5.1 Vocals

When recording, there are several factors that play a big part in producing a great vocal. This next module has been broken down into three sections:

  1. Your Room
  2. Microphone
  3. Recording Technique

Your Room

Achieving a great vocal recording starts with a room that can be set up to create a good sound. Most of you will probably be working out of a bedroom, which is a great start because it has lots of soft furnishings like carpet, bed and pillows. It is best to set up your vocal just off the centre of the room so that it is furthest away from reflective surfaces like walls and windows. However, it should also not be at dead centre either, as this would cause a buildup of standing waves. If your room still has too much reverb, a cheap alternative is to use moving blankets ( you can find them at your local hardware shop) which are draped over a pair of microphone stands on either side of you. This will eliminate the chance of your vocal bouncing off walls in your room.

Microphone:

The most common microphone for vocal recording is a large diaphragm condenser microphone. These microphones are quite sensitive and pick up every nuance of the vocalist. My recommendation for a good all round condenser is the Rode NT1. A dynamic microphone like the Shure SMB7 is another common microphone for vocals and recommended if you’re working within an untreated space or a room that is subject to noise. The Shure can also be more suited for a vocalist that produces a higher SPL recording (Sound Pressure Level) such as a hard rock singer who is louder.

Recording Technique:

All singers are different. Some vocalists have a natural warmth to their voice, while others sound thin, so knowing how distance and mic placement can change the sound, is another important factor to consider. In general, the closer to the microphone the singer is, the more low end warmth will be produced. The further away the mic, the thinner the sound will be.
When in the studio, setting up the singer with a few run-throughs of the song from start to finish, is something I’ve learnt that helps save time in the recording process later. Giving the singer this run though gives them the chance to get used to what the mix and their voice is sounding like through the headphones, but also gives you the producer a chance to find the right level and best mic position.

Once you have found the ‘sweet spot’ for your vocalist, move your pop shield to the position where the singer can use it as a physical barrier for them to reference. This will result in a more balanced performance later, when mixing.

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