I dedicate this session to record vocals for the simple reason that it is one of the most common questions I get. How do I record the perfect vocalsound at home in my appartment, using only minimal budget equipment. Well, you don’t! But I hope you can prove me wrong! It is very few places (professional studios, or semiprofessional or even home setups) that can produce the sound of Celine Dion or Bon Jovi. But on the other hand, don’t try to mimic the sound of others, instead, try to focus on finding your unique sound.
First, check the Microphone part of Guide of Sound to get input on what microphone to choose, if you are lucky enough that you have several microphones to select from. If not, just go with the microphone you have.
Secondly, check the Recording part of Guide of Sound to make sure you understand the challanges with levels at different points.
If we start of with the distance between the microphone and your (the singer’s) mouth. I usually recommend using the “Thumb rule”. By this I mean about a thumb’s distance (5-7 cm) between the microphone and mouth. For some singers, this distance is to short, as it causes the microphone to distort when they sing too strong. and then you will need to adapt that distance and move the microphone further away.
The oposit is very rare, but, if the singer sings very quiet and you are aiming for “a sexy proximity” in the voice, you can decrease that distance to a minimum. What most often will happen is that the voice will get recorded with a little more base (depending on the microphone, of course).
Basicly, there is not much more to is. But I can always give you a few more tips on the way.
The first would be to use puff protection, you know the thing that looks like officer Nordbergs (from Naked Gun 33 1/3) hair in the 70’s scene. There are also other things looking like old socks or a ring with a nylonsock in it, well, you know the drill.
These are used to scatter the heavy airpuffs our mouth are making when forming the sounds B, P, T, F, S and so on. To understand this better, put your palmed hand infront of your mouth and read the entire alphabeth from A-Z. Every now and then you will actually feel the air comming from the mouth. This is what is going straight into the microphone membrane causing a “puff” or distortion. It does not sound good when you get that, so puff protection is important.
Three other things that are very important is:
1. Use a microphone stand. Otherwise the singer may cause “handmovementnoice” on the microphone (it will pollute your recording with unwanted sound) or make the cable move (it may also pollute your recording with unwanted sound).
2. Make sure that the singer does not hold or physically touch the microphonestand, the cable or the microphone through out the take. It may pollute your recording with unwanted sound.
3. Make sure the singer does not stomp to the beat, or make little dancemoves or something similar. Stomps or steps on the floor might be caught by the microphonestand an may pollute your recording. And movement with some types of clothes fabric will also create a clear hearable noise that may polute your recording. (With this not saying that all singers should record their voices naked, but sometimes it would help.)
Some rules for the singer:
1. Be quiet (completely quiet and still) a few seconds before the recording starts and after the recording is done.
2. Be mindfull of your breathing. It is widly known that everybody needs to breath. While focusing (and maybe have headphones on) it is easy to forget your own breathing, when recording, try not to forget your breathing. Try to breath extra quiet and controlled. Especially in between your song sessions.
3. When you sing you will eventually run out of air, it is fully naturall. If possible, turn your head away from the microphone when you take your breath, and then turn your head back to the microphone. This will reduce the impact your breath has in the recording, making it easier to edit out in a nice way.
My final piece of advice:
Record as much as possible in one session. As soon as you leave the room to do something else, the mindset of the singer and possible the entire sound properties of the room might change (since you actually might have moved stuff around and/or changing the temperature of the room) and you will end up with two different pieces of takes that might not be fully compatible with eachother.