Sound Engineering Help

I have Audacity 1.2.6, a Sony F-VX30 mic and I believe a Screaming Bee audio card, unknown model (standard on a Lenovo Thinkpad laptop).

I want to record some a capella gospel songs for my mother, and would like to give them a nice “studio” sound. I don’t really know much about sound engineering, and just wondered if someone could give some recording/processing tips to help me make these songs sound nice.

Edit: I forgot to mention, on some of these I will be mixing 2-4 tracks, to sing harmony with myself. Some of the tracks may have to be pitch-shifted, but only a little if at all, as I have a pretty good vocal range.

In one sentence, sing it in a church or large hall, or outside. Do not sing in a tiny room in your house with echos from bare walls. No matter how professional a YouTube video looks, the effect goes right in the toilet when somebody opens their mouth and it turns out they’re recording in the bathroom.

The joke is I can tell exactly the size of the room they’re recording in by analyzing the echos. It’s always the spare bedroom. You can actually get away with that, but it takes propping up furniture moving quilts or heavy blankets over the walls to kill the echos and reverb. All echo is deadly.

You can’t kill echoes with software, but you can put it back in very easily. That one step is frequently the separation between a good or potentially good recording and hopeless home dabbling. Everything else is a distant second except distortion. If you get too loud and distort the music capture, that, too, will kill a performance. There’s no software help for overload distortion.


You weren’t fishing for the Audacity “Professional Audio Filter,” were you?

for a studio sound use a real studio not the bathroom or garage
the room makes a big difference

can you get them to record you live while you sing at a church?

the mikes makes some difference
as does the placement , use of pop filter, etc.
i would record in stereo with two mikes.
move just slightly for each take to make it seem like you have a group singing (more natural than panning mono tracks imho)

if you can record the tracks you can mix them
pitch shift if you must should not be a problem

you may or may not want to use eq, compression, normalise, etc.

suggest the library
there are a ton of books on the art of recording
mikes and how to use them
the room and how to make a good one
ditto for books on mixing and mastering

try a home recording forum or two for more info
as that is what they focus on


Have you ever tried that? Some of the early “Change” tools (Change Pitch, Change Speed…) had the unfortunate affect of changing the length of the segment slightly so it didn’t fit any more and further, sound funny if you switch in and out of the correction. So for each pitch change you have to make two tracks, one corrected and one not and fade rapidly between them. It can’t take you more than six or seven months.

We kept getting dragged relentlessly back into “Audacity does not support Auto-Tune” (that I know of).

Getting a “clean” recording doesn’t have to involve renting the Crystal Cathedral to record in. I make perfectly good recordings in my heavily carpeted bedroom with California Cottage Cheese ceilings and with everything including the microphone spread out on the bed on top of the feather duvet.

Doesn’t sound like a bathroom, does it? It doesn’t even sound like a medium size bedroom although that’s exactly what it is.

You can help out a lot with a sharply directional microphone – one that only receives sound from the front and not the back. Echoes generally arrive from other than the front. Those sacrifice some sound quality to get that tool, but if you have to record in a barn, that’s life. News Gathering People live on extreme versions of those microphones called shotguns.

But they’re not interested in music.

Actually, recording in a barn isn’t dreadful. I grew up around wooden barns stuffed with hay and they were pretty good with sound quality. Not so good if straw makes your noise crazy.


Placing a microphone on a stand, with a pop shield in front, near the corner of the room with several heavy rugs hanging on the walls behind the microphone works pretty well also.

Thanks for the replies, and sorry for not responding sooner. So, basically, the “magic” is really in a good recording environment, rather than in post-production. I just may see if the church will let me record there. Thanks!

(Although, in a professional studio, what exactly is that guy/gal at the big board doing?)

if its live
not all that much
the magic gets worked later in the mix/master steps

he should just be setting levels and makign sure everything is getting recorded cleanly - but might add some eq or other effects

if its multitracking then he does a little more work to create stems for mixing eg balances all the drum mikes for the drum stem

although these days that is mostly done later on - in the old days it was analog and you did a lot of mixing during capture as more processing meant more noise and more damage to the recording.

yes and no

its like a chain
weakest link and all that

you need good talent performing
in a good environment

and you need decent mikes
well placed and wisely chosen

and you need a good recording
and you need good mixing
and also good mastering
and finally proper production for distribution

anything that falls short can affect the final result
but bad rooms are a major factor to worry about

<<<I just may see if the church will let me record there. Thanks!>>>

Excellent. Even the smaller churches can sound very good because they are all, at their base, performance spaces. It’s probably the one time when sensing the walls is a good thing.

Listening on good headphones during the performance is a big deal. It’s nice that the recording meter is bouncing, but it’s not so nice that you can hear the Metrobus starting up outside.

This church doesn’t have that problem.


maybe not

worth a try but no guarantee of good sound

an architecture book with title something like
solving the fountainheadache
tells of many tales
where architects
built beautiful buildings
with horrible sound and
churches being a prime example of this tunnel vision

then the arches said after the defect was pointed out that
if you wanted good sound you should have told me up front

goes to show that architects are more worried about their portfolio and winning contests and awards than making functional buildings

not sure which is worse
the church examples of pretty architecture with horrible sound
and costs to remediate on the order of the original building
or that highrise insurance building in boston where the windows kept
falling out onto the street


Remember we’re comparing this to recording in a dining room or bare-walled third bedroom. You can position the mic and place the singers so it’s clear they’re recording in a large room or theater (which they are) and yet it doesn’t take over.

It’s the hardware version of GVerb, the downside being the effect is baked in.


a close miked cardiod can help a lot
and the big room delays the echos
and makes them lower in volume

I thought “Magic Sing” only made karaoke mics?

I would expect, for the purposes of recording, a proper recording microphone would outperform a karaoke microphone by a very large margin.
(there are many proper recording microphones available in the same price range as those karaoke mics).

If you can get a good “raw” (unprocessed) recording, not only does it save a lot of time in post production but the finished result is also likely to be much better. It is possible to compensate for poor recording and sometimes make considerable improvements, but it is very much better if you don’t need to.

A good recording environment is one of the key issues for making good recordings. Microphone placement is another.
There is a very long topic that discusses these issues here: