Technical backstage: Recording vox

It’s not a didactic section (when needed I’ll link related pages on manufacturer site) but so as to explain my approach to recording.


Capture and recording at the best, vocals is a basic work for a sound engineer.

When you list a radio program or a song with a speaker/singer you must understand speech/lyrics and every nuance and dynamic of their voices. Here’s why when I record a singer I pay great attention to capture his perfomance at the best. But, check it out, it’s not just a matter of microphone tipology.

Sometimes vocals recording session become an album cover

Sometimes vocals recording session become an album cover

I draw up a list by five points.

1) Let him hair down

A good perfomance need a quiet environment in a comfortable feel with a warm half-light and with a presence of few people (better a trusted person or none) to realize a relaxed situation without any kind of embarassament. For me it’s important to create an empathy with the singer.

Generally, lead and back vocals need two hours to record. I consider some breaks to listen takes or simply to drink a cup of coffee.

My live room with a warm and diffuse half-light

My live room with a warm and diffuse half-light

2) Suitable acoustic environment

It’s basical working into a room with a flat and balanced response and with a small reverberation. The top is a room with variable acoustic (from absorber to diffusive).

My room is made with double side panels on the walls, one absorbent and one reflective. By this way I can change room response quickly. Generally, I use all panels with absorbent face to record vocals or half-share panels reverse when recording drums, strings or acoustic guitar.

I projected a quadratic diffuser panel, Acoustic Environment DRQ13, to balance my control room’s acoustic response and sometimes I use they on my live room.

Quadratic diffuser panel Acoustic Environment DRQ13 on my control room

Quadratic diffuser panel Acoustic Environment DRQ13 on my control room

3) Setting up a good level monitoring

Obviously monitoring is a main step.

I prefer create a customized mix for singer with a separate sub-master for pre-recorded accompaniment (musical base). I use my SPL MTC 2381 CUE Mix controls to balance vocals and sub-master.

SPL MTC 2381 (pic from web)

SPL MTC 2381 (pic from web)

My monitoring phones are Sennheiser HD 25 sp (closed with 75Ω impedance) or AKG K240 (semi-open with 600Ω impedance). The latter has a superior sound quality but it has a low sensibility and some interference troubles.

Once occasion a singer used my monitor speakers to listen base because he found a live perfomance feel.

Generally, I use a light, short reverb like large room.

4) How choosing the best way to record…

Drop verse and chorus one by one or at once?

I usually ask to the singer to perform two or three times at once to create a right feel and to facilitate his focus. After I record all verses at first and all chorus to follow meaning not to lose his feeling and to find a better perfomance.

I choose in real time better takes and edit they to listen an almost definitly compilation of session.

5) …and the better microphone for his perfomance

Be careful: I wrote “to record his perfomance” not just his voice.

I generally use a Neumann U87ai (I bought two of it) but I always check if the nuances and the sound are linked with the essence of the song.

I tried Cloud JRS-34, a beautiful ribbon microphone, to record a youth singer and to add a warm and mellow presence.

Sometimes I use Electrovoice RE-20, a typical dynamic broadcast microphone, which it’s perfect to record speech on intro or bridge to create a deep, in-face sound.

I use two matched microphones with different gain to record very wide dynamic session like growl or scream voice.

About explosive consonant or breath, obviously, I use pops filter to minimize them but, sometimes, I turn capsule by 90° and I switch the microphone polar pattern to omnidirectional. Air flux overtake microphone without noisy effect.

FAQ

– Do you add an equalizer or compressor during recording? No, I don’t

– Do you add automation on vocal track during mix? Yes, I do (if  needed)

– Can you record my song in your studio? Yes, with pleasure 😉  Contact me

If you got a question, please tell me 🙂

Cheers,

Lorenzo


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