Tips for Recording Vocals

microphonesThe vocal tracks of a song are usually what the majority of listeners pay the most attention to.  This is why it is crucial to get the best sounding vocals possible.  There are countless methods of recording vocals, and much like recording other instruments, experimentation is a must.  There are, however, a few tried and true ways to get some great sounding tracks.  These tips will provide some of the basic groundwork for achieving professional, radio quality vocals.

 

– The singer needs to be well rehearsed and warmed up before the tracking session begins.  It is best for the vocalist to have all of the lines memorized so the listener doesn’t get the feeling that the words are simply being read off of a sheet of paper.  Make sure the singer has had time to warm up his or her vocal chords to avoid vocal chord exhaustion.  They will most likely not be able to nail the song in one take and it is better to have multiple takes to give you more options when mixing.

–  It is important to provide a comfortable atmosphere for the vocalist as they record.  Allow the singer to adjust the lighting and temperature to get a good, comfortable vibe going.   It’s good to remove distractions such as other people watching, so try to limit the area to just the vocalist, engineer, and producer.

– A good mix in the vocalist’s headphones is an extremely important factor.  A good headphone mix will really improve the performance and will result in better takes.  If possible, set up a system that the singer can control the mix volume as they see fit.  It’s a great idea to add a bit of reverb to they’re vocal track as they record to make them sound better which will in turn boost they’re confidence.

– Always use a pop filter when recording vocals.  This will reduce unwanted pops, s sounds, and plosive b’s and p’s which cannot be controlled by the singer.  A good distance to position the shield is about 3 inches.  This is a  relatively cheap necessity that can be purchased for about $20.

– A good microphone can range anywhere from $100 to thousands of dollars.  Finding the right microphone doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.  A great starting point would be a Shure SM58 if you don’t have a huge budget.  They are mostly used for live performances, but can also be a great unidirectional dynamic mic for the studio.

– A good rule of thumb is to position the mic about 6 to 9 inches away from the singer.  This distance needs to be adjusted depending on whether the vocals are at a louder or quieter level.  It is ideal for the vocalist to pull away from the mic during louder parts and to move closer during softer parts.  This will keep the track’s volume fairly consistent throughout the song which will allow more experimentation with compression in the mixing process.

– If it will not affect the artist’s performance, try to use a mic stand as opposed to letting them hold the mic.  This will reduce excess noise and help keep a good consistent volume level throughout the session.

– Record as many takes as necessary to capture the best performance and don’t worry if you can’t record the whole song through in one take.  It is often necessary to punch in and out of parts to get the best overall sound.  Try not to limit yourself with only a few takes, and record the same parts multiple times.  This will help in the mixing process when trying to put together the best parts.

– The room that you are recording in has a huge effect on the vocals that are being recorded.  It is best to have the least amount of sound reflection as possible.  Try hanging blankets behind and around the singer to help dampen the sound.  Reverb can be added to the dry vocals during mixing to get the desired sound that you are looking for.

– The most important aspect that often gets overlooked when recording vocals is the singers mindset.  It is crucial to make them feel comfortable and confident when recording.  Provide suggestions instead of criticisms and don’t over work the vocalist which could strain their voice and put the album behind schedule.  The vocals are generally the most listened to and noticed part of an album and if the vocalist is not focused and in the right state of mind, then the overall end result could suffer.