Hey what’s up,
I want to talk to you about volume. Some of you may be masters at recording vocals and some of you may not have a handle on it yet, but it never hurts to go over the basics. With technology being so advanced now, we can no longer get by with less than stellar audio. Clean, clear vocals are essential when the majority of your fan base will be listening to your music with their smartphones. Me personally, nothing beats a good set of headphones because until smartphones can make bass audible, you’ll never get the full feel of a song or beat. But that’s a story for another day.
When you’re recording your vocals, do you leave headroom? How much headroom should you leave? Should you have some sort of compression on your vocals? How loud should you record your vocals? Headroom is essential for your vocals. This number varies from engineer to engineer, but I personally feel that between -20dbs and -12dbs should be more than enough headroom for vocals. In the same breath, you have to make sure that you are also recording loud enough so that you’re louder than the noise floor (white noise).
To compress or not to compress. In a 24-bit world, compression during the recording stage of the vocals is not as essential, but still a useful tool. Seasoned artists, can manage to get by without with proper gain staging and control over their vocal range and not worry so much with compressors or very little. Not everyone is at that point yet, so for those of you who aren’t, keep it simple and slap that compressor on that track. Analogue or VST versions of compressors virtually work the same, so don’t worry, use that stock compressor in your DAW and get that perfect take. If you’re not familiar with the threshold, ratio and attack functions of a compressor don’t worry. Most of today’s VST or plugins come with preloaded presets to get you started.
Mics. Microphones can make or break a vocal trust me I know. Trying recording vocals with a mic suited for guitars because you thought all mics work for everything. Not a good look. Not everyone can afford to have a room full of mics, so make sure you get the best mic in your price range. Should you have a dynamic mic or a condenser mic? Just ask yourself this, do you need to be more dynamic in the studio or on stage? Yes, you can “do your thang” in the booth, but a show performance is not the same as a studio one. A condenser mic is best for recording your vocals. I’m not a mic guru or anything, but here is a list of a great vocal quality budget friendly mics that should get you going.
Let’s make sure we’re as professional as possible. It’s 2016, nobody should be recording through their laptop’s mic into the stock recording program, so enter the DAW. I’m sure most of you already know this, if not…let’s remedy that. There are various programs you can use to record in ranging from free to monthly subscriptions to outright purchase. So here is a list of some to take into consideration.
- Avid Pro Tools – Monthly subscription plan $29.99 a month. Yearly subscription plan $24.92 a month. Avid offers a free trial to test out the industry standard.
- Audacity – Free recording software.
- Presonus Studio One 3 – Presonus offers three tiers to their lineup with a free version up to $399.
- Cubase – Steinberg Cubase offers three tiers to their lineup ranging from $99.99 to $619.82
- Logic X – For those with Mac computers. Priced at $199.99.
Well, to close out our little discussion we have to lastly talk about the heart and soul of your recording endeavor and that’s the audio interface. Now, depending on if you’re new to this or if you have some experience will dictate the direction. Oh, yeah and how deep your pockets are too. Now if you’re just straight recording into the computer with your DAW and mic, then this is fairly straightforward. Those how have some form out hardware and need a plethora (yeah, I said plethora) of ins and outs, then you’ll be spending a little bit more. But in the end, the goal is getting your vocals into the computer as pristine as possible and some of the less expensive interfaces can make that possible.
- Focusrite Scarlett Solo – For $99.99 you get a simple straightforward USB 2.0 Audio Interface, 2-in/2-out, 24-bit/192kHz, with 1 Mic Preamp, 1 Instrument Input, USB Bus Power, and Bundled Software – Mac/PC. Oh, yeah and that bundled software is Pro Tools.
- BEHRINGER U-PHORIA UM2 – Need to save a few more bucks? This interface will cost you $57.50.
- M-Audio M-Track 2X2 C-Series – Affordable nice looking unit priced at $99.00.
- PreSonus Audiobox 44VSL – Priced at $249.95. This unit will offer you more ins and outs for those who have some hardware units. (4 ins and outs) Included software is Studio One Artist and 6+ gigs of third party resources.
- Universal Audio Apollo Twin High-Resolution Thunderbolt UAD SOLO – For those of you with more to spend, have a Mac and want to enter the world of UAD plugins this could be an option. Priced at $699.00.
Well, I hope this gets you started in the right direction on your recording journey. Until next time.