I wrote this article for the latest Revolution Audio newsletter. Check them out if you’re looking for recording gear in Canada.
5 tips for better vocal recordings
Try to isolate – Most home recordists can’t afford the cost to construct a vocal booth, or simply don’t have the space for one. The next best thing is some acoustic treatment that surrounds the mic such as the VoxGuard. These help reduce the sound of the room in the mic, getting you closer to that tight, dry vocal booth sound and quite affordably.
Always use a pop filter – A pop filter in an absolutely essential accessory for vocal recording. A pop filter doesn’t look like much but they very effectively stop blasts of air from distorting the mic. For the pop filter to be effective it needs to be at least a few inches away from the mic*.
Use the right headphones – The best headphone type for vocals is circumaural** closed-back. Why? Isolation. This design blocks outside noise, and let’s you listen as loud as you want without the music leaking into the mic. Semi-open heaphones can be used but watch out for sound leakage.
Choose the right mic – Set up all your mics and record a few phrases with each one***. Listen back and decide which one has the best tonal balance and least sibilance. You may be surprised that your most expensive mic isn’t always the best mic for a particular song. Taking some time to experiment and choose the best of what you have is well worth it, also allows the singer to warm up a little.
Find the right distance – A vocal right up close on a mic can sound cool, it can sound good but not natural. The further away (within reason) the better the tonal balance the mic will have. 12-24 inches back from the mic is a good balance of closeness, and naturalness. The further back you are the less drastic tiny changes in angle and distance are compared to a few inches away. This helps the singer because they don’t have to worry about staying in precisely the same position while singing, moving around a little is ok once you take a step or two back.
Try out these tips the next time you record vocals!
* – The technical reason is turbulence. It takes some space for the turbulence to dissipate after the air hits the filter.
** – Circumaural means around the ear
*** – This is called a shootout
Good advice, add… always say you will do a run through and make sure you are recording. Communication with the vocalist is also very importance to keep their energy and confidence, this results in a better vocal recording.
Great tips. Especially the pop filter one. I prefer using a wire-hanger and some nylon(you know the kind…) and they’ve actually started looking pretty good throughout the years of practice making them.. hah.
And also, I would spend the extra money to get a SE reflexion filter instead of the Voxguard. It doesn’t resonate in the “chamber” like the Voxguard does.