Wednesday, January 30, 2013

4 things it takes to get a good vocal recording and 3 things that it doesn't take

Miktek C7

empirical labs mike-e

So people always ask what is the secret to getting studio quality vocals. First thing, there is no secret. To me a great vocal recording comes from the following 4 things, and I will share 3 things I think really doesn't matter when recording vocals.

  1. a good mic for the vocal. Your signal chain starts here. Finding the best mic for a voice can be tricky sometimes because you can have a vocalist sound better on a $1,000 mic than a $3,000 mic. But most of the time if you have a really good mic designed for vocals it will handle the vocal your recording with great results.
  2. A good mic preamp for the vocal. Just like you have to pick the right mic, you have to pick the right mic pre. Some pres are clean, some are colored. As a engineer its up to you to decide the tone best for vocal and the song. I remember a session a few years ago that +D. Lyles  assisted me on. We used the avalon 737 and U87 for every song that day. One song had an old school feel, so I switched to a darker more vintage pre, the vintech1272. The vocal tone this pre gave matched the song perfectly.
  3. A good engineer. Takes more than pressing record and stop for a engineer to record a good vocal take. Everything from levels, to mic placement, to knowing when the vocal is ready sonically to be recorded falls on the engineer. All this comes with practice.
  4. an acoustically treated room or booth. You can’t throw a mic up anywhere in a open room and expect great results.

Now that I’ve highlighted 4 things I think it takes to record a good vocal, here are 3 things I would say doesn't matter as much when recording vocals.

  1. tracking with compression. If you have a dynamic vocalist then there is nothing wrong with tracking with a little bit of compression. But you don’t HAVE to have a compressor in your signal chain to record a good vocal.
  2. A/D converters. A/D converters are important, but not as important as a good mic and pre. If you have those then don’t sweat over A/D conversion. These days even the cheapest of audio interfaces offer decent A/D conversion.
  3. DAW. Trust me, your daw choice will NOT determine what your vocal will sound like.

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