The Quick and Dirty Vocal Booth

Hillbilly Vocal BoothIf you ever have to record in a less-than-ideal environment, you may be able to reduce noise and/or unpleasant room acoustics by building a makeshift “vocal booth.”

The one you see here consists of two blankets draped over microphone stands; the recording microphone is on a third stand in front of the surrounding baffle. You could build a similar framework from chairs or ladders, broomsticks, a 2×4… or, just sit in front of a plush couch or chair, or a bunch of pillows or cushions, maybe covered with a blanket or towels.

Some home and office recordists have had good luck placing the microphone in a box lined with insulating material. Even better, if you have access to a walk-in closet full of clothes your vocal booth may be already built for you. Just back the mic against the shirts, hit Record, and see how it sounds.

Depending on the room, it may sound better if the blanket (or pillows or couch) are behind you, while you face the microphone and the room beyond. Try it both ways, recording for a minute or two in each position, and then listen to the results.

The reason this works is that blankets, pillows, and soft furniture all absorb sound. Absorptive material behind the microphone (as shown in the photo) will absorb some of the direct sound, keeping it from reflecting off the walls and back into the mic. It will also filter some ambient noise. If, on the other hand, the absorptive material is behind the talent, it will absorb the reflected sound from the back wall while keeping some of the liveliness of the room in the recording.

So get out from behind your desk, if you can, and try some of these ideas. You may be surprised at how well they work!