The human voice is said to be the most familiar sound people hear so it’s easier for listeners to hear an inferior vocal performance. On this recording vocals tutorial I want to share with you 10 of the most important things to avoid when recording vocals to ensure you get a good performance.
These tips are mainly for someone who’s a music producer or recording engineer but a vocalist can also gain a thing or 2 as well. Here are 10 things to avoid when recording vocals.
Not Visualizing The End Results
Visualizing the end results will help finish the recording fast, you’ll know what volume to use, effects etc. It will be easy to coach the vocalist because you know what you want everything to sound like in the end.
Getting The Most Out Of A Vocalist
Before you think about booking a studio try to record a rough session with the vocalist. The vocalist will use that rough mix to rehearse and prepare for the final recording. Avoid letting a vocalist practice or even write lyrics from scratch during the final recording session.
Make sure you’re vocalist is comfortable and relaxed in the studio, make them feel at home. Don’t be scared to push them to the limit, they have to sing till one lung comes out 😀
Recording Vocals Using A Mixer Only
Don’t do this guys, I see a lot of people doing this. If you’re on a tight budget then don’t buy a mixer, instead buy an audio interface. If you’re using a mixer that goes directly to your on-board sound card then just forget about getting a professional sounding vocal.
A vocalist will give you a good vocal performance if they can hear themselves and the music clear. So make sure your headphone mix is good. Get a good pair of headphones and if their broken then the vocalist wont relax.
If the vocalist is not relaxed or comfortable they wont give you their best performance. Mixing the music before recording will also help as the vocalist will hear everything clear.
For someone who’s recording at home then make sure you have a good room that is acoustic treated. Or at least get yourself one of those portable vocal booths.
But you have to keep it in mind that vocals that are recorded at home might sound good but they’ll never sound better than vocals that are recorded in a professional studio. Don’t sacrifice your music production career, take it seriously and be professional.
I once did a remix with a buzzing sound the speakers make when you have a cell phone close to them. Obviously the vocals were recorded in a bedroom and the producer didn’t know the microphone will capture that sound.
So make sure cell phones are on vibrate/silence when you record and never put them anywhere near the speakers. A cellphone ring can ruin the vibe so don’t let the vocalist perform with a phone in their pocket.
As much as you won’t answer a phone in school or at work, same rules must apply in the studio, be professional. Another big distraction is when people keep standing up or going outside to answer their phone, that can make the singer lose focus.
Most audio interfaces come with built-in DSP effects and pre-amps. You can add effects to the singer’s headphone mix if you want to but make sure you don’t exaggerate them, keep them subtle.
Don’t use modulation effects on the headphone mix. Those are effects such as phaser, chorus and flanger these will create a problem with finding pitch for the vocalist.
Headroom & Bit Resolution
Keep in mind that the vocals still need to be processed after recording. Don’t record your vocals too loud because you can make them loud during the mixing stage.
A good place would be from -14dB to at least -10dB. For the bit resolution don’t use 16-bit instead use 24-bit or higher in order to get good dynamics and less quantization noise.
Mono Not Stereo
Always record your vocals in mono don’t record in stereo. If you want to record in stereo (maybe you’re recording a choir) then use more than one mic. But make sure there’s no phasing problem.
Always use mono recording so that you get a more clearer and punchy sound. Stereo will sound big and brighter which can fool you to thinking you have a good recording, so be careful.
If you don’t get a good sound from the source then everything is going to go downhill. A professional studio will always have different mics so you can test which one best suits the song you’re currently recording.
Choosing a good microphone can be a tough job, I know because it took me 3 months of research before buying my microphone. On this post I won’t talk about which mic is best but just avoid using poor quality mics for your recordings.
Those are my top 10 things to avoid to make sure you get a professional vocal performance. Recording vocals is also an art just like making music or mixing. You need to develop your own recording technique and microphone positions. Test, test and test more till you get good results.
Contact different studio owners and ask them when are they having a recording session and see if they can allow you to watch from behind the scenes, you’ll learn a lot. See all the different techniques and use them for different situations, learn from the best.
OK that’s it for this blog post, let me know if you have questions by commenting below.