When comparing the techniques of the previous two, recording vocals may seem like an easy task.
But the truth is…
…It’s not just sing and record.
So what are we talking about?
If something is regarded important in a production, it will definitely be the vocals.
Every person that is listening to the recorded track will definitely listen closely to the singer.
So these should be on par and recorded well.
As a producer, you save yourself a lot of complications in the mixing process.
This time we will approach it completely different.
Instead of thinking like a pro, we are going to take you into the world of a real home studio.
We will sketch you a home studio situation and how it should be done.
Here are the steps.
If he or she can’t sing or do the vocal, please don’t get yourself frustrated.
Find somebody else…
If that’s not an option, it’s necessary that the vocalist knows the lyrics and lines and can sing the part pure and clearly into the mic.
Having a vocalist with a good mindset will help you in the recording process.
If you’re a producer or singer you can benefit by knowing a little bit about studio psychology.
Keep a bottle of water, tea with honey or anything that will aid in the well being of the vocalist.
If the vocalist smokes, don’t let him take that cigarette into the sound-booth!
Even the most magnificent, well designed, equipped and furnished studios have a separate “vocal booth” for singing, and they do it for a good reason.
As with every music instrument, the room (where you make your recordings) determines a large part of the sound color and (beneficial or unwanted) background noise.
…A relatively “dry” sound in a neutral room is most desirable.
If you want to end up going for an ‘in your face’ sound without reverb, then you need to record it that way, and it also gives you the freedom to choose an appropriate reverb or other effects in the mixing process.
If your room doesn’t allow to record a dry sound, you can choose to add a mic screen.
This will give you some diffusion, creating the illusion of a small dry room sound.
You can also experiment with sound blankets and absorbers.
The logical next step will be the Microphone.
Usually a condenser microphone will be used to record vocals, but this isn’t a rule!
The mic that is chosen is a mic that fits the sound of the singer.
…or a ribbon mic to give you a gritty result might do the trick for you.
For high and sharp (female) vocals, it’s wise to use a microphone that doesn’t boost the high frequencies.
The same can be said for dull vocals, these shouldn’t be recorded with muddy sounding microphones.
Don’t forget to experiment with different polar patterns.
A figure of eight or an omni or cardiod polar pattern.
Also, don’t forget to a pop filter, which will eliminate blowing noises from the vocalist.
Usually this step will be overlooked.
The choice of your preamp is very important.
Especially when you‘re dealing with a sound source that you have recorded with one microphone, which will play an important role in the mix.
If you have a ‘high end’ preamp at your disposal, you’ll be very lucky.
…It will give you the ability to add color or adjust the tone before or after post production.
For the less fortunate…
…If you don’t have a preamp, rent one or use the one that’s fitted in your audio interface.
Some audio interfaces have exceptionally good preamps, while others are less quality preamps.
Some preamps have a compression or limiting function build in.
But you have to be extremely sure about this when you’re recording vocals with these functions turned on.
A limiter can be useful when a singer sings very dynamic.
The fast changing loudness can cause overdrive or distortion within the preamp.
A limiter can help you with this volume change.
If you can leave the signal clean while recording, it will be your best option. Because playing with the dynamics after recording is the best way to go.
To eliminate distortion or overdrive, you should use the gain of your microphone signal wisely.
If the gain is turned too far, the amping will be too loud, causing a “clipping” signal.
But if it’s gained to low you will have a bad signal to noise ration.
When gaining: you should leave some room for occurring peaks, but the body of your signal should be at about -6db.
It can immediately affect the headphones signal of the singer in question, so make sure you have finished gaining if this problem occurs.
Otherwise, this may cause the vocalist to sing louder.
Sometimes a singer will like to hear the direct signal of his voice.
But you can always ask if he likes some reverb or compression while singing.
These are all things you could think about.
The personal preference of how a singer wants to hear his voice while recording is very important!!
Some elements (instruments within the track) can distract you while recording.
Put these elements temporarily on ‘mute’, and put the best ingredients that support the singer (piano, rhythm guitar) slightly forward.
You can now start recording.
…As a Producer or engineer your task is to assist the singer or vocalist.
Some may want to record the whole track in one take, while others would want to do it piece by piece (the last one usually).
Ask the vocalist, which method he or she prefers, makes them feel comfortable.
When a vocal needs to be “punched in” make sure you leave some room, so that the singer can grasp the vibe first.
This is very important!
Record all the vocals (of one person) in a single session.
You can also schedule another session, but you’ll notice that the sound may be different than the day before.
Minor changes in equipment, temperature, settings or even the state of mind of the artist can ruin the entire project.
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