In this post we will talk about 5 recording tips for vocals. One of the most challenging tasks in the home music studio is capturing accurate vocals. These 5 simple things, if addressed, will give you the start of a great sounding vocal/voice over track every time.
Let me first point out that these tips are purposed to help you record at the source. Overdubbing, multi-tracking, panning, eq, and the use of effects are generally post production techniques. Record it "right" from the start and you'll have many more options to be creative in the final mix.
Start with the Source
Start with the person who is singing for your track. If your studio vocalist is relaxed and enjoying themselves your track will reflect it.
If you are the vocalist, then take the time to warm up. Make sure you are well rested and in good health. Learn to develop your skill as a singer.
Don't be offended when a second ear points out a place where you can improve. Get the source right and the rest will fall into place. This is perhaps one of the most overlooked recording tips for vocals.
Get the source right and the rest will fall into place.
Record in the Right Space
This is a simple rule that can take a good amount of trial and error to get right. I like to think of it this way. Never record a track with any sound you cannot live with in the final mix.
My personal preference is to record vocals in the dryest place possible. It's much easier to add depth in post production than to take it out. Simply moving your mic from one wall to another can make a huge difference.
If your room is to live, trying placing the mic in a closet or smaller room. You may even try creating a small vocal booth from thick wool blankets. Get creative until you've found an acceptable sound.
Try different Microphones
The reality is, no one mic will work best for every recording situation, especially vocals. If you have access to a few different mics give each of them a try. There are 3 types of mics that would give you a large amount of flexibility in the home music studio. A dynamic mic, a small diaphragm condenser and a large diaphragm condenser.
It is certainly possible to get a great sound using a dynamic mic like the Shure SM57. However, if you can purchase a decent large diaphragm condenser you may be very satisfied with the results. A large diaphragm condenser usually bring a greater clarity in detail than a dynamic for vocals.
If you've followed any of my post till this point you will know that the MXL 990 is my best recommendation for an affordable studio condenser. You can read my reasoning and check out the 990 for yourself here.
Remove Sibilance and Pops
Be aware of those hard sibilant sounds. These would predominately be heard as strong "S" or "T" accents. The pops and booms tend to come from lower frequencies often heard in the "P" and "B" sounds. Both of these types of over accented sounds are created by air being forced into the microphone. They can make an otherwise great track, sound amateur very quickly.
The first 2 things I always adjust in effort to remove sibilance is mic placement and distance from the vocalist. Using a better preamp can also help eliminate sibilant sounds but that may not always be an option.
The simplest way to remove the pops is to use an inexpensive pop filter like the Musician's Gear Double Pop Filter. If you don't have the budget to buy a pop filter than you can make one from a wire hanger and pantyhose.
An option that tends to work better for close up micing and voice over work is to use a Foam Windscreen. This may also help to remove sibilance.
If you can, do it in post processing
This is one mistake I often made early on in my own home music studio. It's very tempting to try to record a finished sound. To do this I would often add reverb, adjust my eq, and compress my track during the recording process. I was typically very disappointed with the results when it came to the final mix.
Now that we are in the days of digital audio workstations, most everything can be done in post editing. This is one of the recording tips for vocals that I had to learn the hard way.
Today when I record a vocal track I do a few things at recording. First I leave the EQ flat with exception of rolling off about 6db around 100Hz. I don't use compression at all when I first record the track. Sometimes I will use a slight reverb through my mixer for monitoring but only the dry signal gets recorded. This leaves room for me to adjust, EQ, compress, and add effects to the track in post. That way I can listen to the final mix and decide what will work best.
I hope you've found these recording tips for vocals helpful. As always, please let me know what you think by adding your comments to the section below.