Recording Vocals

The human voice is a versatile sound source that displays a wide dynamic range and unique timbre. Capturing a good vocal recording isn't too difficult and long as you follow a few simple rules.

Microphone Type

  • Option one: Condenser microphone
    • Polar response: Cardioid
    • Example: Rode NT1
  • Option two: Condenser microphone
    • Polar response: Omni
    • Example: SE Electronics Z5600A

Technique

Make sure the singer is standing upright to allow full projection of their voice, and are away from any walls to reduce unwanted reflections.

Mount the microphone on a stand in a suspension shock mount. This helps reduce unnecessary bumps and shuffling noise. Position the microphone at a distance of approximately 20cm away from the singer.

If recording with other instruments, keep the microphone as far away as practical to reduce feedback and leakage.

Face the microphone slightly upwards at an area between the mouth and the nose. A fine mesh pop shield should be mounted midway between the singer and the microphone to help eliminate plosives (explosive breath sound produced when a puff of air from the mouth strikes the microphone diaphragm) and also to help keep the vocalist from getting too close from where the proximity effect might engage excessively.

Top Tips

  • It is often better to record a vocal with no compression as this can be added later during the mixing phase. The danger of compressing during the recording is that if you later decide you don't like the settings used, it's too late to change them.
  • Using a shaped frequency response microphone, designed exclusively for the human voice, will deliver the best results
  • If a recording sounds boxy, either try positioning the microphone closer to the singer or place diffusers around the room
  • If there are excessive plosives, position the microphone slightly off axis to help eliminate the problem
  • If recording more than one take, make sure the singer returns to the exact position as before in order to retain the same sound timbre
  • Make the vocalist feel comfortable and is informed at all times and on exactly what is happening during the recording
  • Switching the bass roll off filter button on can make the vocals sound more intimate
  • Using an omni microphone can help capture the room ambience as well as the singer’s direct voice. By changing the distance of the vocalist to the microphone, it is possible to adjust the balance of the direct voice with the room ambience
  • It may be beneficial for the singer to move away slightly on loud parts of the song as to not overload the signal
  • Make sure the vocalist has the exact headphone mix they require
  • Make sure the vocalist isn't wearing any 'noisy' clothes or jewellery which may leak into the microphone during the session