Lead vocals are one of the most important elements in most recordings. Fortunately, there are sound engineers – practitioners who, thanks to their experience, can achieve excellent results in a relatively quick time. Below are some tips from the experience of many professionals.
Getting a good quality monitor mix in headphones (foldback) for a vocalist is the most important task when recording vocals. Take the time it takes to find the right musical balance.
Even if you have a large format mixing console, consider using a small portable mixer to monitor a vocalist. I mean those four or six channel models that you can buy for a hundred dollars. A mixer like this will help you in several ways:
Feed different submixes to the channels. Guitar and drums can be routed to channel 1, backing vocals to channel 3, etc. This will allow the performer to adjust the levels of the entire mix to his or her liking.
Add a second mic next to the main vocal mic also proper mic monitoring. It can be standard dynamic or capacitor. Connect an additional microphone to a free mixer channel. Route the signal from it to the vocalist’s headphones. If you are using digital equipment, this will help avoid latency issues. If the vocalist needs a lot of voice on the headphones, such a microphone can raise the volume.
Use a mini mixer with built-in effects or connect an external reverb. Some vocalists sing better when adding reverb to the mix. This is called Confidence Reverb.
Speaking of headphones, there are several models ranging from $ 20 to $ 40 that are very well suited for studio work. (see old releases of hardware overviews at Tap Op for examples). Try to get hold of closed-back headphones instead of open models. Open type models have openings on the outside to allow sound to bleed into the vocal microphone. Remember that studio headphones often break or get stolen, so get headphones that do the job for less money. Or buy one or more expensive models, hide them and use them only for vocal sessions.
If the vocalist prefers to sing with one earphone and the other takes off from the ear, make sure the earcup fits snugly against the head so that there is no sound leakage into the microphone.
The pop filter is a wonderful thing. They come in metal, single, fabric, double fabric, and homemade. You can also attach a pen or pencil to the center of the microphone grill, but this method should only be used as a last resort, as it is not as good as a real windscreen. Make sure the microphone is at the correct height.
If the microphone is too high or low for the vocalist, it can interfere with proper positioning, correct breathing, or proper neck muscles. We put the microphone just above the vocalist’s mouth and point it down a bit. It also helps smooth out consonants. If a vocalist insists that the mic be high or low (eg Lemmy from Motorhead), don’t insist on your way.
Some vocalists who play a lot cannot sing unless they are holding a dynamic microphone. Give it to them. You can use it as an optional monitoring microphone as described above.
If the vocalist is prone to dynamic jumps, advise him to “work with the microphone”. The great singers of the past (Fitzgerald, Sinatra, Franklin, etc.) were adept at varying microphone distances based on their pitch. Let the vocalist practice gently moving away from the microphone as the volume increases. When this technique is done correctly, it will perform much better than any compressor.
It is advisable to have an air conditioner, cold water, tea or other drinks in the studio. The vocalist should not be dehydrated. If the vocalist needs a music rest to read the lyrics, try using models with holes or slots drilled into the back. This will help avoid reflections.
Make sure to create the right atmosphere. Some performers love candles, rugs, dim lights, incense, whatever.
If the vocalist wishes to see what is happening in the control room, discuss it beforehand. Think in advance how you can change the phase of one of the speakers. If you place the microphone centrally between the speakers (equilateral triangle), the signals are canceled. The trick is to let the vocalist use the monitors for monitoring. This is possible without feedback and with minimal penetration if one of the speakers is in antiphase. In this case, it is necessary to ensure that the phonogram is in mono before antiphase.