How to record vocals professionally

In continuation of our series of articles on home-based music production, today we will share some ideas of professional vocal recording.

Voice recording does not present any great difficulties, and the basic equipment is not too expensive. Still, the sound quality directly depends on the quality of recording equipment and the way it is used.

First, it is important to decide upon the necessary equipment:

Microphone. There are several types of microphones. If you aim at professional recording of singers or speakers, we recommend condenser microphones as the best choice. And we offer an excellent solution – Rode NT1-A microphones. In our previous articles we have already mentioned all the necessary equipment for a home-based recording studio. But the main feature of this type of microphone is that, besides its excellent quality, it is completed with a "spider" and pop filter, which is especially important in voice recording.

Sound card. If your condenser microphone has an XLR output, you will need an external sound card as it has both an appropriate output and the necessary phantom power. If your microphone has a USB output, you will not need a sound card at all.

Headphones. Around ear headphones are preferable as they prevent external sounds and noises. Another important detail is the length of the cable of your headphones which cannot be shorter than the distance between the microphone and the sound card.

Microphone stand. For those who prefer working in upright position there are floor standing microphone stands. Their height is adjustable, which is very convenient. The only limitation is that some models such as boom stand are not reliable and can easily be broken. If you prefer sitting at a table while working, a good alternative for you will be a pantograph or a table stand. The latter is a smaller version of an ordinary microphone stand. A pantograph is more stable as it is fixed on the table with a special screw. It is very convenient due to its flexibility and the possibility to choose different angles.
Pop filter. In most cases when explosive consonants such as "b" and "p" are pronounced the sound is distorted due to a blast of air. A pop filter serves for neutralizing such blasts, and the sound remains clear. Anyway, it is recommended to practice "soft" pronunciation of explosive and fricative sounds rather than remove defects in the recording afterwards. And if the singer's manner of performance is aggressive and he/she tends to pronounce sounds sharply, even two pop filters may be required.

Anti-vibration fastening ("spider") is a special system used to fix a microphone so that the noise of vibration is minimized. It is fixed on the microphone stand.

Acoustic screen is a special device that is used to regulate acoustics in the room. It is especially effective in large rooms where acoustic insulation is poor and the levels of reverberation are high. An acoustic screen is fixed on the microphone stand to protect the microphone from all sides. It consists of a framework and some acoustic foam, so you can make it by yourself as it is quite expensive.

Now that we have overviewed all the necessary equipment, let us proceed to the process of recording itself.

Firstly, it is important for the singer to do some vocal warm-up. This part should not be neglected as it is essential for the quality of performance and therefore, for overall recording quality.

Secondly, one should take into account the distance between the singer and the microphone. There is no general recommendation as much depends on the purposes pursued, the voice and the manner of performance. Besides, there may be various positions and angles. But on average, for recording purposes the distance from the microphone to the singer should be 10 to 15 cm. Beginners tend to believe that if they come closer to the microphone the sound will be more "velvety" and dimensional, which is a mistake. Though close distance to the microphone emphasizes low frequency sounds, it may also create the unwanted effect of "exploding" sounds.

Finally, it is important to care about the initial sound quality. One of the most common mistakes of novice sound engineers is neglecting the sound quality of the initial material and thinking that it can be processed and all defects can be removed. But in fact, it is nearly impossible to remove the defects in the recording without affecting its overall sound quality. Therefore, the voice should be warmed up and clear at all stages of recording, and all external noises should be minimized. Following these recommendations will help you create high quality product.

We do hope that the information provided in this article has been useful and that it will help you improve the quality of your home-based recordings!

If you have already recorded some quality music you may start earning right now by uploading it onto our portal. Click here for more details.

Best wishes!
ExpertMusic team

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