How to Record Professional Vocals
So you want to record some studio sounding vocals huh? Well in this article I'm going to cover everything you will need, as well as give you a few different choices when it comes to recording because there's a few different options available. I'll cover every step you will need to take to have professional sounding vocals.
First you will need a decent computer. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, most modern computers can handle vocal recording, but if your computer is older or slow (low ghz), then you may want to switch it out for a newer one.
Next you will need a program on your computer to record the vocals. There's a number of different programs out there that can do this. There's a few free ones, such as Audacity, but the more expensive ones such as AcidPro, Pro Tools/Reason, and FL Studio offer features that Audacity doesn't have. For example, Pro Tools comes with a built in preamp which powers your microphone and pushes vocals.
After you have your computer and your program of choice, you will need a microphone (and possibly a preamp, depending on what programs or hardware you choose to go with). A good microphone can cost anywhere from $150 to $2,000. When it comes to mics, you usually get what you pay for. It's best to go with a reliable brand like Audio Technica or SURE, and if you're on a budget, then I wouldn't buy anything cheaper than $200 just to be on the safe side. If you do need a preamp, you can usually find a moderately good one for around $100-$400.
Once you choose a microphone to go with, you will want to get a pop filter. A pop filter is that screen you see in front of mics whenever there's a video of an artist in a studio. It keeps your vocals clearer by preventing the pop sounds that occur when a person is too close to a mic and breathes into it too much. It also helps protect your mic because it stops saliva from entering it.
Now anybody who's seen the movie Hustle n Flow will remember the scene where they used Mcdonald's cup holders to soundproof their room. This was purely fiction and doing that will not help you correctly soundproof a room. It may help muffle sounds from the outside, but it doesn't provide acoustic treatment, which is what most professional studios have. Soundproofing isn't really necessary. Many Hip Hop albums have been recorded in rooms that weren't soundproofed, but it does add a finishing touch to your vocals and is recommended. If you do decide to soundproof your room, then get some acoustic treatment supplies from a reputable company like Sweetwater or zZounds.
Once you record your vocals, you will need to add fx to them and mix them into the music track to make them professional. This is the most important step of the process. If you don't know anything about mixing, I strongly suggest that you leave the vocals the way you recorded them, and send them to a professional mixer who can do the job for you. I've sent my vocals to many different companies and they added fx and cleaned them up for me. The typical rate for this kind of work can vary, but it's best to look for companies that can do it at a flat rate and not per hour. The company I usually go with charges about $150 per track. So I send them my vocals, and the music I want the vocals mixed into, and they clean it all up and mix the vocals into the instrumental track.
Well that's about all you need. Once you have all those things I mentioned, you should be ready to record. Just remember that a few hours in a professional studio would cost between $150 to $500, so if you're not planning on recording your vocals all the time, it may be more cost efficient if you just go to someone else's studio to record.
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