96 vocal tips
MusicRadar has provided a nice list of all in all 96 vocal tips, enjoy
We generally recommend that if you’re aiming for really pro-sounding vocals it’s easier to have a real preamp on the go, keeping good signal levels on the way in. If you haven’t got access to one of these, however, you can always try throwing in something that provides the same sort of flavour. Plug-ins such as PSP’s Mix Saturator 2 offer some handy preamp settings that quite convincingly mimic outboard saturation and compression.
It’s vital to get the best mic position for your vocalist. While it’s usually best to start from right in front of the mic, some people’s voices may sound better a little closer or further away, or even to the side. If your singer’s voice has a nasal quality, for example, you might want to place the mic slightly above their nose rather than in front of or below it. Experiment until you find the sweet spot.
Many vocalists sing better when they tilt their head back a little, as it opens up their vocal chords. The easiest way to take advantage of this is to place the mic slightly higher than the singer’s mouth, angled down towards them – this will encourage them to tilt their head back as they sing.
It might sound a little obvious, but before doing a vocal take, it’s a good idea to make sure your singer has a clear idea of where the lines should be placed. There’s nothing wrong with having them scribbled down on a piece of paper, but generally speaking, a singer who doesn’t know the lyrics probably isn’t that sure how to sing them either.
Make sure you keep track of your singer’s position (even if your singer is you). You will often find yourself taking breaks, or coming back to re-record a line, and it’s very important to make sure the vocals are coming from the same position each time – if not, they might not sound the same. It goes without saying that you should keep track of where the mic was, too.
Adding an artificial stereo spread effect to a vocal can be a great way of giving it real presence, but it also has the effect of taking away some of the vocal’s punch and causing it to lose some of its prominence in a mix, so is often not ideal on the lead vocal. Instead, try using it for backing vocals or layered words, or for specific effect on certain words.
Chorus effects are great, but one of the best ways to achieve chorusing is to actually record multiple takes of the vocal. You can then take a few of these and layer them – try panning a couple slightly and leaving one centred, or thinning out the underlying two a little with EQ and more heavily compressing the central one for added impact.
You can thicken up a thin-sounding vocal by using a synth layered underneath it that subtly plays the same notes. You can even use a sidechained gate on the synth, triggered by the vocal, to ensure they only play together. Alternatively, try using something like Waves Tune, which will export the notes of your vocal as a MIDI file. Then compress the synth and vocal as one.
There are plug-ins out there, like Antares Punch, which are designed to accentuate the more punchy parts of a vocal, but you can also achieve something similar using gating or even an expander on your compressor. With a gate, for example, you just need to set it up so that only the punchy parts of your vocal open the gate, and then apply a small amount of gain reduction.
One of the great ways to keep a vocal punchy but still interesting is to use some of your additional takes to layer key words. These could be words that are significant in a lyrical sense, or that work well with the groove, or that enhance the arrangement. Just be sure not to overdo it – use them sparingly enough that they keep their impact when they appear.
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