Recording vocals

Guitar Tricks Forum > Recording > Recording vocals

New Member

Joined: 08/27/03

Posts: 5

Anyone have a lot of experience recording vocals at home? I've got a pretty good Audio Technica microphone, and I'm just wondering what people do to get a good "presence" so that the vocals stand out. I don't want to just crank the volume, because that doesnt have the same effect.

Also, i can run the mic through several effects on my Digitech GNX3 pedal, but was wondering if using a "mic preamp" is required. Is that what really gives the vocals an authentic sound? I'll be recording the vocals dry, and would like to know if there are any effects that are used in pretty much every recording. Vocals are so much harder to record and getting them to sound as good/pro as a studio recording. I've gotten everything else on my recordings to sound PRO!

Thanks in advance

-kami

#1

Anyone have a lot of experience recording vocals at home? I've got a pretty good Audio Technica microphone, and I'm just wondering what people do to get a good "presence" so that the vocals stand out. I don't want to just crank the volume, because that doesnt have the same effect.

Also, i can run the mic through several effects on my Digitech GNX3 pedal, but was wondering if using a "mic preamp" is required. Is that what really gives the vocals an authentic sound? I'll be recording the vocals dry, and would like to know if there are any effects that are used in pretty much every recording. Vocals are so much harder to record and getting them to sound as good/pro as a studio recording. I've gotten everything else on my recordings to sound PRO!

Thanks in advance

-kami

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 07/06/02

Posts: 5021

OK for nice vocals the preamp is the way to go.

You can pick up a Behringer Ultravoice Pro second hand for about 60 bucks. It will dramatically improve your sound and contains things like a de-esser, tunable voice optimized EQ a tunable Low cut filter as well as the option to add warmth (via tube emulation). Be warned that Behringer has a rep for producing knock offs and for bad quality control. I used an Ultravoice pro for a while and thought is was OK. It worked every time I turned it on so I cant complain. I also have experience with ARTs tube preamp system (V3TPS). This is OK, more expensive and more versatile than the Behringer but not so good for vocals (IMHO). Im using a Focusrite Platinum Voice master Pro at the moment and it is orgasmic.

Tips.
1) use a Pop filter with a condenser to reduce plosives
2) aim the mic at your nose
3) Place a Gobo (like a towel on a mic stand) after the mic but between you and any big reflective surfaces.
4) don’t be afraid to do 3 or 4 takes at one go and make a montage of the best bits of all your recordings. You will have the most success with this approach if you can keep your levels the same between takes
5) mark a spot on the floor where you put your feet and this will help maintain constant levels between takes
6) Use a lot of compression !
7) be aware of the proximity affect. If you get too close to the mic, roll off some bottom end.
8) add reverb / delay in the mix, don’t record it or you are stuck with il forever !
9) check your performance through monitors and not just headphones.
10) put your thumb on your chin and stretch your hand away from you. you should only just be able to touch the mic with your pinky, otherwise you are too near (i.e. into proximity effect land)
11) There are no rules, if it sounds good, you have got it !

Best of luck
S
My instructors page and http://www.studiotrax.net for all things recording.
my toons Brought to you by Dr BadGAS

#2

OK for nice vocals the preamp is the way to go.

You can pick up a Behringer Ultravoice Pro second hand for about 60 bucks. It will dramatically improve your sound and contains things like a de-esser, tunable voice optimized EQ a tunable Low cut filter as well as the option to add warmth (via tube emulation). Be warned that Behringer has a rep for producing knock offs and for bad quality control. I used an Ultravoice pro for a while and thought is was OK. It worked every time I turned it on so I cant complain. I also have experience with ARTs tube preamp system (V3TPS). This is OK, more expensive and more versatile than the Behringer but not so good for vocals (IMHO). Im using a Focusrite Platinum Voice master Pro at the moment and it is orgasmic.

Tips.
1) use a Pop filter with a condenser to reduce plosives
2) aim the mic at your nose
3) Place a Gobo (like a towel on a mic stand) after the mic but between you and any big reflective surfaces.
4) don’t be afraid to do 3 or 4 takes at one go and make a montage of the best bits of all your recordings. You will have the most success with this approach if you can keep your levels the same between takes
5) mark a spot on the floor where you put your feet and this will help maintain constant levels between takes
6) Use a lot of compression !
7) be aware of the proximity affect. If you get too close to the mic, roll off some bottom end.
8) add reverb / delay in the mix, don’t record it or you are stuck with il forever !
9) check your performance through monitors and not just headphones.
10) put your thumb on your chin and stretch your hand away from you. you should only just be able to touch the mic with your pinky, otherwise you are too near (i.e. into proximity effect land)
11) There are no rules, if it sounds good, you have got it !

Best of luck
S
My instructors page and http://www.studiotrax.net for all things recording.
my toons Brought to you by Dr BadGAS

New Member

Joined: 08/27/03

Posts: 5

hello!

Do you think this: http://www.digitech.com/products/vocal300.htm would be a good all-in-one option for the pre-amp and reverb etc.
I'm a lot more used to devices like these, and it has mic preamps

Or do you think a standalone preamp is the only way to go?

Lemme know...

Thanks!

-kami

#3

hello!

Do you think this: http://www.digitech.com/products/vocal300.htm would be a good all-in-one option for the pre-amp and reverb etc.
I'm a lot more used to devices like these, and it has mic preamps

Or do you think a standalone preamp is the only way to go?

Lemme know...

Thanks!

-kami

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 07/06/02

Posts: 5021

I have one (non USB Vocal 300), they are OK but don’t sound as good as the Behringer (when used as a preamp, this thing is for effects remember). They also can’t supply phantom power which is not a biggy if you are using dynamic mics but means you have to buy an extra phantom power supply if you want to use it with a condenser. Not good!

I record vocals dry (well maybe using compression but nothing else) and add reverb /effects in the mix later for obvious reasons. The Vocal 300 has a line level input so you can use it as an out board effects unit or as an insert effect however, if you are using a computer there are probably plug-ins which will be easier to use.

For the money, Id go with a Behringer VMP, good bang for your buck and has a de esser and a compressor built in. With the Behringer you can always upgrade and Im sure you can find one on eBay got about 60 USD. The worst thing about the VMP is that it doesn’t have a digital out however, if this is something you want to play with there are other preamps that do.

Before even thinking about this (digital inputs/out puts) you may want to consider things like: how good are your sound cards A/D converters and can you use kit with S/PDIF out or USB out? Sub-standard A-D converters (in a sound card) can be a nuisance but can also be bypassed by piping digital signal directly into your computer using outboard A-D converters in say a pre amp.

Finding the rate limiting step in your own recording set up is a job only you can do as there are many variables. You may suit one type of mic better than another. I sound dreadful down an SM58 and 10 times better down an SM57, other people are the other way round. Some people swear by tube pres others like solid state...you say tomatoe, I say tomarto..... etc etc.

The best thing to do is get to know the kit the kit you have as well as you can and from there work out what you like and what you don’t like (in terms of interface and sound). You can then work out the rate limiting steps and upgrade / work a round as you discover more about the recording process. Start cheap and work up!
My instructors page and http://www.studiotrax.net for all things recording.
my toons Brought to you by Dr BadGAS

#4

I have one (non USB Vocal 300), they are OK but don’t sound as good as the Behringer (when used as a preamp, this thing is for effects remember). They also can’t supply phantom power which is not a biggy if you are using dynamic mics but means you have to buy an extra phantom power supply if you want to use it with a condenser. Not good!

I record vocals dry (well maybe using compression but nothing else) and add reverb /effects in the mix later for obvious reasons. The Vocal 300 has a line level input so you can use it as an out board effects unit or as an insert effect however, if you are using a computer there are probably plug-ins which will be easier to use.

For the money, Id go with a Behringer VMP, good bang for your buck and has a de esser and a compressor built in. With the Behringer you can always upgrade and Im sure you can find one on eBay got about 60 USD. The worst thing about the VMP is that it doesn’t have a digital out however, if this is something you want to play with there are other preamps that do.

Before even thinking about this (digital inputs/out puts) you may want to consider things like: how good are your sound cards A/D converters and can you use kit with S/PDIF out or USB out? Sub-standard A-D converters (in a sound card) can be a nuisance but can also be bypassed by piping digital signal directly into your computer using outboard A-D converters in say a pre amp.

Finding the rate limiting step in your own recording set up is a job only you can do as there are many variables. You may suit one type of mic better than another. I sound dreadful down an SM58 and 10 times better down an SM57, other people are the other way round. Some people swear by tube pres others like solid state...you say tomatoe, I say tomarto..... etc etc.

The best thing to do is get to know the kit the kit you have as well as you can and from there work out what you like and what you don’t like (in terms of interface and sound). You can then work out the rate limiting steps and upgrade / work a round as you discover more about the recording process. Start cheap and work up!
My instructors page and http://www.studiotrax.net for all things recording.
my toons Brought to you by Dr BadGAS

Registered User

Joined: 09/29/00

Posts: 274

Personally, the first thing I do with a mic, is find the sweet spot. Set it up in a vocal booth (or the best you can do) and sing 'ahhhs and oooohs' starting left, right, up, down, etc until you find the point at which the mic really shines.
(Mine is usually about 4" above me and pointed down toward my mouth to get rid of pops and to record a bit of the nasal sound from my nose.
As far as compression goes, you want to try and get as much signal to 'tape' as possible, so I usually use a slight bit of compression while recording....but like all compression...if it sounds like you're using it (it pumps or breathes) its too much.

First on the list of course is a really good microphone. Most people can't afford a Neuman top of the line, but a TLM404 is relatively inexpensive and sounds a hundred times better than the old Shure 58 standby.
You also need to read up on the different mic types (ribbon, cardoid etc...) to find one suitable for the situation you're using it for.

Last but not least is to learn vocal techniques in general.
ie, how to work a mic... (especially in a live situation)
... and pop reduction.

Once you've recorded to 'tape', you need to EQ it so that the soft parts don't get lost and the louds don't redline everything...then you need a really good reverb unit to add room noise.

Last but not least is to be aware of headphone bleed. Try to tone down the kick and snare sounds so that they don't bleed through.
Hey you kids! Get outta that Jello tree!! :mad:

#5

Personally, the first thing I do with a mic, is find the sweet spot. Set it up in a vocal booth (or the best you can do) and sing 'ahhhs and oooohs' starting left, right, up, down, etc until you find the point at which the mic really shines.
(Mine is usually about 4" above me and pointed down toward my mouth to get rid of pops and to record a bit of the nasal sound from my nose.
As far as compression goes, you want to try and get as much signal to 'tape' as possible, so I usually use a slight bit of compression while recording....but like all compression...if it sounds like you're using it (it pumps or breathes) its too much.

First on the list of course is a really good microphone. Most people can't afford a Neuman top of the line, but a TLM404 is relatively inexpensive and sounds a hundred times better than the old Shure 58 standby.
You also need to read up on the different mic types (ribbon, cardoid etc...) to find one suitable for the situation you're using it for.

Last but not least is to learn vocal techniques in general.
ie, how to work a mic... (especially in a live situation)
... and pop reduction.

Once you've recorded to 'tape', you need to EQ it so that the soft parts don't get lost and the louds don't redline everything...then you need a really good reverb unit to add room noise.

Last but not least is to be aware of headphone bleed. Try to tone down the kick and snare sounds so that they don't bleed through.
Hey you kids! Get outta that Jello tree!! :mad:

New Member

Joined: 08/27/03

Posts: 5

Thanks for all the feedback fellows.

Two questions:

1. Does the behringer come with different types of preamps? Or is it limited to one?

2. I'm using an Audio Technica ATM41HE. It's an expensive mic...almost $200 i think. But apparently it's used more for live purposes. It's not a condenser mic, but a hypercardiod one. It's got phantom power, as it is a dynamic mic. I've got an old Hitachi condenser mic, but it's old and ratty, and doesnt even have a wind guard ( it broke, i could get a new one easy )....you know, i guess they're called "muffs"....the metal thing that's on the end of just about any mic. Anyways, are either of these good choices for recording?

Lemme know. Thanks!

-kami

#6

Thanks for all the feedback fellows.

Two questions:

1. Does the behringer come with different types of preamps? Or is it limited to one?

2. I'm using an Audio Technica ATM41HE. It's an expensive mic...almost $200 i think. But apparently it's used more for live purposes. It's not a condenser mic, but a hypercardiod one. It's got phantom power, as it is a dynamic mic. I've got an old Hitachi condenser mic, but it's old and ratty, and doesnt even have a wind guard ( it broke, i could get a new one easy )....you know, i guess they're called "muffs"....the metal thing that's on the end of just about any mic. Anyways, are either of these good choices for recording?

Lemme know. Thanks!

-kami

Gargoyle Instructor

Joined: 04/06/01

Posts: 2093

to give them a bit more presence it is also a very nice idea to copy the vocals to another track as if you were doubling it, and pitch-shift the second track about ± 15 cent.

and i recommend Single Diaphragm Condenser Mic´s. there are some decent ones out there for less than 200 Bucks

[Edited by Azrael on 08-28-2003 at 01:24 AM]

Holiness is in right action and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves. What you decide to do every day makes you a good person... or not.

#7

to give them a bit more presence it is also a very nice idea to copy the vocals to another track as if you were doubling it, and pitch-shift the second track about ± 15 cent.

and i recommend Single Diaphragm Condenser Mic´s. there are some decent ones out there for less than 200 Bucks

[Edited by Azrael on 08-28-2003 at 01:24 AM]

Holiness is in right action and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves. What you decide to do every day makes you a good person... or not.

Registered User

Joined: 08/08/03

Posts: 492

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Azrael
to give them a bit more presence it is also a very nice idea to copy the vocals to another track as if you were doubling it, and pitch-shift the second track about ± 15 cent.[/QUOTE]
Doubling like that will cause possible nasty sounding phase cancellations in mono, or a fake stereo image. Nice creative idea, but it's just not the most efficient way of trying to improve presence.

Propper mic placement, equalization and compression are the key to getting a decent vocal sound. But since there's not 'one' way of getting a good sound, the answer lays in experimentation, and lots of it.

[Edited by SPL on 08-28-2003 at 02:32 AM]

#8

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Azrael
to give them a bit more presence it is also a very nice idea to copy the vocals to another track as if you were doubling it, and pitch-shift the second track about ± 15 cent.[/QUOTE]
Doubling like that will cause possible nasty sounding phase cancellations in mono, or a fake stereo image. Nice creative idea, but it's just not the most efficient way of trying to improve presence.

Propper mic placement, equalization and compression are the key to getting a decent vocal sound. But since there's not 'one' way of getting a good sound, the answer lays in experimentation, and lots of it.

[Edited by SPL on 08-28-2003 at 02:32 AM]

Gargoyle Instructor

Joined: 04/06/01

Posts: 2093

[QUOTE]Originally posted by SPL
Doubling like that will cause possible nasty sounding phase cancellations in mono, or a fake stereo image. Nice creative idea, but it's just not the most efficient way of trying to improve presence.

Propper mic placement, equalization and compression are the key to getting a decent vocal sound. But since there's not 'one' way of getting a good sound, the answer lays in experimentation, and lots of it.
[/QUOTE]

First off i didnt say that it is the most efficiant way.

Second it does NOT produce nasty sounding phase cancellations because you are not switching the phase - its just as if you where doubling it with a guitar that is SLIGHTLY out of tune (which is very common since no two guitars are tuned absolutely perfect together - even when they use the same tuner) - you just have to be sure not to detune it too much - values like 30 cent are too much.

you are right about the other stuff you said - but my first statement assumed that the the signal is already recorded is as good as possible, cuz you cant turn crap into gold even with the best processors and effects.

[Edited by Azrael on 08-28-2003 at 04:36 AM]

Holiness is in right action and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves. What you decide to do every day makes you a good person... or not.

#9

[QUOTE]Originally posted by SPL
Doubling like that will cause possible nasty sounding phase cancellations in mono, or a fake stereo image. Nice creative idea, but it's just not the most efficient way of trying to improve presence.

Propper mic placement, equalization and compression are the key to getting a decent vocal sound. But since there's not 'one' way of getting a good sound, the answer lays in experimentation, and lots of it.
[/QUOTE]

First off i didnt say that it is the most efficiant way.

Second it does NOT produce nasty sounding phase cancellations because you are not switching the phase - its just as if you where doubling it with a guitar that is SLIGHTLY out of tune (which is very common since no two guitars are tuned absolutely perfect together - even when they use the same tuner) - you just have to be sure not to detune it too much - values like 30 cent are too much.

you are right about the other stuff you said - but my first statement assumed that the the signal is already recorded is as good as possible, cuz you cant turn crap into gold even with the best processors and effects.

[Edited by Azrael on 08-28-2003 at 04:36 AM]

Holiness is in right action and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves. What you decide to do every day makes you a good person... or not.

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 07/06/02

Posts: 5021

Be careful about adding EQ and Compression, if you can hear it, you probably have added too much. Your ears will tell you when you have it right!

For the record:
Compression is used to balance the vocal dynamics, make the loud bits less loud and the soft bits louder. If you can hear every syllable, you probably don’t need it. It you get breathing and pumps you have whey too much. Compression is different to limiting which truncates a signal once it passes a certain point. A common mistake when first using compression is too slow an attack time (the time before the compression in applied one the signal passes a user defined threshold).

EQ can be used to add presence and get rid of rumble (from holding the mic) and proximity effect, even add brilliance to a voice. Careful you don’t boost too much as it can become obvious you are EQing the **** out of a vocal track. I normally try to keep the vocal sounding natural.

For more on either subject try:
here
or
here
My instructors page and http://www.studiotrax.net for all things recording.
my toons Brought to you by Dr BadGAS

#10

Be careful about adding EQ and Compression, if you can hear it, you probably have added too much. Your ears will tell you when you have it right!

For the record:
Compression is used to balance the vocal dynamics, make the loud bits less loud and the soft bits louder. If you can hear every syllable, you probably don’t need it. It you get breathing and pumps you have whey too much. Compression is different to limiting which truncates a signal once it passes a certain point. A common mistake when first using compression is too slow an attack time (the time before the compression in applied one the signal passes a user defined threshold).

EQ can be used to add presence and get rid of rumble (from holding the mic) and proximity effect, even add brilliance to a voice. Careful you don’t boost too much as it can become obvious you are EQing the **** out of a vocal track. I normally try to keep the vocal sounding natural.

For more on either subject try:
here
or
here
My instructors page and http://www.studiotrax.net for all things recording.
my toons Brought to you by Dr BadGAS