How to record great vocals at home. One of troublesome tasks in a home recording studio is to make a great vocal recording. Great vocal recordings would start with a great voice so the first issue to consider is making the vocalist feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible. Everyone gets some nerves before a performance and the more comfortable the performer is the better. Make sure the vocalist has some room temperature water available or other favourite refreshment, and a stand for notes and music. Also ensure the temperature in the recording room is just right, not too hot or cold. Try and keep the mood relaxed and calm as this will keep any nerves to a minimum.
Easy to follow techniques on How to record great vocals at home
1) Microphone choice will make a big impact on the end results so make sure you have matched your microphone with the vocalist. You really have to make a few short test recordings and discuss the resultant sound with the vocalist based on the style and tone you and they are after. Do not hesitate to try a high quality dynamic microphone as the results can be surprisingly good in the studio and lack the harsh top end frequencies that a cheap condenser microphone may exhibit.
2) Microphone positioning and set up is also something to be very careful with. Ensure your microphone has a pop shield in front of it, these greatly reduce the chances of explosive low frequency sounds making it onto the recording. These can be tricky to edit out so they are best not recorded in the first place. Some microphones are more sensitive to pops and some vocalists pop more than others so listen out for pops at the very start of the vocal session. I suggest the best pop shields are nylon mesh (not metal mesh) and they should be placed around 3 inches from the front of the mic for best results.
If you have a very ‘poppy’ vocalist then by all means use both the mesh and a foam filter. You may need to add a little top end eq to counter the slight loss of extreme high frequencies. If you are still having problems another useful technique is to angle the microphone slightly away from the mouth of the vocalist, you still get a very direct sound but pops will be reduced. You can also vary the tone of the vocal recording by adjusting the microphone position in this way.
3) The acoustics of the room will greatly affect the recording quality so I suggest trying to create a temporary booth type arrangement. This can be done by hanging thick sheets or blankets up. If you have spare mic stands these can be used as supports. When recording vocals it is preferable to have a ‘dead’ acoustic (without too many reflections or natural room reverb). This allows you to cleanly apply artificial digital reverb when you mix the track. An alternative is to hang the sheets/quilts against the walls of a room corner and have the vocalist sing into that corner of the room. Make some test recordings and see what results in the most reflection/reverb free recording.
4) Make sure the vocalist can hear themselves and the backing music properly. Spend some time getting the headphone mix right, this will make a good vocal performance easier. It is often underestimated how important good monitoring is when recording.
5) A common mistake when starting to record is to record the vocals at a signal level that is too high. This can result in distortion and that is one single problem you want to avoid at all costs, it can easily spoil a perfect take. So set up your sound card, computer and software to 24 bit recording and make sure that the vocal peaks are hitting around -14dBFS. This will provide plenty of headroom so that distortion will not occur in the microphone pre amplifier or overload the sound card inputs.
If you understand how to use compression and have a hardware compressor unit you can usually compress the vocal by 2-4dB which helps control the signal and avoid peaking too high. Only use compression if you are very confident in setting it up.
Making a good vocal recording should be quite straightforward, make the vocalist comfortable, choose a good mic that is well set up, stop vocal pops at source, provide a dry sounding acoustic and make sure you you record at 24 bit resolution and do not record at too high a volume.