We all record vocals and want know that we’re doing our best in the process. It's the one element of a song that stands out the most to listeners hearing our music. In order to improve your recordings it will take skill and of course good recording equipment. It can seem daunting for beginners early on. But with a few tips on where to start will help give beginners a better understanding on how to improve their vocal recordings.
1.Having the right microphone
Finding the right microphone for the job can be done at an affordable price in Today's market. Depending on your budget you'll be able to find prices just under $700 dollars. You'll have several options to choose from in this price range. I highly recommend going out and trying out the equipment to see which microphone you sound the best using. Here are a few microphones to consider looking into:
2.Issues to avoid that ruin vocals- There are a few things to worry about when recording vocals. The first issue of concern is popping, The way we pronounce certain words we use have heavy plosives that are picked up by the microphone. The use of a popper stopper helps prevent these harsh sounding artifacts from carrying through.
3.Sibilance- This occurs when pronouncing “S” and “F” sounding words. Giving off a sharp “hiss” like piercing sound that offends our ears. This can be fixed with the use of software plug-ins using a De-esser or a multiband compressor to cancel out those unwanted frequency.
4.Room Acoustics- You could be doing everything else right but if you're room's acoustics are bad so will your vocal recordings. As well as not having proper acoustic treatment will contribute to this greatly.
5.Using effects during recordings- Certain problems can be dealt with earlier on during the recording process. Now this all depends on your work flow as some recording engineers may prefer to use effects early on so they don't have to apply them later on during the mixing stage. As I’ve mentioned before about sibilance. Using a multiband compressor or a De-esser during the recording process can help rid your recordings of those harsh sounding plosives.
Here's a video on how to remove sibilance using a de-esser.
Preparing your songs for a mix engineer can vary. As it pertains to the preference of the mix engineer working on your song(s). Some engineers may prefer you to send them your songs in the program session they were created in. While some may want you to send them individual stem files. But before doing anything there is much preparation on your end that needs to be done.
1. Labeling- Whether you're sending your project sessions or audio stem files you need to be organized. I have yet to see an artist record vocals without having any multiple takes and edits. With that being said make sure your labeling everything from intro chorus, verse one, bridge etc. Just because you might know where and what everything is doesn't mean the person who will be working on your tracks will. This saves you time and money as the mix engineer may feel like it's not part of their job to organize your work.
2. Clean up your tracks-The dead space that often appears after your vocal recordings should be trimmed down. This includes unwanted noises that may have been caused by improper edits such as clicks and pops and any other unwanted artifacts. The use of cross-fading at edit points will help fix most of these issues. Another good technique that can be used as a counter measure. Would be to solo your tracks to hear if you can identify edits while looking away from your computer monitor. These are preventive measures against unwanted artifacts that could affect the quality of your mixes later on during the mastering phase. Where the use of heavy compression will be applied to your song, amplifying any and everything that you may not have been able to hear before the mixing stage.
3. Bypass All effects Before you go and hit the export button make sure you have bypassed any EQ, reverb, delay and compression plug-ins that you have processing on any of the tracks. As this will cause issues for the person working on your tracks. Once you've exported your tracks. There will be no way for the mix engineer to bypass your effects, once you've exported your tracks. Resulting in a delay of your song being mixed. Because he or she needed to contact you about having your songs resent with unprocessed audio.
4. Folder And Content info-Besides labeling your files you also need to label the export folder you've created. You'll want to label your folder with the song title and tempo. Also including a notepad file within the content folder stating any useful information such as sample rate and bit depth of the exported track. Once you've got everything done. You'll need to send your files to your engineer using a file sharing system. To consolidate your file size a free to use program called “winrar” or “zip file” can be used for this. Now you can opt out and send just your folder as most file sharing sites will allow you to upload just your folder. Whether its dropbox or mediafire you'll be able to upload with ease.
These are good practices for any project you're sending to your mix engineer or even collaborating with a producer/artist. Most professionals will be happy and willing to guide you throughout the entire process. But having some knowledge of how to send your sessions helps increase the turnaround time for your project. There are a ton of tutorials that can help familiarize yourself with the process, using the DAW of your choice.
For artist who are unable to opt out for Wav leases as they can be pricey. When you're putting together a project and you're a few beats away from going over your budget. Here's a method that can help you save some money and preserve audio quality with your songs at the same time. For This method you will need to create a Wav file by recording from a mp3 file. While using a DAW of your choice but for this illustration I’ll be using Presonus studio one 3. This is a similar technique producers use to create beats from old and new recordings called sampling. But in this case the beat is already made, mixed, mastered and you'll just need to create a wav file from its recording.
Load up your DAW: While methods may vary upon program the principle remains the same and can be applied to any DAW.
Import the mp3 file: Set the project tempo to file you're going to use.Locate the mp3 in your file browser then drag and drop into the sequencer.
Create a “bus”: After you have imported the mp3 file, right click on the audio channel and select create bus.
Route audio to a send: Click send so that the audio can sent to another channel and make sure the “bus” is selected.
Create a new track. This new track is where you''ll be recording the audio to.
Choose “bus”: Now to receive the audio signal on the new track make sure bus is selected as the input source.
Adjust the input levels: At this point you should hear audio coming from the mp3 channel as well as the bus track. You'll also notice the sound being too loud.Adjusting the levels from mp3 channel so that it reaches a level you're comfortable with on the VU meter. you'll also want to give yourself some headroom for your vocals. You will need to adjust the volume levels to your liking. Adjusting the bus volume as well if you're unable to reach a desirable level.
Arm the audio track: Once you've adjusted the levels make sure the monitor tab is and deselected and arm the track.
Press record: Now that you have your levels and have armed your track click on record.
Review audio: Mute the mp3 and “bus” tracks to review what you've just recorded. Once you've finished recording your song you'll now have to Bounce it out to either a Wav 44.1khz 16bit wav or mp3 file. Depending on how your songs will be distributed online most companies will prefer you to upload in wav format only.