Vocals are one of the main instrument in a song, so it is no surprise we spend more of the time trying to get it right, to get it sounding the best we can. Like all other instruments, we want to record good quality vocals when tracking. Sometimes it is even more important to record great sounding vocals than any other instruments. As home studio owners, when recording vocals, we often forget some simple tasks that could help us capture the quality sound we are after. Below are my three reminder tips.
What more do we need than setting up the mic and place it in front of the artist? Not much more really but as a learning sound engineer (you), would you like to experiment and get the most out of that one microphone that you have?
In professional studios the first task is to go through their list of microphone to choose the microphone that best matches the vocal. We don’t have a list of microphone but a list of microphone position to going through. What we often do in our home studio is set up the microphone and point it straight at the artist mouth and we never think of trying other positions. But experimenting with mic positions you could find one that is more suitable for the vocal you are tracking.
For example, you can get a much softer vocal tone if you position the mic off-axis of the vocalist mouth. This could be a great position if you have a very strong vocalist and want to capture a much softer tone.
Positioning the microphone just below the vocalist mouth or hanging it upside down about forehead height above the singer can produce other tonal qualities you may like. The microphone placed about 5’’ below the mouth of the artist and pointing upwards will capture resonance from the chest area. Hanging the microphone about 12’’ inches away from the vocalist pointing down wards will pick up a strong vocal tone with lots of energy, because the vocalist is force to sing from their belly.
If you have a well acoustic treated room, positioning the microphone at different distance away from the singer will produce different tonal qualities. But keep in mind that the further away the mic is from the singer, the more of the room will be picked up by the mic and this could be a problem if you don’t have a well treated room.
Good headphone mix
Most people don’t like hearing their natural vocal being played back and this is especially true for the best of singers. If you are an artist yourself you know that this much is true.
I’ve worked with artists who would not perform well when hearing their own natural through the headphone. I would add reverb or EQ to the headphone to encourage the artist. Even for artist would don’t might their own voice, a good headphone mix encourage and enhance their performance.
Artists are VIPs treat them as such
No, this doesn’t mean you have to roll out the red carpet for the artist or open a couple bottles of champagne, but you sure must make them feel comfortable. And this is especially true when you working with the artist for the first time.
Some rituals artists do to get themselves in the “zone” may seem strange to you but you are there to make them feel comfortable in your home studio. You have to be able to encourage and motivate the artist. Empathise with them when they are not able to give their best. You have to know when to be a little pushy with the artist or when ease off and let them get it done themselves.
If you are recording yourself, remember to treat yourself like VIP too!
image by: Markus Lackinger