You want to take a stab at recording multiple take vocals. You may not be an audio engineer (yet), but you want to get started in a way that sets you up for success.
In this article I’m not going to recommend specific brands of equipment because there are too many to choose from (except in the case of the DAW). But I’ll give you the key facts you need to make your purchase as in-expensive as possible.
Here are the essentials bits of your recording kit to get started.
You need a pop-screen or pop-filter to help reduce popping sounds in your recordings caused by plosives (P and B sounds).
Price: starts at 10 USD / 10 EURO / 10 GBP
Specification: No need to spend mega bucks. Get one that looks like black pantyhose has been stretched over a circle. If you’re really adventurous (and cheap) you can make one using used pantyhose and a metal clothes hangar!
Search Term: Pop screen
There are so many microphones you can use to record. For the purposes of this gear list I’m ruling out USB microphones. These are not bad options for recording vocals. However, they can be limiting for the purposes of going further with recording vocals or using your microphone in other situations.
Typically, vocals are recorded using larger diaphragm condenser microphones in the studio. These microphones can cost thousands of dollars. However, there is no need to spend this much as the extra cost often goes to features you won’t need such as switchable polar pattern.
However, vocals can also be recorded with handheld dynamic vocal microphones. The benefit with this option is you can use it for live vocals.
Price: 99 to 400 USD / 100 to 390 EURO / 85 to 350 GBP
Specifications: cardioid polar pattern, handheld dynamic or condenser large diaphragm
Search Term: cardioid microphone
The only thing to keep in mind with a cable is the length. Go for 25 feet / 7+ meters. Longer gets annoying for storage, weight, etc. Shorter can work, but there is always a situation when 10 feet (another common length) is just not long enough.
Price: starts at 10 USD / 17 EU / 15 GBP
Specifications: XLR male to XLR Female, 25′ / 7.5 m
Search Term: XLR cable
The most versatile mic stand to get is a mic stand with a boom arm. This is the most flexible type of stand for different applications.
Price: starts at 19 USD / 20 EURO / 18 GBP
Specification: tri pod base, boom arm
Search Team: mic stand boom
DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
There are many options for the software to record you’ll use on your computer. The options can also be restricted by which operating system you’re using. Any of the following DAWs will work for recording vocals.
Free and well supported
(items in bold are supported in Singdaptive’s course on recording vocals)
- GarageBand (Mac only)
- Studio One (entry level version)
Paid and well supported
- Studio One (entry level version)
- Logic Pro (Mac Only)
- Pro Tools
- FL Studio
- Ableton Live
- Adobe Audition
Price: free, monthly fee to 300 USD / 325 EURO / 277 GBP
Either a Mac or Windows based machine will work well for recording vocals. Though it is possible to record using a Chrome or Linux based system, the amount of support available doesn’t make it a good starting point.
Any base level Mac or PC will support simple vocal recording if the computer was manufactured in the past 4 years (to meet the requirements of your chosen DAW).
If you plan on using software based instruments in future, or doing simultaneous recording of multiple tracks, choosing configurations with more RAM or higher speed processors can be advantageous.
You can choose a laptop or desktop computer.
Your audio interface will allow you to plug-in your microphone to your computer. You’ll be looking for a USB Audio Interface. For starting out, there is no need for the extra features of more expensive interfaces.
Price: 40 to 200 USD / 43 to 215 EURO / 37 to 185 GBP
Specifications: 1 or 2 mic inputs, 1 headphone out, USB
Search Term: USB audio interface
Your backing track isn’t really a piece of equipment, but finding a backing track can be difficult if you don’t play another instruments yourself. There are some great resources for finding backing tracks online.
Kevin Alexander is CEO and co-founder of Singdaptive, bringing his past experience as CEO of the singing technology company TC-Helicon, as well as live sound, recording and love of music. Recently, he has been a university instructor in Multimedia Learning and is helping to envision an exciting future with technology at the research firm Kinsol.io