In my previous blog posts on recording, I have covered drums and guitars. Once the main instruments have all been laid down you can add additional flourishes to your recording. However, eventually you will come to vocal recordings.
The most important aspect of vocal recordings will come down to the singers technique and ability in the studio. However, there are various things a recording engineer can do to make sure the vocal sits right within the mix.
Choosing the Right Microphone
Generally the microphone you use for vocals will come down to a personal preference. The main thing that will matter is that you use a condenser microphone with a large diaphragm. A larger diaphragm microphone makes it more sensitive to subtle changes in volume, capturing a more a accurate vocal take. Below is a list of microphones that are suitable for the job:
It is important to make sure that the vocalist is stood 6-9 inches from the microphone to avoid distortion. Make sure that you are also using a pop shield to avoid plosives and sibilance from becoming an issue. The vocalist should also be well trained in controlling their level near the microphone. This means that they should be pulling back from the mic when hitting louder notes, and vice versa for quiet notes.
With regards to the vocal microphone itself, there is room for experimentation with how much room sound you would like in the vocal. While a typical approach is to use a cardioid polar pattern in order to purely catch the direct sound, room sound can be useful depending on the location and type of music. For example, a power ballad requires a lot of space and reverb on all instruments, and a microphone that uses a bi-directional or omni-directional pattern would help to capture the room sound and create a greater sense of depth in the vocal.
Headphone Mixes and Vocal Recordings
When creating a headphone mix for the vocalist, make sure that they are as comfortable as possible as they will be basing their vocal performance on this. If the mix is too quiet, the vocalist will adjust and sing the piece quietly. Make sure that the mix matches the dynamic that the vocalist wants to achieve.
You will never get the perfect vocal take after one attempt. It could take some time to get the vocalist into a state where they can produce the best take possible, but as long as you make sure that the technical setup is correct, then it will come eventually.