By my count, there are 8 “constants” that we find in vocal recording. These are items or situations that almost always prove to be true.
Just keeping them in mind can save you a lot of trouble in the search for a sound that works for you and your vocalist.
1) Your mic selection, amount of EQ, and compression used is totally dependent on the voice you are recording. Setting up the same signal chain for everyone might work sometime, but best to keep an open mind (and ears) before you settle on a combination.
2) The best mic in the house doesn’t necessarily get the best vocal sounds. There is no one microphone that works well on everything, especially a instrument as quirky as the human voice.
3) A singer who is experienced at recording knows which consonants are tough to record and knows how to balance the them against the vowels to get a good final result. A singer with this kind of experience will make you look like a genius.
4) With a good singer, many times you’ll get “the sound” automatically just by putting him/her in front of the right microphone. On the other hand, with a bad singer (or even a good singer that just doesn’t adjust well to the studio), no amount of high priced microphones or processing may be able to get you where you need to go.
5) In general, vocals sound better when recorded in a tighter space, but not too tight. Low ceiling rooms can also be a problem with loud singers as they tend to ring at certain lower mid range frequencies, which might be difficult to eliminate later.
6) Windscreens are actually of little use when recording a vocalist with bad technique. There are two different sorts of people in this category: the people who have never sung with sound reinforcement, and the people who have developed bad habits from using a mic on stage.
7) Decoupling the stand from the floor as well as the microphone from the stand will help eliminate unwanted rumbles. Often times a microphone isolation mount isn’t enough. Place the stand on a couple of mouse pads or a rug for a cheap but efficient solution.
8) Just marking the floor with tape might get the vocalist to stand in the right position in front of the mic, but she can easily move her head out of position. An easy way to have a vocalist gauge the distance is by hand lengths. An open hand is approximately eight inches while a fist is about four inches. By saying, “Stay a hand away,” the vocalist can easily judge his distance and usually doesn’t forget.
Bobby Owsinski is an author, producer, music industry veteran and technical consultant who has written numerous books covering all aspects of audio recording. For more information be sure to check out his website, and go here to acquire a copy of The Recording Engineer’s Handbook and here to acquire a copy of The Music Producer’s Handbook.