By Damian Codotto
Imagine this. You've got a session booked with one of the hottest bands in town. The instrument tracks were recorded yesterday and they will be arriving at your studio in a few hours to begin tracking the all important vocals for the first single of their new album. You've got all the mics layed out carfully and you reach for your trusty ol' vintage workhouse. You set up your recording chain: mic into pre-amp, pre-amp into compressor (if you're into that sort of thing) and then compressor into your sweet sounding Apogee convertors. You prep the console. It's all ready to go.
The band arrives. The vocalist eagerly jumps into the vocal booth. The mic is hooked up, pop filter in place, the atmosphere is set, candles are flickering. The vocalist starts some warm up excercises, just to get things going. You're listening to the warm up through your expensive monitors. Something doesn't sound right. It's not sounding as natural as you'd like. It's sounding a little harsh. You scratch your head wondering how this could be? Why isn't this vocal sounding anything like the thousands of dollars I spent on the mic, pre-amp, compressor, those gorgeous Apogee convertors? Why you ask? The answer is:
One mic does not fit all.
It's like trying to see clearly through someone elses prescription glasses instead of your own (well, I imagine it would be; I haven't needed to wear prescription glasses) Each mic has a distinct sound. Some mics have a subtle distinction and others are more pronounced. Some may sound harsher or more cold or trebly, and others may sound rounder or more warm with a deeper feel.
So how do you determine which mic should be used for a particular vocalist?
The best way is to grade the harshness of the mic and the vocalist on a scale of 1 to 10.
Grade all your mics first, before the vocalist arrives. Keep a record of your mics harshness rating. Write it down somewhere and file it away for future use. Trust me, it is going to prove very handy in the future.
Now, with your vocalist in the studio, have him or her sing some warm up exercises. Listen. Listen again. Keep listening. Move around the room a little. Bring your ear closer to their mouth (not too close - you may get punched in the noggin).
The results will be nothing short of stunning. I read about this technique a while back (from Audio technology Magazine I think) and it's helped me get some superb vocal tracks.