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How to record clean vocals?

Updated: Feb 11, 2023

"Record like there's no mixing, and mix like there's no master." While it is commonly thought that EQing is a step of the mixing and mastering process, it actually begins even earlier than that: At the recording process. Furthermore, an EQ is just a tool used to shape the sound, so we need to create a solid foundation before commencing. In addition, no amount of EQing can fix poorly recorded vocals, so consider the recording stage a part of your process.

Furthermore, a significant part of the results come from the microphone selection, as each microphone uniquely boosts and attenuates certain frequencies, resulting in the mic's frequency response.

Some microphones actually have frequency responses that producers actively seek. However, as you can imagine, these are incredibly expensive. Additionally, having the right mic is like having an EQ setting that "you cannot get rid of".

For example, the Rode NT1-A is one of the most common microphones used for home recording studios and is well-known for its jagged high-end.

Rode NT1-A vs Shure SM57
Neumann U87

We have listed above the most common recording microphones that beginner producers or home studios may have together with their frequency response charts.

It should also be noted that the microphone placement also impacts the frequencies that end up in the recording. For example, the low end will be emphasized if the vocalist sings too close to the mic. In addition, some lows and highs can drop out if the vocalist is far away from the mic.

Ensure that the vocalist sings 5-8 inches away from the mic for the best results and a nice, balanced recording. However, you can experiment with the mic placement for different sounds, from closer or further away.

Amazingly, many producers forget the importance of the performance in terms of frequency content. So, for example, if the vocalist sings monotonously and dull, it will take more EQ work to enhance the vocal.

So, make sure to motivate your vocalist suitably and give them good feedback while recording to make the most out of your session. Otherwise, you will have to work with the performance you get, so be sure to get the take you want before even worrying about EQ.

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