Home Recording Tips – Part 1

Home Recording Tips. Getting Your Best Home Recording – Part 1 in My Continuing Series

By Owen Critchley

In my book, EASY HOME RECORDING BLUEPRINT, I have 8 Golden Rules for making great sounding recordings in the home studio. Golden Rule #8 states: “If you are true to your aim, your aim will be true.”

In other words, if you focus on what you need to do for your song’s recording, and not ponder every conceivable thing you could do, the path from the starting line to the finish line gets a whole lot shorter, easier and more fun.

Home Recording Tips 1 – Get Your Head in the Game by Stacking the Odds in Your Favor With Creative Pre-Planning

Let your song take shape in your head before you start recording. In life, it is puzzling that we are all quite comfortable pre-planning all the common every day things, but we inexplicably become muddled and lose our common sense when we are standing at the threshold of recording our music. Is it because we care too much, and become drunk and blinded by our own excitement and sense of anticipation? Yes, maybe that’s what’s going on.

But whatever the reason is, it sure stacks the odds against achieving what we want most: making a great record that’ll leave a mark. So, let’s make a deal right now, to get our heads out of the clouds and embrace what’s real. Trust me, it will make reaching all our goals so much more possible.

Home Recording Tips 2 – “What does this recording really need?”

Let’s practice and pretend we have decided to record a hypothetical song we’ve written together.
Let’s call this song, “Behind Your Tears.”

We’ll start like this:

Q: What mood are we after with this song?
A: Sad and personal

Q: How should the lead vocal sound?
A: Sort of weary, almost defeated

Q: Does this vocal mood ever change?
A: Oh yeah… the choruses are more hopeful because the lyric there is a bit more positive because it talks about how things could be if they don’t give up.

Q: So how do we make the instruments support these moods?
A: Maybe we don’t have drums in the verse. Just a piano and maybe a few crying bent notes on an electric guitar.

Q: Any bass instrument?
A: Maybe very little in the verse. Played high on the neck. Let’s save the real stuff for the chorus and really lift off there. The drums can come in there too. But not too heavy for the first chorus.

Q: Let’s make the second verse a bit different ok?
A: Yeah… acoustic guitar and maybe a few far away sounding deep tom-toms.

Q: Cool. Keep building the choruses by adding some weight to each one?
A: Ok. We’ll put a harmony over the lead vocal starting on the second chorus and the drums and bass will be fully locked in. But we’ll end with just the piano again.

See what we did there? Think of it like this: The mood of the song is like the “weather” outside. The instrumentation is how the song is “dressed.” With creative pre-planning, this song is now “dressed” appropriately for the “weather.”

The conversation we had above, translates into a clear track sheet for our upcoming home recording session and gives us a very clear plan and path ahead.

Here’s our preliminary track lineup:

  • Vocals: Lead vocal plus one overdubbed harmony vocal
  • Guitars: Acoustic and electric
  • Keyboards: Piano or similar
  • Bass: Bass guitar or similar
  • Drums: Acoustic drum kit (or acoustic pre-recorded drum loops) with low toms

We are ready to start recording knowing what we want and what will serve our song well and we have cleared the road ahead by effectively removing thousands of unnecessary possibilities from the table.

Home recording tips like this will separate you from the head-in-the-clouds crowd. Based on what we came up with in our little pre-planning session, I can guarantee you this will be a fun and very simple to do recording session.

Can you hear the song in your head even before we start? Very cool…. we are halfway there and we haven’t even hit the record button yet.

Continue to Part 2 of home studio recording tips