You are probably aware that Vocal Recording is an important music production step for all the artists who want to release a well produced song and break in the music market. Nowadays, you can record vocals even at home with the advantage of performing in a familiar and relaxed environment, saving also a lot of money. However, your sound might be still far from your expectations or meet the music industry standards at all. That is a common situation for all singer-songwriters who try to record vocals in their home studio without an extensive experience. In this vocal recording guide, you will finally learn the five indispensable key factors for taking your vocal recordings to the next level.
Before Starting: How To Evaluate Your Vocal Recording
Back to when I was a home recording beginner, my only concern about my vocals was only to be in tune or roughly in time. As you can imagine, I basically ignored all the other essential parameters to consider during a real critical listening process.
You can find all the parameters for evaluating your vocal recording as follows:
- Expressivity: vocal recording may lack expression
- Tone: for example, too deep or too bright. It may not match the mood of the song
- Clarity: vocals may be not intelligible
- Definition: the audio may lack fidelity, details may not be recognised
- Pronunciation: you may not articulate syllables well
- Pitch: you may not be in tune
- Time: you may not match tempo and groove of the song
- Breaths Control: breaths may be too noticeable
- Fricatives Control: sibilant and not-sibilant fricatives may be too noticeable
- Plosives Control : p, t, d, b sounds may be too noticeable
- Unwanted Distortion Presence: some distortion may occur in several situations
- Noise Presence: included the noise from your mouth
The 5 Key Factors For Recording Great Vocals
- Room: a healthy recording environment is necessary for recording vocals properly, but it’s not enough.
- Equipment: a good microphone is indispensable, but it’s not enough without a good preamp. However, not even a good preamp is enough.
- Delegation: if you are the performer, delegating technical aspects to someone else is essential, but it’s not enough.
- Engineering: a good engineering work is extremely important, but it’s not enough.
- Performance: if the other elements have been sorted out and your performance shines, your vocal recording will be definitely great.
Now that you know the five key factors, let’s start to analyse each of them in depth.
#1 Kill Your Room Enemies
I have recorded my vocals several times at home in the past, but for some reasons there was always something wrong either during my performance or when listened to them afterwards.
My basic setup included:
- a $200 condenser microphone (C2000b by AKG)
- my old fully functioning audio interface by Edirol (now Roland)
- a mobile vocal booth or Reflection Filter by SE Electronics
- cheap cables by Stags
After struggling to figure out why a good performance and a healthy signal level were not enough for better recordings, I suddenly realised that I couldn’t solve all my room issues just by using a $60 U-Shape Mobile Vocal Booth.
Further, hearing the TV level of my next neighbour caused to me loss of concentration, affecting not just the quality of my performance, but even the time spent on it.
I could keep flattering myself and still getting the same average bad quality recording conditions or doing something to get a healthy recording environment: at that point I decided to take my home studio to the next level.
When A Room Is Suitable For Vocal Recording?
First of all, the health of a recording environment depends on the control of two invisible enemies of vocal recording:
If you take control of both of them your recordings will dramatically improve.
Noise is the most obvious of your enemies when you deal with vocal recording (or any other instrument). It’s a typical issue occurring in not soundproofed environments, but also in rooms hosting buzzy electrical devices or noisy “living beings”.
Aspects affecting the noise presence in a room
In short, the degree of noise control depends on the following elements:
- Location type: a big city, a small town, countryside
- Property type: Flat, Studio Flat, One Bedroom Flat, Detached, Semi-detached, Terraced, End of Terrace, Cottage, Bungalow, Converted Warehouse
- Space type: independent, shared-house, shared room.
- Neighbourhood, flatmates and roommates noise level: loud, silent
- Equipment and electrical system quality: microphone, silence laptop, audio interface, cables, stands, processing hardware and software, electrical system
Internal vs External Noise
Depending on its origin, we can classify noise in two types:
- Internal Noise
- External Noise
External noise is meant to be originated outside your room and is the most noticeable of the two types. It includes:
- Traffic (cars, trains, planes)
- Security Alarms
Internal noise is made up of all those signals originated inside your room and may include:
- Room-mate or partner
- Computers noise
- Noisy audio gear
- Electrical sockets buzz
- A pet
The consequences of noise
- Unwanted noise signals into your recording
- Frequent loss of concentration
- High risk of a bad performance (thinking of disturbing someone else)
- Aggravation of relationships with flat mates
- Aggravation of relationship with your room-mate or partner
- Aggravation of relationships with neighbourhood
The noise battle: common remedies
- Waiting for the end of a noise (such as planes, trains, cars horns)
- Trying to fix or attenuate internal noise (replacing noisy devices)
- Recording at night (your flatmates/neighbours wouldn’t be happy)
- Moving to the countryside, far away from the chaos of the city without soundproofing
- Soundproofing the room, which involves the purchase and the installation of specific materials. You may decide to soundproof a room or not if you own it, you are a long-term tenant or you live there for a short period of time
- Renting a room which is already soundproofed in a music production friendly environment.
How I took control of noise
I could soundproof the room investing money in materials and installation fees by a specialised company or the work of a handyman. However, as I was only a tenant of the flat where I currently live and I wanted to make my music production studio as the first source of my income, the last option was my final choice.
After a long research, I found the best possible solution to take control of noise. I have rented a soundproofed room (a room within a room) in the same building with other music producers and I achieved the following benefits:
- I don’t have to worry about planes, trains, cars or motorcycles anymore
- I don’t bother my partner anymore
- I can sing as loud as I want without disturbing my neighbours
- When I close both the doors (I have an internal and an external door with a huge air gap between them) there is complete silence
- The environment is professional with reception and mail services
- I can access my studio 24/7
Then I have given a name to my studio calling it Star Lane Studio, as for the name of the nearest train station in London.
Let’s move on with the next invisible enemy now: reflections.
Reflections represent the other invisible enemy of vocal recording (or recording in general) and they can be very strong. In some circumstances they are even more difficult to fight against because of their less noticeable presence.
Aspects affecting reflections presence and their level in a room
In short, reflections presence depends on the following elements:
- Room size: small, medium, large
- Room shape: rectangular, cubic, other complex shapes
- Room surfaces material: drywall, concrete, wood, glass
- Furniture presence: desk, music stands, screens
- Windows presence
- Microphone position: close to the wall, in a modal resonant spot
Depending on such factors listed above and the frequency range affected, reflections can cause several dangerous phenomena in your room:
- Comb-filtering: caused by early reflections bounced off the closest walls and affecting frequencies below 500Hz regardless the room size.
- Standing Waves: caused by Room Modes in small rooms and affecting frequencies below 350Hz.
- Flutter Echoes: caused by reflections in small rooms and affecting frequencies above 500Hz.
- Muddiness: caused by a long Decay Time (RT60) in large rooms and affecting the intelligibility of vocals up to 4kHz.
- Dryness: caused by a very short Decay Time (RT60) in cheap foam based vocal booths
Early Reflections and Comb-filtering
Comb-filtering is strictly related to the early reflections of the original sound and can seriously compromise the quality of your vocals recording.
Imagine you are recording a vocal line in a corner of your untreated home studio. You are happy of using your new condenser microphone and can’t wait to track the first take of your project. The microphone picks up the sound of your voice as expected. However, after a very short delay of time, the sound of your voice bounces also off the closest hard surface (early reflections) of the room and hits the capsule of the microphone. What happened? The phenomenon that acoustics experts so call “Comb-filtering occurred.
In short, we can define Comb-filtering as a time based issue with the following key characteristics:
- two identical sound waves, generally below 500Hz, are involved
- the incident wave and the reflected wave go towards the same direction
- the reflected wave delay results in an out-of-phase (misalignment) of the two superimposed sound waves
- this misalignment can generate constructive (peaks) or destructive interferences (dips or nulls) in a new combined sound wave
Comb filtering and vocal recording
Several layers of comb filters can cause irreparable damages to your recorded audio signal. Up to 18 dB volume increase, Comb filtering can generate several issues such as:
- different pitch perception
- different room perception
- hard localisation
For demonstration purposes, I generated and recorded on a specific track some white noise (the audio must be printed out in order to combine two identical signals). Then I duplicated the first white noise track applying on the new track 0.5ms of delay time. Finally, I inserted an EQ plugin on the Stereo Output channel to visualise through the analyser the shape of the overall signal.
Looking at the waveform below you can notice as a sequence of teeths in the form of a comb shape (that’s why the term comb).
The larger is the delay time, the closer the combed frequencies are one each other.
Can I fix comb filtering with EQ on post-production?
After recording, you cannot correct it with EQ. Any attempt to do it will affect proportionally both the direct and the reflected sound, but the interference of the two will not change.
Mixing engineers face these issues on daily basis with several tools, perhaps with some creative solutions, but what you get is not always the natural and transparent vocal sound you desire 🙁
Room Modes and Standing Waves
If Early Reflections and Comb filtering are time-based vocal recording enemies, Room Modes and Standing Waves are concepts related to space and strictly caused by room dimensions.
Although many articles on the web consider Room Modes and Standing Waves the same thing, let’s try to define both of them once for all.
Room Modes is a term referring to certain resonant (called also modal) frequencies at which a bass sound (generally below 350 Hz) seems very loud or very low in several areas of a small room.
They basically are a sort of acoustic map strictly related to sound waves reflections occurring within an untreated room.
Depending on how many surfaces of the room those reflections hit (2, 4 or 6), there are 3 types of Room Modes.
Axial modes: the strongest and the most considered. 2 surfaces are involved.
Tangential modes: less impact, but more prevalent. 4 surfaces are involved.
Oblique modes: less impact, but more prevalent. 6 surfaces are involved.
Reflections travel also from both the ceiling and the floor.
There is a specific Formula to calculate the fundamental frequency (including all its harmonics) for each Room Mode. See it below:
F = c/2 * sqrt(p^2/L^2 + q^2/W^2 + r^2/H^2)
Although we mentioned the formula above, Room Modes calculation is beyond the aim of this article. Further information will come with practical procedures in the future.
As a result of Room Modes, standing waves occur when two identical sound waves (the incident and the reflected sound), at the same modal frequency, travel to opposite direction and generate a wave pattern of peaks and drops affecting either the fundamental note and its harmonics.
Considering an axial mode in a rectangular room, a standing wave occurs when the distance between two parallel walls is an integer multiple of the half the wavelength of the sound: λ = 2 × L (L = room width, height or length).
Why Standing Waves may affect my vocal recordings?
Room Modes is a concept generally faced in regard of mixing and mastering, but try to imagine your microphone placed in some of those dead or loud spots in your room: some important information in the low range will be boost or dropped out because of such interferences. Further, microphones are sensible not only to sound pressure (as for human ears), but even to sound velocity.
Flutter Echo is a typical issue of small rooms and occurs when the wavelength of sound waves that bounce off two parallel surfaces is shorter than the distance between the walls. Actually, the shorter is the distance between the surfaces, the more resonating flutter echoes are. They may affect the intelligibility of vocals on the mid-high range and alter the perception of pitch and tone. You can recognise it from its typical ringing and harsh sound.
Long Reverberation Time
Very long Reverberation Time, especially in large rooms, can become a very annoying enemy to deal with during your vocal recording session. In the meantime, let’s recap very quickly what reverb is.
Quick Definition of Reverb
Reverb is a natural phenomenon consisting of multiple irregular reflections bouncing off the surfaces of an environment (or a room). You are probably hearing it right now, but if it’s too short you can hardly notice it. The nature and the evidence of reverb depend on several factors such as:
- Environment size
- Environment shape
- Surfaces material
- Reverberation Time (also known as Decay Time)
- Early Reflections Time (how long a sound wave takes to bounce off the closest wall in milliseconds)
Reverberation Time, commonly known as RT60, measures how long the sound pressure level takes to decrease (or decay) by 60db in a given environment.
Common Long Reverberation Time Issues
- Low level sounds are masked by louder sounds
- The reverb sounds harsh and brittle
- The overall signal sounds muddy
- Hard localisation of the instruments
- Uneven across all frequencies (characteristic of furnished rooms)
What’s the ideal Reverberation Time?
Why should not I pick up room reverb during vocal recording?
Unless you are a great performer, the tone of the reverb is exactly what you want and all the levels are set correctly, there is nothing wrong. However, in a real home recording situation this never happens. In short, you should avoid to pick reverb while you track vocals for the following reasons:
- Reverb gives the perception that the singer is farther away (many pop songs nowadays require up-front vocals)
- You can’t edit a vocal line (correcting pitch, time, removing clicks or pops) precisely with reverb on it
- Editing and processing would result in a faster audio degradation
- It can cause a wrong pitch perception
- Especially in small rooms, reverb is so short that it’s very hard to remove later
Can the microphone position avoid reverb?
Unfortunately the microphone position can’t help you to avoid reverb in your vocal recording. Unless you treat the room with absorption panels or build/buy an effective vocal booth, reverb is everywhere.
The Golden Ratio
The Golden Ratio is related to a theoretical room dimensions ratio determining the perfect room acoustics. In Golden Ratio rooms the sound should always be perceived well balanced whatever position you are.
In order to achieve an optimal overall sound, the width should be 1.6 times than the height and the length 2.6 times the height.
However, making your room fitting (or close to) the Golden Ratio is not always possible. And here’s that Acoustic Treatment comes to help us.
Soundproofing vs Acoustic Treatment
Many beginners confuse the terms “soundproofing” and “acoustic treatment” and use them interchangeably. They refer instead to two different concepts.
Soundproofing means isolating acoustically an environment (for example a room) removing all the noise (or almost) coming from or to the outside “world”.
However, it’s not always possible to remove all the noise completely (very low frequencies, as are the strongest and the longest, pass through walls).
Acoustic Treatment is the only way to make an untreated environment (for example a room) suitable for activities like recording, mixing and mastering professionally.
Large Rooms vs Small Rooms
Small Rooms are the most affected by Room Modes, especially at low frequencies. It’s highly probable you hear some frequencies more than others, or you can’t hear some of them at all. Distortion and wrong pitch perception may occur while listening to music or audio in general in small rooms.
Larger Rooms are less affected by Room Modes. A potential issue of large rooms can be the Decay Time though. If the reverberation time is too high then vocals or speech may become unintelligible.
Is a small room large enough to reproduce very low frequencies?
Yes, it is. Here’s what happens when you reproduce a sound wave at any frequency:
- If longer than the distance from the wall, part of the wave will pass through it
- Another part will be absorbed by the wall material and transformed in heat
- Another part will be reflected and bounced back to other room surfaces
Reflections, in combination with the direct signal, are the real reason for which you could perceive a sound wave altered in amplitude, pitch and tone. However, with a proper acoustic treatment even a small room can become suitable for listening very low frequencies.
The goal of absorption technique is making the signal as dry as possible reducing reverb and ambience. It’s adopted through the installation of acoustic panels which absorb sound waves reflections at different degrees. The amount of absorption depends on factors such as their material, density, design, thickness, technology used and distance from the wall surface. When a sound wave bounces off a room boundary treated with an absorption panel, a part of it goes through the wall (low-frequency sound waves can be longer than your room dimensions), another part is transformed into heat by the acoustic panel itself and the last part is reflected back from the wall at a lower amplitude.
Common absorption panels are: acoustic panels (mid-high range), bass traps or corner bass-traps (low-end) and monster traps(for a more low-end absorption).
As we already mentioned, there are different types of absorption panels. Reliable specialised companies selling these acoustic solutions provide also a product spec including the material used, coefficient of absorption and the frequency range covered.
The aim of diffusion is spreading sound energy evenly in an unclosed environment. It’s also fighting flutter echo and comb filtering issues while retaining rooms liveness in recording and listening rooms. In recording environments, diffusers divert directions of reflections by scattering their signal rather than directing them back to the sound source (avoiding being picked up by microphones). They generally suggest to use them in large rooms or farther away from the listener/microphone position, but at the same time some models can make small rooms sound bigger if positioned correctly.
Common diffusers types include: Quadratic-residue diffusers, Primitive-root diffusers, Optimised diffusers, Two-dimensional diffusers and Schroeder diffusers.
Absorption, Diffusion or both?
All rooms are different in shape, size, furniture and layout. There’s a very intense debate about which technique works better. A general rule of thumb is knowing your room through measurements (Dimensions, Room Modes, Reverb Decay) and take decisions depending on the improvements you need.
There are several free or paid softwares available on the market for measuring and analysing the speakers frequency response in your room. One of them is REW and it’s completely free!
A Vocal Booth is an area treated acoustically for vocal recording. There are plenty of vocal booth models available on both professional and consumer markets. Some websites provide also tutorial for building your home-made vocal booth. Let’s try to illustrate them.
Expensive Vocal Booths
Some professional products can be very expensive, as they are built with effective materials and several features on purpose (a proper door, a lamp, music stand and so on). You can find them as a unique block or in a modular version as well. Their price-range is around $1200 7.000.
Mobile U Shape Vocal Booths
I used one from SE Electronics in the past, now it’s in my storage room. Mobile vocal booths have become very popular in recent years, especially for their affordable cost. Most of them have a U shape and can be moved easily. Their price-range is around $100 300. But how much are they reliable for vocal recording? As a songwriter and singer, I have never been a big fan of these products for several reasons:
- They are too small and don’t make me feel comfortable
- Most of them are foam based.
- The back is not covered
- The ceiling is not covered
- As for their small size, it seems they don’t effectively absorb reflections
PVC & Foam Hand-Made Vocal Booths
Definitely to avoid. Internet is full of tutorials about how to build a closed vocal booth on your own using PVC pipes and foam. You can find ready-to-sell versions of this DIY Vocal Booths also on Ebay at $100 circa.
They are very cheap, but how much do you think they are effective? With just one layer of foam you will absorb only some mid-high frequencies of your voice, making the recorded vocals muffled and still with issues generated by standing waves on the low-end.
My Vocal Booth at Star Lane Studio
After years of struggling with unlucky solutions, last year I decided that my vocal lines deserved a good quality recording environment. In order to build my Vocal Recording Booth at Star Lane Studio, Considering the specific characteristics of my room, I personally relied on the suggestions and products of a specialised and well known company based in Europe and U.S..
Back: I purchased a standing and 2m tall Monster Bass Trap to place behind the artist’s back (the most crucial side when recording vocals) during recording sessions. This panel absorbs low-frequencies down to 80Hz and can handle also very deep male voices!
Front and Sides: I purchased 2x of their Isolation Booths for treating either the front and the sides of my recording area. The panels are made of rigid rockwool which absorbs down to 150Hz, with a noticeable improvement of sound clarity. The external side has a thin and rigid plate with stylish cutouts which reflect high frequency content across the room while keeping the recording area “live”.
Ceiling: I have also hung two artisanal acoustic panels to the ceiling for preventing standing waves bouncing up and down to the floor.
Floor: I left the hard surface of the floor untreated to prevent too much dryness.
Result: the result is more effective and natural than all U-Shape mobile vocal booths or many “dead” solutions available online. My recording area now provides a good looking, open, large and effective vocal booth where singers can perform with confidence and comfort.
Immediate Benefits from Acoustic Treatment
You will get valuable benefits during both the recording, mixing and mastering steps.
Benefits during the Recording Step: Your mic will pick up only the direct sound of your voice with no risk of distortion or partial cancellation
caused by reflections. So that the quality of the overall signal will be ensured before being processed, as healthy recordings are stronger against degradation during mixing and mastering steps
Benefits during Mixing and Mastering Steps: Your ears will pick up only the direct sound from the speakers while having a more realistic perception of your music. So you will be confident in order to take important decisions regarding the final mix/master.
#2 Choose The Right Equipment
It might seem trivial saying that cheap equipment could make you save money initially, but on the long run disadvantages will be more than advantages.
Why the microphone choice matters
Although there is not a unique answer when the choice of the right microphone comes, there are some aspects you should consider before buying any, especially because you will use it for the majority of your vocal recording sessions.
Microphone Types: Quick Overview
You probably already know the difference between a condenser, a dynamic and a ribbon microphone. For recap, let’s describe them in a few words:
Condenser microphones: they pick up a wide frequency range, which means more detail, more clarity, more definition. Their usage requires an insulated and acoustically treated room. Most of them are cardioid, but other polar patterns can be available such as bi-directional and omnidirectional. In order to work you have to switch Phantom Power On. Best choice for recording studio environments, their price range is very wide, from the most affordable to the most expensive.
Dynamic microphones: the combination of a narrower frequency range and the cardioid polar pattern characteristics makes this type of microphone better suitable for Live Performances than condensers (less sounds from far away). They are also very robust and can handle high pressure level sources. Although they can be a valid option for recording vocals in studio, they lack detail and definition in comparison with the three-dimensional characteristic of condenser microphones. They are generally more affordable than condensers, although some models are more expensive than others.
Ribbon microphones: They are the most sensitive and delicate microphones (switch off the Phantom Power or you will break them). In comparison with condensers, they roll off the highs of your vocals in a more natural way resulting in a warmer sound. Originally used for broadcast, then in studio environments, some new generation ribbon models are also suitable for Live usage now. As they are very expensive (and required a treated environment), it’s very rare to find them in a home studio.
Large vs Small diaphragm
Large diaphragm microphones are better for vocal recording because they add that flavour which makes your voice sound full and rich, giving you more comfort and pleasure while singing. They are the first choice for lead instruments, although are also used for bass-heavy instrument sounds.
Small diaphragm microphones are more consistent and neutral in their frequency response than large diaphragm mics. They represent a very good option for instruments such as piano, acoustic guitar, drums (overhead, hi-hat, snares, cymbals), percussions, as well as for recording choirs and vocal ensembles.
Which type of microphone is best suitable for recording vocals?
In most situations, I would definitely suggest to invest in a good large diaphragm condenser microphone.
What’s the difference between a good and a bad condenser?
A good condenser microphone is recognisable by:
- higher definition
- more clarity
- more pleasant tone
- more polar pattern options
- a better off-axis frequency response
- more expensive. From $1000.
A bad condenser microphone is recognisable by:
- lack of definition
- poor clarity
- a noticeable harsh sound on the top-end
- limited polar patterns
- a poor off-axis frequency response
- high impedance
- very cheap. You better buy a very good dynamic at the same price.
Why cheap microphones can ruin my vocal recording?
There are several reasons for which a cheap microphone can potentially ruin your vocal recording session:
Poor definition in your headphones mix: as you can read below in this article, a bad headphones mix may negatively affect your performance. And as what you hear in your monitors depends first of all on the microphone in use, using a cheap one would affect the feeling of your singing.
Poor definition in your recording: cheap microphone are less realistic and don’t transmit the magical atmosphere of your performance, even if it was great.
Harsh sound: cheap microphones are recognisable from their typical harsh sound on the top-end. Yes, you can use EQ later on to adjust it, but at what price? You would lose important information of your voice. Think about it.
Absence of a polar pattern frequency response chart: Serious manufacturers always include a polar pattern chart. Otherwise you might use the microphone in the wrong way.
Why a polar pattern chart is so important?
Because you need to know the frequency response of your microphone depending on which angle the sound comes from.
Why a good condenser is more expensive?
Because of quality of diaphragm, capsule, electronic components and circuitry design matter. Some people try to clone very popular and expensive models, but rarely with good results.
Why I have to buy a condenser if I can avoid room modes with a good dynamic mic?
People would assume that as a dynamic microphone has fewer chances to pick up room reflections like a condenser does, they can replace the latter with the former and solving all their problems!
Your goal instead should be achieving a good result from your recording rather than avoiding to treat your room.
Although you could buy excellent dynamic microphones, the difference with an excellent condenser will always be huge though. For example, if you record a vocal with a Neumann U87 and listen to that take after the session, it will seem that the person is still there. This is called “high definition”. Come to my studio to believe it!
Why Michael Jackson used the dynamic Shure SM7B for recording Thriller?
For sure not because he couldn’t use other microphones! In that case, it was a tone choice, considering his timbre, the mood and the style. However, the primary function of a studio microphone is recording at a high possible fidelity, especially if you want to break into the modern mainstream music market.
When choosing a dynamic microphone instead?
If you want a more aggressive tone for your vocals, or you already know that you are going to scream (without caring so much about dynamic), a dynamic mic can be a valid option. Some very good dynamic microphone are the Shure SM7B or the Electro-Voice RE20. If you are in budget an SM58 is more affordable and can make the job.
Proximity Effect refers to an increase of bass frequency output response when the source of the signal gets closer to the microphone (generally Figure of 8 or Cardioid).
Is Proximity Effect positive or negative?
Proximity Effect can be good or bad depending on the quality of the voice you are recording. If a timbre is thin and needs more body you can make advantage of the Proximity Effect to make it fatter and fuller. It’s not generally a problem for most of female voices (at least with a higher register), but it may become a pain with lower register voices which can sound maddy. For example, pay attention to male voices below 200-300Hz, or, when you record guitars, keep an eye on the E string around 80Hz.
Proximity Effect, Pressure Transducer and Polar Patterns
Proximity Effect presence depends on the type of pressure transducer used in a microphone.
Pressure Transducer is a sensor that converts pressure into an analog signal.
The Proximity Effect affects only microphones using polar patterns with Gradient Pressure Transducer. Polar Patterns with Pure Pressure Transducer instead have no Proximity Effect
- Bidirectional (Figure-of-8): 100% Gradient Pressure Transducer. Very strong Proximity Effect
- Cardioid: 50% Gradient Transducer and 50% Pure Transducer. Very noticeable Proximity Effect
- Omnidirectional: 100% Pure Pressure Transducer. No Proximity Effect.
Cardioid microphones with no Proximity Effect
Although Proximity Effect is a well known characteristic of most of microphones, the Electro-Voice patented a technology called “Variable-D”, which was developed to reduce the Proximity Effect by using cardioid microphones. For example, Electro-Voice RE20 is an example of dynamic cardioid with no Proximity Effect.
The importance of On-Axis and Off-axis frequency response
Looking at the polar chart provided by the manufacturer, On-axis response is related to the one at 0º. Off-axis response instead is the frequency response of a microphone from a different angle than 0º.
Some directional microphones have a better response on-axis, with the membrane in front of the sound source (for example the mouth), but a poor response off-axis. Other microphones have instead a good response off-axis too.
There are two reasons for which you should know why on-axis and off-axis frequency response are extremely important.
- You want to sing straight in front of the microphone without picking up any sound from the room (on-axis response)
- You want to get control of the Proximity Effect (off-axis response)
- You want to get control of pops and mouth noise using a pop shield (off-axis response)
- You want to get rid off the Proximity Effect and other noise without using a pop shield, while preserving the mic tone (off-axis response)
In the first case, On-axis placement is the answer, as you want to minimise potential dangerous room reflections from the sides or the rear (using a cardioid microphone).
We know that each voice is different, as well as the studio experience of the performer.
Some voice characteristics can be more evident than others depending on the song. For instance, pops generated by ‘plosive’ consonants, noticeable esses or breaths out of control could become the worst enemies of your vocal recording session.
How to get rid or attenuate them, preserving either the tone of the microphone and the quality of the overall recording (avoiding also expensive editing services later)?
Assuming that you have already sorted out any reflections-related issue, Proximity Effect or mouth-noise related issues can be better solved with an Off-axis placement. Thus, a good off-axis microphone frequency response becomes crucial.
In Off-axis placement, the microphone will be placed slightly or more inclined by specific degrees towards the side of a sound source, rather than in front of it.
However, a good Off-axis response is generally a characteristic of more expensive microphones.
What if I can’t afford an expensive condenser microphone?
If you can’t afford a good condenser microphone you have two options:
- Recording with a cheap microphone being aware that you will achieve a worse result, perhaps spending even more time and money for mixing and mastering steps with no satisfaction.
- Recording vocals at someone else’s studio and doing the rest of the work at your home studio.
Vintage Neumann U87: the choice of Song Like A Pro at Star Lane Studio
At Star Lane Studio we record vocals with a Vintage Neumann U87i, one of the most versatile mic in the world.
This luxury condenser microphone provides high definition and a flavour which makes you voice sound wonderful on its own.
This piece of music history also has an excellent off-axis response and can be used in combination with several vocal recording techniques.
Pop Filter (or Pop Shield)
As we anticipated, a Pop filter (or Pop Shield) is commonly used for avoiding pops from your recording during “p”, “b”, perhaps “t” pronunciation.
It’s also useful to prevent beginners singing too close to the microphone in order to avoid dynamic fluctuations and the Proximity Effect.
A shock mount is a microphone support providing an elastic suspension for the microphone. They help to prevent low-end rumbles caused when a singer accidentally knocks the mic stand causing unwanted vibrations which may ruin a vocal recording. Quality manufactures provide a shock mount for each particular microphone model, although you can find universal third party shock mounts online.
Mic stands need to be solid, stable and durable. Unstable stands affect the quality of your recordings.
Audio interface and preamps
Audio Interface or sound card
An audio interface, also known as a sound card or audio interface, is an other necessary element in digital recording. Whether it’s an integrated part of your computer or an external desktop interface, a good audio card nowadays generally provides the following functionalities:
- Analog To Digital (A/D) and Digital To Analog (D/A) Converter
- Few or more Sample Rate options (from 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz)
- One or multiple Pre-Amps for each available channel
- Shared or Dedicated Phantom Power switch for each available channel
- At least one dedicated Headphones Output
- Instrument Input: as a separate Direct Input (D.I.) or as a Combo Input (Combos accept both XLR Jack and 1/8 TS Jack connectors)
- At least Two Line Level Outputs (TRS or XLR) for studio monitors connections
- Stereo Line Level Inputs (Optional)
- Midi Inputs and Outputs (Optional)
- A fixed High Pass Filter switch for each available channel (Optional)
- A Phase Polarity switch for each available channel (Optional)
The conversion from a continuous to a discrete signal is the first aim of any audio interface. Let’s make some examples to understand better what it does.
Analog-To-Digital Conversion (A/D): when you connect a microphone (or an instrument) by a cable into the audio card and you send the sound to your computer.
Digital-To-Analog Conversion (D/A): when you listen to a song of your favourite band from the speakers of your computer.
Why do I need a Pre-Amp?
A Preamp is responsible for bringing Mic Level or Instrument Level audio signals to Line Level. For more information about levels check The 4 Types Of Audio Signal Levels on this page.
Which characteristics should have a good pre-amp?
When you raise the gain, a good pre-amp should match the following characteristics:
- The highest possible level of transparency (any color or character should be added on purpose)
- The lowest possible level of noise (you know one of your enemies very well now)
- The lowest possible level of distortion (any distortion should be added on purpose)
Other important characteristics to consider before buying a sound card
Signal To Noise Radio (SNR)
For example, if the value is 120dB it means that the level of the audio signal is 120dB higher than the noise level.
Total Harmonic Distortion (Noise)
The amount of additional harmonic overtones (noise) introduced by the conversion process.
The difference between the highest and lowest signal level expressed in decibels. A larger dynamic range will generate a more natural sound during the playback.
The level of attenuation or boost of a signal level within its frequency range.
- Digital Mixer Software
- Lightweight (or Lite) DAW Version
Cables are often underestimate from the beginners, although the audio signal passes through them and their quality may affect the quality of the sound itself.
Short Cables vs Long Cables
Generally speaking, shorter cables have less chance of interferences than longer cables
Balanced Cables vs Unbalanced Cables
A Balanced cable run on three wires: a ground, a positive and negative leg, where both legs carry noise at a different polarity. If the destination is balanced, the receiver will flip one of the legs, causing a phase cancellation and removing the presence of noise. For this reason, balanced cables are the best choice if they are long. Both XLR and TRS connectors are used to transport balanced audio.
An Unbalanced cable (also called guitar cable) is more susceptible of noise presence, especially over 25 feet length.
How to connect a studio microphone to an audio interface?
In order to connect the microphone to the audio card you need a balanced cable with a male XLR jack to an end and a female XLR jack to the other end. The female XLR will be attached to the microphone whereas the male XLR will be plugged into the Mic Level XLR input.
Don’t use TRS jacks for connecting the mic to the audio interface, even if you notice some jack inputs available (unless you are using cheap karaoke mics). Those are for Instrument Level or Line Level sources.
More expensive cables vs cheap cables
Cheap cables apparently can make the job done as soon as you buy them, but it happens very often that their connectors stop to work properly later on and you can’t figure out when this will happen. I would avoid unwanted buzz or sudden breaks (maybe right in the most important moment of your production). Trust me, if you can, invest in good quality cables and don’t think about it anymore.
Which Headphones for Vocal Recording
After choosing the right microphone supported by an effective shock mount, a noiseless transparent preamp, a good quality audio interface, solid cables and stable stands, headphones represent a very important element of the vocal recording equipment chain, either for the vocal performer or the recording engineer.
Open Back Headphones
Open Back Headphones are recognisable for their natural and clear sound because they allow air to pass through their ear cups to the speaker element. That means no pressure affecting the quality of the sound with little echoes inside your headphones. However, their usage is recommended in silent and private places (like at home) as they don’t prevent your music to be heard by someone else and don’t block the outside noise which may affect your listening experience. They are also very fragile and should be treated with extreme care.
Closed Back Headphones
Closed Back Headphones might not sound so natural as Open Back Headphones (you might hear some little echoes on the low-end) , but they block much more noise from the outside world. More expensive models ensure a very good listening experience.
Which type of headphones should I choose then?
In order to prevent the backing track bleeding from your headphones into the live microphone, you should aim to the maximum isolation experience. For this reason you need to buy a good pair of Closed Back Headphones.
The headphones available at Star Lane Studio
At Star Lane Studio all the singers record their vocals using a pair of Audio Technica ATH-M50X. They combine an very good listening experience and prevent any bleeding into the microphone during the vocal recording phase. They are also very robust and don’t cost a fortune.
#3 Delegation: Focus On Your Role
What’s my role? This is the first question you should ask yourself when the time of recording vocals comes. Vocal Recording generally involves at least the following roles:
- The Vocal Performer
- The Recording Engineer
- The Music Producer
As the Music Producer role can be done even while you are acting as a vocal performer or recording engineer, I strongly discourage engineering yourself while recording your own performance. Many singer-songwriters think that they can do great on their own, but that’s their biggest mistake.
Why I shouldn’t engineer my own vocal recording performance?
From the vocal performer perspective
Even if you have an excellent vocal recording technique, you should avoid engineering yourself for the following reasons:
- Tension: getting yourself relaxed is the most important requirement for a good vocal performance. Thinking of solving technical issues can cause tension and even worse bring you to postpone the session.
- Poor Attention to details: acting only as a singer helps you to limit the number of elements to pay attention to. The fewer of them, the better.
- Loss of Concentration: if you are in “artist mode”, it’s harder to sing and thinking of technical aspects at the same time (creating, renaming, saving a new track or pressing Playback/Rec every now and then without losing focus on your performance).
- Missing Moral Support: recording vocals can be very stressful, especially if you are alone. Another person who can encourage and support you can make your day.
From the recording engineer perspective
Even if you have an excellent recording engineering knowledge, you should avoid to perform at the same time for the following reasons:
- You may forget to set recording levels when the session begins: a common mistake is checking the recording levels quickly with poor accuracy or skipping completely this essential part of vocal recording process.
- You may forget to check recording levels during the session: another common this kind of issue can affect beginners as well as experienced engineers. It doesn’t matter how good you are. If suddenly the signal gets too hot or distorted and you are distracted, you will continue with the wrong level and waste your time.
- You may forget to adjust recording levels if the song changes: a different song can have different dynamics which may require a change in the preamp settings.
- You may forget to set the headphones level: a good monitor mix is essential for a good vocal performance of the artist
- You may forget to adjust headphones levels if the song changes: a too loud or too low headphones level can affect the performance of the artist
How can I get engineering support for recording my vocals?
Ask your friend or bandmate who is already acknowledged or anyone who can learn what to do from the Recording Engineering Fundamentals section (which is part of this free vocal recording guide).
If you are still looking for someone willing to give you a hand, or if you need instead a professional and quick solution, contact us for any help request.
#4 Engineering Fundamentals for Vocal Recording
Audio Measurement Units: dB, dBu, dBVU, dBFS
A decibel itself is just a ratio of two values within a logarithmic scale. A logarithmic scale allows to make huge numbers more manageable.
In fact, the word decibel can be referred to several types of unit, so it doesn’t have a specific meaning until we associate it to an absolute reference point. When we determine a value which makes sense for what we want to measure, we will set it to 0dB.
It’s a scale used in professional analog audio environments and positive and negative values. In this case, 0dBu represents 0.775 Volts RMS in an unloaded circuit and +4dBu is the voltage reference level for professional audio products.
This scale was used in very old meters in 1942 and included positive and negative values. 0dBVU represented +4dBu and 16dBFS. There are many plugin-emulations of VU type meters nowadays.
It’s a full digital scale and is used in any DAW meter. Unlike dBu and dBVU, 0dBFS represents the maximum value of the scale beyond which clipping occurs. All the other available lower values are negative.
Metering: Peaks, True Peaks, RMS and LUFS
A peak meter is a quick measurement tool that indicates in real time the level of an audio signal that is passing through it. It reacts proportionally to the voltage of the audio signal.
Human ear perception is more similar to an average meter than a peak meter, that’s why many audiophiles prefer to use older analog style metering.
Beside the Peak Sample meter, many DAWS Today provide also a True Peak meter.
It allows to measure the loudest point in a signal. It’s the translation from the digital domain to the analog domain and tell us whether or not the signal leaving the DAW will go above the absolute 0 DbFS. Although at first it might sound a bit confusing, not exceeding 0dBFS in the digital domain (checking only the Sample Peak meter) is not enough to avoid clipping in the analog world. Maybe your track will sound good from your studio monitors, but the inter-sample peaks may be clipped on any other standard HI FI or a normal PA System. Why is that possible? Because all the audio we create in our DAW has to be converted to an analog signal to be heard. During the D/A conversion a reconstruction filter is applied on it causing some changes to the audio levels. If a signal is close to 0dBFS it’s highly probable it will clip. That’s why it’s good practice considering the usage of a True Peak in combination with other meters.
RMS (Root Mean Square) meter is a “slow” measurement, averaging out peaks and troughs of short duration to reflect approximately the way our ear perceives sound levels (loudness).
Suggested RMS levels for Digital Music Streaming Platforms or Commercial standard: from -9 to -7.
Lufs stands for loudness unit full scale, a new standard which is being used by broadcast television films world productions for measuring perceived loudness.
After years of loudness war, also music streaming platforms said music industry needed such a standard.
Suggested lufs Integrated Level for Digital Music Streaming Platforms or Commercial standard is from -14 to -9.
Spotify Lufs Standard: -14
Logic Pro X Loudness Meter
M stands for Momentary and is related to LUFS at that very moment (closer to RMS reading)
S stands for Short Term and averages those together
LU RANGE indicates the difference between the quietest and the loudest point of a signal fed in the meter referring to LU (Loudness Unit)
“I” stands for “Integrated” and measures the Integrated LUFS of a signal feeding through the meter, from the moment we press Play until we stop the song.
Sample Rate, Bit Depth, Normalisation
When we talk about digital audio it’s a good idea to give a grid visualisation of it.
On the horizontal axis we will measure the frequency resolution, while on the vertical axis the amplitude resolution.
Sampling, Sample Rate and frequency resolution
Sampling means capturing the amplitude value of a sound wave over time and converting into a digital representation. The Sampling Theorem, also known as Nyquist-Shannon, is only applied to a finite bandwidth.
A Sample is a value or set of values representing a waveform.
The Sample Rate refers to the frequency resolution of a sound wave and is the number of samples taken per second.
Higher Sample Rate is synonym of better quality.
For a better comprehension, imagine a waveform cut in many vertical slices. The more slices our digital signal will be made up (higher sample rate), the more accurate will be the frequency resolution of that sound during recording, playback or exporting operations.
Bit Depth and amplitude resolution
The Bit Depth refers to the amplitude resolution of digital systems and is measured in bit.
The higher the bit depth, the more accurate is the digital representation of the amplitude is during recording, playback or exporting operations.
For example, 24 bit system is a higher resolution
A 16 bit recording system has a theoretical dynamic range of 96dB
A 24 bit recording system has a theoretical dynamic range of 144dB
Mixing audio on 24 bits is more pleasant and satisfying
Why 44.1 kHz was chosen as a CD Quality Sample Rate?
For example, if we sample a sound wave at 20kHz with a sample rate of 20kHz/s we will get only one sample per each full cycle, which is not enough for representing a full oscillation. As we need both crest and trough of a sound wave, we will aim to use two samples per cycle, which means 40kHz (Nyquist Theorem). However, we still need one more step. During the A/D conversion, the highest frequencies are affected by some aliasing errors. To prevent this issue, an anti-aliasing filter will be applied to those frequencies near the Nyquist Frequency (20kHz). Let’s say our bandwidth limit is set to 22kHz rather than 20kHz. The filter will cutoff only the frequencies closer to the boundary keeping the frequencies at 20kHz. So, considering 22kHz as the new boundary on the top-end, the most effective sample rate couldn’t be less than 44kHz. At this point we miss only the very last step: for compatibility reasons with both PAL and NTSC video format standards, 44.1 kHz was chosen instead of 44 kHz as the standard sample rate for CD Quality.
Audio File Sample Rate vs Project Sample Rate
If we playback a higher sample rate audio file in a project at a lower sample rate we will hear a slower and so also a lower pitch version of the original audio.
If we playback a 44.1 KHz audio file Playback in a project at 48 KHz we will hear a faster and so also a higher pitch version of the original audio.
Computer Performance and Disk Space
Higher Sample Rate and Bit Depth mean Higher Resolution but also larger files.
If a higher Bit Depth doesn’t affect the performance of your computer, a higher Sample Rate needs also more processing power. That means you might record fewer tracks and use fewer plugins than you work at lower sample rate.
Does a higher sample/bit rate worth if we master at 44.1KHz 16 bit?
As most of us will end up to master their release at 44.100 Hz (CD Quality), does make any sense recording or mixing at a higher Sample Rate (48KHz or 96KHz) or Bit-Depth (24 bit) in the previous production steps?
The answer is Yes. Because you can take advantage of all available information at both higher sample rate and bit depth when you process the audio. At the same time, you can decrease the risk of potential audio degradation.
Normalisation is the process which allows to bring the amplitude of an audio signal to a specified db amount.
Peak Normalisation takes the loudest peak of an audio signal as a reference point. For example, if the loudest peak is on -12db and I want to bring it to -6db, the rest of the waveform will increase proportionally with no change in dynamics.
The problem with Peak Normalisation is that we consider a signal loud just for a short period of time, but it’s not perceived as a consistent loud by humans.
For this purpose, Loudness Normalisation uses the perceived loudness as a reference point, usually RMS or LUFS of Peak values. Check the Measuring Audio paragraph to understand RMS and LUFS.
Headphones Mix Setup
Headphones Mix Level
There are no particular rules here, but ensure that the Headphones Mix is at an acceptable level through out a constant communication with the artist.
Headphones Mix Effects
Add a very little reverb if the artist perceives the environment too much dry. Avoid compression or other artefacts during the tracking phase. Why? Because every performance is different in dynamics, depending on the song, the style and capabilities of each vocalist. Thus, in my opinion applying compression makes sense during the mixing step, not before.
The 4 Types Of Audio Signal Levels
This vocal recording guide could not exclude the 4 types of Audio Levels. Let’s list them from the weakest to the strongest.
Mic Level: it’s the lowest of the four levels and it refers to the voltage signal created by a microphone. As for its weakness, a Mic level signal needs a preamplifier to raise up to a Line Level.
Instrument Level: it’s the signal level between Mic Level and Line Level and is generally generated by instruments like guitars and bass. An Instrument Level signal needs a preamplifier to raise up to a Line Level.
Line Level: it’s the signal level generally flowing after the preamplifier (if you need it) and before the amplifier. Avoid to send a Line Level signal to a preamp expecting Mic Level signals.
Speaker Level: it’s the highest of the four levels and it’s what comes through the loud speakers. Avoid to send a Speaker Level signal to a device expecting Mic Level or Line Level signals.
How To Set Recording Levels
What is noise floor and Signal to Noise Ratio?
Noise floor is generated from the device used for tracking an instrument or from the instrument itself. Your goal should be to get the highest signal source/noise level ratio (SNR).
What is headroom?
Headroom is the available amount of signal you may use for processing audio farther in the next steps without reaching the clip level (digital distortion).
How to set recording levels in Logic Pro X
Before starting the recording process, ask the performer to sing the loudest part of the song and check both the Avg and Peak values of the loudest instrument. If you keep the Peak Level between -10dBFS and -6dBFS and Average Level (RMS) around -18dBFS, you should have enough headroom for the mixing and mastering phase later.
Human Voice Frequency Range, Vocal Resonators and Frequency Bands
Depending on the type of voice, the range of the fundamental frequency for singing may be from about 60 Hz to over 1500 Hz.
Depending also the resonating chamber (or a combination of them) used, the vocal tone produced by the vibration of vocal folds changes in color.
- Chest Resonance (Lower Range): dark color predominance. It adds power, warmth and depth to the voice.
- Mouth-Nasal Resonance (Middle Range): greyish color predominance
- Head-Nasal Resonance (Higher Range): bright color predominance, heady sound
That said, we can start positioning our microphone also considering either the resonator used by the performer or the associated frequency range.
Mic Placement in vocal recording: vertical axis
In this paragraph, we analyse some mic placements depending on the height of the microphone.
Straight at the mouth
This is the easiest of the mic placements and actually you can capture all the resonances: low-end, nasal tone and also a bit of top-end with some air.
Under the chin, aimed up at the mouth
Less chest voice, more soft palate tone. The soft palate gives more brightness and makes the sound more airy and shiny.
Slightly above the nose, aimed down at the mouth
Still a lot of direct voice, but with more mid-range sound and nose tone and less air. Ideal for soft voices with a poor mid-range or for a more aggressive genre.
Above the nose, straight on
No Representation of the low-end, you can hear more nose tones.
Under the mouth, aimed straight at the neck
The Chest voice becomes more prevalent and the tone is also a bit brighter than the position with the microphone placed above the nose.
Mic Placement in vocal recording: horizontal axis and distance
In this paragraph, we analyse some mic placements considering both the axis and the distance from the microphone.
On-axis Close Placement
On axis Close Placement is a technique achieved with the mouth directly on axis.
Suggested distance: 4-5 inches from the mouth
- Intimate Sound (Proximity Warmth)
- Good Articulation
- Up front Sound
- Potential Proximity Effect
- Esses, Plosive and Breaths more noticeable
- Less Natural Room Sound
Rotate the microphone up 90º to smooth out offending pops or clicks. Try it in combination with a pop filter.
Microphone Type, Model and Polar Pattern choices are also important to avoid unwanted Proximity Effect issues.
Off-Axis Close Placement
Suggested distance: 4-5 inches from the mouth
We suggest using this technique without pop shield only for experienced vocalists. Beginners would hardly control plosives or breaths and tend also to move back and forth, with loss of tone consistency and dynamic fluctuations.
- Smooth response
- More flexibility: From warm sound to no Proximity Effect
- Esses, Plosive and Breaths less noticeable
- Potential reflections if sides are untreated
- Technique achievable only with good off-axis response
- Not suitable for beginners
Twisting the microphone angle by 20º off-axis can result in a smooth response, whereas a 45º can still keep the tone of your voice warmer. 90º will drop the proximity effect totally.
Off-Axis Distant Placement
An opposite technique instead consists of place the source farther away from microphone and slightly off-axis..
Suggested distance: at least 12 inches from the mouth
- Better representation of chest and head resonances
- Less need of De-esser or Low Frequencies reduction filter
- Lips or other mouth noise dissipating more quickly
- More depth and natural room sound
- No Proximity Effect
- Less warmth
- Less presence in case of low microphone output
- Sound might be too roomy
- Potential reflections if room is not treated
- Technique achievable only with good off-axis response
Why should I use a pop shield?
You should use a pop shield (or pop filter) to avoid exaggerated plosives (all p, b, t or d letters) into your vocals. Pop shields are also useful for a more intimate effect if your microphone has a poor off-axis response (read the Vocal Recording Techniques section).
Increasing the distance from the mic and turning up a bit your preamp level could be a solution, but the tone may be affected in colour or you might end up to more noise (or worse to clip the signal!) and you don’t want that. In alternative, get yourself or the artist closer to the microphone and use a pop shield to avoid plosives and other sounds from your mouth.
You can use a pop shield also for all those less experienced vocalists who move too much back and forth. Their movement would cause an inconsistent dynamic result which generally requires more editing work. Putting the pop shield as a barrier between the artist and the microphone can give a sort of reference and minimise the issue.
Does it matter if I edit vocals later?
Sure you can attenuate or remove pops and other issues from vocals afterwords. However, be aware that the more a digital audio signal is processed later, the sooner it degrades. Remember: good mixes and masters start from a healthy recording phase.
#5 Aim To Your Best Vocal Performance
Tips for vocal performers
- Repeat Lyrics at home before the session
- Repeat the melody at home before the session
- Take some time for the warm up step before recording
- Record section by section, not the whole song in a row
- Ask the engineer to loop the current recording section (using the take by take methodology)
- Be aware of tone, expression and dynamics you want to achieve for each section
- Move closer to the microphone for low vocal parts, a bit farther for the louder parts
- Turn your head during breaths and get back to the normal position again in time
- Try harmonies at home before the session
- If necessary, ask the engineer just a little bit of reverb into your monitor
The enemies of a good vocal performance
Being unprepared for the session
Environmental or technical issues apart, if you go to a session unprepared nobody will be able to help you.
Lack of preparation, which is typical of beginners, can be caused by:
- Not bringing lyrics with you
- Trying to remember lyrics that you don’t know
- Being confused about the melody of the song
- Being confused about the structure of the song
- Being unable to sing and realising it (hopefully) only after the first session in a recording studio.
Moving back and forth is a common issue of beginners approaching to studio recording. This increases dramatically the performance dynamics, but also the chance of making noise also with your feet, which will result in more takes or editing work.
Wrong Headphones Mix Level
A wrong monitor mix level can be very dangerous either for artist’s ears or for the vocal performance itself. If the singer feels uncomfortable it’s highly probable that will do more takes, which means more fatigue, stress, loss of focus and a bad result.
Forcing yourself to repeat some parts
This error could be related to a bad headphones mix or to a particular feeling. If you can’t sing a specific part of the song and you tried to do it multiple times, it probably means that you should leave it for a while, getting some fresh air and come back later. Sometimes a break can save the session.
Loss of Concentration
There are several reasons for which the performer may lose concentration during vocal recording. Some of them are:
- External or Internal Noise
- Frequent Interruptions
Rushing the session
Are you in a hurry because of other imminent appointments? Postpone the recording session then. You have to record vocals with care.
It was hard, but we reached the end of this vocal recording guide and we are still alive!
As you have seen, recording vocals is not so trivial. There are several variables that may affect the quality of your recordings and you have to care of all of them in order to achieve a great result.
The goal of this article is to give you a help for spotting the bad and the good of your vocal production.
Hope you enjoyed this long reading and can’t wait to get some feedback from you!
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