Performance and recording related tips to record your vocals well

Getting The Best Performance

mic-shure-close-up

Vocalists tend to sing better, in pitch when they can hear their own voice mixed with a little reverb in the headphone mix. This reverb is not to be recorded, because we want the freedom to add the final reverb during mixing.

Do not use a pitch corrector during the recording stage.

Get enough takes from the vocalist, which can then be compiled (more below). But remember to keep the tone and words encouraging and not critical.

Stress is said to be one of the worst enemies of vocal performance, so the attitude will matter. Even subdued lighting and taking care of simple things like making sure there is room temperature drinking water (cool or cold can affect the throat) on hand is said to affect performance positively.  Make sure that the room is at a comfortable temperature too.

A good vocal performance recorded well, can be polished using EQ, compression, and reverb at the mixing stage.

Number of takes

Comping Not all our takes will be good. In a DAW, it is easy to use a software sequencer to record the same vocal part several times. Each of the takes can then be auditioned separately and move the phrases we like, to a new track.  Compiling the best phrases together into the final take is called 'comping'. Even with the best of singers, some takes are better than the other. So, comping is alright and useful.

Where to cut?

Cut in between the phrases and the edits won't be audible. Cut just before a hard consonant if we have to edit during a continuous phrase. If editing during a sustained sound (vowels like 'ooh' 'uuh') and hide the transition using a short crossfade (function available in the sequencer).

Editing Breath and other Noises

Breath noise is a natural part of singing. When mixing, if needed, remove partially or reduce breath sound levels. Removing breath noise completely can make the recording sound unnatural.

How to reduce breath noise in vocal recordings?

  • Select noises that need to be reduced, and apply gain reduction using your sequencer's gain function.
  • Use automation to reduce level at each instance of the breath sound
  • Gate Gates when closed can be set to reduce gain instead of completely cut off the sound. Place a gate on the track and set to apply a gain reduction (e.g. – 6db) each time the gate is closed.

You can treat other noises also the same way.

Headphones

Use closed headphones like the AKG K271MKII Closed Back Headphones to avoid monitor track from the headphones from spilling into the mic and onto the recording. If the singer prefers to have only one side of the headphones on while singing, set the sequencer to the pan of the headphone monitor output channel to extreme left or right as the vocalist chooses.

Ssss and T

Some 'S' and 'T' sounds are very sibilant and become too obvious and out of place in the recording.

Using a different mic and moving the mic above or below the line of mouth can solve or reduce the problem.

Putting more layers of material over the windshield can reduce the high frequency capture. But this is probably not a good idea since the effect cannot be undone later, and we can end up with a vocal recording that lacks high end as a whole.

De-esser effects and plugins

A de-essers are compressors made specifically to react only to frequencies in the sibilance range (3-6kHz).

The best de-essers will reduce just the sibilance band of frequencies when activated. There are models that are not so specific, but reduce the high frequency portion and very basic models that reduce the volume of the whole track when sibilance is detected.

It is also possible to use equalizer automation to reduce the gain in just the sibilant band wherever sibilance appears in the track. This means setting up band of the equalizer with frequency at the sibilant range and using automation to reduce the gain of this band only where sibilance is a problem.

Posted in Recording, Vocals

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