Audio Processing, FX, EQ

Recording Vocals pt1
Vocal Recording pt2
Measure Twice & Cut Once
Vocal Compressors
Processing & EQ
Virtual & Software Tools
Pro Mics & Pre-amps
Mastering 101
Music Biz Bundle

Vocals, Effects, Processing & EQ

Ok crew, let's all repeat this, you DO NOT patch the reverbs or delays or sound effects with the vocals, in the recording chain going to the recorder. This also means that you should not have this type of sound effect plug-in in the signal path - ending up with the processing "in" the vocal audio track being recorded. If you want to hear some effects like reverb, delays, etc. on the vocals when you are tracking, set up your effects so that you are only hearing the desired effect in the monitors and the headphones, but not in the signal path to the recorder. If you add the effects while going into the recorder, you may end up with an effect that that needs to come off in the mix, and replaced with a better or more desirable or maybe a more current processor. Plus, in general, you can easily add effects to a vocal performance later on, without affecting the original vocal that was performed. You can't remove reverb and delays later on if the vocal performance already has effects "printed" along with the performance on the track. So, cut vocals "dry"

EQ.? If you need to EQ the vocals you are preparing to record, then by all means, do it. But, try not to over do it. If you find that you are "boosting" any frequency over 10dB when adjusting the EQ for vocals, you may want to re-examine the mic and your overall settings on everything associated with the path from the mic to the recorder. Personally, I think you should EQ the vocals as little as possible when recording. This will also help if you have to come back in the studio to finish a vocal, and then not have the task of matching the tone of your last vocal session. Then of course, if you have made EQ adjustments in the first session, you should write them down on a track sheet, or add it to the notes section of the file you are saving. Not to confuse anyone, we're talking about at the vocal tracking stage, not after tracking vocals.

Electronic Instruments & Hardware

One of the things that can make a tremendous difference in the overall fatness and quality that I've found out over the years is to use passive (or active) direct boxes or transformers hooked up between my keyboards, drum machines, etc....going to the mixer, with the shortest possible cable.

Now, according to some audio professionals, synthesizers and drum machines have enough line energy to just hook them straight into an audio patch bay or the line inputs of a mixer, recorder, etc., which in a lot of cases is fine. But I, along with a many other engineer friends of mine prefer using an audio transformer or Direct Box as an advantage to keep the audio signal quiet and "fat". The transformer or direct box will take your ¼" hi-impedance cable/signal, and then convert it to a lo-z (low impedance) balanced output to plug into the balanced (usually XLR) inputs on your mixer. Note: High-impedance cables can lose high frequencies if the cable length is very long from the instrument source to the inputs of your mixer/recorders.


Of course, every piece of gear will have it's own characteristics, and there are no absolutes with the "art of recording" as far as using outboard gear compressors or digital plug-ins, but, I do suggest starting with a compression ratio of 2:1 for vocals. And, as far as the attack and release settings; fast as you can get away with, and a release setting that does not modify the sound of things on the vocal too much - then work it from there. Now, this will all take some experimentation for you, but it is very much worth the time it takes to understand how to use your compressor, at least a little...if you are going to be doing the tracking yourself. Also, you will begin to learn the characteristics of the particular compressor.

Another great way to record your electronic instruments that are not "in the box", or virtual instruments, or soft-synth instruments is to record using the digital output options, which has become a great output alternative on many synthesizers, drum machines, and workstations. With this option, you're still going to be recording your audio, but it will already be in it's digital form, instead of having to be converted from analog to digital, which was actually originally converted to analog - from a digital sound in the first place. The digital output option will allow you to get the sound recorded into your DAW or whatever digital recording setup in its purest digital quality form.

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