It is often said, that having great vocals is half the battle won. The interaction between a human voice and microphone is the focal point of songs, and it is due to this reason that flaws that occur can be pulled out easily. There are a few basic tips that need to be kept in mind to ensure the outcome is that of a professionally produced vocal sound.
- Make sure the singer is well rehearsed, physically comfortable, and under no psychological pressure. Most singers perform best standing up in a room that has a comfortable but not over-warm temperature.
- Take time to get the vocalist’s headphone mix right, and give them a little reverb to help them sing more confidently. If you can rig up a system which allows vocalists to adjust their own monitor level, it will be even better.
- Use a good microphone. Professional studios generally use their own microphones, but in the project studio a good back-electret mic or even a good dynamic vocal mic can produce excellent results
- Pick a mic to suit the singer. Whether shrill, deep or gravelly, different models are available that can bring forth the best voice
- Put the mic at the right distance, because if you get too close to it you’ll increase the risk of popping and the level will change noticeably every time the singer moves slightly.
- Minimize the room’s influence on your sound. The mic picks up both direct sound from the singer and reflected sound from the room. Reduce the room’s contribution by keeping away from the walls. Studios are usually designed to manage sounds and their echoes.
- Where possible, mount the microphone on a stand. Only let the singer hold the mic if to do otherwise would compromise their musical performance.
- Use reverb sparingly: vocals recorded in a dry acoustic environment need reverb to give them a sense of space and reality, but don’t use more than the song really needs. As a general rule, busy songs need less reverb and slower ballads with lots of space in the arrangement can afford to use more.
- When you’re using prominent echo or delay effects on a vocal, try to get them in time with the song, either by calculating the delay needed to match the tempo or by using the tap-tempo facility if one is provided.
- To ensure that the vocal is mixed at the right level in the song, listen to the mix from outside the room and see if the song has the same balance as something you might hear on the radio. The vocals are the most important part of the song and so must be well forward, but not so far forward that they sound ‘stuck on’ to the backing.