Slow, sparse songs allow the vocals to become the central focus of the recording, and that’s when the choice of microphone and mic preamp can make a big difference. Not many can afford a Neumann U47 (pictured) through a Neve channel, but even with a limited microphone/preamp arsenal, a lot that can be done to improve your vocals’ tone. There is a degree of enigmatic “chemistry” between some mic+preamp combos and some voices – to be discovered through trial and error – but here are a few simple tips that can help fix some common problems:

1. The distance of the mouth from the microphone is crucial: vocal mics feature the so called “proximity effect” which exaggerates low frequencies at close distance and reduces them progressively after a certain range. 8 inches from the mic is normally a good place to start, try closer for a warmer tone, farther for a tinnier one.

2. Excessive sibilance can be very distracting in vocal tracks. To fix it try these tips and/or any combination of them: a less bright mic (maybe even a Shure SM58), a better a/d converter, singing to the mic on an angle, sticking chewing gum between your upper front teeth. If you realize about this problem after the recording, try a de-esser plug-in.

3. Plosive consonants (“P”s and “B”s) can create weird artifacts in your recordings. The solution in this case is very simple: use a pop shield between the vocalist and the mic, and also filter out with EQ anything under 100-150 Hz.

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