In part one of our series on the best way to record vocals in a home studio, the final two tips recommended you find the best recording environment possible and to record numerous takes. I want to use part two of this series to expand on those two points as we move from the actual technical aspects of setting up a recording and move on to the actual recording itself.
As I stated in the previous article, most home studio engineers have to work with whatever recording environment they have, as small budgets typically go toward equipment long before they go to improving room acoustics. I also pointed out that placing blankets around the singer can often lead to a better vocal track, as the blankets will dampen the sound, giving you a recording that is more “dry” than a natural room often provides.
Whatever you do, ensure that the singer – whether it's you or someone else you are recording – is as comfortable as possible. This of course means that they are physically comfortable, but also that they are in a good mindset. If a singer feels claustrophobic, they are likely not going to perform their vocal to the best of their ability.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a recording engineer when it comes to vocals is taking confidence away from the singer or pushing them too far.
When recording vocals, there's a very fine line when it comes to making suggestions that will help the process and making criticisms that only will result in negative returns. And really it's just part of gaining engineering experience to know when a singer needs to be pushed and when that push is going to result in the singer going over the cliff.
Part of this is recognizing that it's ok for everyone (singer, guitarist, engineer, etc.) to have an off day. Too many of these break professionalism and slow down the recording process, but occasionally you will find that you just have to call off a session that is not working and move on to something else. You can always return to the vocals at a later time.
Also in the previous article, I mentioned that you should record multiple vocal takes and then “comp” the best parts together for the final vocal track. The number of takes needed depends on a number of factors, including the singer and the degree of perfection you need (or want) for the track.
The editing process for vocals, particularly when dealing with multiple takes, is fairly complicated, and I won't get too in-depth here as that would depend greatly on the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) you are using. But if you are using later versions of ProTools or Logic, you should keep in mind that both have fairly advanced tools built in to help you comp together multiple takes.
If you don't want to use the ‘comp’ method, you also can record one vocal take and then “punch in” parts that you want to redo - meaning you only re-record very specific parts of a track. This method also allows you to only fix certain parts, and requires less editing. It should be noted that if you are recording by yourself, many DAWs include the ability to “punch in” with a foot pedal, which allows you to be away from your computer and still operate the punch function.