Let’s take a second to admire the affordability of the latest and greatest technology of 2021. This list would be entirely different if it were written 3 years ago, and let’s face it – within 6 months this list might as well be updated. I’d like to keep this list as simple as possible so I’ll name 3 microphones at 3 different price points and give my opinion on why I think they’re the best of today. These microphones were all chosen based on their versatility at their price point and not necessarily on the type of microphone they are. Lastly, I’ll keep this list COVID friendly and under $1000. Let’s get started!
Coming in at the most affordable of this list is the obvious AT2020. The little brother of the AT4040 (that’s been a workhorse for many studios) is a great start for anyone that wants to get their feet wet. It’s a simple and easy-to-use medium-diaphragm condenser microphone. Just be sure to flip that +48v switch and get started. Price $99.
This microphone has been put side by side with some of the most expensive big-name Neumann’s under the same signal chain and has stood its ground. It’s versatile, durable, and great on pretty much anything. Side by side and pound for pound this microphone will sound good on just about anything. Weighing in at $499, you’ll consider it money well spent.
There’s a lot of controversy over Slate’s VMS, but its groundbreaking technology has paved the way for a new niche in the market. One microphone that can emulate the sounds of other microphones with the flip of a switch. The only limitation is that sometimes you need more than one. A larger system will run a pretty penny, but for a single microphone in a home studio setup, this will go a long way. You can choose different microphones, pre-amps, and emulations until you drop. A vintage U47 can run up to 45,000 for a single microphone, and this system will run $999.
Every indie artist knows that time is of the essence because lets face it, studio time is most definitely money. A successful studio session can be broken down into two very powerful words: Work Flow. Developing a good work flow takes some practice and repetition, but with consistency you can manage your own in no time! Here are a few steps on how to get started to help make life a little easier and less stressful in the studio.
An important part of developing a good workflow is to prioritize. Completing the hardest tasks on your to-do list first is proven to be the most productive. By focusing on the most important/ the most difficult task, your attention and energy is strong and fresh and it allows you to put your best into the project. If you leave it last on your list, then by the time you get to it you will not be able to give it the attention it requires for it to get done.
When developing a good work flow multi-tasking is a big no-no. Multi-tasking means that your focus is split between many different things. Multi-tasking leads to becoming overwhelmed and the chance of making a mistake is much higher.
Keep everything organized
It is also very important that you try to keep everything as organized as possible. This also goes hand in hand with prioritizing.
If you need to, write down a list of all the things you need to get done. This helps with not having to figure out with what you have to do next. Many times it seems as though you have an overwhelming amount to do, but when you write everything down it is much more attainable.
Another way of staying organized is by keeping all of your sessions and files in one place where you don’t have to keep searching for where they are and having to try to remember where they are again.
Good communication goes a long way with anyone you are working with or for. If you are working with someone it is important to keep each other in the loop with what is being worked on so there won’t be miscommunication and having ended up creating more work than needed to.
It is extremely important to have a good communication with a client, make sure to keep them updated on what is going on with the project or when it will be ready so they will be able to plan for it accordingly.
Last but not least, make sure to take breaks in between. Taking breaks while working in the studio ensures you don’t get overwhelmed or stressed. Taking breaks also help with clearing your mind to be able to come back in with a fresh mind ready for new ideas! A relaxed mind is a productive mind.
Top 5 Mistakes Artists Lose Money On In Recording Studios
Lets be honest, studio time isn’t cheap. Even if you’re rolling in cash you probably won’t have many opportunities nail the best take. Inexperienced artists are more likely to make a lot of mistakes, and as you can imagine, this could lead to a lot of time and money wasted.
(Big tip: We’re offering a FREE trial of our mixing and mastering services for a limited time. Click here for more information.)
So, lets get to it:
Be On Time
There is no room for being late to a recording session. Neither the studio or the engineer will lose sleep over this. Studio time is booked on a block basis and if you don’t show up on time, there’s a good chance you’re paying around $5 every minute you’re late. The studio may even give your block away if they don’t think you are going to show up. Always get there 10 to 15 minutes early to warm up so that you can get started recording as soon as possible.
Have a Goal
Lets push the 20 minute planning session to a few days before booking your studio time. Ask yourself, what do you hope to accomplish for the day? The answer is always going to be different, but make sure that you do this before walking in the studio. It’s all too common to have a planning session and realistically, the less time you waste the more you’ll get out of your session. Remember, time is money.
Don’t Waste Time
Many musicians want to learn their parts or treat a recording session like a practice session, but recording a song isn’t the same as performing it live. It’s a completely different process, and a lot of time takes a different type of practice. By the time you start recording, you need to know just how every part of the song goes. There are times that inspiration may hit, and you want to add or try something new, but those decisions need to be taken with caution. That 10 second part can quickly turn into an hour or more if you’re not careful. Rule of thumb: if it’s not working in the first 15 minutes, it isn’t meant to be.
The best way to explain a high quality recording is comparing it to video. Lets say you’re browsing for a TV at your local electronics store. You’ll might see some old 1080p and maybe the new 4K TV’s. You’ll get a pretty good idea of how much better the 4K looks when it’s placed side by side with a 1080. The microphone is basically like putting a big magnifying glass over your instrument or voice. Every imperfection will be heard in high definition (including your performance). If you don’t have great equipment try to borrow it or rent it from someone that does.
Listen to Your Sound Engineer
Your sound engineer is in charge of making sure you sound like a million dollars. It’s probably a good idea to make sure he/she does the best they can do for your project. Be respectful, and open minded to their advice. It’s not always wise to insult the cook that’s making the food you’re going to eat. In this case, the engineer is the cook making the food you’re fans will be eating. Unless you’re a seasoned engineer, it’s best to let them do their thing.
In this era of DIY and information, the craft of engineering has become neglected and seen as unnecessary. Today, it’s easier than ever to have world class sounds at your fingertips. Now that anyone can get the gear, modern recording seems to be an easy feat, but the truth is, the gear cannot do anything by itself. It’s not as simple as plug this in here, throw that on there, and magically it sounds like a hit record. Just like in anything, practice makes perfect and as a veteran in this industry, I can tell you it takes years of practice, so let me help you get started by giving you some tips to avoid as a beginner.
When it comes to anything in life, patience is key. In engineering, giving yourself time to learn is key. Just because you have the latest gear, doesn’t make you a pro. Educate yourself by watching tutorials, practice capturing good sounds at the source, and focusing on one element at a time. Rest easy if you don’t have very much gear starting out. Use what you have and make sure you know your setup inside and out.
Getting a good start
When it comes to any project, whether it’s photography, sound, or any type of art, what you begin with makes all of the different. Sure, editing software can make a difference, but make no mistake in thinking that it is a magician. Getting a good, clean sound from the beginning makes your project easier to work with and you will find yourself meeting little to no bumps in the road. And as an added bonus, it leaves more room for you to get creative.
Fear of Mistakes
As a beginner it can be daunting to jump into using EQ or adding compressors. As humans, we have a fear of not getting it right, but in order to become a great engineer, you need to commit to using effects often in order to become familiar with them. Sure you’ll make some mistakes at first, but like I said earlier – practice makes perfect, and by playing with effects, you’ll become confident in your use of them when you need them.
Organization is good in any field, but more especially when you are working on a project that will be handed off to a mixing engineer later. It will make their life easier when they receive your session. Make sure that everything is labeled properly, so that the person receiving it will know what goes where. For a limited time we are offering a free sample of our mixing and mastering services. Learn MoreUpload Files Here
Microphones are like ears – they listen to the instrument. Their placement makes a difference in how the instrument will sound to you and on record. It is vital to focus on becoming familiar with mic placement by moving the mics around and playing with them. More often than not, your problem is the mic placement.
Before putting your microphones through the feat of listening to the sound of your instruments, make sure they are tuned and working harmoniously with one another. This means moving people around, swapping instruments, replacing drum heads, etc.
After you have assured that all the instruments sound good, then you can decide where to put the mics.
Phase is a relationship between two or more frequencies. I’ll say it again.
Phase is a relationship between two or more frequencies. It’s not Polarity. We will talk about polarity in a different article all together.
The most common phase problems people have are in recordings with multiple microphones recording the same source. The problem is that one microphone may be closer than the other and although the source may sound good, when the recording is captured you’ll have something that looks like this:
The red line = y1 + y2. It is the sum of the two waves at different point in their wave cyles (or phases).
I don’t want to complicate this too much, but phase has the ability to completely cancel out your frequencies (more often than not your LOW end frequencies).
Now that we’ve established what that is, let’s get to the point.
It is crucial to develop a technique for a good phase relationship – in order to do this you must familiarize yourself with the basics of phase. When you get your technique down, you’ll be able to get great sounds with multiple microphones.
Improve Your Vocal Recordings in 5 Easy Steps – Studio 411
Before we get into the nitty gritty, lets dive in to what it means to be intentional with everything we do. We first need to know exactly what we’re recording and understand the approach is never going to be exactly the same.
With regard to vocal recordings, we need to understand that background (supporting parts) and main parts will likely be treated differently. Most of this can be re-created in the mix, but it’s always better that it sounds incredible from the very beginning!
Decide what kind of sound your going for. Ask yourself these important vocal recording questions first:
* Is the vocal supposed to be big and roomy?
* Is the vocal tight and present?
* How important is the part in regards to the whole project?
* What physical space do you have available to use at the present moment?
* Do you have anything to help minimize or maximize the recording space?
* What problems do you want to avoid in your vocal recording?
* What characteristics do you want to accent in the recording?
The most important part of any vocal recording is the performance. The vocalist needs to be in the right frame of mind to make sure they do their best because lets face it, there’s no amount of money or equipment in the world that will get a good recording out of a bad vocal performance.
A bad vocal performance could simply mean the artist was having a bad day, or is going through a breakup. It’s part of the job to make sure the artist is comfortable and in the right headspace.
Try setting up some water, hot tea, and light snacks out. It will help make the artist feel a little more at ease. If you are recording yourself, try to watch an inspirational Youtube video, or scroll through some super funny memes. Do whatever you have to do to get in the right frame of mind!
Next, you’ll want to decide the way you place the microphone. It is always a matter of compromise between what you want to do with the vocal recording, the environment you are recording in, and the vocalist’s tonal character. I’ll give you a quick example of a question we commonly get asked:
What’s the best way to record vocals?
In many cases this question refers to a main vocal in a modern stylistic representation (pop, hip hop, or EDM).
Make sure that the microphone is oriented in a way that will not impede their inspired, energetic performance.
Distance and Levels
For this type of vocal sound, you’ll need a to make sure the microphone is placed about 5 – 7 inches from the artist, and make sure that the levels going into your DAW are, for simplicity’s sake, sitting nicely between the green and yellow lines.
Don’t worry about compression or equalization on the way in. Your environment will factor in more than any of that.
If your room isn’t treated, try to minimize as much of the “room” sound as you can. Try draping heavy blankets over microphone stands and make a makeshift booth for the artist. You can move the microphone stands to really “dial in”
the sound you’re looking for. If you have a reflection filter, use that in conjunction with the blanket booth.
Mixing and Mastering
Mixing and mastering is much different than recording. It’s very important to have room that is designed to let the listener hear what’s really coming out of the speakers. There are special architects that specialize in designing how the audio waves in a room react inside of the very room it lives in. It also takes a specially trained ear to be able to make accurate changes to a recording so that it can sound like a radio ready hit. Studio 411 offers the best online mixing and mastering service available today and have very affordable rates for any budget. For a limited time, try our mixing and mastering service free.
In summery, make sure that the artist gives their best performance first and foremost. Other than that there isn’t a lot too a vocal recording. You can get creative and do some fun stuff with it, but always remember that there’s no right or wrong way to do it.