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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Recording Vocals - Experiences

Voice is the most important instrument. Vocals make or break a recording. People listen to it, follow the lyrics and remember hook lines.

I saw many groups with great instrumentalists, but singing is something on the sideline. Usually the songwriter takes over the job as a singer, because noone else wants to do it - and this besides his instrument. And that's what it sounds like: a great backing group with an incidental job on the microphone.

What First?

I usually record the playback first to get a feeling of the result. It is easy to change the sounds of instruments, specially synthesizer. But you cannot change the sound of your voice. Recording vocals again will be more time-consuming.


Warm Up

For vocals are very important I spent special time to prepare for recording vocals. I try to be in a good mood. To achieve this I take a guitar and just sing one or two of my songs. Later I start singing playback to the computer the song I want to record. I try to find special accentuation and maybe variations of the notes. These rehearsals are important for getting in the right mood and warm up the voice.

Feel Alright

I try not being tired or out of breath or with full stomach after a big dining. No matter what time, midday or 2am, if I feel alright why not record. Microphone should be away from reflective surfaces.

Recording Process

I usually record the vocals by repeating the vocal part as long I am pleased with the result. When I feel I have the best done I take this recording. Some recording engineers cut out pieces of different recordings and glue it together for the song. But that is too much work.
The more it may happen that the feeling is not right. You may have a version sung full of power but a little out of key and another version sung correctly but too boring. If you combine parts of these recordings it may not fit.
So better singing one time until all is ok. And the often you sing the more you get familiar with the song.

I usually listen to a pre-mix before recording, but while recording I used to hear only
  1. chords
  2. the vocal notes played by an organ
  3. a clock (simple drums or tick)
for my orientation. So I can concentrate on vocals without being disturbed by instruments.

Some recording engineers do a rough mixdown for the singer's headphones. That can work too.

No Effects

I record without effects. No reverb, no delay, no compression. I can add that later if needed. If you record with effects you sing different, you get turned out from singing. If it does not sound ok without effects, it will not sound better with effects.

No Stress

Never feel under pressure. If I need a break I simply take a break. If I need a glass of water I take it. And if I just want to continue I continue recording. But if I get the feeling "OMG, when is this shit done" then I stop working immediately.

Hard- & Software

I use a AKG C414 - sure AKG, I am from Vienna. It is a legendary microphone. Good equipment is a key factor of good recording. I record and cut with Wavelab, finally mix with Fruity Loops Studio. You don't need a golden microphone, the best of the best. I am no microphone specialist. I simply purchased a good one and that's alright for me.


The keyfrequencies are usually at 750Hz to give the vocals body. 2.1kHz - 2.4kHz will make the vocals shine. But for my voice I found out that around 3kHz is the best frequency to make the voice shiny. I did not follow experts blindly, I just try out the best for my sound. Other instruments should not compete in this frequency range with the vocals.