Common Mistakes When Recording Vocals

The 5 Issues That Ruin Your Vocals

An old fashioned microphone on a stand at a music studio.

In a lot of ways, good vocals come less from using superior tactics and more from avoiding common mistakes.

As a local Tulsa music studio, we like to be on the forefront of providing free information based on our knowledge in the studio. That being said, here are five problems you must avoid when miking up vocals in the lab.

  1. Sibilance
  2. Poor Room Acoustics
  3. Popping
  4. Foot Noise
  5. Proximity Effect

Now, let’s explore each one of them.

Sibilance

 

A strange thing about a human voice is…

When pronouncing “S” and “F” sounds, the mouth produces a high-frequency blast of air, known as sibilance. It is something you don’t notice in everyday conversation.

But it is obvious when you put your mouth up against the mic when recording.

To fix the problem, you never want to skimp out on your pop filter as the hardware part of this process. In addition, you could mask it with software tools like multi-band compressors and de-users.

Poor Room Acoustics

 

You may be perfect in everything else…

But here’s the fact…

Your vocals sound awful when there’s acoustics in your room or booth.

And when you don’t treat it, you can be sure your studio’s acoustics will also be bad.

If you have little budget or space limits to do it the usual way…reflection filters are good are a cheap alternative. While they may not work as well as real acoustic soundproofing treatments, they are better than nothing.

A pop filter covering a microphone in a Tulsa music studio

Popping

As opposed to sibilance, when you pronounce “B” and “P” sounds, your mouth expels a blast of air. It is surprising; you don’t notice it in your regular speech. In a recording, the explosion of air strikes your mic’s diaphragm.

Popping is when you create a punchy low-frequency sound.

The easiest way to avoid it is to sing into the mic at a slightly off-axis angle. To prevent the blast directly striking the diaphragm.

But, since many singers won’t or can’t do it, engineers use pop filters. And, here’s how it works.

When you create a barrier between the singer and the mic, filters act as a net to catch “plosives” while they allow other sounds to pass freely.

The barrier is also a distance market, so singers don’t move too close, as they will often.

Foot Noise

With certain types of floors you can hear every single step loud and clear in the entire studio.

When a singer taps their feed, vibrations can actually travel up the mic stand to the recording.

A universal solution is to add a shock mount. A shock mount works by creating acoustic isolation between the stand and the mic.

Here’s what you do to find out if you need one:

Setup your mic in the usual way, record enable the track and crank up the gain.

Then, put on your headphones, walk around the mic stand while you listen.

If you hear the footsteps or any other noise on the floor, then you probably need the shock mount.

Many vocal mics come with a shock mounts included, but if yours doesn’t. you can Google “shock mounts” that are compatible with your mic. You can see if one exists, if it doesn’t, consider using a different condenser microphone.

A microphone in a shock mount in Tulsa.

Groovus Maximus Project in Tulsa is a premier music studio that has vocal recording capabilities.

Proximity Effect

Cardioid mics have a standard polar pattern used on vocals. So, whenever there is a sound a few inches within the location of a diaphragm…the mic will produce a noticeable low-end boost in its frequency response.

You will have a stronger effect when the sound is closer.

Specific instruments such as an acoustic guitar is a useful tool when it comes to adding warmth.

To fix it, you can use a pop filter in order to prevent you from getting too close to the mic.

You can also use omnidirectional mics which are not affected by proximity because of their unique design.

Closing

Chris Bell, owner of the studio in Tulsa, is committed to perfect recordings for musicians. The studio is literally a one stop shop for sound effects, vocals, mixing, mastering and even instrument fills when needed. Groovus Maximus Project is always running specials for studio time, so be sure to check us out on Facebook and Instagram for all the latest.