Home Recording & Making Your Tracks Sound Better

A lot of singer-songwriters have delved into the world of home-recording.  The singer-songwriter genre lends itself well to recording at home.  Most of the songs tend to be honest, raw, and unpolished, relying more on the content of the lyrics rather than a "dope bass-drop" to keep listeners engaged, and having just a cheap microphone and a computer to record into achieves the "raw" sound pretty well. 

Many artists invest in home-recording equipment and as they develop their skills, start recording full-band arrangements on their own.  They first record themselves playing guitar and singing, and then, track-by-track, they add bass, lead guitar, keys, drums and percussion, the works.  It's very exciting for an artist when their world opens up like this.  They have probably been playing by themselves in a bedroom their whole lives, but now they can hear what they would sound like with a full backing band.  And they rush into recording full-band arrangements on their own.

But it always ends up that something just doesn't sound right.

It's not the sound quality. 
Don't bother buying more expensive recording gear.  You probably wont get that pristine sound of a professional studio without years of audio training.

It's not the "mix". 
Don't bother sending your track to a professional studio to mix it for you.

Nine times out of ten, it's that their rhythm and timing is off.

Nothing will help your tracks sound better more than mastering your rhythm and timing.

How do I know this?  I went through it first hand.  I've been recording music since high school, and for the first few years, all of my tracks were only okay to my ears.  When recording backing tracks, I was mostly in time with myself, but every few measures I would rush or drag a little bit.  It wasn't much, but it was noticeable, especially when it happened all throughout the song.  What took my tracks to the next level was when I started consciously practicing rhythm and focusing on playing in time with myself (when I was overdubbing backing instruments for my songs).

So what can help you with your rhythm?  Practicing with a metronome.  I know you didn't want to hear that. I know you don't like it.  Nobody likes it.  It feels robotic and unnatural (at first), and as an excuse you probably tell yourself that your music is organic and more human than a cold droning click generated by your smartphone.  But in order to be able to play around with rhythm and tempo to get that organic feeling of slowing down and speeding up in a song at the right moments, you need to first know how use it in a straightforward way.  To put it as a cliché: You need to know the rules before you break them.  Download a free metronome app, find a comfortable tempo for what you want to practice, and practice playing it with a metronome, even just for ten minutes every day.  Eventually, I found that practicing with a metronome not only helped me develop my rhythm, but it also became very meditative and turned into an artistic way to relieve stress. 

When the singular point of your focus in the entire world is to match up the next note that you play with the next click of the metronome, you tend to forget all your troubles, worries and anxieties.

So if you're recording at home, and your tracks just aren't sounding quite right, be honest with yourself.  Really take a listen and identify what it is about the track that is taking you out of the moment of enjoyment.  Like I said, nine times out of ten, it's that the instruments in the track are not in time with each other.  Practice with a metronome and in time, your home-recorded tracks will start to sound more and more like professional performances.

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