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Steve_A's avatar

Tips for home recording (vocals)

Asked by Steve_A (5120points) February 10th, 2010

How do you best mix vocals?

What is the best way to pan them?

What compression settings work best?

Any tips for the environment in which to record, some have suggested bathroom,closet, or put something around the mic etc…

Any other ideals you have I am open to.

Also what software,mics, etc.. do you personally use?

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13 Answers

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Wear a helmet if you sing in public.That’s what I do.My doctor bills are cut in half!;))

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

I’m not an expert at this stuff yet, but trying it out myself. I sing into a condenser microphone hooked up to a small mixing board (with pre-amp) that’s connected to my computer where I do the actual recording. The mic is directional, so background noise is reduced by that – but I know many people insist on surrounding the other sides of their mic with a padded box. I do any panning through the software, although the mixing board can handle it, I like to have options while putting it together so I just record everything dead center and flat EQ. Oh, and a pop-filter: get one.

Snarp's avatar

I’m no expert, but a bathroom or a closet sounds like a horrible idea to me, but I suppose if you think that obnoxious reverb is a good effect, go for it. You really want a room with a nice plush carpet and something soft on the walls and preferably the ceiling too. If you are building a home studio you could get a bunch of egg crate foam to line the walls and ceiling.

Steve_A's avatar

@Snarp I thought the same, I have yet to try it so….

I just record my vocals right there with my snowball mic and I have pop-filter as well its a metal one.

I have heard when mixing vocals its best to leave them dead center and pan other instruments out.

After talking to one fellow at GC , about recording vocals he told me scoop mids would work well, as the vocals will sit good there EQ wise…

Steve_A's avatar

@JeanPaulSartre What does a pre-amp do exactly does it just help the tone of the recording?

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@Steve_A No – just for any condenser mic you need to use a +48V pre-amp. For a dynamic mic or a ribbon mic it’s not necessary (potentially damaging.) You’ll get better sound out of a condenser mic for your vocals – but the things are very fragile to anything too loud.

Steve_A's avatar

@JeanPaulSartre Ah, mine is a USB its snowball mic I guess that does not count?

StephK's avatar

Do complimentary EQing while mixing vocals (and almost any other tracks). :)

Panning depends on what kind of effect you want. Most vocal-centered music calls for not much panning at all (or none), but if you have two people singing and what a prominent stereo effect, you might considering panning one voice more to the right and one more to the left. Be careful about this though… don’t be so overzealous that someone suddenly can’t hear half the vocals because their left speaker went out.

Any vocal compression setting will probably work well. Vocal punch is great for both singing and speaking. Might also consider a de-esser.

What kind of sound you want/what type of music you’re recording plays a large part in which environment you use. This is probably the most important thing to consider after you’ve decided on your recording equipment. Want something intimate? Try a closet. Want something boomier? Try larger room. Want something ambient and space-y? Try a really large room with lots of reflective surfaces.

In short: Experiment. Do one or two base recordings and then enjoy playing around.

Edit: Disregard what I said about recording spaces. For environment, a pretty good thing to do (if you have the equipment, which you probably do since you’re talking about compression settings) is to record the tracks as dry as possible and then put some effects on it.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@Steve_A If it’s USB, even if it’s a condenser mic, you don’t need to worry about it – it’ll take care of itself.

Steve_A's avatar

@StephK I have messed around with that, I usually do minimally compression or to even out the vocals and bring up the cut/volume

then with some nice pre-set reverb throw that on there. Not into delay unless its for certain spots.

I am not good with the de-esser I tried using the on Audacity….I was using Sonar works best for me.

I guess I just need to experiment though in the long run.

PS what is complimentary EQing exactly?

StephK's avatar

Complimentary EQing is when you subtract certain frequencies in a track to make room for other frequencies in another track. For example: You have two vocal tracks: one bass and one treble. In the bass track, remove treble frequencies; in the treble track remove bass frequencies. You’re not losing any important sound (in fact, you ‘re actually eliminating noise), but you’re making the other sound more prominent because it doesn’t have to fight with the noise in the other track*. Be aware that you don’t have to have only one track taking over a specific band of frequencies—it’s whatever sounds good in the overall audioscape.

Which brings up one of the primary rules of mixing: Always check that what you’re doing to each individual track sounds good when you have all the tracks playing together.

When you have your EQing worked out, then start mixing your volumes and doing effects and all that jazz.

*plus it reduces file size!

sndfreQ's avatar

In this order:

1. Mix in mono to get the balance right overall; use just the faders to get levels onthe ball park. Then pan to taste;

2. Corrective EQ usually cutting filters rather than boosting. Complimentary EQ helps but Solo each signal and try and hear what EQ is doing to the source signal first

3. EQ before dynamics if you’re inserting plug-ins on the track rather than on an aux return/fx return

4. Compression of 1.5:1 ratio will add just a hint of presence; try not to go higher than 3.5:1 on the vocal track compression

5. Any reverb or oter spatial effects should be applied on an aux track, and send the vocal through a send so you don’t muddy up the input audio track.

5. Monitor at different listening levels to hear how the overall mix translates when played soft and loud. Wiki “Fletcher-Munson Equal loudness contours”

6. Preamps can warm up or add tone to a signal, but are often costly, over $500 for decent ones such as a Focusrite.

BLUE Snoball is decent for demos but lacks dynamic range; I don’t know if the jne I have is busted but it seems like a really flat and lifeless sound to it. Make sure you’re not plugging it in through a hub or that other peripherals are plugged into the same bus, as other devices can introduce noise and line interference (Radio Frequency interference from poor shielding for example). That mic is an all-in-one so no way to use it with an external preamplifier anyway.

Mics and tone are highly subjective and it really depends on the style of music, the sound/tone of the vocals, and the effects of the room. Try and record as dry as possible, and with a pop filter.

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