Another thing to be concerned about when recording vocals
is using a compressor. If you find yourself frustrated by trying to record an aggressive vocalist that "hits" the
mic pretty hard, then you may need to use a little compression. And with that reality, I think it will be in your best interest,
to go out and invest in some type of quality outboard compressor. Even something economical that fits into your budget may
be better than using nothing at all. See, without a compressor, it can be just too difficult to find a suitable recording
level that works throughout a vocal performance, especially vocals with a lot of dynamics; loud in one spot, soft in another.
Of course, you can attempt to "ride the fader" while recording, but this can be very, very hard to do with some
vocalists. I record vocals all the time with no compressor in the signal chain, and have gotten great results, but I have
been doing pro recording for over 25 years. Also, to be clear, I am not talking about getting a compressor in place after
a performance that has already been tracked...which is also an important option in audio production, but with present-day
technology, you can use a digital compressor plug-in. What I'm primarily talking about right now is getting an outboard hardware
compressor in the signal chain to assist with recording vocals with lots of dynamics, so that overall - the vocals can be
controlled a little more as the performance is being captured or recorded.
· Compressor: A compressor is
used to control audio levels. Many times it can be very difficult to get audio levels to stay constant, and therefore making
the audio performance have volume irregularities. A compressor is primarily designed to help you maintain levels to be more
consistent. But, depending on the settings of the compressor (attack, release, decay, threshold, ratio, etc), it can be used
to alter the sound in other ways outside of controlling audio variations.
· Signal Chain: The signal chain
is a term used to describe to path of the audio and the processors in the "chain" or path. Basically the signal
processing chain contains various components and signal processors with inputs and outputs and possibly digital and analog
converters in a pathway. For example: The Signal Chain below is a Mic going to a Pre-amp, then going to a Compressor, then
going to an Audio Recorder's hardware.
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.
One of the main things that many of you as up-and-coming
engineer/producers should remember is that since you are tracking digital, you do NOT have to "hit" zero; you stay
under zero! Actually, when I'm tracking, I believe that -2 dB in most digital recorders is plenty for a peak level. Even at
the -1 dB level, you're still ok, buy why even risk the chance of clipping.
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