Hi guys, today I’m going to show you how to record vocals. Wether you’re recording at home, in a rehearsal space or anywhere else this simple 3-step system will give you great results every time. So let’s get started!
Step 1: Set-up Your Microphone
The first step is to set up your microphone. Of course you’re going to need some equipment to record vocals and the first one is obviously a microphone. I’m using a Røde NT1a today. This is an older version – the newer version is called the NT1 and it’s a great microphone. It’s very versatile but this one (the NT1a) is also very reliable. I’ve had this microphone for over 10 years now and I’ve used it almost every week! I’ve recorded vocals with it, I’ve recorded drums with it, violin and so on. So it’s a great microphone and it will give you great results in your home studio and it’s very budget friendly which is of course also very important when you’re recording music at home in your home studio.
You’re also going to need a mic stand when you’re recording vocals. I recommend not to get the cheapest one but to get a sturdy one which will last for a couple of years and where you can put your microphone on it safely. Usually your microphone comes with a shock mount, that is this thing where you put the microphone in and isolates it from the mic stand. So when you stamp your feet on the floor or you touch the mic stand by accident for example, the microphone won’t pick up the vibrations from it but it’s completely detached from the microphone stand. That’s called a shock mount.
You’re also going to need a pop filter or a pop screen. That’s this thing right in front of the microphone. Usually it’s made out of foam but this is a metal one. It prevents P’s and B’s from overloading the microphone because when you make those consonants you exhale a lot of air and that air will overload the microphone when it’s not filtered out. But when you place a mic screen in front of the microphone it prevents that from happening. I recommend placing the screen about one hand hands length away from the microphone, that way you’ll have the optimal distance.
Of course you also need to connect your microphone to your audio interface and this you can do with an XLR cable or a microphone cable. Before you connect the other end of the cable to your audio interface turn off the 48 volts of phantom power (this is power you put on a microphone to get some signal flowing). First turn down your microphone preamp which is usually on your audio interface and then connect the microphone cable to the audio interface. Then you can continue to step 2.
Step 2: Create An Audio Channel And Input Monitoring
Step 2 is to create an audio channel in your digital audio workstation and to set up input monitoring. This will allow you to hear yourself while you’re recording, which is of course very important. So let’s dive into the computer. I’m using Logic Pro X today but it doesn’t really matter what kind of DAW you’re using because almost all DAS are set up kind of the same. You want to get a basic understanding of the signal flow so don’t pay too much attention to Logic Pro X itself. If you don’t have logic just follow my steps and you’ll be set up.
So what I’m going to do is to create an audio track and I’m going to set it to input 1. This is the channel where I’ve plugged in my microphone. I’m gonna make sure that input monitoring and record enable is turned on. Now before you click create even though you haven’t turn up the microphone preamp yet make sure to turn down the signal of your speakers, because you want to prevent feedback from occurring.
All right, so when you’ve done that click create and now you have an audio track which we’ll label ‘Vocal’. Let’s make it a little bit larger so we can see what’s going on. It’s set to input 1 (which of course is the correct input) but you could change it to other inputs if you have them on your audio interface. What we’re going to do now is to turn on the 48 volts phantom power on your audio interface. This is usually done with a button on your audio interface but sometimes you have to turn it on in the software in your computer. I’m going to click the button and I’m gonna slowly turn up the microphone preamp while I’m talking into the microphone. So I have to eyeball the input meter which is in Logic Pro X (but I also have an input meter on my interface) and I’m gonna stop turning it up when the signal reaches almost halfway. Because when I’m gonna sing loudly I don’t want the signal to exceed about two-thirds of the meter. This way I’m going to prevent overloading.
So I’ve set up a basic input signal and now I want to create a headphone mix. Well I’m going to put on my headphones. I recommend using closed back headphones. Closed back means that the signal won’t bleed out from your headphones into your microphone so when you’re recording on top of music that you’ve recorded for example, you don’t want that music to bleed back into the microphone. You only want to microphone to capture your vocals. So use closed back headphones, it’s very important.
I’m gonna put on my headphones and I have input monitoring enabled in Logic Pro X. You can do the same in your DAW. Make sure that you can hear yourself singing in real time. Not all laptops or PCs are able to handle this real-time processing (this is called software monitoring) and you have to see if your computer is fast enough to play back the audio in real time. So what you can do is to go to your settings and turn down the buffer size to as low as possible. I know that my computer is able to handle 128 samples and this is OK for latency. The higher the buffer size the more latency you’re going to have and latency is not something that you want when you’re recording in real time. Well this is one option, but if your computer isn’t able to process the signal in real time when you experience a lot of latency you can see if your audio interface supports direct monitoring. This means that the signal coming from your microphone going into your audio interface gets played back directly into your headphones. That way you will have zero latency, which is great! If you want to add some effects while recording software monitoring is the way to go but if you experience too much latency try to see if your audio interface supports direct monitoring.
Step 3: Start recording vocals!
Step three is to actually start recording vocals. Now, I set up my microphone, I set up my input monitoring, I can hear myself through the microphone because I’ve set up my headphone mix and we’re going to start recording now. I set up my pop screen about 1 hands length away from the microphone. This ensures that I’m not going to get too close to the microphone. Sometimes this is a nice effect because in that case you’re going to experience the ‘proximity effect’. This is something that occurs when you’re very close to a microphone which will get you a boost in the low end and results in a very boomy voice which radio DJs sometimes use because they’re right up to the microphone. This can come in handy, but it doesn’t always sound that great on some vocals. So I recommend for starters to be about this distance away from the microphone. That way you’ll always get good results.
What you want to remember is when you’re going to sing quietly you want to be right up to the pop screen but when you sing a little bit louder you’re going to back off a little. That way you’re going to control the volume you put into the microphone – so you are basically your own volume fader – which gives you a lot more even signal going in to your computer. So I’m going to press record and I’m going to sing a little and you can hear what it sounds like.
One more thing to consider when you’re setting up your microphone is to set the membrane (capsule) at the height of your mouth so the sounds from your mouth go straight into the microphone. So don’t set it up too high or too low or you will get weird results. This way you’re going to get the best results. Also try to put your microphone in the center of your room when you don’t have an acoustically treated room. For example, I’m in a living room right now so I want to get away from the windows or from any walls whatsoever. Because there I’m going to get the most reflections which I want to avoid but also the most noise from the street. So I want the back of the microphone to face the windows, because the back of the microphone is not picking up any sound. The sound the microphone is picking up is coming from the front and a little bit from the sides. So when you have a window for example or a loud computer making fan noise you want the back of the microphone to face that so you’re going to get the least amount possible of that noise into your recordings. So put a microphone in the center of your room with the back of the mic facing any noisy sources. That way you’re going to get the best results.
So this is a very basic demonstration of how to record vocals, but if you follow my steps you’ll have great recordings every time. Of course there’s a lot more to it which I’m sure I’m going to cover in another video, but these are just the basics. So step one is to set up your microphone. Make sure it’s at the proper height and that it has the proper distance from your mouth. Step two is to create an audio track and to set up input monitoring and step three is to actually start recording. Lean away from the microphone when you’re singing loudly and lean into the microphone when you’re singing softly.
That’s basically all you need to know to get great vocal recordings. Now if you want to learn more about making music in your home studio you can download my free Home Studio JumpStart Guide by entering your name and email below. In this guide I’m going to show you what kind of equipment you need, what kind of equipment you don’t need, how to set it up and I’m going to give you some advice on how to make your first recordings and how to make music in your home studio which is very exciting! So I recommend downloading that guide by clicking on the link below. Also subscribe to my channel and click on the like button if you like this video. Thank you so much for watching and I see you in the next video. Bye!