Recording Part 4óLead Vocal

 

††††† In every case, the lead vocal is whatís going to define the tone of the song. More time needs to be spent in recording and processing this track than any other part of the song. The first thing to determine is microphone choice. Different microphones have different frequency responses and are suited to particular voices. Female voices have peaks eq-wise that are more in the upper mid-range while male voices generally settle in the lower mid-range. There is no one correct microphone for a particular situation so experiment with what you have and borrow or rent a microphone if youíre not happy with the results from your own microphone cabinet. Antares makes a microphone modeler that will allow you to use a Shure SM-57 and adapt the frequency response to make it sound like† Neumann U-87, for instance. It canít, however, change a microphone with a carotid pickup pattern into a omni-directional or figure eight microphone. The next thing to consider in the signal chain is the microphone preamp. If you are using a mixing board like a Mackie 1604VLZ or Onyx, you may be happy with their included preamps. They are very transparent and offer a fair amount of choices regarding channel inserts and equalization. You may, however, chose a channel strip in a box that is tube based and has compression, limiting, equalization and so on. Think of something along these lines as a painterís palette or a sculptorís toolbox. They will allow you dial in exactly the sound you are looking for when you record the vocal. I prefer to have a clean signal chain with minimal eq and a small amount of compression. This gives me the most amount of options when it comes to the mix-down stage.

††††† After choosing your microphone and preamp, you will have to determine where you will record the vocal. For some situations, you will want to record in a small room with little or no reflections. In other cases, you may want a large room with lots of reflections to define the space. Most vocals for popular music are recorded in sound-proof vocal booths. This allows the engineer to capture only the sound of the vocalist and nothing else. Ambience and reverb are added later. I built a 4X8 vocal booth in my studio that we use to record vocals, acoustic guitar and drums in. It wasnít terribly expensive and I was able to do it in a couple of weekends. It has really made a difference in the quality of our tracks. The other thing is did is change the configuration of the studio to where parallel reflections are not an issue.

††††† Before you start recording, take notes as to the settings on all your equipment so if you have to go back to do an overdub, youíll be able to recreate the sound of the original vocal. Run through the song a couple of times to set the levels of the vocalist and the playback levels. Some vocalists like a bit of reverb when they sing but make sure you donít print it on the track because you canít take it off. I usually make a couple of passes and then let the vocalist listen to what theyíve done. We can usually agree on what adjustments need to be made but try not to be overbearing. Remember, the vocalist is an artist in every sense of the word and needs to feel as though they have creative control. Record as many takes as are necessary to get an acceptable take from start to finish. Then the fun starts.

††††† Although comping a final vocal track out of several takes is not technically part of the recording process, it should be done immediately following recording. This gives you the option of overdubbing while the vocalist is still present. This involves taking the best portions of each take and combining them together to form one final lead vocal track. In some cases, you will have enough good takes to make a couple of tracks to compare. Donít be afraid to take half of one verse or phrase and combine it with part of another. This is where the artistry of editing comes into play. Itís comparable to a film editor cutting a scene a particular way to give the film a certain feel. At this point you may have a verse or phrase that just doesn't work, you can have the vocalist sing those parts again or come back later if they are pressed for time or just not physically able to perform.

††††† Taking the care to get the very best performance from the vocalist will go a long way towards the quality of the entire project. Never be satisfied with a performance that you know is not the best the vocalist can do. Of course, that goes for every step of the process. Producing a song is very much like building a house. If the foundation (drums, bass and lead vocal) is not strong, anything you put on top of it wonít be able to stand.

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Your Home Studio - a basic tutorial on home recording studio setup, including building a home recording studio, digital recording techniques, computer recording information, recording software information, how to buy equipment for a home recording studio and operating an audio recording studio at homeYour Home Studio - a basic tutorial on home recording studio setup, including building a home recording studio, digital recording techniques, computer recording information, recording software information, how to buy equipment for a home recording studio and operating an audio recording studio at home

 

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Shure SM57 Instrument/Vocal Mic
Shure SM57 Instrument/Vocal Mic

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Neumann TLM 127 Set A Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone Nickel
Neumann TLM 127 Set A Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone Nickel