Tag Archives: tracking vocals

Recording Tips: Vocals

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.

Alexa tracking vocals

Tracking vocals in larger room

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.

Makeshift vocal booth working wonders

Makeshift vocal booth working wonders

Comparison tracks
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.

Tracking Vocals – 3.11.13

We laid down some vocal takes today for Alexa’s song “Giving Up On You”.  Signal routing is as follows:

Blue Baby Bottle Condensor → Focusrite ISA One Preamp → dbx 160x compressor/limiter → Digidesign 003 rack → Pro Tools 10

Alexa tracking vocals on the Blue Baby Bottle

Alexa tracking vocals through the Blue Baby Bottle.

Alexa Tracking Vocals 2

Fun fact, that kick drum head in the background survived nearly 15 years of abuse by way of Travis Tatman and friends. Now it’s a wall ornament with fun stickers.

Signal is routed from Focusrite Preamp to dbx 160x to control dynamics, but we usually keep the ratio and attack settings low while tracking.

The signal is routed from a Focusrite Preamp to a 1970’s era dbx 160x to control dynamics, but we usually keep the ratio and attack settings low while tracking to avoid over compressing the signal.

Solid little setup.  The Presonus D8 Preamp sounds great on drums, and adds an extra 8 XLR inputs to your signal chain when connected via digital fiber optic cable.

Solid little setup. The Presonus D8 Preamp sounds great on drums, and adds an extra 8 XLR inputs to your signal chain when connected via digital fiber optic cable.

Working with Alexa has been a lot of fun.  She's got some great material and really has a handle on her music style.  Excited to post new music soon.

Working with Alexa has been a lot of fun. She’s got  great material and really has a handle on her musical style. Excited to post some crunchy new jams very soon!!!  Until then, keep it funky.  – TT