Recording vocals is the most important and probably most difficult part of recording a song. Capturing a good performance is crucial, particularly for the lead vocal.
Of course, if you have a really good singer the easier it will be. These tips will help you get a better vocal take, and make the most of what you do have.
I'm sure you've heard this one before, but it really works! Every singer wants to be pampered and made to feel comfortable.
Singers are emotional creatures and any discomfort or nervousness can throw off their performance.
Making the singer comfortable could be as easy as turning down the lights, and making sure the room temperature is just right.
Or plenty of water and a nice fresh pot of tea!
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Make sure he or she is okay with other people being around during vocal recording. If not, clear the room.
And of course, a good headphone mix is essential when recording vocals. Most singers want to hear themselves loud and clear, so make sure they can.
Take out any track that might compete with the vocal or interfere with the vocalist's pitch.
If you record yourself, comfort is even more important because you're also doubling as the engineer and producer. The more focus placed on singing the better.
If you only have one mic the choice is easy. If you have a selection try them all out. A large diaphragm condenser is usually the first choice, but you can get some great sounds from a basic Shure SM57 as well.
Just because you have a $2000 mic doesn't necessarily mean it's the right mic for the job. Everybody's voice is different, so find the mic that sounds the best on the singer you are working with.
After setting your levels keep an eye on them. Some singers might tend to get louder as they get more comfortable. Also watch to make sure the singer is in the same position to the mic after breaks.
In current pop music you generally want an even level throughout the track. If the vocalist has good mic technique (pulling back for louder passages etc...) this is easier to achieve. That said, most singers will benefit from a little compression on the mic, say a ratio of 2:1 and a fast attack.
If you do use compression during recording, use it sparingly to give yourself more flexibility in the mix.
Maybe one of the most important tips to remember when recording vocals is to give the singer lots of praise!
Positive reinforcement will yield much better results than negative criticism.
This all comes back to making her feel comfortable.
Instead of saying "That take wasn't very good", try instead "I love what you're doing, but I think you can do even better!"
Expensive gear and technical know-how will only get you so far. For best results you must learn the art of diplomacy.
Try out some of these tips for yourself and hear the difference they can make in your vocal tracks.