The first time I tried recording my rhymes was terrible….. I mean really awful.  The lyrics were amazing (I mean duh) but the actual recording quality was garbage.

When I was a senior in college I saved all the beer cans from the parties that we had at my place for a couple months and took them to the recycling plant for some money.  My friend and I headed to Best Buy and bought some cheap microphone.

At the time I thought it was genius and I was going to be the next big thing.  I even played back my recordings and thought “that shit is HOT!!!!”.

Straight delusional.

Obviously I was bias because I created it.  The one common thread I notice between most rappers is that no matter if they have 10 platinum albums or they have never performed in front of more than 3 people is that they think their rhymes are the best thing since yoga pants.

You probably should feel that way even if you’re first starting out.  Better to me overconfident than timid.  However don’t let your big head get in the way of developing a better sound.

My close friends were really nice, but never gave me any honest feedback.  They were all just in it to have fun.  Finally one of my roommates brought me back down to earth and helped me realized I didn’t know the first thing about recording.

This post is designed to help you get a better recording quality and set you apart from the millions of others trying to get the attention of new fans.

  1. Get the right mic and audio interface

mic

The number #1 way to improve your music is to get a quality microphone.  Hopefully you’re not a dummy like me and think that people will appreciate your art despite sounding like the song was recorded on a drive-thru speaker system.

The two most popular forms of mics are the condenser and dynamic microphones.  If you’re a nerd and want to do a bunch of extra research feel free, but to sum it all up condenser microphones are more sensitive, thus able to pick up the sound of your voice easier, catching all the subtle details.

With condenser mics you’ll need an audio interface as well which will allow you to harness the full power of your recording.

Avoid mics that plug directly into the computer with a USB.  These cause lag with the recording diminishing the quality.

Use a mic stand as well.  Many mics online come with a stand, but if they don’t they’re only about $20.

So I should get a good mic, but which one?

Really it depends on your budget. Usually when I buy something my thought process is that I want to get the most for my money, as I’m sure is the case with most people.  So before you get paralyzed with information honestly ask yourself what you’re willing to spend.

Don’t forget you can always upgrade if necessary in the future.

I put together a list of mics with their Ebay price and rating on Amazon.  Most of the mic’s and audio interfaces on the list are from a couple articles on wirerealm.com.

To see those articles: go to:

http://www.wirerealm.com/guides/best-microphone-for-recording-rap-vocals for microphones

and

http://www.wirerealm.com/guides/top-10-best-audio-interfaces for audiointerfaces

Audio Interfaces

audio-interfaces

Scarlett studio audio bundle – $200 – 4-4.5 star rating on Amazon

This bundle comes equip with a microphone, audio interface, and studio headphones all  in one.  This product was designed for independent DIY hip hop artists.

M-Audio M-Track Plus -$100 – 3.5 – 4 star rating on Amazon

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 – $220 – 4 star rating

This audio interface come with Cubase, the software program to store and edit all of you’re recordings.

Avid MBox + Pro Tools Express – $700– anywhere from 2-5 star rating

Protools is one of the most popular recording software programs on the market. Many of the low ratings on Amazon were due to technical issues with the hardware and software or vendors not including all of the proper equipment.  This route would be best for those who have a budget and are techy (or have a techy in their crew).

Microphones 

Shure SM57 – $80 stand alone – $100 with a mic stand and accessories

If you chose to go the dynamic route this is the most popular model.

Modest Budget Condenser Mics

Audio-Technica AT2020 – $80-$100 – $120 with a stand and pop filter

Rode NT1-A – $180 -$200 – 4-5 star rating

 

Mid-Range budget

AKG C214 -$270 – $300 – 5 star rating

 

Big Budget

Rode NTK – as low as $360 and as high as $530

Neumann TLM-102 – $580 – $600

 

Big Baller I Don’t Care About Yo’ Kids Budget

 Sony C800G – $5,600 – $6,400

 

  1. Wear Studio Head Phones

studio-head-phones

Also known as “closed back” head phones.  They close off all the sound so it doesn’t bleed into the recording (aka ghetto delay).

Make sure to listen to hear while you record.

High quality microphones designed to pick up every nuance and if sound is escaping from the head phones then it will affect the recording.

Just make sure the sound is sealed up.

Some head phones to get you started:

Sennheiser HD-280 – $50-&100 – 4.5 star rating

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x – $130 – $160 – 4.5 stars

AKG K550 – $100 – $200 – 4 stars

 

  1. Reduce sound reflections.

sound-reflections

Ever notice those weird triangular foam things in professional studios.  Martha Stewart didn’t put them there to dress up the place.

Whenever sound comes out of your mouth it bounces off all the things in the room which is known as “reverb”.  A little reverb is good.  It makes the vocals sound alive.  Too much reverb will take away from the recording quality.

The reason studios use foam is to absorb some of the sound so it doesn’t bounce off the wall and go directly back to the mic.  The reason it’s shaped like a triangle or pyramid is so whatever sound isn’t absorbed bounces off in a direction that is not right back at the microphone.

This is a pretty simplistic explanation of the science behind sound reflections so for all the nerds out there remember the goal is to get a better recording not to get placed on NASA TV.

To figure out the most optimal places to put the foam start off by standing where you would be if you were going to be recording a track.  The most important spot is on the wall right behind the mic since it is the closest spot that will cause sound reflections.  Also put up something up on the wall directly behind you and directly to the right and left of you, and the ceiling directly above you.

Picture yourself at a fun house in a room full of mirrors.  Wherever you would see the reflection of your face is where you want a piece of foam.

You can get a 12-pack of foam for about $30 online.

 

  1. Position from the mic

postition-mic

The closer you are to the microphone the louder the recording will sound (duh).

Also when you get really close to the mic it will pick up more of the bass (or lower frequencies) in your voice.  Of course you want a nice deep manly sounding voice when you’re laying down bars, but you don’t need to have the  mic half way down your throat to get a good sound.

Start by being about 8 inches away.

However, definitely experiment with the distance from the mic.  Do multiple recordings at different distances and see which one sounds best.

Make sure you’re distance from the mic is consistent throughout the recording.  If you move around while you’re recording the sound will change drastically.

When I rap, I usually wave my hand up and down like the Florida State Seminole Chop (aka the “beat hammer” in my circle).

It’s natural to get into the song and be emotionally charged.  A lot of work went into you’re poetry.  Just remember that your audience won’t see you recording. They just listen to the end product

Make sure to have a good balance so that you can still convey you’re emotions while not damaging the final product.

Save the body language for the shows and the videos.

Be still young grasshopper.

 

  1.  Use a pop filter on the microphone

pop-filter

Pop filters cut down on the air flow that enters the mic so it doesn’t sound like you’re trying to beat box and rap at the same time (unless you’re Rahzel).  All of the “b” and “p” and “k” sounds usually cause a lot of airflow.

They clamp onto the mic stand and also make for a good distance marker on how far you are from the mic.

If you purchase a mic that doesn’t come with a pop filter they are online for less than $10

 

  1.  Experiment Experiment Experiment

experiment

Test all assumptions and b.s.

While researching the info for this post there is another observation I have made about the music making community.  There are a large number of people that are very critical of everything.

“Real hip hop is this…..”  “The best way to do it is that…….”  “Only fake artists do it like that…..”

Critics, haters, or whatever names you have for them rarely give insight to how actually improve your art.  The truth is what works for one artist might not be the best option for another.

One key point to remember is that the vast majority of your future audience will be people who DON’T MAKE MUSIC.  The only thing most people know is whether it sounds good to them.  Definitely learn from music making gurus, but remember who your audience is and what appeals to them.

What I am about to suggest are things to consider while recording.  If you have no idea what you’re doing like when I first started, then try some of these things out and experiment with them.  They are not end-all be-all solutions, but they are somewhere to start.

I see many artist who post things online without really developing a style with their recordings.  Taking the time to get good at the recording process will separate you from many of the up-and-comers trying to get in the game

  1.  Experiment with your position from the mic

Maybe you sound better really close.  Maybe you have such a strong voice that you don’t need to devour the mic.    Maybe there are some songs where you want to get nice and intimate with the mic.  (say what you want about the Ying Yang twins, but that whisper song was clever as shit.)

Try recording the same verse at different distances from the mic, play them back and see what sounds better.  Get feedback from others on which one sounds better, especially people who know nothing about making music but will still give you honest feedback.

Experiment.

  1.  Record a rough draft.

Tupac was known for often recording things in one take.  He made an intro song for Mike Tyson before one of his fights in one take.  Consider the possibility that you may not be on Tupac’s level yet.

While watching the documentary Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap, Ice-T talks about his technique on recording lyrics.  (I highly suggest watching this movie).

He would record a “rough draft” of his verse or verses and save them.  He would listen to it all day over and over again.  Then when it was time to record for real he would be able to perform the rhyme rather than just recite it.

Having the rhymes completely memorized not only alters your delivery, but can also affect the sound of your recording.  If you are reading off a paper or phone your face is probably down and you’re not speaking directly towards the mic, which will alter the sound.

Experiment.

  1.  Punch-in technique

Some artists don’t record the whole verse at once.  They record a few bars at a time and piece everything together.

One issue that may come up with recording a whole verse at once is breath and voice control.

You just dropped a dope line, then the mic records a big gulp of air you just swallowed giving an obnoxious Darth Vader effect.  Might not sound so pretty.

I’ve also seen artist comment about recording every other line at a time as well.

Experiment.

So that’s all I got.  I wish I would have had this kind of knowledge and advice when I first started out.

Hopefully this post will lay down a nice foundation for you to build on in your career.

I’m also never above learning.  Please comment on tips that have worked for you.

Also, if there is something that I missed that you still may have questions on how to do something or what to do then comment below and I will find those answers for ya.

Now what are you waiting for.  Go spit that fire like Dylan.

If you still want more guidance on recording you can try out some of these courses:

 

How To Sing & Rap

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The Complete Newbies Guide To Audio Recording Awesomeness Video Course

http://0206cbt7t6r0x5e88ozcvhm8qn.hop.clickbank.net/

 

Easy Home Recording Blueprint

http://eb51cc02rivwr7p0pe2qs1zeg0.hop.clickbank.net/

These have money back guarantees, so if you purchase them and aren’t satisfied, no harm done.