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Production Tip 6 – How to be Creative in Vocal Recording.

On Saturday I went into a studio with a singer to record their final lead, harmony and backing vocals. Having one, very talented, singer means that I want to get the best out of their voice. This leads to the question of how to be creative in vocal recordings.

Harmony or Backing Vocals.

What is the difference between harmony and backing vocals? In my opinion, a harmony vocal follows the main vocals melodic rhythm while singing different pitches that compliment the main melody. However, a backing vocal is a sung part that does not relate, directly, to the melody but works with it to add interest.

Recording the Lead Vocal.

The first thing we did was a recording of the Lead Vocal. The way I do this is to record the vocal with a Condenser microphone (AKG C214), for more information go to https://www.akg.com/Microphones/Condenser%20Microphones/C214.html

and a Dynamic Microphone (Shure SM58). For more information go to https://www.shure.com/en-MEA/products/microphones/sm58?variant=SM58-LCE

Both were aimed at the singer’s mouth and recorded simultaneously. When we listened back to the, individual, recordings they had different sound and texture qualities. We agreed that the Condenser Microphone gave the sound that the singer identified with the most. The Dynamic Microphone would be used, solely, as colour in different places in the vocal line.

I always get the singer to sing the entire song in one take as this gives the best flow of the song. Then we discuss different dynamics and vocal techniques for different sections, lines or just words.

Once the final vocal is decided I record the singer about five times, all the way through. Each time we listen to the take and make notes as to what is good about that take and what is bad. By the end of five takes we generally have enough good parts to create the final lead track. If not, I create as much as possible and then we focus on the last parts.

Recording the Harmony Vocals

At this point I changed the microphones over to a new Condenser microphone (Audio-technica AT2020), for more information go to

https://www.audio-technica.com/en-au/at2020 and a new Dynamic microphone (Sennheiser E835). For more information go to https://en-au.sennheiser.com/e-835

We repeated the process of the lead vocal recording. For this I was able to go directly to the parts where the vocal was needed. Again, the Condenser was the favoured sound with the Dynamic adding colour.

Recording the Backing Vocals

Lastly, the same microphones were used for the backing vocals but we decided to favour the dynamic more for these parts.

The Final Mix

In the final mix the Lead vocal will be dead centre of the mix. For the harmony vocals, one goes to the left and another to the right. The backing vocals would be placed at different points in the pan to add interest. Changing EQ and the mix of the microphones adds more interest and any reverbs can also add to the sounds.

When these are all put together you get creative vocal recordings.

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