Record Vocals Like the Pros

Record Vocals Like the Pros by Brent McCollough

Vocals are the most important part of any recording, and they can definitely make or break your sound so you want to be sure to do it right. Here’s a good guide to making sure your vocal tracks sound professional:

1) Picking the Microphone

  • The most common type of microphone to use for a professional vocal sound is a large diaphragm condenser mic such as the Rode NT1. These give a nice natural representation of the vocal performance and are sensitive enough that you can position the singer 6-12 inches from the microphone to record a nice balanced sound.
  • If you aren’t happy with the sound you are getting, experiment with the distance between the singer and the microphone.
  • If you still aren’t satisfied, feel free to try a different type of microphone. You’d be surprised how great the classic SM58 can sound if you know how to use it.

2) Setting Up the Microphone

  • Make sure you are using a pop filter. They are extremely cheap and really smooth out the vocal sound so that there are no unwanted noises caused from air hitting the microphone. This can make all the difference in the world in making your vocals sound professional.
  • Make sure you point the microphone directly at the person’s mouth and that the singer is facing the correct side of the microphone. Double check this and make sure, because I can’t even tell you how many times I have seen great vocal takes ruined because they were singing into the wrong side of the mic. Don’t make this mistake!
  • Make sure to set the microphone at the right height for your singer. If it is an upbeat song, you can try setting the microphone an inch or two higher to get them to project better.
  • I always set the pop filter as far back from the microphone as you want your singer. It also gives the singer a visual boundary that they know not to pass, giving you a more even recording. Ideally, you want your singer to sing the entire song from the same distance away from the microphone so that you have a nice even recording. Too much movement from the singer can change the tone of the vocal, so we want to keep movement to a minimum.

3) Recording the Performance

  • Make sure your singer is comfortable. Remember, your recording is only as good as the singer’s performance! If the singer isn’t feeling it, having a great quality recording of a mediocre performance will still be a mediocre performance.
  • Provide plenty of room temperature water, and make sure your singer is relaxed. Prepare to give massages if needed. Just kidding, but you get the idea.

Here is a cover I made of Clarity by Zedd that I recorded in my average-size bedroom using the techniques that I explained above.

If you’re wondering how I achieved the acoustic guitar sound, check out my other free article: Record Acoustic Guitar Like the Pros.

Hope this helps! If you’re interested in investing in my Record Like the Pros program, click here. If you feel like you aren’t quite ready yet, scroll up to the top of the page to download my free eBook: An Introduction to Professional Home Recording and enjoy more useful tips on achieving a professional sound at home!

Can’t wait to see you on the other side!

-Brent McCollough


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