When recording vocals, getting a good sound doesn’t have to be rocket science, but there are certain things to consider. In part 2 of the “How to Get Started with Recording” series, we’ll go over 3 tips on how to get good sounding vocals.
Tip #1 - Choose Your Weapon
Part of getting a good vocal recording involves finding a mic that sounds good. If you read Part 1 of our series, I recommended testing a variety of microphones before you decide to sign on the dotted line. Because your vocals go through a microphone first, you want to make sure that you “get it right at the source” (as we say in the audio world). How you get it right at the source is by testing microphones. And the reason you want to test microphones is because they sound different. Based on their design, microphones sound different on people, in various environments, and how you place the microphone to record. During your mic shoot-out, you want to try moving closer or farther from it or try being higher or lower than the mic. In some cases, your voice will sound slightly or considerably different from these positions. So try at least 3 mics that you’re interested in and let your ears have the final say. (Tip 1-B - if you know of any engineers or studios, ask to dig into their mic locker and try some mics out)
Tip #2 - Think of Your Surroundings
After you’ve tested out some mics and found your weapon of choice, in order to get a good vocal recording, you also want to think about where you’re going to be recording. I know these are extreme examples, but let’s take your bathroom and your closet to illustrate the point. If you record in the bathroom, you’re going to have a lot of reflections. If you’re producing a podcast, recording in or around your bathroom may not be ideal. On the other hand, if you record in a dead, tight, and dry closet, it may suck the life out of your recording as well. So think about the area you’ll be recording in. Is there any or no acoustic treatment in that room? Are there a lot of reflections? Can you avoid being too close to walls or windows? Is there outside noise coming in? If so, is it a lot? Is it all the time?. These are some of the things to consider when finding space to record, so take some time to find an area that won’t hinder your recording quality. And if space is limited, and/or there are too many reflections or outside noise, look into getting a reflection shield to help minimize these issues. If you’re recording from home, then you’re probably in a space that is not designed for recording in a location that is not ideal. Reflection shields are not too expensive and they are easy to set up. The cool thing about these project studio reflection shields is most are portable. So you can quickly set up your shield and record with other musicians in various locations. Reflection shields can save you time and get you recording quality vocals faster, not to mention save you from frustration and headaches and that’s what I like… less headaches!
Tip #3 - Good Performance
Performance is key. Performance is key. Have I mentioned, performance is key? This step has nothing to do with acoustics, technology or price tags. At the end of the day, you can have a $500 or a $5,000 set up and all that really matters is the performance. I believe this is the hardest, but the most fun of the three steps. First off, a good performance is physical. If you’re not comfortable with the lighting or the temperature, make the appropriate adjustments to make the setting just right. I recommend having some room temperature water ready to go in case you need to wet your whistle.
You also want to be well-rehearsed. I see this in the studio all the time. Artists come in well-prepared, they go right into the booth, and once I hit record, they’re suddenly they’re having an incredibly hard time going over some lines they’ve been repeating for weeks. Why? Because a good performance also mental. They get in their head, over think things, and it becomes difficult to release the perfect song they hear in their heads and into the microphone. When you’re in record mode, you’re no longer in the safety of your shower. You’re now ready for the world to hear what you’ve got and it can be intimidating, yet exhilarating. It’s part of the process, so enjoy it. Have fun with it. Don’t let that big red button scare you. The best feeling is at the end of the session when you hear it all back and you’re ready to begin mixing.