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Recording Vocals
Old 13th May 2003
Gear Head
🎧 15 years
Recording Vocals


Probably been addressed a million times, and then some. But i guess the question lies in when recording vocals, how much/little compression should be used before and after.

I know it depends on the vocalist as well. BUT, it seems that I add a little comp in the beginning just to limit overs. Then later I'll add more comp and eq to give it that in your face kind of sound. Generally it works, BUT it always ends up sounding less and less,organic, if you will.

Maybe its my inexperience, as well as my own psychotic way of thinking about it too much, but a little advice would be helpful from some of the pros out there.

Considering Vocals are usually the last thing I do, thats usually what pushes my mixes into somewhat shall we say the "sh*t house"

I'am in in digital land, using analog front end (pres, and compression, etc) if that helps advice-wise.

Thanks everyone!
Old 13th May 2003
One with big hooves
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
🎧 15 years
You know the answer already. It depends. For the work I do and where I like the vocal to sit, I tend to smack it moderatly to very hard on the way in. I usually start with a 4:1 ratio and try to pull it back by 4-5dB when the singer really opens up. Of course, I might also send the vocal in at 15:1 pulling it back 10dB. I want the vocal to be pretty steady in level. Not killed but steady enough where I don't have to do a ride on each word or line.

I tend to throw up a few different mics for lead vocals and I'll record a verse and a chorus before we pick a mic. I'll have all the mics setup next to each other with the capsules almost touching so they get hit with the same signal and performance. The winning mic gets a compressor inserted, do another verse and chorus for me to get that under control and then off we go.

The biggest thing is getting the right mic. Without that your starting behind the 8 ball. Also, I don't EQ vocals on the way in just in case I need to retrack a line or two at a later date. It's easier to get the sound to match. If you used EQ and try that you'll never get it close to right.
Old 13th May 2003
Jr. Gear Slut 2nd class
chessparov's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Jay (or anyone else), do you usually use a VCA compressor for initial tracking, then the Meek (if applicable) during mixdown?

Old 13th May 2003
Here for the gear
OvrMyHd's Avatar
🎧 15 years

I'm wondering what mics you reach for first when setting up the array to see what'll work? Certainly, type of song, vocal styles, etc all play into the final mic selection but, do you have a few "go to" mics that you start with?
Old 14th May 2003
One with big hooves
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Not really. For mics I usually set up some things that sound pretty different from each other. I always have a TLM103 up, after that it varies. Most of it depends on how the guitars are stacking up and how the singers voice sounded during basics. As a creature of habit I always use the same path for scratch vocals. It's an SM58 > console > Aphex Expressor or older Behringer Composer. That's kind of my yardsitck and I'll make judgement calls based on what I heard from that.

The last time I did a big array of mics there was a 103, 414B/ULS, Oktava MC012, Baby Bottle, 421, SM57 and an AT4047. The first three mics were the winners and got switched around from song to song. The difference was pretty subtle but it was there. The 103 was the brightest, the 414 was the most mellow on top and had a more forward midrange and the Oktava split the difference. The other mics sounded murky, the 421 was just plain wrong on that singers voice and there was nothing compelling about the SM57. We tracked over a dozen songs in 6 weeks so having all the mics up and ready to be patched was great.

Now, there are times when I'll put up three or four mics and then it's usually a 103, SM57, AT4047 and Baby Bottle. If the singer is really belting it out then I'll usually pick a dynamic mic like the 421 or a 57 and get them close to it. Hell, I can remember one session where I was going through every mic I owned and nothing sounded right. Eventually I put up the D112 just for laughs, figured I hadn't tried it yet and it couldn't possibly sound any worse then the other mics I had tried. Sure as ****, it was totally right for that singers voice. I had to roll off a lot of low end but the overall tone was pretty damn close to right from the second I heard it.

As for compressors, I use whatever works. Could be VCA, opto, tube, Mu, whatever does the job without ****ing up the audio.
Old 17th May 2003
Lives for gear
5down1up's Avatar
🎧 15 years
its said before , but it all depends on the singer .

which doesnt mean that theres a way to make anybody sound great . if the singers unable to control the dynamics of his/her voice you gonna end up with a take where you are probably able doing adjustments to make one single word sound ok .

if the artist has the talent , its just a matter of taste how to make the vocals sound like . and of course a matter of skill and gear .

1st thing i do is taking care about the headphone monitor mix for the singer . if the relation between the music and the voice isnt right most singers start in - or decreasing their natural voice levels . even the right amount of "loudness" is a big issue of the musical performance . so if you want somebody to scream or whisper you can work it out using the relations between voice and music .
i look for the loudest vocal performance in the song and adjust the levels to it needs . i usually end up using a tube comp for ~ 3db max of compression and another one doing f.ex a 1:5 ~ 2 ratio mid attack&release ~5db of compression .

the rest will be done in the daw . masterX is a pretty nice tool .

i am still trying as well , matterfact , i like my vocalsound


good luck
Old 17th May 2003
Lives for gear
littledog's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Originally posted by Jay Kahrs

The last time I did a big array of mics there was a 103, 414B/ULS, Oktava MC012, Baby Bottle, 421, SM57 and an AT4047.
That might be about the least slutty collection of vocal mics I've seen on this forum! Someone report this guy to a moderator! (Ooops! He IS a moderator!)
Old 17th May 2003
One with big hooves
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Come on man, this is the budget forum. heh
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