How to record a vocal for an arrangement?

How to record a vocal for an arrangement?

Importance of demo recordings

Even if we are not a very experienced team, graphic designer or writer, is a properly prepared department, presenting professional samples of our skills can encourage a potential client to use our services. In the fight for orders, we must use all possible methods and tools. The 'demo mp3' tab is a place, where we can present our skills. In fact, the number of songs there depends only on us, not from parties, We are trying to sign them. So if we are not dependent on anyone, so let's develop the mp3 section as much as possible. That's possible, that someone will like our performances to such an extent, that he would like to have further talks. But I emphasize, that it will only happen in a situation, when the shared recordings are made at the highest level, and it's not that easy anymore.

In this article, I will describe how to record a vocal step by step and combine it with a finished arrangement. I will discuss the only correct ones, in my opinion, solution, which will allow us to boast about the recording, and not be ashamed of them. Of course, we will miss the studio quality 🙂

What we will need

Before any recording, we must arrange access to a suitable room (it may even be our room, if at least partially meets the conditions). It should have enough space(at least 12m2), to ensure the correct duration of the sound, and also to accommodate a desktop computer and a microphone stand. Of course, we also need to have some space for ourselves. Another thing is the walls. They cannot be empty and of the same length- this will cause a reverberation and a rumble effect. This can be compensated to some extent by suspending the corrugated materials. It is also good if there is a thick carpet on the floor. These simple measures should, at least, improve the comfort and quality of recording.

Now for a short shopping list. Prepare a few zlotys 🙂
Dynamic microphone – Dobre rozwiązanie, because you can use it for recording as well as for performances. It is not as sensitive and accurate as capacitive, but thanks to this he 'forgives' to some extent our and our rooms' mistakes. The price of such a microphone is also not excessive.
Condenser microphone – W tym przypadku nawet słabsze modele są stosunkowo drogie. I would recommend this solution when recording live bands. Such a microphone even picks up noise from computer fans, so when recording vocals we need to have a lot of skill and experience, that it comes out decently.
XLR-XLR cable – Jeden konkretny, not too long signal wire. Higher quality of this item will reduce noise and improve signal quality.
Tripod with pop filter – Poprawi wygodę nagrywania i zmniejszy ryzyko skoków i spadków poziomu sygnału (e.g.. by accidentally tilting a hand-held microphone). The pop-filter is designed to suppress explosive sounds.
Headphones – Muszą dawać wyraźne brzmienie, do not silt up. During recording, we will hear our vocals only in them. The more our voice will blend in with the background, the more likely it is, that we will make mistakes. The headphones must not be very audible from the outside, because the microphone can pick up these sounds.
Computer – Najlepiej stacjonarny, as it usually has greater efficiency, better cooling (greater stability of work) and enables the handling of interfaces, in which one part is plugged into the PCI slot. On a PC background (when recording only vocals) you should find at least 2GB of RAM, 2-core processor, and its housing should guarantee adequate air flow at low volume.
Interface audio – Jest to po prostu karta dźwiękowa do specjalnych zastosowań 🙂 W najprostszej postaci udostępni nam 1-2 microphone inputs and headphone output. Without this device, there is probably no decent recording. Interface zapewnia low latency (delay), high resolution, built-in microphone preamplifier, 48V power supply (for condenser microphones) i oczywiście performance pozwalającą na komfortowe używanie efektów cyfrowych.
DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) – Czyli po prostu program do nagrywania i obróbki dźwięku. The difference between a regular Windows audio recorder and a DAW is the same as between Paint, and Photoshop 🙂 Even for a task as simple as recording a vocal to a finished backing track, The DAW is perfect. Osobiście używam Nuendo/Cubase i przyznam, that before I recorded anything on it, it's been a while.

Preparation for recording

We need to put a desk in a properly prepared room, on which the monitor will fit, keyboard with mouse and interface. All of this has to be set up like this, so that you can easily operate the program while recording. We put a tripod with a microphone in front of the desk, however remembering, to keep access to the computer. The PC itself should be as far away from the microphone as possible, because on the recording we can hear the noise of the working disk and fans. It's best if ahead of us (within 1m) a sort of sound-diffusing screen has been set up. For this purpose, it is enough to use an acoustic mat / foam with an area of ​​1m ^ 2, which will dampen some high frequencies. Here is such a small note: It is definitely not recommended to cover the entire room with this material.

As for signal cables, do not roll them up or run them next to cables, which is flowing with a large current. Effect- mains hum on the recorded track. In general, all cables should be routed like this, way, so that they do not get tangled under our feet. Many times I have dragged headphones or a mouse behind me, which landed forcefully on the floor.

When everything is properly set up, we should allocate at least half an hour to warm up. I will not describe this element here, because there are a lot of guides on the web, that will explain it better than me. I would just like to write why it is so important. Apart from health issues (prolonged and intensive use of unheated vocal cords may deprive us of our voice for some 2-3 weeks), this by recording 'from the march', each track will sound different. We'll just hear you, that we are just warming up. It will come out, that only, for example. after an hour we are actually warmed up, and what we have recorded so far is simply weak. I've done this theme many times and it has always been the same. The only exception to this is the recording of some fragile, quiet party.

Preparation of the project in Nuendo

Generally, there are a lot of music processing programs. A moment of research and everyone will find something for themselves. Why did I choose this particular one? When I was attending an audio production class, I got to know the DAW Nuendo and it stays that way. I wasn't looking for anything else, I just focused on this one and learned new features. If anyone prefers to work at Cubase, he won't notice much of the difference. In this section, I will describe how to make a simple recording step by step, using this great software. Before we start the program, we must of course connect our interface and install the required drivers. Before buying a card, it is worth making sure that it is compatible with the system we use.

- First case: włączamy program Nuendo i klikamy File/New Project. Select the empty one from the available list of recording templates (empty). Then the program will ask you to choose a directory, which will contain all the project files. Any location, but I would suggest, to keep a certain order, e.g.. Nuendo / Projects / Projekt1.

- You will see an empty recording timeline.

- Before we add any tracks, przejdźmy do zakładki Devices/VST Connections.

Probably the defaults are inputs and outputs. Jeżeli na liście INPUTS nie ma żadnego wejścia, to wystarczy kliknąć przycisk Add Bus. In the configuration, we set the number of channels (mono / stereo) and number of inputs. The program will automatically add defaults to the added input, physical card input.

Aby je zmienić wystarczy kliknąć na jego nazwę w polu Device Port.

- To record anything on Nuendo, first we need to create empty paths. In our case, we need one vocal track, which will be copied later (on the double), one track per arrange and one track group, which will combine all vocals. Klikamy Project/Add Track/Audio. Count(quantity) we increase to 2, we leave the number of channels on stereo. Creating a group is similar: Project/Add Track/Group Channel. Change the default track and group names as needed.

- Upload the previously prepared background. To do this, we mark the path, where the arrangement is to appear. Następnie File/Import/Audio File. We look for the appropriate file and approve. Probably the program will ask us if we want to convert the song to the sampling frequency and bit depth used in the project.. We confirm and after a while the background appears on the marked path.

- Now we mark the path, where we will record vocals. We select the appropriate INPUT for it.

As an output, we choose the previously created group. This procedure will allow us to control many vocal tracks at the same time, and also for a lot of optimization.

Before any recording, we also need to set the microphone input level. If it is too high, then the signal will overload. For this, we run the main mixer (domyślnie klawisz F3 or Devices/Mixer) and on the left side of it we adjust the input level for a specific input (in our case, there will be only one).

- We set the volume levels for the vocals and the arrangement. To hear our voice in the headphones, musimy zaznaczyć monitoring konkretnej ścieżki. The small speaker icon is used for this, which will turn yellow when selected. We start the mixer(F3) and click Play(space). Now, using the sliders, we set the appropriate volume of the vocal and backing track.

- If someone likes to record vocals, hearing the effect of e.g.. reverberation then we need to mark the group track for this, a następnie znaleźć małą ikonkę z literą ‚e’. The middle part of the window, which will appear to us, it takes a parametric equalizer- we can boost some frequencies, if we believe, that our vocal is not clear enough. On the left side there are effect fields. The program in its basic version has a few of the most necessary plugins built in, how: reverb, delay, compressor whether chorus. We select and configure these, that interest us. For people, which have not previously dealt with a DAW program, I will only add, that any attached VST effects or changes to EQ are not 'blended' into the track. We can turn them on and off at any time.

Recording technique

When everything is set up, remember, to save our project 🙂 Nuendo is a very stable program, but I will admit, that I have had some definitive jams. Since then, I have used the ctrl + s shortcut a lot. We can start recording.

– Na ścieżce wokalowej musimy zaznaczyć recording symbol, and then click REC.

- After you've recorded the entire track, select the vocal track and click the right mouse button. W menu wybieramy Duplicate Track. A new one will appear under our first path, with the same parameters (effects, inputs and outputs, volume and panorama).

- We disable monitoring and recording of the first track, and we mark these options on the new one. Na pierwszej ścieżce klikamy także przycisk MUTE, to silence her. We record the same thing from the beginning, so much, that on a new track.

- We repeat this procedure, depending on your needs, 10-15 times. We will have at your disposal 15 traces, on which it is the same, but individual fragments may differ in the amount of errors.

Final track processing and mixdown

W końcowym etapie naszej produkcji będziemy musieli wielokrotnie przesłuchać każdy ślad z wokalem i choose the best passages. It depends, of course, on the complexity of the melody. If the text is sung, e.g.. with a second break every two lines, these breaks will be places, where we will cut. So in turn:

- We create a new stereo track named e.g.. ‚final vocal’. On it we will put the best fragments of the recorded tracks.

- We mark the solo on the first vocal track and on the backing track. We are listening to one fragment, which can be cut out.

- We mark the solo and mark it on the next track. We're listening again. We repeat these two points for all traces. Our task is to choose the best, e.g.. 5 second fragment. We cut out on two sides and drag (holding the ctrl key) to the track 'final vocal'. We do the same with the following fragments, until the final track is full.

- Each selected fragment must be muted on both sides with a noise gate or manually. The second way is much more time consuming, but it gives us some control. We zoom in on the trail and look for places, in which we don't sing, a hum or other unwanted noise is heard. Click the 'button2‚And mark the fragment to be cut. Klawisz Delete usuwa fragment.

- To space, in which we used the cut did not end or start with a crack, you must use fade-in effects, fade-out. Click the 'key again2‚And mark e.g.. half a second of the beginning and end of the fragment. The right mouse button opens the menu, in which we choose ‚Process/Fade In‚For the beginning of a fragment, a ‚Process/Fade Out‚In the event of its termination.

- When passages have different volume levels, to wystarczy w ścieżce grupy dodać compressor. The effect, properly positioned, it will turn down the louder parts, and he grew silent- everything to the set level. Of course, you should try when recording, so that the volume of the individual tracks does not differ significantly from each other, gdyż za mocno odkręcony compressor wpłynie bardzo negatywnie na brzmienie wokalu.

- Finally, we have to set the volume and effects parameters of the final vocal track. Overall production volume, w najgłośniejszym miejscu powinna być mniejsza o 3db od linii przesterowania. I personally reduce the volume a lot and adjust the equalization using the "Boost" tool in Audacity. This tool does not allow for the so-called. clipping, so we are sure, that the production is as loud as the standard and free from crackling.

- Now that our project turns into one wave file, musimy zrobić tzw. mixdown. First, in the timeline we need to mark the area, which will be taken into account when mixing down.

Po drugie musimy kliknąć File/Export/Audio Mixdown.

Summary

As you can see, vocal recording is not just a start-stop. Sometimes it takes a whole day to record and process a voice for one song. It requires a lot of patience and great hearing from the sound engineer. A singer hearing for the hundredth time "again" can also let go of the nerves. It looks even worse, if such a singer is skilled at best to make karaoke performances of questionable quality. In such a situation, I recommend the "Auto Tune" plug, very popular among "stars".

In the following articles, I would like to take up the topic of recording guitars and drums. Recording drums can take much more time and requires much more room and equipment preparation. However, the enormous satisfaction with the completed project can compensate us for all the hardships.