A good vocal booth is crucial to any mix, but we home studio engineers don’t always have access to the kind of super quiet, controlled, soundproof rooms that you find in the high priced studios. We at Blue House Records would like to give you an example of how easy it can be to create a make shift vocal booth, with a little backstory for context.
Alexa (artist) and I were nearly finished with the final mix of a ripping alternative rock track—all the pieces were in place, guitars and drums were just right, but we couldn’t get the vocal to sit in the mix. We spent days fiddling with several different equalizers, compressors, gates, noise reduction plugins, and other processors—we decided that the problem had to be the raw vocal track. The vocal performance was stellar, but the dynamic of the track sounded a bit washed out and muddy, with lots of overtones and reflections that prevented the vocal from finding it’s place in the mix. I then broke the bad news to the artist, “I think we have to re-track the vocals.”
The setup for recording vocals worked well on previous songs. We simply set a condenser microphone in the middle of an isolated room, threw on a pop blocker and went to work. However, this track was a rocker, and Alexa would be singing much louder than in previous recordings. As Alexa let her voice open up, the louder sound bounced around the large room creating unwanted noise.
To correct the issue, I asked Alexa to bring some heavy blankets to our next vocal session. We then found a smaller room, propped up a few microphone stands, clothing racks—whatever we could find, draped the blankets over the stands, and placed some larger couch pillows around the room for dampening. It took us 5 minutes to set this up, and the result was a much tighter, cleaner vocal that easily sits in the mix on a very guitar and drum heavy track.
The following are excerpts from the alt rock track we’re working on.
This first sample was recorded in the larger room with no dampening.
This second sample was recorded in a small room with soundproofing and improved microphone positioning.
And here’s a snippet of the final product.