› Recording Vocals (Part 2)

How to Master the Art of Recording Vocals 
(Part 2)


Comping Multiple Takes


When you record vocals in the modern studio, you have a great advantage of being able to capture many different takes without having to worry about using up too much tape or storage room. Modern computers, hard drives, and DAW programs all help to give us this option.


Capturing multiple takes of the same vocal lines, choosing the best versions, and then piecing them together inside your DAW is known as comping - short for composite. It's common to see this comping method used in a lot of modern music production.


Once the best vocal take has been pieced together, you should record it to a new track inside your DAW - it'll make it easier to apply any processing and effects during mixing.




Monitoring for the Singer


It's important for the vocalist to be comfortable and happy in the studio - lots of things can affect a performance, like the temperature of the room or the presence of other people in the studio. It's a good idea to spend the time making things as easy as possible for them.


It's also worth taking your time when you're setting up the monitor mix for the singer - what the singer hears through their headphones can have a big impact on the quality of the recording.


There's more information about this over on the headphone mix page, including how to set the mix up, the best type of headphones to use when you record vocals, and some tips on what to put into the mix for it be effective.




Compression


As I'm sure you know, the human voice has a naturally wide dynamic range. One second a voice can be calm and quiet, the next it can be a full-on scream. To get a sense of the dynamic range for the song you're working on, run through a take as you set the recording level.


If the vocal is generally quite even throughout, then compression at the recording stage isn't needed. But if the difference between the quietest and loudest part is quite wide, then a little compression can help catch these louder parts before they overload and distort.


The vocal will no doubt be compressed during mixing, so you only need to use a small amount during recording, if at all. Here are some tips:


  • Ratio of 2:1, maybe 3:1
  • Fast attack time
  • Release time of around 0.25-0.5 seconds
  • No more than 6 dB of gain reduction on the loudest parts of the vocals


I wouldn't use any other processors or effects when you record vocals - you want to capture as clean a signal as possible, leaving everything else for the mixing stage.




Final Thoughts


Different singers can suit different microphones, so it's great to have a small selection to get your studio up and running for vocal recording. To begin with, here are a few essentials:


  • 1-3 condenser mics
  • 1 dynamic mic
  • a couple of mic stands
  • a pop filter
  • some good studio headphones
  • acoustic isolation


It can easily take up a lot of your studio time when you record vocals. It's a tricky area to get right, and can be affected by so many different factors. But by following these simple steps and guidelines, and by showing the singer some patience and understanding, you can easily capture great vocal recordings in your studio.



 

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