Correctly recording vocals ensures that the most important element of the song cuts through clearly and perfectly. From correct mic selection to a great performance, it's always about the vocal.
You need to know which microphone to use, how to correctly place it in a room as well knowing how to squeeze a great vocal performance from your artist. Luckily for you, here below you can find some great recording tips covering all aspects of the vocal recording process.
Which microphone do you need for recording vocals? For such a full bodied instrument such as the vocal you will be needing a great sounding full range microphone, preferably a large condenser microphone.
Large condensers have the necessary frequency range to correctly capture all the dynamics and nuances of the voice, giving it an immediate supremacy over the dynamic microphone.
Dynamic microphones can be well suited for harder genres such as rock and punk since there might be a fair amount of screaming and shouting involved. Which is exactly the kind of dirty singing that the dynamic microphone is perfect for. For more information about the difference in microphones, check out the “Recording Microphones” page.
Small diaphragm condenser can also be suitable, especially for female vocals that benefit from the small condenser's high frequency boost. However, large diaphragm condensers are s a safer bet for most applications.
If you are just starting out in recording, chances are you haven't invested in high-end preamps just yet. Usually, most home recording interfaces have fairly decent preamps with a sound that's transparent enough for most recordings. However, getting your hands on an awesome high quality preamp is usually a good idea if you want to get that ultimate vocal sound. Check out some interface ideas at the music recording equipment page.
Deciding between a solid state transistor preamp or a warm tube preamp can be tricky, since you often can't decide which type you think sounds better. When you've gotten to the point that you're thinking about adding an expensive preamp to your arsenal it's hard to accept the fact that you can only buy one.
But do your research, check out the opinions on the Gearslutz forums and try to demo some high quality preamps in the store before you decide on what make and model you want for your vocal tracks.
Some high quality preamps come with compressors as well, making them all the more useful for recording delicate instruments such as the vocal. Some subtle compression on the way in can help control the peaks and manage the overall level when recording vocals, resulting in a tighter and warmer vocal sound. Especially if we're talking about an amazing compressor like the Focusrite pictured below.
Be careful not to compress too much as you won't be able to take the compression off after recording. So a low ratio of about 2:1 that's only compressing around 0.5 – 2 dBs on the peaks is often enough to get a steady and warm vocal sound. Afterwards you can add all the compression you want if you feel that your vocal needs it.
Recording vocals in your bedroom can pose some unique problems. It's always a good idea to create a nice space in your home that is acoustically treated enough to deliver good sounding vocals. You can do this by either buying some specialized treatment like the SE Reflexion Filter or treating an area by yourself.
You can get away with some pretty nice vocal recordings by using baffles and blankets to kill the reflections of your room, reducing the unwanted room sound your home recording studio more than likely gives you. A nice solution is to create a vocal booth in your bedroom, which you can do with some thick blankets and a little ingenuity
Make no mistake, a roomy vocal sound can kill any chance of your recordings making any professional impact. A roomy vocal sound is the bane of home recordings and will instantly give your songs an amateurish and unprofessional stamp.
For a great guide in getting produced vocals, no matter what DAW you're using, check out ReThink Vocals at The Recording Revolution.
If you're going for a nice professional sound in your home studio, and taking the time to treat it, you better get yourself a nice pop filter while you're at it. Pop filters eliminate plosives, the annoying P and T sounds that can ruin a great vocal take. The article below has some great additional tips for recording a great vocal track.
Just like any other instrument, different microphone placements can give you different vocal sounds. Whether you're hugging the mic for an intimate sound or placing it a few feet away for a more spacious sound, it's obvious that the microphone reacts in exactly the same way as it does every other instrument.
Try experimenting with different positions, heights and distances when recording vocals. The classic on axis, one feet away from the singer's mouth is a great way to start, and is often enough to get an acceptable vocal sound. Still, moving the microphone can be beneficial to finding a new and different sound.
Also, it can depend on the genre how close or far you position the microphone. A slow and intimate ballad can benefit from a really close vocal sound, but a heavier rock sound might call for some distance between a screaming singer and a delicate condenser mic.
Sometimes you don't really need to record any singing. Sometimes you want to record a podcast or a voiceover. You need to keep a few different things in mind when you're doing voiceovers as opposed to recording vocals.
Voiceovers are a little different since we don't want any special effects or spacious reverbs. We just want a dead voice recording that's clear and articulate.
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