Step 1: The Right Equipment
If you think your gonna get a professional quality recording from a low-budget setup you are most definitely WRONG! Luckily for you, in recent years professional, or at least hi-quality gear has came down in price. Back in my day we couldn’t get stuff this nice for that cheap.
Pro Tools bundle packages can be found through Google time to time on insane deals. Some include microphones, cables, monitors, ect. for sometimes only $600-$700 (more conservatively – $800-1,000)
You don’t have to use Pro Tools but you will hear the difference from any other DAW you use to recording your vocals. Just do your research on what you want to purchase!
Step 2 : Isolate The Recording
If you are still recording in an open ass room, soundwaves bouncing off everything coming back into the mic, sounding like a straight up ass – STOP!
Instead, move your mic into a properly constructed booth like the one above. I saw some instructions on how to build one a while back if I happen to find the link I will post it underneath.
Limited Funds? Not Enough Space To Build? No Excuses Here!
If you are the above then move your mic into a nearby closet with good acoustics. I used to use an egg crate pillow like the sE Electronics Reflector. So if your limited on funds eggcrate is a good alternative for acoustics in your closet or even by themselves. See Below…
What I'm Using Now For Vocals:
This is kind of a leap forward in what I was doing YEARS AGO. Back when I was a teenager, in high school, I used to produce for all the local talent in the high school. I was short on money so I reused an EggCrate Pillow for acoustics. I would hit record well before the verse started, get the pillow and quietly move to position, then hold the pillow bent (just like the pic above) around the mic until the artist was done with that take.
Can you imagine how exhausting that can get after hours and hours? Do yourself a favor and get one of these.
Step 3 : Check Your Levels
Make sure before every session you check the levels on the mic and make sure they aren’t too low or too high. Just make it so you don’t have to strain to hear your vocals over the beat when press play after recording. Don’t turn up the gain too much though or may come out muddy, especially if the artist is close to the mic being loud.
Ideally you want to stand at least 6 inches away from the mic for an intense performance. For a more intimate vocal just move 3 or so more inches closer to the mic and test the levels there.
When your levels are just right begin recording.
Step 4 : EQ
After recording you may want to clean up certain portions of your vocal with EQ. Usually I tend to go with a Parametric EQ so I can scan for frequencies but recently been trying analog-emulator plugins such as Waves VEQ. I suggest you roll off or low shelf the lower frequencies (30-60), maybe boosting mids and high frequencies. See Diagram Below:
Note: Put your Boost and Cut into 2 different EQ’s. Place your Cut EQ first in the mix chain, then Compression, then Boost EQ. Test it out.
Step 5 : Compression
Usually I start out all my compression settings, including vocals at a 4:1 ratio, and attack and release are in the middle. The ratio is very basic and it’s hard to mess up, I may bring down to 2:1 or scale it up to 8:1 depending on the sound I want. Attack and release will probably end up being short but be sure to play around so you can get it the way you hear it sounding. Mixing is not a science, its an art just like rapping and producing
Step 6 : Retakes
Everyone who records have retakes constantly. Don’t try to rush through a verse just because “Time Is Money”. Think about it for that take to be great you need to get all the words right, flow must be precise, delivery at all times on point. This can be a lot to juggle so if you find yourself having too much trouble you need to go to Step 7….
Step 7 : Practice
Practice always makes perfect! I tell artists I work with that I expect them to come to the lab prepared if we are doing a recording session. That means you know all your words without aid and know exactly how your going to say each exact syllable. That ensures that hourly rates aren’t being wasted and that people get the most done in the lab when they come through to record.