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Tracking the Elusive Vocal

April 1, 2004
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If I had a nickel for every time someone has asked me what's thebest vocal mic to buy for x amount of money, I'd have one hugepile of nickels. I don't mean to imply that it's not an importantquestion, because it is. But the only simple answer is “Whicheverone sounds best,” a reply most people don't find helpful.

The problem is that the only way to respond effectively is to askmore questions: What kind of voice are you recording? What style ofmusic? What mic preamps and other gear do you have? What's therecording medium? What's the purpose of the recording (demo, fun,commerce)? What other microphones do you have?

These questions all lead up to a much larger one, the one that mostpeople seeking opinions about vocal mics are really asking withoutrealizing it: how do I record a great vocal track?

The choice of a microphone is just one part of the equation. It's animportant part, naturally, but it's not the major determinant forrecording a good vocal track. You might even say it's a red herring.Some of the greatest vocal recordings ever made were captured withmicrophones that many studio snobs would never consider using for thetask.

My favorite vocals stand out in my mind because of the performancesmore than the actual sound. (Although great sound can elevate thequality of the track, it's ultimately just a vehicle.) All that ahigh-quality microphone guarantees you is a better shot at getting agreat-sounding reproduction of what may or may not be a goodperformance. The old “garbage in, garbage out” clichédefinitely applies.

So how do you record a great vocal track? It helps to have a greatsinger deliver a great performance of a great singer singing a greatsong through great recording gear. Of those four elements, the easiestone to compromise on is the recording gear. I will discuss gear in thisarticle, but I also want to talk about ways to use it to produce abetter vocal performance. My focus is exclusively on the recordingprocess. Mixing is a story for another time, especially consideringthat you can't do much about the performance — other than somepitch correction and editing — once you're at the mix phase.

ALL IN THE PHONES

You might be surprised to learn that the quality of the headphonemix can often determine whether a singer gives a good performance inthe studio. Even top-notch, highly experienced vocalists need a goodmonitoring reference when tracking. Some singers are more fussy thanothers, but the more comfortable they are while singing, thebetter.

If a vocalist has to think about what he or she is hearing, thatwill surely have a negative effect on their performance. If the singeris doing anything other than singing, you've lost. Without having theproper monitoring, the elements of pitch, emotion, and energy willsuffer, and self-consciousness and loss of focus will likelyresult.

So the first step is to determine what the singer needs in the mix.If you have 48 tracks of instruments, densely arranged with all kindsof potentially distracting sounds, it can be difficult to create a goodcue mix. Sometimes the arrangement for the recording is morecomplicated than what the singer is used to. This is frequently thecase with singer-songwriters who are venturing into the studio for thefirst time. They're often baffled by singing along with drums, bass,guitars, strings, layers of synths, and percussion. Remember, justbecause it's on the multitrack doesn't mean the singer needs to hearit.

When it comes to the headphone mix, less is more. You should striveto build a mix that features only the essentials, keeping the“sweetening” elements out unless the singer asks for themor they're necessary to elevate the singer's emotional intensity. It'salso vital to keep the mix clean enough to give the vocalist a solidpitch reference. A muddy headphone mix can blur the singer's sense ofpitch. If a singer is having intonation trouble, I listen for elementsthat might be causing the pitch confusion. By pulling out an instrumentor two, you can often clean up the mix and make life better foreveryone.

Another important factor is how loud the singer's own voice will berelative to the rest of the mix. Whether due to vanity, hearingimpairment, or just force of habit, many singers like their voices tobe incredibly loud. Others prefer them lower. Regardless, the firstthing to do is ask! Don't guess or do it the way the previous singerliked it. Ask what they want and give it to them. The same goes forreverb. Some singers want lots, others none, and others might wantdelay. Again, ask and make it so — it's always time wellspent.

Some inexperienced singers have no idea what works for them in theheadphones. Occasionally, I have to play games like varying the vocallevel in their cans over the course of a take to see if the performancegets better one way or another. You need to do whatever it takes to getthe singer singing and not thinking.

Another detail is the headphones themselves. Some singers carrytheir own or know from past experience what make and model they like.If possible, find out beforehand and get a set. At minimum, make sureyou have a couple of different brands and models available at thesession.

SETTING THE MOOD

Look for other ways to make the singer comfortable. A good place tostart is with the vibe of the studio. Many recording spaces feel verysterile or clinical, and some singers are sensitive to that. Lighting,temperature, air quality, and decor can all affect a singer's state ofmind. Although some can deal with any environment, others need candles,tapestries, aromatherapy, and pictures of their childhood home in thebooth. You don't have to hire a feng shui consultant, but withinreason, try to accommodate a singer's requests. Believe me, it will payoff with fewer takes, fewer punches, and a more inspiredperformance.

Be wary of making the vocalist feel as though he or she is in afishbowl. Although some singers don't care who is in the control roomor peering through the glass, others get uptight.

I did a project a few years ago with a singer who was an old friendwith little studio experience. She was nervous to begin with, and thepresence of band members in the control room watching through the glassmade her tense and caused a tiff. I cleared the room and spent a fewminutes chatting with her to calm her down and take the pressure off. Ilowered the lights and said I just wanted her to feel comfortable andsing her song on her own terms.

In the end we got a great vocal on tape, and it had little to dowith the AKG C 12 in front of her; she was able to get in the mood andimmerse herself in the song and the performance. When the rest of theband heard the playback, they were surprised by how emotive herperformance was, and they realized how much their presence hadintimidated her during the earlier takes.

I LIKE MIC

Mic selection and placement are obviously very importantconsiderations. If you're fortunate enough to have access to anexpensive large-diaphragm tube condenser mic — such as thevenerable Neumann U 47, the silky AKG C 12, or the divine TelefunkenElam 251 — you certainly have an advantage. But even a classicmic doesn't guarantee a great vocal track.

Anyone who has recorded more than one vocalist knows that no one micis perfect for all vocal applications. One singer will sound greatthrough a certain mic, while another sounds like a cat caught in ablender. Why? Because all voices are different. There are certaintruisms in the studio; particular mics tend to work well on femalevoices, while others tend to work well on deep male voices, and soforth. But given the time and resources, you should try a variety ofcombinations. You'll be surprised with the results.

Here are some questions you need to ask before choosing a mic. Whatoverall sound do you want in the track — warm? clear? present?intimate? edgy? thin? Which qualities in the singer's voice do you wantto accentuate, and which do you want to minimize? What is the singer'sdynamic range? Does the singer have good mic technique, avoidingexcessive plosives and either staying in one place so that the sounddoesn't vary or moving back and forth to adjust for volume changes?

I want to dispel the myth that large-diaphragm condensers alwaysmake the best vocal mics. Sometimes they do, but often they don't.Small-diaphragm condensers and moving-coil and ribbon-dynamic mics cansound incredible on the right singer. In fact, many of the reveredvocal performances of the 20th century were captured by ribbon mics.Keep an open mind, and trust your ears.

Many singers who have spent a lot of time in the studio know whatmic (or mics) sounds best for them. It's a good idea to ask singerswhich mics they have used successfully in the past — it can saveyou a lot of trouble. Some singers will even ask ahead of time for aparticular mic. Appreciate it when it happens, because you're likelydealing with a pro who has a good understanding of the recordingprocess.

Otherwise, if you have a lot of experience and know the sound ofyour microphones, you can often guess which one will complement aparticular singer for a particular application. For instance, for asinger with a nasal voice, I probably won't use a Neumann U 87 (astandard choice for vocals), because its midrange peak will tend toexaggerate the worst qualities of that type of voice. Instead I mightuse a ribbon mic or even an EV RE20 (which is a large-diaphragmdynamic).

Furthermore, I might not use the same mic from track to track. Anintimate ballad with a detailed sound and the singer performing closeto the mic calls for a different mic than the one I would use on a rocksong with belted-out vocals. Some mics don't respond well to highsound-pressure levels, and many singers' voices change timbre when theychange their delivery. You need to consider all the details to make thebest mic choice.

GET IN LINE

If I have the time in a session, I usually set up three or fourlikely mic choices for a singer to audition. I explain to the vocalistthat we are looking for the mic that goes best with his or her voice. Iset the mics up side by side, set levels as accurately as possible, andget a working headphone mix going. I then have the singer take awarm-up pass or two at a track, singing a verse through each mic. Thenwe listen back and hear which one sounds best. Sometimes none workwell, and I leave one up and try two or three more.

Some singers are happy to spend hours auditioning mics and getting avocal sound. In most cases, however, you'll need to make the choicequickly to avoid wasting time and money and irritating or tiring thesinger. Still, if you make it clear that you're trying to find the mostappropriate mic instead of just using the usual setup, you're likely toget appreciation and cooperation from the vocalist.

A key element to this process is making sure that you, as theengineer, have a good knowledge of the sound of your microphones and ofmicrophones in general. This comes with practice and experience, and Irecommend spending your spare time listening to different mics andgetting a feel for how they sound. Bear in mind that mics of the samebrand and model don't all sound the same. I once spent an afternoonwith a fellow engineer testing all 12 of his Shure SM57s to figure outwhich one sounded best. We compared them and made notes about theirsound qualities so he could choose the most suitable among them for anygiven situation.

REFLECTING ON YOUR SPACE

Correct mic placement is crucial. You might have a great mic, butyou can dramatically alter the sound quality — for good or ill— with the placement, relative to both the singer and thesurrounding environment.

A neutral-sounding recording space devoid of reflections that couldcolor the sound is ideal for cutting vocals. For that reason, and toblock out unwanted sounds, the vocal booth is a key tool for recordingengineers. Even if you don't have a studio with an actual vocal booth,it's easy to construct a makeshift one that will produce good results.Creative deployment of gobos, clothes lines, blankets, mattresses, orany number of reflection-absorbing materials can transform any studio,bedroom, or living room into a fairly inert-sounding space.

In the past I have made booths by leaning a mattress against a wallto create the back and draping blankets over two horizontal booms onstands to create the sides. A third blanket-draped boom stand can closeoff the front of the booth if necessary (see Fig. 1).

FIG. 1: You can construct atemporary vocal booth using a matress, blankets, and boomstands.

You can also make gobos quickly and cheaply bybuilding a frame out of 2×4s, stapling cloth to one side, fillingit with insulation, and stapling cloth to the other side. Nail a coupleof pieces of the 2×4s to the bottom to make feet, and you're inbusiness. The time you take to improvise a booth will pay off.

SHAPES OF THINGS

More often than not, you end up using vocal mics with cardioidpatterns. This is because you're generally trying to minimize roomsound (or reflections from a music stand holding lyrics), and acardioid pattern is tighter and will pick up fewer reflections. Andbecause the majority of microphones are cardioid, the choice is oftenmade for you in advance.

If you are recording in a reflective space or in a room with otherinstruments, you might need a tighter pattern for better isolation. Acommon approach to recording a singer playing acoustic guitar is to usea vocal mic with a figure-8 pattern; aim the null point at the guitarto get the least amount of bleed from the instrument (see Fig.2). Some mics have multiple or variable polar patterns, soexperiment. Just keep in mind that as you tighten the pattern (movingtoward figure-8) you generally lose some high-frequency response; thesituation dictates the desirability of that loss. (Sometimes it'suseful to set a multipattern vocal mic to figure-8 to intentionallydarken the sound a little rather than using EQ.)

FIG. 2: For recording a singerplaying acoustic guitar, a figure-8 mic with its null point aimed atthe guitar is often effective. This arrengement picks up mostly vocalsand minimizes leakage from the guitar. Optionally, you can use anotherfigure-8 mic with its null point aimed at the singer to pick up theguitar and reject the vocals..


PROXIMATE CAUSE

A side effect of directional patterns is proximity effect:that boost in the low frequencies that happens when you position adirectional mic close to the sound source. Sometimes the proximityeffect can be a singer's best friend, filling out a thin or shakyvoice. Other times it just creates mud. Because you'll want to takeadvantage of this effect in some situations and not others, it'simportant to know how to control it.

Many mics have built-in rolloff filters designed to reduce handlingnoise and the proximity effect. Some give you several choices. Forinstance, the Shure KSM44/SL has two types of low-frequency filtering:low-frequency rolloff (see Fig. 3), which is a subtleattenuation designed specifically to counter the proximity effect, andlow-frequency cutoff, which is a more extreme attenuation designed toeliminate rumble from the surrounding environment. (That's an importantconsideration for recording at home, where passing traffic or runningkids can create low-frequency rumble.)

FIG. 3: The low-frequencyattenuation circuitry built into many studio mics gives you options forreducing the proximity effect and any low-frequency room noise presentin the recording environment. This chart shows the effect of the twolow-frequency attenuation choices available on the Shure KSM44.

A rolloff (whether on the mic, preamp, or mixer) is one way toreduce the proximity effect; using an omnidirectional pattern isanother. There are many affordable multipattern condensers. By settingthe mic to omni, you'll eliminate the proximity effect and make itpossible for the vocalist to work the mic extremely closely. Thetrade-off is that the omni pattern picks up more room sound. You'llhave to judge whether it's worth it.

Omni mics are also useful for singers who can't stay still. With aunidirectional mic, the proximity effect and the narrower sweet spotnecessitate a stationary singer. Much movement will cause significantvariation in the sound. An omnidirectional mic largely eliminates thatissue, letting a singer bob and weave with much less effect on themic's tone. Again, you might lose some control over the sound becauseof additional reflections, but at least it will be more consistent overthe track.

If you have a variable-pattern mic, try using a pattern that's aclick or two past cardioid in the direction of omni (a wide-cardioidpattern). I generally get more “air” in the sound that way,and it reduces proximity effect a notch or two.

CLEAN AIR

Air and presence are important qualities in a vocal, but they're notat all similar. Air refers to the frequency range above 10 kHz thatcreates a sense of openness; it gives the sound more depth anddimension and (to my ear) adds intimacy. Presence is somewhere in therange of 3 to 8 kHz, depending on the voice. It lets the voice cutthrough a mix and helps articulation. It's also a quality that isoverengineered into many personal-studio microphones these days.

Some people believe that all vocals have to be bright and edgy, butthat's very unnatural sounding in many cases. I'm particularlysensitive to overbright sounds, and I still gravitate toward warmth andair rather than heavy presence. Be careful when buying any mic with aheavily colored sound; such a mic can be wonderful on the rightvocalist, but terrible on others. You need to let the singer and themusic dictate the vocal sound, not the mic.

POP GOES THE SINGER

Another question is whether to use a pop filter. Popping of pand b sounds (plosives) is a fact of life when recordingvocals because you're placing a microphone inches in front of someonemoving quite a bit of air. I generally like to have singers four toeight inches from a condenser mic and sometimes an inch or two from adynamic.

Moving the singer further away from the mic dramatically reduces theforce of plosives, but I find it usually flattens the vocal sound a bitand accentuates the room more, and I don't like that trade-off. Nor doI like raising the mic a couple of inches above the singer and aimingthe capsule at the singer's mouth. That gets the capsule out of theline of fire, but it can also add off-axis coloration, which usuallydoes not improve the sound quality.

You can avoid moving back the mic or vocalist by using asock, that thick gray foam windscreen that's included with manymics. Although socks generally stop most plosives, they often filterout a significant amount of high end as well. A sock can be useful ifyou want to cut highs, but otherwise it will only diminish the airinessof a vocal.

FIG. 4: Toreduce polosives, you can use a metal pop filter (left), a foamwindscreen (or "sock," center), or a mesh pop filter (right). Popfilters are better in most situations because they don't attenuatehighs as much as foam screens do.  

A better option is an external mesh pop filter, the kind made ofstockinglike material stretched across a plastic ring. But even thatwill attenuate the highs to some degree. I think the best choice is ametal-screen pop filter. It does a solid job of stopping plosives, hasthe smallest impact on the sound quality, and it looks cool, whichalways counts for something in the studio (see Fig. 4).

Another benefit of using an external filter of any sort is that itcreates a distance marker. When you find the ideal distance between themic and the singer, the pop filter can serve as the “goalline.” Many singers like to eat the mic; some forget where youpositioned them. The filter can keep them and their lunch off yourprized possessions, and it keeps the singer in the zone.

DOWN THE LINE

Once you've found the mic you and the vocalist are happiest with,you can continue putting together the signal chain. After the mic comesthe mic preamp (if you're really hardcore, the next item is actuallythe cable, and it can make a difference). Mics can behave verydifferently through different preamps. Many people compromise the soundby using cheap mic pres that don't sound good or that don't have strongenough phantom power to get the mic up to optimum operating voltage.It's kind of like buying a Ferrari to drive in Alaska. You can't getthe most out of the car on a snow-covered road, and you can't get themost out of a microphone if the preamp isn't up to the task.

Time and resources permitting, I typically audition a few differentmic preamps to see which best complements the mic I've chosen. (If I'malready familiar with the preamp, I can simply plug into it, knowingthat it does “that certain thing” that I like.) Experiencedengineers know mic preamps are an important variable in the recordingchain; some are neutral, others extremely colored. Seasoning to tasteis the best approach, as always.

Although it might be tempting to immediately start equalizing asinger's voice to get the sound the way you want it, you should useequalization as a last resort, after you've exhausted whatevermic-and-preamp combinations and mic placement options are available. Isay this because it's best to use the smallest possible amount of gearin your signal chain. Doing so minimizes noise and distortion, and italso reduces the number of things that can go wrong. (It makes iteasier to duplicate the sound elsewhere, too.) That said, EQ can be anessential sweetener. There are some great equalizers out there that addqualities no mic or preamp can.

DYNAMIC RESTRICTIONS

Compressing vocals to tape is standard practice — in fact, I'mhard pressed to think of an occasion when I recorded a vocal trackwithout using some compression. The human voice's dynamic range isextremely wide, and some compression is usually necessary to get areasonably consistent level on tape or disk (especially if the singeris inexperienced and doesn't have good dynamic control).

Sometimes extreme compression is an essential part of a vocal sound.Compression brings up the level of breaths, lip smacks, and other vocalnuances, and in some cases this effect is really cool. It can make thesound so intimate you'll think the vocalist is singing in your ear(which can sometimes sound a little creepy). It can also change the waya singer performs.

One vocalist I often record loves to have his voice squashed —usually though an Empirical Labs Distressor or a UREI 1176 — andhe performs better when he hears himself singing that way. It's hissound, and it works with his voice, but it's certainly not right forall voices. As always, if you are in any doubt, use a conservativeamount of compression. It's easy to add more later, but you can'tremove it if you use too much. And each compressor has its own sound,so factor that in; do you need warmth, detail, transparency, or justplain squish?

ON A ROLL

Once you've dealt with all the setup work, and you're ready to rolltape (or roll hard drive, as the case may be), there are still somethings to keep in mind. Generally I find that singers do better takingcomplete passes to start with. Sometimes a singer will hit a wrong noteand ask to stop and start over from that point. But more often thannot, I find it's better to roll a complete take. That allows the singerto perform all the way through, and it tends to keep a better vibethrough the track.

If the singer has the stamina (and if I have the tracks), I preferto roll several complete takes and then comp together the best partsfrom each take to get one master vocal (see the sidebar “Comp ItUp”). I used to do a lot more punching, and I still do itfrequently, but I found that the more punching I did — constantlystopping, starting, and listening again — the less cohesive theoverall vibe became.

Still, there are times when a vocal track is killer except for a fewlines or words, in which case I'll happily punch. (As a geeky engineerI love the challenge of punching syllables.) But be mindful of how thesinger performs. Some singers never sing a line the same way twice, andthat can make it very difficult to do short punches; you might have toreplace an entire verse to get one line right.

You're best off working with the singer. If he or she only wants todo one pass and then fix rough spots, that's fine. If he or she wantsto do three takes and then comp, that's also fine, but do the comp soonwhile everyone still has what they liked fresh in their minds. Doing acomp a month later can be hard, because people might not recall whichtakes they liked best in what places of the song.

HEARING DOUBLE

Double tracking vocals is still a common practice. Although thereare now a variety of boxes that can artificially double a vocal track— and some sound quite good — there is still a certainmagic to a naturally doubled vocal. When I know at the beginning of thesession that a double track is called for, I like to get one completedvocal track with all punches and comps finished, and then record thedouble.

Before that second track goes down, it's helpful to fine-tune theheadphone mix so that the singer can hear the first track clearlyenough to follow and match it, yet also hear enough of his or her livevoice. Some singers want the two signals panned apart, others want themat equal levels, and others want the live voice louder in the mix.Spend a few minutes and get it sorted out for optimum results.

When recording the double, I find most singers still prefer to do acomplete pass and then go back and punch the spots that don't quitematch up. Some singers can double themselves in their sleep, and it's aquick and easy process, but others aren't really aware of what they didon the first track, so they have to listen repeatedly to lines to matchthem. In those cases, doubling can be a long and painful process, andit can make you appreciate those neat processing devices even more.

VOX IN BOX

Speaking of magical boxes, I should acknowledge two devices that arebecoming more common: pitch correctors and microphone modelers. I haveworked with and reviewed boxes that perform both operations, and Ithink they are useful tools, especially in a personal studio. Pitchcorrection can save a fantastic vocal performance that might have a badnote or two, and it can also let you avoid a lot of retakes because youknow that you can fix pitch mistakes later. The possible trade-offs aresonic artifacts and an overall loss of quality because of the extraprocessing.

Microphone modeling is a technology that can also be useful for apersonal-studio recordist with a minimal microphone collection. I findthat it's more like creative equalization than dead-on emulations ofclassic microphones. (I've yet to hear a box that makes a Shure SM57sound like a Neumann M 49.) Nevertheless, it's a great concept, andit's easier to afford than 20 different mics.

WRITE IT DOWN

Once you've chosen the microphone, pattern, placement, pop filter,mic preamp, compressor, EQ, and anything else, it's important to writeit all down. Take notes of every detail of your vocal settings: preampgain, compressor settings, pad settings, barometric pressure —everything. This is essential because there is a good chance you aregoing to have to redo a vocal or come back to it the next day or amonth later.

Any change in the setup can drastically change the sound and make itdifficult if not impossible to match it in the future. Chronicling yoursettings can be a lot of work, but it can also be a lifesaver. I've hadto go back to a track months later to replace one line, or even oneword, and by referring to my notes I've been able to re-create thevocal sound in a matter of minutes. Draw charts, graphs, take pictures,whatever you have to do, but make sure you record every detail.

Another reason for copious note taking is that another engineermight work on the project and have to match the vocal sound. I've hadto do it by ear, when the previous engineer didn't take notes, and it'snot easy. (Although the challenge can be kind of fun in that geeky,recording-engineer kind of way.) What's more, it's always useful, forfuture reference, to have a log of the sounds and approaches you'veused. After all, if you got a good sound once, you'll probably want touse it again.


Sean Carberry is field producer for WBUR, Boston's NPRstation. When he's not on the campaign trail, he tries to spend time inthe studio recording music he actually likes.

COMP IT UP

A comp track is a single “best of” track that's puttogether from multiple takes of the same song. To assemble it, listento the individual vocal takes and determine where the best performancesof the various lines and sections are. Do this with a lyric sheet andpencil in hand, writing down the segments you prefer: verse one, takethree; verse two, lines one through three, take two; verse two, linesfour through six, take four; and so forth. Once you have your road map,you're ready to go.

On a tape-based system, bus all the tracks to a new track. Make surethe levels all match, roll tape, and “play” the comp usingthe channel mutes. Mute and unmute the various tracks as you go throughthe song to get the best performance onto the comped track. The greatthing about this process is that it's completely nondestructive. If youscrew up, the original takes will still be intact, and you can just tryagain. If you make a mistake halfway through, you don't have to startfrom the top; you can punch in on the comp track and pick it up fromthe line before your error. When you're done, listen to your newlycreated comp track and make sure you're happy with the performance andthe levels.

If you're working on a hard-disk-based recorder, assembling a compis even easier. I usually pick the track that is the best overall andsimply cut from other tracks and replace sections in the master track.(I would recommend cloning the master track first so you have a backupin case you're unhappy with the comp.) You also have the luxury ofdoing subtle time shifting if you want to make rhythmicadjustments.

TEN TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL VOCAL RECORDING

  1. Set up the studio environment to be as comfortable andrelaxing for the singer as possible. Good ambience and good vibes willlead to a better performance.

  2. Choose a microphone that's compatible with the singer'svoice. Ask the singer in advance about mics he or she has had successwith, and if you have that model available, use it. If you're not surewhich mic to use, audition several before making a final choice.

  3. Start out by positioning the singer four to eight inches froma condenser microphone, and one to two inches from a dynamic.

  4. Use a pop filter to reduce plosives. Metal filters are thebest choice, and mesh models are a close second.

  5. Consider using an omni-pattern mic if the singer has troublestaying still while recording. An omni will help keep the vocal toneconsistent. Omnis are also good in situations when you want toeliminate the proximity effect.

  6. Set up a headphone mix that's comfortable for the singer.Take out unnecessary instruments that could muddy the mix and make itdifficult to discern pitch.

  7. Try using different combinations of mics, preamps, and micplacement in order to get the sound you want before you resort toEQ.

  8. Use compression when recording to keep the dynamic range ofthe vocal in check. But be careful not to overcompress; you can alwaysadd more during the mix if needed.

  9. Try to record complete takes whenever possible and keep thepunching to a minimum. This will enable you to get a better, morenatural performance from the vocalist. If necessary, make a comp trackcomposed of the best parts of several takes.

  10. Write down all settings, mic and preamp choices, andpositioning information. If you need to rerecord any of the vocals at alater date, your notes will make it possible to recreate the originalvocal sound.

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