We know that many of you are not yet aware
of Studio Buddy©, The Home Recording Helper.
What is Studio Buddy? A self-contained database that answers
the questions most people have about home recording.
It's FREE. It runs on PCs and Macs. And it's small enough to e-mail to your friends.
Alex Reed, TAXI's Director of A&R, and myself wrote the hundred and some odd answers that are a lay person's guide to getting great sounds out of your home studio, and our friends at Disc Makers, Recording Connection, and Tascam helped fund the programming.
The result is a program that will give you the information you need to make big improvements in your home recordings. It's available at www.studiobuddy.com.
Here's an example of just one of the questions covered:
How to Record a Lead Vocal
There are so many ways to record a lead vocal, that it would
be impossible to cover them all in the space given here. But,
here are some rules of thumb.
- One of the main objectives is to make the singer feel
comfortable so he or she will deliver their best performance.
Make sure the studio and control room lighting, room temperature,
and general ambience are what the vocalist feels most comfortable
with. Unless the singer is the type of performer who likes
a room full of people while he overdubs, ask everybody to
clear the area. Send them to dinner. Send them home for
- Make sure the vocalist has exactly the kind of headphone
mix they ask for. They need to hear what they need to hear,
not what you think they should hear. Check the cue mix by
listening to headphones yourself. Don't rely on the monitors
to tell you what the singer is hearing. A little reverb
in the cans is usually a good thing. Don't print the reverb
- Most engineers use condenser mics to record vocals, but
there will be rare cases when you'll find that a dynamic
mic works better. I generally start with two or three mics
that I think will sound good on a particular singer. Record
all three to three separate tracks (simultaneously), then
play them back and compare. The mic that sounds the best
"raw" is the best one to work with. Once it has been chosen,
then you can eq and limit accordingly.
- The choice of microphone will often be affected by the
octave the singer is working in because that will help determine
the timbre and texture of the singer's voice.
- Make sure to note the singer's exact position relative
to the mic. They will undoubtedly take breaks or work on
the same track another day. If you haven't marked their
spot, and noted all console and outboard setting relative
to the vocal, it will be very hard to match the exact sound.
- When in doubt, pad the mic. If the mic doesn't have a
pad, pad the input at the console.
- If you're overdubbing the vocal (which is usually the
case), it's a good idea to use the microphone in omni. The
frequency response will be better, and the overall sound
will generally be more "open" or transparent.
- If you're recording a sensitive or dynamically quiet
piece, make sure that you're not picking up air conditioning
noise or other low-end rumbles like trains or jets passing
overhead. The microphone's roll off switch is a handy tool
for that. So is the console's high-pass filter.
- A pop filter or windscreen is a beautiful thing. I recommend
the nylon stretched over a hoop variety over the foam "condom"
type. You can usually avoid pops without a filter by angling
the mic slightly across the singer's mouth rather than pointing
the mic directly at the singer's mouth, but be careful not
to point too far off axis. That will cause a degradation
of frequency response unless you have the mic in the omni
- For a loud, dynamic vocal, try placing the mic at least
six to eight inches a way from the vocalist's mouth. For
a more intimate, less dynamic vocal part, try getting the
vocalist closer to the mic, but watch out for pops and lip
- Because the human voice is one of the most dynamic "instruments,"
it's a good idea to use a limiter to catch the peaks. There
will be times that you will want to compress the vocal by
setting the threshold lower, and using a 5:1 ratio, rather
than the normal starting place of 3:1.
- You may want to try adding a little 8 or 10Khz while
cutting the vocal. You may also want to roll off some bottom
as previously mentioned. Generally, it's best to print the
vocal with minimal eq, and save the rest of your eq'ing
for the mix when you can judge how the vocal needs to be
eq'ed relative to the other instruments in the track.
- Performance means everything with vocals, so I recommend
cutting the track top to bottom and not stopping the vocalist
for punch-ins too often. Go for "vibe." Cut several takes
on different tracks, then listen back, find the best one,
and punch in the fixes on that track. Many engineers will
make a composite vocal using the best sections from several
tracks, then bouncing them to one composite track. That
way, you will always have your original tracks intact until
you've built a composite that you're happy with. Then you
can erase the original tracks, and punch-in on the composite
to clean up any remaining faux pas or bad notes.
- Don't beat the track or the vocalist to death. Sometimes
you'll hit the point of diminishing returns. When you get
to that point, take a break. Go to dinner. Work on another
song. Work on another instrument. When you revisit the track
you were originally working on, the vocalist will be fresh
and more productive.
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