You work hard on your voice and it is a natural next step to want to record it. A good mic setup will help you capture your voice at its best.
Maybe you are a songwriter and you want to produce your own material. Or maybe you need to create a recording for an audition.
Recording vocals is definitely something that you can do at home with your own mic setup.
The fear of doing something wrong can be a bit intimidating. I remember this feeling, and so I thought I would share the 5 Steps I use to make sure I set up my mic right before recording vocals.
Watch the steps in this video or read about them in this post.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhdujScokVw&w=560&h=315]
Step 1: Attach the Mic to the Stand
For the studio mic setup I use a regular tripod stand with a threaded end to screw on the mount for my mic.
The mic mount looks different depending on the mic you are using.
You might be mostly familiar with a mount for a dynamic performance mic where it is easy to take it off and on the stand.
The mount for the studio mic is a bit different in that it often includes shock absorption (see picture below). This makes it stationary in the stand.
One thing to be aware of when you attach your mic, is that it faces in the right direction. This might be a silly point. Never the less, I have managed to have it face in the wrong direction because I did not pay attention.
Usually the front holds the logo, like you see it here with Lewitt’s 440. So just make sure it points towards you 😉
Step 2: Attach the Pop-filter
Recording with a pop-filter helps you reduce popping sounds from plosives such as P’s and B’s. These sounds involve fast moving air which can cause the mic to overload resulting in these sort of low breathy pops in your recording.
The pop-screen should be placed between 2-3 inches from the mic to allow for the air from the plosives to disperse before it reaches the mic. For my fellow Europeans this is 5-8 centimetres.
If you are on a low budget, there are even some cool DIY videos on YouTube that shows you how to make one out of pantyhose and home supplies.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCZhr1GKYb0&w=560&h=315]
Step 3: Adjust the Hight of Your Stand
The most common stand is a regular tripod stand where you can easily adjust the height. Just turn the knob lefty loosy righty tighty 🙂
Stand comfortably and relaxed. Many people adjust the mic when they are standing to straight in comparison to when they sing. Relax your body, then adjust the height until the mic is right in front of your mouth.
Step 4: Aim Your Mic
A common way to aim the mic for recording vocals is a neutral straight position.
You can also experiment with tilting your mic downwards to get more low end in your voice. This adds a more chesty quality to your sound.
Tilting the mic can also be helpful in mitigating pops from plosives even further. This is because the puffs of air are not sent directly into the mic when it is tilted.
You can also tilt the mic upwards if you want to make a heavy vocal sound lighter.
If recording is new to you, I recommend that you start out with the mic in a neutral position. This allows you to get to know your recorded voice first.
Then you can make adjustments once you know your recorded voice. This way, you have a starting point to adjust from.
Step 5: Plug in Your Mic Cable
Once you have your mic set up it is time to plug in your XLR cable. This cable has a female end that matches the three prongs on the mic (see picture below). Press in the little button on the side of the chord to connect. You will usually hear a snap when it is nice and secure.
The XLR cable then connects to your audio interphase, a box, which then connects to your computer. The 3rd blog post in this miniseries, “Studio Mic Techniques for Vocals”, is all about how to record your vocals onto your computer. It will be out within the next month.
Step 6 (bonus): Isolate Your Sound
I actually have a bonus step for your guys. It’s not directly connected to the setup of your mic but it will benefit the quality of your recording greatly.
Try to get some type of isolation between you and the outside world when you record. This prevents the sound from bouncing around on the hard surfaces in your room and create reverb. It also mitigates outside noises from neighbours.
As you’ve seen in the pictures of this post, we use some nice upholstered boards as isolation. When recording we angle them around me so that I am all closed off from the outside world.
If you’re not able to buy fancy isolation gear right now don’t worry. Like with the pop filter, there are some pretty cool ways that you can DIY your isolation using stuff you already have at home.
A duvet or some blankets work pretty nicely as isolation. I have previously used this like you see in the picture below.
It is all about what you can make happen with what you have. I’m a big supporter of that!
Ok singers, that was the first post on studio mic techniques for singers. The next post is about singing technique specifically. Here, I will give you tips on how to position yourself in front of the mic and how to sing into it.
If you want to get even more in depth instruction on singing I recommend that you check out my book series Vocal Quest. It takes you through all the steps to becoming a professional singer from beginner to advanced.
My students have had great experience with the series because it includes all aspects of becoming a singer. Both vocal technique, performance tips, and musical theoretical skills.
See you in the next post where we will continue to geek out on your voice to create the sound that you want!