One of the most important things in any recording project are the vocals. People will mix vocals differently depending on the project and style of music, but vocals are always a top priority. Sometimes people can get away with 'garage sale' tracking of relatively minor parts of songs, but that is not the case with vocal recordings. For this blog I'm going to feature my good friend and bandmate, Jordan Frye.
Jordan and another bandmate of ours, Josh Miramontes (electric guitar) co-wrote a Christmas song recently and I produced-engineered the tune (I also played percussion and trombone). The song is named California Christmas and will be available online in December.
This song is relatively simple. We tried to focus on being as sweet as possible. Nothing epic or crazy. We want people to feel as if they should be in front of a fire place wrapped in a blanket with their boo. Everything we tracked is minimal, soft, and warm. I used a Telefunken M16 Mk 2 large-diaphragm condenser microphone on Jordan's voice, sent through an Avalon 737 channel strip into my Apogee Ensemble. We tracked six takes of the main vocal melody, then picked our favorite takes from those recordings (vocal comping).
After we found our favorite takes I then proceeded to edit the vocal track. I always start with pitch correction. I use Melodyne to edit pitch and timing for vocals (as well as bass guitar - they are both monophonic). Next I EQ the vocal. Third up I compress the vocal using the CLA Vocal plug-in by Waves. This is a really nice all-purpose plug-in that has pretty much everything you would need for a vocal: EQ, compression, reverb, delay, and chorus (the "pitch" column). Here are the settings that I used from the CLA Vocal plug-in for Jordan's vocal on this song:
In general vocals are always compressed a lot so that you can hear everything really well. I added some large reverb so the vocal doesn't sound quite as dry, but only a little bit so that it doesn't sound too crazy. We really wanted everything to sound warm, natural, and organic.
Here are samples of the first verse of the song. Compare the difference between the dry vocal with no processing and the wet vocal.