The vocals can be the simplest thing to record, but some careful thought can turn a good recording into a great one:
There are plenty of online guides on warming-up the voice prior to recording (or being on stage). For a singer this is vital. Find a good warm-up procedure online (there are many free ones to find) and go through it. The voice will last longer and will put up with much more without going wrong! Failure to do this can cost a lot of recording time!
There are a bewildering number of microphone choices in the market today it must be said, but they can be broken down into two types: dynamic mics and condenser mics.
Dynamic mics such as the Shure SM7b, Electro-Voice RE20 and the Beyerdynamic M88 are a good call for vocals. Generally used on stage, dynamics capture less 'detail' in the voice as they are less sensitive. As a result they're great when you haven't got a good sounding room- it will capture less of the room and still put out a good recording. They are generally used for more aggressive vocals.
Conversely, Condenser mics such as the Aston Spirit, Audio-Technica AT4047 or the Oktava MK-219 (personal, if obscure, favorite choice) capture more detail. Suited for the studio where you have a good sounding room, you will get more high end and 'detail' in the voice. This is great for gentle singing and most female vocals.
What Else Do I Need?
A pop-shield will help you record great vocals, they sit in front of the mic a few inches, lessening the impact of plosives.
A compressor can help even out an overly-dynamic vocal on the way to the computer, however these are not essential to a great recording!
Reverb, Yay or Nay?
Some singers love having reverb in their voice when they record, it helps them to relax. This can be easily added in as a plugin for the singers benefit. However, this will have the effect of 'clouding' a performance, meaning the singer cannot hear exactly what they're singing. It may be more difficult, but exposing the vocal with no fx can be helpful to some singers to get the best performance.
Unlike every other instrument, singing is much more linked with emotion of the musician. They have to be relaxed to do a good take. Many vocalists get nervous when recording, so find ways to distact them! Insist they smile when singing (genuinely can improve their vocal tone), ask them to stand on one leg the entire time, sellotape their hands together - whatever it takes they will be distracted just enough to not get nervous about recording!
That it really, it is much more 'aim a microphone and go' than many other things, but getting it right is more vital than every other instrument!
Next time, I will discuss recording drums (that will be a much longer article!)
What are your thoughts? Is there something I missed which makes a great vocal recording? Comment below to let me know!