable and has a compact, fold-down design. It’s also pretty reasonable at just under $40.
5 – Headphones
And finally, headphones. It’s basically always advisable to be using headphones when recording, but more so when recording vocals than any other instrument.
The reason being what’s known as “bleed” – this is when the sound of the playback (i.e. The music over which you’re recording a vocal) – is picked up by the microphone as well as your singing. This means 1) a messy recording, 2) The vocal part can’t be isolated and 3) Perhaps most irritatingly, the metronome ends up audible on the final recording!
The Samson SR550 Over-Ear Studio Headphones are a great choice. Again, priced at just under $40, they’re very reasonable. Especially given the dynamic range, and the sound isolation offered by the closed back design, meaning that you won’t even get ‘bleed’ from your headphones into the mic, which can also happen quite easily with the wrong kind of headphones.
Alex is a writer for Guitartricks.com and 30DayPiano.com. GuitarTricks.com has over 11,000 lessons covering everything a beginner guitar needs to know to get started, as well as more complicated techniques like tapping, sweeping, scales, and more.