In this guide, I would like to share my 5 Secrets for getting Pro-Sounding vocals in a home recording studio environment.
The vocals are usually the most important part of any song, and that’s what most people will sing along to. So they have to be well recorded and sound clear for the listener.
The secret is to get the right sound and level from the source. “I’ll fix it in the mix” mindset will never get you Pro results.
Make sure that you’re happy with the sound that you’ve recorded and don’t feel like it needs something else.
If you put garbage in, you’ll most definitely get garbage out!
Your room also needs to be dead and quiet before you record so that you don’t get any background noise.
Also browse the blog for some tips on choosing the best mic for recording vocals. I’ll do an acoustic treatment guide in the near future I just want this post to be about technique.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to record vocals like a pro using the equipment that you already have or what we recommend on this blog.
1. Always Be Prepared
Start by getting the preamp and headphone mix right before the singer steps in the booth. You might want to add subtle amount of reverb in the headphone mix to encourage the singer to perform better.
Set up the microphone, stand and pop filter to the perfect height for the vocalist.
Once the singer steps in the booth you’re ready to hit the record button and maybe test different microphones as well.
2. Avoid Effects Wherever Possible
Once you’ve tested different microphones and chosen one that works well for the singer you’re currently working with.
Then to avoid adding any effects make sure you position the microphone right. That will help you get away with adding effects during recording.
I usually leave the effects part for the mixing stage and focus on getting a clear and natural sound from the source.
So position the mic in a way that will produce the sound that you want, and you can also play around with the pop filter placement as well or use a different one.
3. Scratch Vocal Technique
This is a really great technique to use if you want to get the best performance out of your vocalist.
The trick is to record a rough take of the entire vocal including verses, chorus and maybe the hook as well.
Then what you want to do is to play the vocals while fixing the music (things such as changing arrangement and recording other instruments). Let the vocalist be there with you in the listening room and let them listen to their rough performance.
This will encourage them and add some pressure to record better vocals the next time they perform the song in the booth.
Funny enough, sometimes you might use the scratch track parts instead of the final takes.
4. Comping The Vocals
To use this technique you simply record at least 3 takes of the lead vocal part then make one great performance by choosing only the best bits out of the 3 takes.
If everything is working together and everyone is happy then I’ll double track the chorus part.
If there are any parts that don’t sound good after comping then you can always re-record those sections.
5. Think About The Mixing Stage
You always have to think about the end goal when recording vocals. For instance, when recording the chorus part I like to make it sound like there was a choir.
I’ll let the singer record the chorus part in 3 different tones. One in an alto voice, the second one in a tenor voice and final one maybe in soprano.
When you mix that, you would want to have the tenor in the center (mid) and the other parts in the sides (stereo).
That creates a really neat stereo effect and record double takes for each choir voice. You must also record perfect pitch and timing for the takes.
Obviously they can’t be 100% but make them as close to perfect as humanly possible. You can also use tools to correct the timing and pitch.
If the vocalist can’t do the choir alone then you might get other singers to help or simply record the same chorus section in one tone at least 3 times and blend those parts together to get a bigger stereo sound.
Make sure that the audio is not clipping. Anywhere around -12dB and -8dB will be a good level but the secret is to get the right volume that works with the song you’re recording.
If you can get the right levels from the source for your entire recording, not just vocals, then you’ll have a really good song to mix and master.
Hope you found this guide useful. I wanted to keep it as simple as possible and not include obvious things like you need a pop filter, microphone, booth, audio interface, cables etc.
This guide was more focused on making sure that you get the best results sound-wise and a great performance from your singer without compromise.
While it may seem intimidating, recording vocals is a lot of fun and it’s not a difficult process. Simply following these small steps throughout the recording process will assuredly help obtain optimal sound quality.