How to Use Your Car to Record Music

Andrew Koole
Dec 3, 2021 · 3 min read
Any music lover is well aware of how great a song can sound coming through the speakers of a car. Anyone looking to test this should turn LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yrself Clean” up loud the next time they sit in their vehicle and wait for the 3:05 mark before heading out.
To diminish unwanted engine and street noise, technology is allowing cars to become more and more soundproof, making them ideal music-listening machines. 
But what makes for prime music listening also makes for prime music-making, and artists of all success levels regularly take advantage of the noise-canceling aspect of cars in the recording process.
With a little bit of gear, you can also use your vehicle as a mini recording studio. Whether laying down vocal tracks or testing mixes in the stereo, a car can be an excellent tool for any musician.
A girl with headphones listening to music in the backseat of a car.
Cars and music are a match made in heaven.

How to record music in your car

As you probably guessed, your car isn’t the ideal place to record every instrument. Larger instruments like drums obviously don’t fit in most vehicles, and even a guitar might be awkward to maneuver in such a tight space.
But for a number of reasons, a car can be a great place to record vocals. The sound dampening materials, lack of parallel surfaces, and relative separation from outside noise allow you to capture a voice without unwanted reflections and sound waves.
For anyone wanting to turn their vehicle into a makeshift studio, Autoweek shared a convenient list of gear to help you get started. Just be sure to remind your performer to think about their posture—a slouched sitting position is not ideal for keeping a singer in tune. 

Mixing your track: the car test

Professional music engineers all know about the car test. After hours spent in their control rooms splicing tracks and balancing frequencies, they’ll load what they hope to be their final mix onto a USB stick or a CD, and play it nice and loud through their vehicle’s stereo.
Why do they do this? Because any mix is only successful if it works in a place like a car. A car isn’t necessarily the most ideal place to hear every element of a song, but its stereo stands in for the rest of the world of earbuds and grocery stores.
At the same time, the isolation and EQ controls of a car stereo allow engineers to test the structure of their mixes. Basically, if you can make a song sound good in your vehicle’s speakers, it will sound good anywhere.

Things to consider when upgrading your car stereo

If you plan to regularly use your vehicle to test studio mixes, you might be considering some aftermarket car stereo equipment. While this defeats the purpose of the car test in some respects, it might also give you more versatility as a mixer.
If you do go through with stereo upgrades, be sure to inform your insurer of the changes you make. Any modification to your car, including stereo equipment, needs to be disclosed to your car insurance company in order for your policy to remain valid. 
Have a question about your coverage? Jerry’s friendly agents are here to answer your questions and provide advice on the best coverage options. As your life changes, your insurance changes, and Jerry is ready to make those adjustments for you.

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