People study for years, have long careers, do the work constantly, and still find things nearly every day that they didn't know or different ways to accomplish tasks that they had never considered. Recording is a process full of variables and unknowns, the fact that we ever get things on tape that sound good is kind of remarkable in and of itself. And we are living in an era where more artists than ever are going the independent/DIY route of recording, so getting those vocals right is increasingly important. Here are some things to keep in mind whether you are new to the game or have been doing it for a while.
- Isolate, isolate, isolate! - We have all heard of people who record in bathrooms or closets, and the reason they do that is to isolate their recording from unwanted outside noise or echo-like reflections that can ruin the perfect take. The good news is that you don't strictly need to have a separate space for this. Isolation can be achieved with studio foam products and/or with creative use and placement of mics, booms, and stands. Make sure that everything on the recording is only what you want to be there.
- Mic placement - It is difficult to think of anything more important than mic placement. The difference of a quarter-inch can make the unlistenable into something perfect. Firstly, know your microphone: every mic picks up sound in a specific pattern - know how yours picks up. The general rule for where to place a mic is around 6 inches from the source, but this can vary by vocalist. Try several things and find the best combination before committing to anything.
- Recording rig (DAW) - Your recording rig is your domain, make it a place that is comfortable and functional. From the studio desk to the monitors to the software, be knowledgeable about it and make it a space where you can spend large amounts of time - getting it just right will almost always take time.
- Use the best equipment possible - We can't all afford high-end equipment, and that's fine. What is important is that you are using the best quality equipment you can. Something as seemingly inconsequential as mic cables can make a big difference in the end product. Use the best things you can and upgrade pieces as you go.
- Feedback - Get feedback about how things are sounding from people that you trust. And here's the hard part: make them be honest about it. Growing in any discipline takes realizing what others are experiencing and working to get better.
- Have fun - Last, but certainly not least, have fun. Making art is an expression of joy and emotion. The more fun you are having, the more that will come through in the end.
Stay safe out there, keep your mics hot and Always Be in Record!