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Stop wasting money! Why your not getting what your looking for.

Stop wasting money! Why your not getting what your looking for.

Examining the recording process

   The recording process is never a set it and forget it thing. The constantly varying changes in a vocal performance demands the attention of the recording engineer. The inherent differences in mechanical components can add subtle enhancements known as color to the signal. Using the right combination of gear in the recording chain can make a great performance magical. A knowledgeable and experienced engineer should have a mental encyclopedia of different gear combinations. As well as a willingness to mix and match microphones and processors to make a perfect recording chain tailored for the source. An artist should choose a studio with a healthy gear selection to get the most bang for their buck. It’s important to note it takes more time than your typical hour session to find a tailored chain for your voice.

Examining the vocal chain

   A vocal is one of the most complex sources to record. Due to the innate nature of tonality, pitch and constantly changing dynamics of the performer. We enlist the aid of different processor to help address each of those issue when recording to disk. It’s this combination of gear that makes up what’s known as the recording/vocal chain. Once known, the vocal chain is a way of getting consistent sound from record to record or even studio to studio. Sometimes there can be a desired sound that’s achieved by using a different vocal chain that may flatter the overall record instead of just the vocal.

   A little-known fact to most artist is that all gear sounds and affects a source differently. These pieces of gear all effect the tonality of the source, some altering (coloring) the signal more than others. Knowing how these components interact with a source is a way to shape, color, and control a signal for a desired result. A competent recording engineer is willing to mix and match different processor to compliment your vocal. He or she should also keep a detailed record of the vocal chain used for each recording. Should you desire to record your next record at home or at another studio you will have a foundation to get your vocal sound using their notes.

Science experiments in the recording process 

                We all know that a microphone is used to capture a source, but did you know that they’re different types of microphones that use a different element for capturing. Ask your engineer which type of microphones are in their locker. A good studio should have a healthy selection of microphones to choose from. Each microphone is associated with different tonal characteristics as well as directional pick up patterns. The first step after mic placement, should be for your engineer to audition a variety of different microphones to find out which one compliments your voice the best. That’s then followed by the pre-amp, and optional compression and or equalization. You can see how this can easily eat up 30 mins of your session to create a tailor-made chain suitable for your voice.

                Just like with the microphone each piece of gear will add or take away something to the source. The audition process is a science experiment to determine which combination of gear will best suit your voice. A lot of this will be determined by what you, the artist is going for in terms of sonic aesthetics. Are you going for an edgy, distorted telephone sound? A warm full bodied airy sound? Or a clean transparent sound? Once this has been determined you can settle on a decision that best matches your intended results.

Choosing the right engineer & studio to maximize your budget

                With everything we have discussed, it should be clear to you why a set it and forget it approach to recording vocals simply won’t do. Your engineer should have an understanding of the ever changing vocal over time. Simply put, as a vocalist performs their tonality, cadence, and delivery will change from section to section. So, the cookie cutter one size fits all approach does a disservice to the record. They also must demonstrate a willingness to adjust mic placement, gain level, compression setting, and equalization curves should the time to do so arise. The studio you choose should have a healthy selection of gear to audition so you’re not stuck with what worked for the last guy.

   Because let’s face it every artist is different, and if we can agree on that, then we can agree every song, voice, and performance is different as well.  There must be a willingness to get off his/her ass and switch out a mic, move its placement, or patching a new piece of gear in until the magic happens. These are all factors you should take into consideration when looking for an engineer and studio to book for your next record. It may sound cliché, but the truth is in this industry you really do get what you pay for. Now that you are better informed go out there keep making great music. Pick the right studio and engineer for your budget, and we hope to see you soon at your next session.


Arthur: Mikal Muhammad is a recording & mixing engineer and the owner of Twenty Seven Sounds.



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