If you can’t achieve good performance from the singer, maybe it’s in your way of monitoring. In this article we will try to give you some tips of monitoring when recording vocals.
It is easy to underestimate the fact that the vocal quality is highly dependent on the type and quality of monitoring provided to the singer. Unfortunately, nowadays a lot of sound engineers give the singers a pair of headphones with an approximately tuned mix, and leave it to deal with it, however this approach will not help you to improve the quality of performance.
There are several factors that affect the ability of the singer to perform properly and get into the right notes, one of them is volume of monitoring. In my opinion, the best monitoring system is one that allows the performer control the volume level by himself, while being in the place where he sings. There is the best way to setup the monitor. Just make sure sound engineer hear the same thing as a performer.
As a rule, the singers need to hear the rhythm of the track and the instrumental balance that will allow them to hit at the right notes more accurately. Sometimes you need to tune up a key instrument or a guitar a little, and tune everything else a little bit down; in the case you have back vocal, the singer also must be able to clearly hear all the vocals. Nothing of the previously mentioned should be abused, a typical resetting of volume levels is enough usually.
Headphone type used by the singer, may also affect the final result. Although the semi-open headphones usually transmit signal more accurately, they can’t provide full isolation, like the closed headphones. Some singers prefer to work wearing headphones in one ear only, and if there is a problem when the signal of headphones hit into the microphone, it is better just to set the entire signal to one side, or disconnect one of the cables.
Some singers generally can’t perform in the headphones, then the only alternative is to use traditional monitors. This greatly increases the unwanted signal problem getting into the microphone, however, in situations when is not fatal, it is possible to put the microphone close enough to the singer, and put monitors behind the microphone. In this case, it is necessary to use a cardioid or hyper-cardioid, and monitors must be installed in the dead zone of the microphone, where they will give no signal on the microphone. Of course, the level the volume of monitors in such situations should be as low as possible.
There is more effective solution – use monitors that are in antiphase. If the microphone is located between the monitors, the signal level will fall into it, will be significantly lower due to suppression of signals. Position of microphone in such case is critical, and the best decision is to calculate the best option by experiment. Just move the microphone and listen where is the point with the lowest unwanted signal level.
The use of monitors in antiphase is well-known, time-tested method, which is used by professional sound engineers for many years, however, how it can be used in case of a stereo recording? The problem is that when you are recording with two stereo microphones, just one can be placed in desired point. For such a situation there is no universal solutions. Therefore, it is better to try to hold vocal recording in mono if there are no compelling reasons for stereo. However, there is still a trick that can help you to record stereo. Firstly, record vocalist, not paying attention to getting the unwanted signal into the microphone. Then record the same signal, but without vocalist, turn phase and subtract it from the first track.
It is well known that the addition of reverb in headphones helps a singer to feel more confident, and helps to hit the notes. Less widely known thing is that adding too much reverberation has the same negative effect as in case of a lack of reverberation. Therefore, always ask the singer if he feels comfortable. Then you can be sure that the monitor is set up for recording vocals optimally.