Top Tips for Recording Vocals
What type of microphone should I use?
Condenser microphones are generally best for recording vocals. They don’t handle high sound pressure levels as well as dynamic mics but they do sound fuller and richer. Condenser mics also reproduce higher frequencies more accurately than dynamic mics giving them a more detailed and open sound.
Which polar pattern should I select?
A cardioid pattern is the preferred choice for many recording engineers. With a cardioid pattern selected the mic picks up the sound mostly from the front thereby eliminating unwanted noise or spill from the rear or sides. This is particularly useful if you are recording vocals at the same time as recording other musicians in the same room or if you want more of the vocal and less of the room sound in your recording.
Should I use a shock-mount?
It’s generally a good idea to use a shockmount as it will absorb vibrations which would otherwise cause bassy thumps on your recording.
Should I use the microphone’s low pass filter?
It’s generally best to avoid using your microphones low pass filter as it can introduce unwanted artefacts into the recording. There are exceptions of course. For example you can select the low pass filter to help reduce noise transmitted through the mic stand. Before using the mics low pass filter try repositioning the microphone. Positioning the microphone a couple of inches higher than the singers mouth so that they are aiming their voice towards the barrel of the mic rather than directly at the diaphragm, will make the sound less bassy. Conversely, positioning the mic so that the diaphragm is aimed more towards the singers chest will make the sound bassier.
How far from the microphone should I stand?
Generally speaking 6 to 10 inches from the mic should be about right. Bear in mind, the closer you get to a condensor mic the bassier it becomes. This is known as the proximity effect. In some instances this can be a desireable sound. If you want a more ambient ‘roomy’ sound you can try moving the mic a little further away.
Should I use a pop shield?
Pop shields help reduce sibilance, the unpleasant spitting sound produced when an ‘s’ or ‘t’ sound is made. Mesh pop shields are far more effective than the foam type which tend to do nothing more than roll off the top end of the vocal making it sound a little dull.
Where in the room should I position the microphone?
It’s best to try to capture a dry recording of the vocal so that you have lots of scope for creating the desired ambience later on by adding reverbs or delays. Position the mic as far from the rooms boundaries as possible and make sure that there isn’t a reflective surface directly behind the singer. Positioning the mic somewhere near the centre of the room but not exactly in the middle should work fine. Record some test vocals with the mic in various positions until you get the sound you’re after.
Should I use compression whilst recording?
A little bit of compression whilst recording can even out the signal and help prevent the singer from overloading the input. Be careful not to over compressor at this stage as you cannot undo the compression once it’s recorded. If you are recording into a digital system, compress in the analogue domain in order to get the best out of your analogue to digital convertors.
Should I use reverb on the voice for monitoring?
A little bit of reverb in the singers headphones can help them pitch more accurately. Of course how much, if any at all is up to the singer, whatever works to get the best performance out of them.
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