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Top 10 common mistakes made while recording vocals.

Jun 022017

Ok so the other day I was on SoundCloud searching for new talent to work with and I was amazed at how many poorly recorded songs existed on the web. Now these mistakes can cost you potential opportunities but there’s hope.


1.Noisy environment.


Too much movement and loud headphones can contribute to a noisy environment during the recording process. You’ll want to invest in some closed back cans (headphones) so audio from the instrumental isn’t bleeding into the microphone as you’re recording. Another offender is room noise. This can be described as an "eco" like sound on the voice from either poor microphone placement or bad room acoustics. You’ll want to record in a neutral, dry room. Avoid cavernous rooms where reflections and reverberation of sound is notably present. As this will affect the recording quality and will leave you with less control later on in the mixing stages.


2. Too close to the microphone.



Being way too close to the mic will only lead to poor results. When the Vocals sound distorted and filled with Plosives (pops). Finding a good distance from the microphone can be achieved by placing your hand in front of your mouth and the mic from thumb to pinky (shown below).


The spread hand technique used to measure distance from the vocalist and the microphone.

Standing at least 5 inches away from the mic will be enough space for recording. Using a pop up stopper (filter) helps with the Plosives by placing it between you and the mic.


3. Uneven vocals.


Maintaining an even and clear vocal level throughout your song is important. Keeping the soft and hard (louder) parts at bay can be achieved by using either compression or automation. Now this tends to be a common problem amongst beginners when it comes to using compression correctly and not over doing it. Placing automation on the volume fader is the safest and effective technique that can be used to maintain even vocals. This method allows you to have more control over your vocals while you’re edit/drawing in the changes where you need necessary volume adjustments.


4.Over using plug-ins.



Now we all have our favorite go to plug-ins for certain task but knowing when to apply them makes a world of a difference from natural to complete harsh and unrealistic sounding vocal mixes. Too much processing is never a good thing.


5. Timing Issues.



If your vocals are off beat then chances are it may not only be you but your audio interface settings. Adjusting the audio settings of your soundcards latency makes an impactful difference for the recording process. Reducing the latency can increase timing but will lead to other errors during the recording process such as clicks and pops you’ll want to avoid doing this. Instead try increasing the buffer size settings to gain a stable balance. This varies across sound cards and processing power on PC’s.



6.Overuse of reverb.



Drowning your vocals in reverb does not yield good result. Instead try using a more subtle approach by applying less reverb to the point it is unnoticeable and not bearing an unnatural presence in the mix.






If you’re thinking about putting out a project (e.g., Mix Tape, LP, Ep or album.), you’ll want to record over the best quality format available to you. Most producers nowadays offer single wav file “Premium leases” to Artist who are serious about the audio quality of their work. A wav file is an uncompressed audio format that should be used throughout the entire recording process. This is vital to the overall recording process to help preserve audio quality. When all recorded tracks have been mixed and sent out for mastering, a 16 bit (sample size) at 44.1 KHz (Sample rate) and 1411 kbps (bit rate) stereo wav file is sent out for distribution. Recording over .wav is standard practice for best audio quality. Because of its low file size, reduced quality and its unique ability to sound like the original uncompressed audio .wav file for most listeners. Mp3 is the preferred audio format for consumer audio web and video streaming. Choosing a .wav file to record over an Mp3 to makes things easier for you and the engineer who will be spending time mixing your song.


8.Clipping in vocals.


Few minutes after the mic has warmed up, take the time to make sure that your mic levels are not in the red. Keeping the vocal away from the red will keep your levels from peaking (also known as clipping).


9.Choosing the right bit rate.



Selecting the right bit depth is important when it comes to having enough head room for your recordings and mix. You’ll want to select 24bit or 32bit instead of 16bit depending on your DAW(32 bit may not be available to you). This will allow more headroom in the Recording and the overall mix.

10. Relying on the mix for corrections.

If you hear something noticeably wrong early on in the recording stages, don’t wait later on during the mix to fix it. The sounds you start with are what make good mixes. If the vocals have an unwanted noise to them either from the room or movement from you, simply do it over.