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Tips for producing and recording good vocal tracks?

I'm not too bad of a singer, but can't seem to get the right tone while recording. Any advice (aside from super expensive gear)? I.e. an effects chain that works for you? a certain affordable mic or mic technique? Specific plug-ins that seem to do the trick?
So much goes into mic positioning alone that you really need to experiment. It takes a while but eventually you'll get to the point where you won't hide your vocals behind a million effects. Here's some tips I would recommend:

  • [1] Ideally you would have a decent-sounding condenser that works well with your vocals
    [2] Place a pop filter about 1 inch from your mic
    [3] Vocalist should practically be kissing the pop filter on quiet parts, backing off just a bit on louder parts (not too far. the farther you are from a condenser, the more room sound interferes with your take)
    [4] Set your gain to the point where it's as loud as can be without clipping during your loudest note
    [5] After recording, add a bit of compression. I tend to use a minimum of a 5:1 ratio. Experiment with the threshold. Try -10 to -25 and if you aren't satisfied, continue to experiment
    [6] If using any autotune or melodyne, do so as the first effect/insert (i.e. BEFORE the compression)
    [7] AFTER compression, you can add an EQ. I recommend cutting everything below 200 on your vox. If the bass isn't sitting in the mix nicely, cut even more out of the low end of the vocals. Cut a smidge at 7200 to reduce harshness from sibilants. Boost a dB or 2 at 2500 to help the vox track stand out a bit more. These are just suggestions, above all it's important you experiment and understand the terms that I'm discussing. You want to add a little to the highs but be very careful not to overdo it
    [8] Consider adding delay or reverb. I prefer delay on vocals, but it is very easy to overdo it, so be careful not to use a heavy hand...
    [9] If you have more of a driven song, add a small bit of erosion or overdrive BEFORE adding the delay to help blend in your vocals with the harder instrumentals
    [10] Harmonies really help your vocals sit in the mix properly, but too much can muddy it up. They don't have to be loud. Often you'll hear songs from your favorite artists and you can't tell what it is you like so much about the vocals, it may be harmony(ies) at very low levels. They truly do wonders on vocals and I would daresay they're as important as compression


These aren't a cure-all solution, but if you follow these steps, and above all, EXPERIMENT, then you should be happy with your results.
For the most part, great advice. I would warn against strictly following #5 regarding heavy compression with a 5:1 ratio...especially if this is just for recording vocals. If I EQ/compress my vocal signal that I send to my DAW, I will do so less than I really need to, as it's easy to add later and fine-tune. Starting off with an over-compressed sample makes future fixes much more difficult...

The idea with heavy compression is very dependent on the source track and its style and implied dynamics. A screaming/metal vocal won't have any problem, but a soft ballad or less dynamic vocal track will sound artificial when excessively compressed.
Quote from onetakewonder:
  • [5] After recording, add a bit of compression. I tend to use a minimum of a 5:1 ratio. Experiment with the threshold. Try -10 to -25 and if you aren't satisfied, continue to experiment
    ....
    [7] AFTER compression, you can add an EQ. I recommend cutting everything below 200 on your vox. If the bass isn't sitting in the mix nicely, cut even more out of the low end of the vocals. Cut a smidge at 7200 to reduce harshness from sibilants. Boost a dB or 2 at 2500 to help the vox track stand out a bit more. These are just suggestions, above all it's important you experiment and understand the terms that I'm discussing. You want to add a little to the highs but be very careful not to overdo it
    [8] Consider adding delay or reverb. I prefer delay on vocals, but it is very easy to overdo it, so be careful not to use a heavy hand...



I'd really love to see a screenshot of your compression and EQ if possible (or anyone else's vocal FX chain for that matter). Getting nice, polished sounding vocals has always been a struggle for me
#1= Experiment with as many different mice as you can. I spent over 30 yrs. in TV/Radio broadcasting and my voice usually NEVER matched up quality wise, mic for mic with anyone else on staff. Others voices sounded great on a Sennheiser..mine sucked! My voice fits best on a ADK 'Vienna' believe it or not. Some others don't like it at all. So..like I say...experiment!! Good luck.
Quote from joemf:
#1= Experiment with as many different mice as you can. I spent over 30 yrs. in TV/Radio broadcasting and my voice usually NEVER matched up quality wise, mic for mic with anyone else on staff. Others voices sounded great on a Sennheiser..mine sucked! My voice fits best on a ADK 'Vienna' believe it or not. Some others don't like it at all. So..like I say...experiment!! Good luck.


Are there certain distances/angles/positions where your mic(s) work best? And does it vary by genre for you? I feel like it's impossible to get a good sound out of my condenser without some compression :/
Generally, you want a vocalist right up on the mic (maybe two or three inches back) with a pop screen in between. Getting close gives you the proximity effect (unless for some reason you're using an omni mic), which makes everything sound bigger and bassier. For vocals that's almost always a good thing. If you move back too far, your voice will thin out a lot, which I doubt would sound better in most situations.
thanks this forum has been really helpful
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