Achieving Good Live Vocal Recordings

The increasing use of 'In-ear monitoring' allows for lower levels of on-stage noise and less chance of feedback from the foldback monitors on stage, therefore it's not so vital for the singer to almost eat the microphone, they can use better microphone technique - backing off the microphone in the loud sections and closer for the quieter more intimate moments.

Don't hold the microphone right over the back of the windshield since this changes the cardioid response to omni and will make feedback more likely.

The foldback speakers should be pointing towards the back of the microphone (6 O'Clock to the singer's 12 O'Clock position) but if it's a hypercardioid microphone they should be at the 4 or 8 O'Clock positions. Try to avoid high levels of foldback monitoring and that will give better quality mixes to the house PA system and any recordings you might be doing as well.

What microphone?

It's usually impractical to use the large diaphagm studio microphones on stage so usually small diaphragm microphones are used, these are usually of the cardioid or hypercardioid type.

On the condenser microphone it's best to use 75hz bass roll-off, if it's available, and listen out for how good it is at rejecting handling noise when chosing. Then it's down to which microphone sounds best for the particular singer.

If the microphone is the wireless type then it’s worth taking some time to set the gain going to the transmitter section so that there’s no compansion pumping and/or distortion (too much gain) or a low level hissy sound (too little gain) at the receiver.

Make sure you have your aerial(s) positioned in a good position to get the best reception of the signal too.

Other useful hints to record vocals

Try to educate singers to use the microphone just under the chin, not right in front of the lips since this is where ‘plosives’ will blast the microphone. Get them to put their hand at those two positions and say ‘P’ , this will show them where the blast of wind is. Obviously a good windshield helps but plosives will always be picked up to a certain extent if the microphone is very close to the mouth.

On stage a vocalist usually needs to hear just a few of the instruments for their timing and pitch plus themselves louder than the rest of the instruments in the foldback speakers or in-ear monitoring, (by now the vocalist will know the track well and not necessarily need to hear all the elements of the mix). In the larger venues there will be a separate monitor mixer dealing with this, leaving the 'front of house' engineer to concentrate on the P.A. sound.

Try to keep on-stage volumes of instruments to a minimum e.g. have a small guitar amplifier which you can mic' up rather than a large stack of speakers which then dictate a louder overall level on stage and increase the spill on every microphone. If you have to have a bank of speakers on stage to impress the audience then don’t have them all connected to an amplifier.

Point the guitar, bass and keyboard amplifiers away from the vocal and drum microphones and any other acoustic instruments and use screens if possible. If you can D.I (direct inject) instruments into the mixer all the better, and if the drummer is happy to use an electronic kit then even better, if not then use screens.

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