It goes without saying that a great audio track is made during the recording stage. The quality and clarity of the voice are equally, if not more, important as the quality sound of the instruments in making a great track. This is one reason why the question of “what kind of microphone is best for recording vocals?” is something that should be answered from the very beginning.
It is not easy to rectify poorly recorded vocals in the mixing stage. It has to be polished from the start. So, aside from the right kind of preparation, you also need to have the right equipment. What are those, you ask? Let us help you out.
This guide hopes to serve as a list of basic things you need to prepare before you head into the recording stage. What kind of microphone is best for recording vocals, and any other equipment you may need.
Recording a vocal track in your own home may seem like a burdensome task, but follow these few tips, and hopefully you won’t be spending the rest of your day sobbing into a chaise lounge, your living room covered in torn up DIY egg crate acoustic foam and the bitter remains of your hopes and dreams.
Before you even think about what kind of microphone is best for recording vocals, you need to remember that without adequate preparation, no matter how amazing your equipment set-up is, the recording won’t sound good.
Setting aside the actual music production—if you’ve come this far, you’ve probably already got some lyrics penned down, a rough mix ready, your grandfather’s ukulele clutched to your heart–a key aspect of getting the recording stage done right is doing it in the right room.
Essentially, the best room to record a vocal track in is a dead one. Now don’t go charging into a funeral parlor armed with your delightful country ditty just yet (hey, that could very well be a potential gig—you’ve got to keep your options open, be flexible!), you could easily set this room up in your own home.
A dead room is one that ideally has a lot of soft furnishings, isn’t near any windows, and doesn’t have many harsh surfaces like a kitchen. Somewhere in a bedroom or a living room would work best.
This is because larger rooms with harsh surfaces can cause reverb, which isn’t particularly desirable in a vocal recording—it muddles the vocals, making them harder to hear and in turn pushing them back in the mix when you want them to be front and center.Going back to that funeral parlor, there are rooms that can simply be too dead to get a good recording. Too much absorption can distort the sound and make the vocals sound muffled.
You need to find a room that has the perfect balance of enough absorption to prevent any significant reverb or resonance, but that isn’t so dead you sound as if you’re singing through the gloved hand of your would-be kidnapper.
The next thing you can do to prepare your room for a recording session is put up some acoustics. Now, you don’t need to break the bank to improve the acoustics of your chosen room, but if you’ve got acoustic panels, you can assemble yourself a little vocal booth.
If you don’t, however, that’s fine. You can use things you would regularly find in your home to dampen the reverb. Everyday items such as mattresses, duvets, heavy curtains, or even larger pillows—anything that would absorb as much sound as possible would be great.
You could test this out by screaming into the material: the more it absorbs, the better. With those materials, again assemble it around the vocalist or behind their head if surrounding them in it isn’t possible.
Finally, you need to know where to place that microphone you’ve spent an age looking for. There are two basic rules you should follow: one, don’t place the mic in the center of the room, and two, don’t position it near any walls, windows, or other reflective surfaces.
Ideally, the best position for the microphone would be off to the side of your chosen room, but not so much to the side that it’s effectively cuddling in the corner. Just try to keep those two rules in mind as much as possible.With your preparation done, it’s finally time to think about what exactly you should be looking at in terms of equipment.
Microphones come in a myriad of shapes, sizes, and functions, and it seems that finding the perfect one is a Herculean task all on its own; do you even need just the one? Aren’t there so many different types? Shouldn’t you at least have one of each kind?
As a beginner, there are two basic categories microphones tend to fall under: dynamic mics and condenser mics. They differ in several ways, but the rule of thumb is condenser mics work better on high-frequency instruments such as acoustic guitars and pianos, while dynamic mics work best with lower frequency instruments such as drums.
While there are other factors to consider such as diaphragm and circuitry, knowing the basic difference of these mics is a good place to start since you know best what kind of music you want to make.
So, what kind of microphone is best for recording vocals? Since you’ll most likely be using a mic that falls under one of the two categories, the best from each of them are:
The Shure SM58, which is a dynamic mic that you’ve probably seen your favorite singers using during their live stage performances. It’s a great all-around microphone with its resistance to feedback, design, and durability.For a great condenser mic, try the Rode NT1-A. It, too, is a great basic all-rounder that produces high-quality sound and would be a great addition to your home studio.
Regardless of what you end up starting with, what’s important to know is that you’re probably going to make some mistakes on the way no matter how many guides you read. What’s important is you take each experience as an opportunity to grow, and enjoy the content you create while you do it!