Transform Your Rough Recordings Into Released Records, Even If You Only Have a Home Studio

Simple Recording Hacks To Make Your Song Sound Fuller

A common problem with a lot of DIY musician recordings is thinness. I’ve run into this with my own arrangements and mixes. You know, when a song just needs a little something, a little meat on its bones.

That’s what we’ll talk about in this post — how to make your songs sound fuller. These are easy recording hacks that can make a huge difference in how professional your home recordings sound.

Add Layers

Adding layers is one of the simplest recording hacks on this list yet it’s so impactful. Just listen to anything by Grammy-winning artist Jacob Collier.

One good example is his song “Hideaway.” If you watch the official video, you can see just how many layers of instruments, percussion, and voices he adds. If you listen to his music enough, you realize this is something he does all the time, and it shows.

So if you’re recording guitar, record the same part twice on two different channels, mixing in the second layer to add fullness. Add a second or third layer of vocals during your chorus. Try adding a supplemental beat to your main beat.

You’ll find that your track is fuller, wider, and more professional-sounding.

Use Delay To Fill The Space

Delay is a very useful tool — it’s the effect that makes an instrument or voice sound like it’s in a cave or a really big cathedral. But be careful not to overdo it.

Delay is a great way to fill out empty space, whether during a transition to a new section or during a part that’s just an acoustic guitar and vocal. Delay just makes things feel a bit bigger.

The rule of thumb is that any track you apply delay to should not be panned — it should stay right up the middle. Of course, this is a rule you can bend or break. Whatever sounds best for your song.

Here are some tips for using delay to fill out your song:

  • Take it easy — using too much delay can ruin the effect
  • It’s okay to use delay presets as long as it sounds good
  • When using delay, don’t pan the track
  • If you’re using a lot of delay on many different tracks, consider bussing all those tracks to a single master delay track
  • Ping-pong delays are good for transitions to a new part of the song
  • If you need more delay on a track, try adding another layer rather than cranking up the first first layer

Delay is something you’ll just have to play around with before you find what you’re looking for. And if delay seems like it’s too heavy-handed, try using reverb instead.

Generous Panning

As part of the mixing process, you’ll be panning stuff — sending tracks more to one ear or the other to varying degrees.

And when you do this, don’t be timid. Feel free to pan something 50% in the left ear or 70% to the right. This can add fullness if you balance the right and left channels properly.

It also depends on what the instrument is. For example, the main vocal track typically shouldn’t be panned 50% to either ear. Usually, the lead vocal is panned anywhere between 10% and 30% one way or the other (obviously, this comes down to taste for each individual track).

Panning is your friend. A friend that can really help fill out your song.

Cut Back Some Of The High End

As you go through the mixing process, you should know something about high frequencies. They can tend to mask your recording, creating somewhat of a barrier between your ears and the different tones of all the instruments.

With every instrument, most of the tone you hear comes from the mid frequency range. And some instruments don’t have much low- or high-end, so it’s important to manage the mid-range of each instrument.

One way to do this is to roll off some of the high-end from a track(s). Doing this allows for the mid-range frequencies to stand out better, removing a bit of that barrier built by the high frequencies.

Unfortunately, there’s no set formula for doing this. It comes down to testing things out, playing around, and just seeing what happens with each track. But you would do this with a multi-band EQ, using the band to the far-right to cut back on the high end.

These recording hacks are super simple. And if you start to apply them to your recordings and mixes, you’ll realize how much fuller your tracks will sound.

Caleb J. Murphy is a singer-songwriter and music producer based in Austin, Tx., and the founder of Musician With A Day Job, a blog that helps part-time musicians succeed.

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