One of the most frustrating jobs as a music producer or sound engineer is to minimize or completely get rid of background noise. A hissing sound underneath your vocal or other audio instrument tracks can ruin the quality and make your records unlistenable. Even the slightest unwanted noise can make or break a track, so here are some solutions that would help you reduce and get rid of background to make your records sound the way they should:
Now, there are two ways you can reduce the noise on your audio tracks. First, you should eliminate most noisemakers before recording the track. You can reduce the noise based on the given solutions below. It is always better to reduce the noise before recording, so you wouldn’t have to clean the audio as much after. Second, if the sound cannot be helped before the recording session, you can use audio cleaning software and reduce the noise post-recording.
BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE, IDENTIFY THE NOISE
Before you figure out how to reduce the unwanted noise in your home recording studio, you want to identify the cause and root of it. Some of the most common noisemakers when you are trying to record audio is the electronics. The electrical hissing sounds from the electronics that are plugged in can affect your audio tracks. From the computer’s fan to the slightly grounded amps, and even the noise of your AC blowing air into your studio can somewhat get caught in the mix. A subtle ring or hiss can be noticed by the sharpest of listeners. As a music producer, you must be able to hear everything going on in your tracks.
Another thing to watch out for is the noise in your house. Somebody may be cooking in the kitchen, talking in the other room, or someone cleaning in the next room with a vacuum. If you live alone, you probably would not have any of these problems. But, if you live with a roommate or your family, these sudden noises that can get caught on the record must be avoided.
Even recording an electric guitar through an audio interface might have a little static hiss sounds when you go too high on the gain. If this example happens to you, you may want to get new cables, or completely rewire the guitar. A poorly wired guitar with grounded pickups needs aluminum shielding under the wires and behind the detachable panels. Every electric guitar is different, but to reduce noise, you will need to get it set up by a professional guitar tech you might find at your local guitar stores. You could probably invest in a high-end guitar. Most of these guitars have been through rigorous checks before putting them on the stands.
The floor of your home studio can also add noise, such as hardwood floors. You might want to minimize the steps you take or eliminate the creaking sounds you when you walk. Flooring does not only create noise sometimes; it can also affect the sound quality of your audio tracks. To learn more about this topic, click here.
SOLUTION #1: Cut all the Noise
First and foremost is the simplest solution; cut the noise. You may want to reduce the noise by turning off appliances that produce noise in your home studio or the area where you are doing a recording session. You must turn off the fan of your air conditioner or electric fans. When you are recording, you are most likely using your computer. A computer has a fan to keep the device from overheating. A trick to cool down your computer is to quit all the open apps that are not in use. If your computer has a bunch of apps open, there is a tendency that it would get hot and the computer fans will automatically go off.
Recording software and VSTs are already enough to set off the fan of your computer, so closing all the unused apps is necessary if you want your laptop or computer to cool down. If you have a phone, make sure you put it on silent mode or airplane mode, because static electricity can interfere with the signals of your microphone and speaker. Also, the ring tone or vibration may get captured in the recording. It will save you a lot of time mastering and cleaning the track if you start reducing the noise at the beginning of the process.
SOLUTION #2: Move to a Quieter Place
If you are recording vocal tracks, you would need to be in a quiet place. I know home recording studios do not actually have an isolated room, so you should consider moving to a more tranquil location. If you live in an apartment, especially on the ground floor, you might have to endure the stomping of the upstairs neighbors. Some instances like this cannot be helped. However, if you live in a house, you are free to roam and choose the area with less noise.
If you live with a roommate or family, another thing you can do to reduce interference is to schedule a recording session when no one is in the house. It gives you more time to focus and less noise that can interfere with your recording session.
SOLUTION #3: Treat the Room
If you do not live in a place with multiple bedrooms, your best solution is to soundproof and treat the room. You can purchase soundproofing materials to make your home studio much quieter and keep the noise outside. It can also help keep the noise inside the room, so you don’t receive excessive noise complaints. To soundproof the room, you must seal all the openings, such as the gaps in your doors and windows. Seal it with dense material such as foam or thick blankets. Keep in mind that soundproofing is different from acoustic treatment. Treating your room is an entirely different process.
To treat a room, you will have to install different types of isolation and pads on the walls. You do not have to fill all the walls in your bedroom. You can just install them where you will be recording vocals any other instruments. You can install some acoustic foam panels on the wall in front of where the singer will be recording vocal tracks. Here are some examples of acoustic treatment materials:
Acoustic Foam Panels
Acoustic foam panels are essential in shaping the tone of a room. The room tone can affect the quality of live audio recordings, such as vocals.
- ACOUSTIC FOAM PANELS 12 PACK
This pack is excellent for setting up a better acoustic environment for your studio. You can install them in the vocal booth, and the control room where you will be monitoring your sound. Remember that the improving acoustics will not only improve your recording, but it will improve monitoring as well. (Product Dimensions: 12″x 12″ x 1″)
Diffusers help create a warm natural ambiance for your studio. Diffusers scatter the random echoes of a room. Diffusers are significant in bigger rooms.
- BXI SOUND DIFFUSER
This large panel is a suitable diffuser panel you can install in your music studio. This high-quality wooden panel is made from anti-aging and corrosion-resistant materials. The designs and patterns of this diffuser are not only functional but also decorative as well. You can use this panel to remove acoustic defects, such as flutters and echo. (Product Dimensions: 26″x 25.5″x 4.4)
Vocal isolation panels are best used for a room with minimal acoustic treatment. This studio accessory is designed for vocal recording. By using a tool like this reflective panel, you will only need little acoustic treatment for your home music studio.
- AOKEO PROFESSIONAL MICROPHONE ISOLATION SHIELD
This tool can help eliminate audio interference. The AOKEO PROFESSIONAL has a foldable design so you can save space when you are not using the accessory. Most isolation shields can connect to most mic stands.
Bass traps are specially designed to absorb low frequencies. It helps control a room’s reverb. By removing the natural reverb, it will be much easier to control the room reverb with VST FX.
- NEW LEVEL BASS TRAPS
Bass traps are specially designed to absorb low bass frequencies. However, they can absorb medium to high rates as well. I would suggest that you purchase and install bass traps in your music studio first because of its all-around acoustic treatment qualities.
SOLUTION #4: Use Noise Reduction Software
Your next solution is using noise reduction software. These types of software can be used before and after recording. Some of these are specifically designed to limit noise from the input of the mic or instruments before recording. And some of them are used to clean the audio and keep them free from noise after you have recorded the tracks.
- Noise Gate
Some DAWs have a built-in noise gate. You can use this tool to reduce the gain and cut the low volume sounds from entering the mic signal. However, if you happen to use too much noise gate, you might cut the low volume vocals and compromise the dynamics of the song. If you want to use a noise gate, make sure it is at a minimal level.
A compressor is used to make your track levels match in volume. You can use this tool to make your whole project coherent when it comes to volume. Because some people are afraid of too much noise, they tend to record their tracks with low gain. However, when you mix them with some of your MIDI tracks or samples, their volume levels might not match. Make sure you do not overly compress the tracks because the quality can get compromised. If you cannot fix the volume levels with a software compressor, the best solution is to re-record the tracks.
- ROUGH RIDER (FREE)
This free compressor plugin is free to download, but despite that, it works great. It adds a vintage and warm kick to your tracks. It is perfect for adding compression to drums, guitar, synth, and vocal tracks. It is essential to add uniformity to your sound levels.
- Hardware Compressor
A hardware compressor is an excellent addition to your home studio. It will cost a lot more money than software compressors. However, mastering your tracks with real hardware compression makes your music sound a lot more professional. If you are a beginner, I suggest learning the basics of compression on software before purchasing a hardware compressor.
- ART SCL2 COMPRESSOR
This compressor is on the lower end of studio compressors. It is a suitable starter compressorif you are getting into the basics of compression. The idea of compression is to make your tracks more coherent and seamless by adjusting the audio on consistent levels. It is an excellent tool for mastering tracks and making them radio-ready material.
- Noise Reduction post-production
These types of apps are used to clean your audio tracks after recording them. Keep in mind that some pre-recorded tracks, especially the ones recorded in low quality, cannot get enhanced as much. Using too much mastering software on low-quality tracks can compromise the tracks. However, If you just want to clean your high-quality tracks a little bit, you can rely on these software applications:
- ERA 4 SOFTWARE BUNDLE
The Era Bundle is a collection of cleaning plugins that are very easy to use. The plugins have single knobs for simplicity. By purchasing this software bundle, it’s the easiest way to master your audio tracks hassle-free. For best results, the raw audio tracks must be error-free and recorded well. The bundle comes with:
- Noise remover
The noise remover easily cleans up and reduces unwanted noise on your audio track, like electric hums, fans, and any other background noise.
- Reverb Remover
The Reverb Remover easily removes the unwanted reverb from the room acoustics. The excessive reverb is quickly reduced to bring focus to your tracks.
- Voice Leveler
This one-knob voice leveler easily compresses and limits the sound of your vocal tracks.
- De- Esser
This fantastic app can quickly fix the speech of your vocal tracks. Sometimes the lyrics are hard to pronounce, and you over-pronounce syllables, but this excellent app can fix that problem.
- Plosive Remover
This plugin minimizes the pop-ups and excessive thumps from your vocal tracks. Sometimes breathing on your microphone when recording is unavoidable. Good thing, there is the plosive remover.
You can instantly reduce audio clipping with the De-Clipper. The high volume can be chopped off, so you have consistent sound levels in seconds.
SOLUTION #5: Invest in Quality Equipment
Although some of the low-end recording gear might work, some have issues and produce excessive noise. If you want to improve the quality of your recording and lessen the background noise, make sure you choose to opt for the best gear in store for you. I know some of them may work up to some point, but because equipment that is mass-manufactured may have some defects in their components that might create noise that would not sound good on your tracks.
Investing in equipment does not necessarily mean all of them are expensive. But if you want to achieve high quality, you might want to consider investing in some stuff such as a pop filter. They are not costly. In fact, they are very affordable, but they can help improve the quality of your vocal tracks drastically. The same goes for a power strip. Buying these types of equipment are investments that can substantially help develop your sound quality.
SOLUTION #6: Get Closer to the Mic
Moving a little bit closer to the mic will cancel out all the auxiliary noises in the surrounding environment. If you want to move closer to the mic, make sure you decrease the gain levels to balance out the sound and avoid clipping.
SOLUTION #7: Use a Power Outlet
Using a voltage regulator or power strip can reduce electrical noise. Because recording equipment will involve a lot of electrical equipment, it will produce noise on your tracks if you are not careful. A simple power strip will do the job. However, if you want more than just noise reduction, you can opt for these following examples:
- FURMAN P-2400 AR POWER CONDITIONER
Power Conditioner lessens the noise of your recording. The Furman P-2400 can regulate voltages of 20 amps combined. This power conditioner is an optional item for your rig, but it will help you get better in music production. Using a power conditioner can protect and extend the life of your gear. It regulates the power usage of all the equipment that you plug in. The electronics won’t get a short circuit if plugged in through a power conditioner.
SOLUTION #8: Use an Audio Interface
For creating podcasts, some people use the built-in mic of the computer. It may work, but the computer’s soundcard does not have all the features of an excellent audio interface. A USB powered device such as an audio interface will not produce as much noise as the 3.5mm jack on your computer. Investing in an excellent audio interface will significantly reduce the extra noise you do not want lingering on your tracks, as well as your listener’s ears.
HOW TO REDUCE NOISE ON YOUR DAW
Your DAW will likely have a noise gate to adjust the levels of input and output. By adjusting these levels, you can reduce the background noise. However, you must watch out for increasing the noise gate levels, as it may compromise the gain and dynamics when recording vocal tracks. The best solution is to remove the unnecessary noise before using a noise gate. Some singers are really dynamic when it comes to recording and live performances. They often start quiet and end up singing loudly, depending on the part of the song. If you use too much noise gate, the quiet parts of the vocal tracks tend to get cut off.
Some free software such as AUDACITY and GARAGEBAND has a built-in noise reduction tool that is very handy when it comes to cleaning your vocal tracks.
- Can you reduce noise on a track that has already been rendered? Yes. You can clean the audio of a fully rendered song or audio track to some extent. It is not as effective as cleaning each of the tracks and stems individually, but there is particular computer software that can enhance a single-file audio track.
- Can switching to a dynamic microphone help reduce noise? Condenser microphones tend to capture a broader range of audio. They are more sensitive to the sound that surrounds the area. Switching to a dynamic mic can help reduce noise, but using a condenser microphone is much better when recording low-gain instruments and vocals. Dynamic microphones are only used for recording high-gain guitar tracks and acoustic drums.
- What are other factors that contribute to or affect the sound quality? There are a lot more factors that can affect the quality of your tracks. One is the size of the room. Depending on the instrument you are recording, the size of the room can make it sound better or worse. For recording acoustic instruments like a grand piano, violin, and acoustic guitar, the bigger the size of the room makes it sound better on your track. The bigger size room can reduce the bouncing and phasing, which may not sound good on your records.
The flooring and the finish of the room may also affect the quality of your tracks. For example—when recording electric guitar through the amp, it is much better to elevate the amp because the floor can cause too much reverb and compromise the frequency response when recording electric guitar.
Even the most subtle of noises can ruin your tracks. Good thing, there are some techniques that producers and sound engineers use to minimize these unwanted noises. If you want to reduce the background noise of your tracks, remember to start at the beginning, identify and eliminate the noise before recording. Anything else will be fixed post-production. I hope this article has enlightened you with most of your queries, and I wish I could listen to your tracks soon!