How to Make Your Voice Sound Better When Recording

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Hi everybody, here are some basic things you need to know for getting good vocal recordings. Since I’ve been a teenager I’m recording myself playing and singing. My friends and I had a rock band in high school and since then I’m making music every day for myself and for others. That passion and drive for making great recordings led me to be what I am today at age 37, a music producer and sound engineer. As in every article I write, I’m giving you all this knowledge based only on my own experience.

The human voice is one of the most complicated “instruments” to record.
It is very rich in terms of tone, wave shape, dynamics, and overall sonic qualities.
Luckily there are few basic rules that will help you achieve great vocal sound in most real-world situations. In this article I’m going to teach you a few things:

1. How to prepare yourself for a good sounding vocal recording.

2. Basic technical rules for getting a good recording.

3. What microphone and accessories to use in different situations.

4. How and what to process on the computer after you finish recording.

Most of the process is not rocket science. You place the microphone in front of you, hit record and go. And you will probably get good enough results. But here are the things you can and should do in order to make it even better. So let’s start with number one.

1. How to prepare yourself for a good sounding vocal recording.
If the vocal recording you are about to do is important to you, I suggest a vocal warmup.
Just like before going to the gym, there are a few things you can do before you start recording to get your vocal cords in the best shape for the task.

It’s important to know that climate control is a critical factor for a good performance.
I suggest you set the AC to a neutral temperature for your body. with most people, it is about 26 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sometimes it is a personal preference. If you’re about to do a vocal recording session of a few hours you might change the temperature according to your stress level. Simple as that.
Make sure to not set it to be too cold or your vocal cords will get affected by it and the session will be over sooner than planned.

It’ll be a good idea to put a glass of water in the room temperature next to you and drink a little during the session. Not only for your body but also for your mouth moisture. If your mouth is dry it’ll be hard to move it and sing flawlessly.

Before we start singing there are a few vocal exercises we can do to make the session a lot easier.
It’s a little hard to give you an example in writing so here’s a good starting point video.

how to make your voice sound better when recording.

2. Basic technical rules for getting a good recording.
I won’t get into room acoustics on this article because this is an article subject all by itself. So assuming you have the right environment for the recording we go on from here. Should I sit or stand when I record my vocal? This is a very good question that is brought up every once in a while.

My personal opinion on that subject is simple. If you sing an energetic song it will be much easier to sing while standing up. But in my experience, most of the best vocal recordings I’ve ever done was when I was sitting down in front of the microphone. I find it easier to let the body loose and work only the singing muscles. Basically concentrate on the muscles that are working the hardest. Most of them are located in the centre of your body, throat and mouth.
I found out that sitting down gets me a little less stressed about the performance and allows me to last longer while recording.

Always use a pop filter.
Even when singing to a dynamic microphone it is highly suggested to use a pop filter.
It gives a more controlled signal in terms of dynamics in the high and low frequencies and I use it all the time.
Never the less if you are using a condenser microphone.
I’m also all about shock mounts, it’s very important to use one.

When standing or sitting close to the mic stand’s legs, make sure to turn the legs away from your legs as far as you can. this might sound weird and not important but I promise you, you will kick the mic stand while recording your best take! it happened to me so many times 🙂
With that, of course, put your phone on silent mode and get it far enough from unbalanced cables in your system because your mom WILL call you at the most critical moment in the session and you WILL get that funny cellular noise in your recording that no plugin will ever take out.

3. What microphone and accessories to use in different situations.
This can probably come down to a personal preference. I personally like to use a good condenser microphone for 95% of the time, but sometimes I will want to use a dynamic microphone such as Shure SM 57\58, SM7B or similar.

Every time I use a dynamic microphone I get something interesting in terms of some kind of magic in the sound. It works best on loud male vocals, hip hop, rock etc.
Sometimes a less known microphone from a good company can surprise you very much.
For example, I had this dynamic microphone lying around for ages, and never actually used it because I had an SM 58 for every time I needed a dynamic mic.

One day I’ve decided to give it a try and recorded a whole song with it. It was amazing! dare I say better than the SM 58? YES! I love it and use it to this day.
This was the JTS NX8


What external gear do I need more than that? Of course an audio interface and a preamp.
In most cases, you will have a mic pre on most audio interfaces. You can have nice quality even without a 3000$ preamp, altho that would have been nice to use one.

And last, a good cable can make a real difference in your recording.
I remember when I started recording I used whatever cables I’ve had lying around at that time.
One day I a friend gave me a very expansive cable to try out and I could really hear a difference in sound quality. it was not a huge difference but meaningful enough to get me out and to the store and buy the most expansive XLR mic cable out there 🙂 This was a good investment no doubt.

4. How and what to process on the computer after you finish recording.
There is some sort of magic in the moment you stop recording and start editing your materials.

I also love the raw sound that you get straight from the microphone, the cable, the preamp, and audio interface.
After I finish recording I first make a backup of the whole library and files I’ve just recorded.
And then I take a big break of a few hours or even a whole day to let my mind and ears rest a little bit. It is very important to start editing and shaping the end result with “new ears”.

Choosing the right takes for each part of the song can take a lot of time and can be a very tiring job.
Eventually, it’s over and you start “mixing” the vocal into the playback.
Usually, I start with an EQ, automatically creating a low cut and a high cut.
At what frequencies? it depends on the source material. But with male vocals, cut at 60hz and 17khz. With female vocals, it’s about the same only the low cut point is a little higher, depends on the singer.

After the EQ I use a compressor to control the dynamics, I’m a sucker for controlled levels.
I don’t like it when things are too “loose”, after the compressor I can use whatever I like to shape the vocal sound. De-esser (If needed) Exciters, Multiband compressors, Analog emulations for coloration and more. I will have another article and video expending about this subject.

EQ & Dynamics are the two most important factors for a good sounding vocal.
If you’re new to this I suggest you get good at those first before you do any other manipulation on the signal. You can do almost everything just with EQ and Compressor, I promise.

Final output levels
After you finish shaping the vocal sound you should get the overall levels to a nice place in terms of levels. There is nothing more frustrating than to hear something in a low level, it requires you to turn up your levels too high and forget you did that. After you finished listening to whatever that was, your system gets kicked by crazy sudden volume from the next track on the playlist. Please, guys, get your levels up, it’s easy, just use any simple limiter. I’m not even calling in mastering.

So this is a very simple and basic article for dealing with vocal recordings.
I hope you got even one good tip out of it. Have a good day and enjoy your recordings guys 🙂

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