How to Make Your Voice Sound Better When Recording Vocals

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Singer recording vocal tracks in home studio.

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You might have tried doing your own recording.  Yet, after overdubbing your vocals on the instrumentals, you might have felt frustrated. You got frustrated because your recorded voice sounds terrible. Well, you’re not alone in this experience. A lot of recording artists also experience what you might have experienced. The reason for this is that your idea of how your voice sounds is different from your actual voice. Let me explain further.

You naturally hear your voice in two varied ways. First, you hear your voice as vibrating sound waves that travel through air and enters your outer ear.  Then, this vibrating sound waves hit your eardrum. Afterward, these soundwaves are transformed into electrical signals that are sent to your brain. Second, you hear your voice as vibrations traveling inside your skull. These vibrations hit your eardrum likewise. These two ways of hearing your voice give you a muddled idea of how your voice really sounds when recorded. This is the main reason too why you think that your recorded voice sounds different from your actual voice. 

Steps On How to Improve Your Singing Vocals for Recording (Prior To Recording Session)

When I was recording my first album, I often got frustrated with my recorded vocals. My recorded voice often sounds sharper and higher in pitch even if I tried to give it more bass. Well, as mentioned above, the reason is simple—my idea of my voice is different from my actual voice. My voice coach then gave me some pieces of advice on how I could enhance my vocal recordings. His tips are quite simple! They are also very effective! Hence, I am sharing them with you. Here are those succinct tips:

Step 1) Get into the Zone and Relax

Every good recording starts with your effort to relax. Of course, the ambiance of the studio will play a critical role in your level of relaxation. If the ambiance is off, you will end up not relaxed. Once you get into your comfort zone, you can then better project your voice. Your real voice will surely come out if you are relaxed and feeling comfortable.

Step 2) Assume the Correct Posture

When recording, you should assume the right posture. This posture requires you to stand with both your feet slightly apart. Then, set one of your foot slightly forward to ensure that your weight is slightly leaning forward. Bend your knees slightly while you relax them. Relax your hands too.

Furthermore, you should relax your abdomen. Then, slide back your shoulders to straighten your back. Position your chin likewise parallel to the floor. You should always assume the right posture when singing. 

Step 3) Warm Up Before the Actual Recording

You should do some simple warm-up exercises to open up your vocal cords. You can yawn to stretch out the muscles of your face, mouth, and throat. 

This can release the tension in your diaphragm and neck. Then, mimic a cough movement by coughing very gently. Afterward, do some humming and lip trills. Do a lip roll starting from low to high pitch. Then, reverse your lip roll by starting from high to low pitch.

Step 4) Exercise Singing Scales

Start with the lower notes and move up the scale. Using the “me” sound, you can start with your scale warmups. Repeat this exercise until you feel that your vocal cords have already opened-up.

Step 5) Practice The Song

Practice before recording. Study the stanzas and lyrics. Perfect the stanzas and the phrasing of the song. Stress those syllables and words that need to be stressed. Glide along those words that need no stress. Study also the ways those great artists phrase their songs. Study how they intersperse their breaths while singing. Study also how they stress some words and how they enunciate important words. You will surely learn from these great artists.

Step 6) Eat food that are Healthy for your Voice

Some foods are detrimental to the health of your voice. You should avoid them. But you should also eat food that is healthy for your voice. These foods include fruits, whole grains, vegetables, and warm water.

Step7) Avoid Substances that are Harmful to your Vocal Folds

Some substances could lower the quality of your voice in the long run. These substances include spicy foods, smoke from cigarettes, milk products, salty foods, alcohols, and even some citrus fruits. So, be very careful with the substances that ingest into your body for they may be harmful to your voice.

During The Vocal Recording Session

Good vocal recordings usually have two aspects. First, you have to learn how to improve your voice. Then, you should also ensure that you got the best equipment for recording vocals. Here are some simple tips on how you can record your vocals better:

Step 1) Stay Hydrated

When recording vocals, make sure that you are hydrated. Drink plenty of liquids and make sure that you got ample supply. You can drink clear water or mild tea to ensure that you are properly hydrated. Don’t drink carbonated drinks and coffee. Moreover, it is advisable that you keep the room temperature at a normal level—neither too cold nor too warm.

Step 2) Choose the Right Microphone

If you are recording in a high-end studio, you will notice that they have different sets of mics. Some of their mics are designed explicitly for vocal recordings; some are not! They are very meticulous with the mics that they use for recording vocals. In a home studio setup likewise, you should find good mics for vocals. You should not think twice spending money for high-end mics. This is because the type of mics that you use for vocal recording will have much implications on the results of your vocal recordings. Go for large condenser microphones! These mics are large-diaphragm condenser mics that are versatile and of high quality.

If you do your recording at home, you should also have a cardioid microphone at hand. You can also go for an omnidirectional microphone so that you can move around the mic while recording your vocals. If you are the type of vocalist that sports an aggressive stance, you should use a dynamic microphone. These mics give your vocals more warmth. They are also great in rejecting background noises.

Step 3) Microphone Placement is Critical to the Quality of Vocal Recordings

The distance of your mouth to the mic has a bearing on the quality of your vocal recordings. You should, therefore, figure out the right distance from the microphone. Try to experiment to find the ideal distance between your lips and the mic. You should spend some time figuring out this distance. There is no shortcut to this. Moreover, you should realize how critical the mic distance is to the quality of your recording.

Step 4) Figure out the Right Position of Your Mic and the Pop Filter

Most recording artists position the mic slightly above their lip. They set the mic pointing downward around six inches away. Concerning pop filter, when I first tried to do my home studio recordings, I had to spend enough time finding the right distance for the pop filter. Finding the proper distance of the pop filter entails experimentation. Dynamic mics would pick up even the slightest sounds you make. They would pick up even the simple pursing of your lips. So, a pop filter is necessary to lessen the popping sounds during recordings. Moreover, setting the pop filter up at the right distance is also critical to the results of your recording.

When using a cardioid condenser mic, you should keep the pop filter a bit further away from the mic. This is to ensure that there will be fewer variations on the tones and volume of the voice of the vocalist during the vocal recordings.

Step 5) Set the Recording Levels

After figuring out the right position of the mic and pop filter, you should then ensure that your interface is set on the proper levels. You should aim for the right levels. The sound should have an average of 18dBFS. It should also be peaking around 10dBFS. Plus, it should not be peaking higher than 6dBFS. On the channel meters of your DAW, you will readily see the dBFS level. At the onset, ask the vocalist to belt a song. Then, you should adjust the gain up a point wherein the volume is already averaging around 20dBFS.

Home Recording Studio Setups Tips For Singer

Step 6) Make a Trial Recording of 10 Seconds of Silence

Make sure that prior to recording the vocals, you record around 10 seconds of silence. In this way, you can figure out if the mic is picking up a lot of ambient noise. It is better to filter out the ambient noise before recording for this will make your audio edit later less taxing.

Step 7) Set the Mics on the Right Levels

During the warm-ups or recording setups, you should readily check the preamp and the DAW to check the level of the sounds. You should set the mic levels safely just under the red. This will prevent distortion that is usually present if the levels are too high. Setting the mics on the right levels can help lessen the amount of compression that you would need to do after recordings.

Step 8) Try to Prevent Sibilant and Popping Sounds

The most irritating sounds when recording vocals are the popping sounds and the sibilance. Popping sounds are produced when you pronounce the plosives consonants like P’s and B’s forcefully. The pop filter can filter some of these plosive sounds. The sibilant sounds, on the other hand, are those sounds that come along when you pronounce S’s or F’s sounds. Seldom would you notice these sounds when you are simply conversing? But when you are recording, these sounds can become too irritating and can ruin your vocal recordings. You can reduce these sounds by just adjusting your distance when you pronounce these sounds.

Step 9) Make Sure that You Sing with Emotion

Songs elicit various emotions. If you are singing a love song, then, you should render the song in such a way that you let emotion comes out of your voice. Similarly, if you are recording, you should know what the song wants to relay. You should also allow your emotions filter through your rendition of the song. Great artists internalize the essence of the songs that they sing. This is the reason why they are really great in their renditions of songs.

Professional artists usually imagine that they are singing for someone when recording. They imaginarily direct their song to that someone. They try to connect with that imaginary someone. Similarly, you should try to imitate what these artists are doing. Make sure that you can connect with that someone and let your voice relay that connection.

Audio Post Production (Mixing & Mastering The Recorded Song)

Step 1) Spend Time Listening to Audio Playbacks Using Your Headphones

As you try to figure out how your vocal recording has been wrought, you should spend time, listening to audio playbacks using your headphones. In this way, you will hear the nitty-gritty of what you have recorded. You can also figure out what needs editing or enhancement, and what needs to be altered.

Step 2) Don’t Overdo Your Vocal Editing

Prior to mixing, you would first do some vocal editing. A good software can help you with vocal editing. It can provide you with fantastic control over the vocal tracks. Some vocal editors want to bring out the real quality of the vocals. They want something like an “in-your-face” vocal rendition and recordings. This may be great if the quality of the voice of the singer is truly great. But if the voice of the singer isn’t that great, you need to do some simple editing. But don’t overdo it so that you will not ruin the original vibe and nature of the voice.

Step 3) Give Your Recording an Awesome Mix

If you are a great vocalist like that of Karen Carpenter, who seldom made mistakes when recording, more often, your vocal recording would surely be great. But if you are not like Karen Carpenter, you can surely rely on vocal editing and accurate mixing. Mixing, however, is no longer part of the recording process. It is more of enhancing the vocals after having recorded it. Yet, it definitely plays a critical role in the quality of your recordings. 

Some factors that you should consider when mixing include the EQ, compression, distortion/warmth, and reverb/delay. You can commission a mixing expert to do this job for your recordings to rest your ear and give your recording the right mix.

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