Thursday, November 14, 2013

How to Use Your Outboard Processor with Pro Tools

There's a trend for audio interfaces to include insert points on the inputs, greatly simplifying the use of line-level processors when recording mic or instrument-level signals. You'll probably need a TRS-to-dual-TS insert cable to accomplish this because invariably the insert will be sent and returned on a single TRS jack. Simply patch the interface's insert to the in and out of the processor, and the processor becomes part of the recording chain. Remember that anytime you involve a hardware processor with your DAW session, you must process and bounce in real time, even when using an external plug-in processor. 

If you're lucky enough to have an arsenal of outboard mic pres, simply route the output of the pre into a compressor or EQ, etc., and then route the output of the processor to the input of your audio interface. The signal will be compressed or EQ'ed before it's recorded. You now have a reason to keep some of your old hardware around!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Three Reasons Music Recording Engineers are Having a Hard Time Finding Work

Having a hard time finding work in the Music Industry as a recording engineer?

There is three big reasons why - the economy, technology and the Internet. These three factors have played a huge part in the loss of work for engineers, and here is why.

The Economy

Yes, a lot of people may think that the economy would not affect the music industry as much as it does, but in some cases it may be effected by the economy even more than most industries.

The music industry relies on people having extra money, and when times are tough, people don't buy CD's or go to concerts; a band that spends $4000.00 a year to have their CD recorded, if they can't afford it anymore than the engineers, producers and studios suffer.

As long as the economy is not doing good or even when it bounces back, if it's still at an unstable state or at least in a rescission state, the cycle will continue and it will be hard to find people who are willing to record their band or their self to make a CD that might only sell a few hundred or even a few thousand copies.

The economy also affects record labels and production companies as well. Record companies and productions companies are the financial backing to a lot of work that comes available to studios and engineers. They can pay for studio time that an artist or band may not be able to afford, but if sales down, then they will be restricted to how much funds they can use to promote a talent.


Technology is great for the D.I.Y. (do it yourself) people, but for a recording engineer it makes trying to get work very hard. Technology is making it capable to have a small home studio with big professional results at an extremely affordable price.

A studio that could have been put together 15 years ago for about $50,000.00, can now be put together in someone's garage or basement for just about $5,000 dollars, and believe or not, it can sound just as good.
Even worse for the engineer, if you're just a solo musician or a really small band, it can take even less money and even less space. Hand held recorders, computer software, compact MIDI keyboards, MP3's, flash drives etc. are just some of the products playing a part in taking the need of an educated, experienced engineer out of the equation.

The Internet (Information World)

Here is the third and final nail in the coffin for the independent recording engineer. If you have access to all of the equipment mentioned above and more, and want to learn how to use it, the internet has unlimited resources to learn from. Although, there are some things you just can't pick up from reading or watching videos - if you stick with your hobby long enough, you might just be able to be just as good as a professional without the need for schooling or an internship.

Adjust Your Game Plan
Just think about some of these factors when you go out looking for work. Understand, it might not be you or your talent that hurts your chances of getting work, but it could be that the Music Industry is changing and recording engineers are suffering from it. My suggestion to everyone is to see how the industry is changing and change with it. Find out where and how other engineers are making their money in the industry and adjust your game plan.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Recording a Great Album: The Golden Rules 31 - 37 of 37

Ready Mix

31. Listen in the studio to CD's you're used to hearing on your home stereo to get an ideal of how the studio's system sounds.

32. If mixing somewhere other than the recording studio you recording in, try and make sure you use the same type of speakers and set-up. If you don't, the mix will sound completely different.

33. Once you have selected an engineer (or a producer) to mix your recording, have them do the first mix. Their ears are better trained than yours. Try to keep an open mind and try to learn from the person you're paying.

34. Think about the songs as a whole and don't signal out instruments, otherwise everyone will want their instrument louder in the mix.

35. Determine a band spokesperson ahead of time. An engineer getting five different opinions on how to mix will grow tired and might cause him/her to rush through the job.

36. Decide which format you want the finished mixes to be on: high resolution .wav or .aiff files on CD-R, DVD-R, or flash drive are the preffered formast, however an audio CD or DAT are viable options as well.

37. Budget and account for unforeseen delays.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Recording a Great Album: The Golden Rules 27-30 of 37

Monitoring the Mix

27.  Listen to your music at moderate levels in your car or on a boom box. This is how most of your fans will listen to it, and mixing at loud levels will fatigue your ears and distort the "true" sound.

28. Sometime it's good to take a day off and come back to listen. The same applies for mix-down. Ears don't last very long in the studio.

29. As you review each mix, make sure you can comfortably hear all of the instruments. Tweak the mix on a small pair of speakers at an extremely low volume. Headphones are also very valuable at this stage. You should be able to pick up each instrument even at this level.

30. Learn to recognize ear fatigue. You're better off quitting a session early when you're tired than wasting time making a bad mix that will have be redone anyway. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Recording A Great Album: The Golden Rules 20-26 of 37

The Recording Process 

20. Don't necessarily double track everything. Doubling a lead vocal can hide all the subtleties that make a song personal and likable. (Although it can work well for a chorus).

21. Know when to quit for the day, if your tired if will show.

22. Keep guest out! It's your recording. Guest will distract you can menu sway your opinion of how the music should sound.

23. Make backup copies after every recording session.

24. Turn-up often!

25. Singers: always bring water but don't use ice! Ice constricts your vocal chords. Hot tea with lemon and honey works well to relax your vocal chords.

26. Always get a track listing and accurate time log from the studio.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Recording A Great Album: The Golden Rules 14-19 of 37

The Recording Process

14. Remember, it's emotion and feeling that make the best song, not necessarily the best technical rendition.

15. If you mess up a part while recording, don't stop and start over. That can easily cause you to burn out. Instead, check to see if the engineer can punch in the correction.

16. You don't have to fill all the tracks on the tape - don't try to force something that won't fit.

17. Always keep in mind the focus of your music. If it's the vocals, plan to spend the most time on them. Don't waste time on things that don't highlight the focal point.

18. Get the sound you want while recording, never assume you can fix it in the mix.

19. Unless you have unique effects, record individual tracks clean and add effects later.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Recording A Great Album: The Golden Rules 7-13 of 37

Preparing to Record

7. Be early! At some studios, the clock starts running whether you're their or not. Find out about their cancellation policy.

8. Make the studio a comfortable relaxed place. If it's not, it will show in your finished product. Most studios will have your basic essentials, but if you need something special or special accommodation, it's up to you to make those arrangements.

9. Make sure you and your engineer have the same vision - go over your songs with him/her before recording. Before booking your studio time, ask to hear other material the engineer recorded. If artist/band and engineer are on different pages, it can be costly for who ever is paying for the studio.

10. Depending on whether the/you studio has 8, 16, 24, or 48 track capability, plan out how you will leave room for all of the essential parts. This should simplify the mix and eliminate the need for bouncing tracks later.

11. Use new strings, chords, drums sticks and heads - and bring spares.

12. Find out the hours of the local music store just in case. Most studios might be able to hook you up with some spare equipment, but you will want to use your style and brand for the perfect outcome.

13. Don't use new gear or different equipment that you haven't used before, "even if it's better than what you have." Surprises can cause problems and just because it's better does not me it will make you play better.

Rule of thumb - if you wait till the studio clock is running to tie up loose-ends it's like throwing money in the garbage. And one more misconception: hangovers and efficiency do not mix.

Recording A Great Album: The Golden Rules 1-6 of 37


Try some of these tips to Record a great Album

  1. Record your songs during live gigs and pre-production rehearsals. Even a simple single track recording may reveal weak parts of songs.
  2. Have all the musical and vocal parts worked out. Know who going to do what and when there going to do it e.i. SOLOS , BREAKS, BRIDGES. No reason to go to the studio and then start wasting time on figuring things out, remember (Time is Money). Even if your not paying for studio time, it's still hard to find the time to get everyone together and frustrating when bands mates and engineers are not on the same level.
  3. Using a computer or Sequencer? Prepare all sequence material before the session. knowing the programs and using templates are a great way to do this.
  4. Rehearse more songs than you plan to record. You never know which songs will sound strong on the final product. (If you plan to have a four-song EP, prepare six songs just in case. 
  5. If you plan to use a click track, make sure your drummer is comfortable playing to it. (To get tight, practice to a click track at a very slow tempo.)
  6. Take care of your body before and during your recordings sessions. Eat well, get engouh sleep, and keep your ears rested and clear.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Two Important Tips for Mastering Your Music

Tip One
One question that is often asked when it comes to mastering, “should I master my own music?"

The answer is NO.

I know a lot of people either do their own mastering or want to just because they go out and get some fancy mastering program. But the truth, is not even some of the best engineers in the world master the music they have recorded.

The reason why is because you will spend so much time sitting their listening to the music while you mix it, that your ears will eventually start hearing what they want to hear. This makes it extremely hard to make those very small much needed adjustments.

 If you give it to someone else to master ( lets hope it’s a professional ) they will be hearing it for the first time and this means they will have a totally different prospective on what they are hearing. Frequency can be funky, especially if your just moving them a couple Khz to distinguish separation between two instruments. So why not let a fresh set of ears make these distinguishes.

Tip Two
If you don’t yet know what plug-ins you need to use such as: limiter/compression, eq etc. I suggest you don’t do it. Take it to a professional and stand in while he works; learn, read a book, take a class, but if you don't know what you're doing then you're better off not doing anything.

If you insist on taking on this project, the first thing you need to do is take a long break from the music. Doesn’t mater how good you are at mastering, take a day or two to let your mind and your ears reset.

The second thing you need to do is make sure you use your monitor speakers. Headphones can be used and can be good to reference what your monitors are doing, but for the most part you need to complete the mastering project with your monitors.

One last thing, before you try to master anything, it’s important to make sure you are completely familiar with the software/hardware you are using. This tip does not just go for mastering, but for every part of making music. What is the since of having an expensive music program if you only know how to use half of it's functions.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Recording Engineer Advice: Use a Schedule to get the Most Out of Your Days

If you're a freelance audio recording engineer, chances are you do not have a clock to punch everyday. You are your own boss and you're basically free to pick and choose when you want work. This is one of the advantages to working for yourself, but it could also be a disadvantage that could hurt freelance business.

It's easy to put things off and get to them later or tomorrow, but in this type of business where time can be money, if you're not motivated to get work or find clients you could essentially be losing money.

So how do you make sure you don't find yourself in this situation?
The best thing you can do to stay motivated and on top of your work is to create a schedule.

I create a schedule at night before bed, this helps me get right up in the morning and get right to work. But creating one at the beginning or end of the week, like on Sunday, for the whole week ahead may work even better.

I found that writing one for a whole week doesn't work for me because some days I would accomplish more or less than what was scheduled for the day, and by time the end of the week comes my schedule would be all fouled up. So instead of fixing the schedule everyday, I just write an all new list at the end of each night.

I also found that knowing that I had a schedule to get to every morning would actually get me up a little earlier. The motivation of crossing some things off my list and putting prospects of making some money on the table makes me feel good and motivated.

Without a schedule I may not even bother heading right to work, I may fart around with some T.V., use the internet to search non-audio recording related topics, basically just waste time until something pops in my head that has to be done. You can easily drain away a half of day watching pointless U-Tube videos.

The point is the benefits of not having to punch the clock everyday are great, but if you don't think of your business like a job than you might-as-well make it a hobby and get a 9-to-5 to pay the bills.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Best Way to Record and Mix Drums and Base in to a Song

Many professional will tell you many different ways to go about this. There tips and tricks of all kinds when it comes to what kind of music you are mixing. But through the years I found my self reverting back to one process that I have enjoyed and think that it helps me get the best results in the least amount of time.

First I mix all of my highs or non- base and drum tracks together. Then I mute those and I mix all of the drum tracks, once I am happy with the way the drums are mixed I then bring the rest of the tracks in except for the base and I mix them according to volume and do what ever small frequency changes that are needed. Next I turn off all tracks except the base and drums and mix accordingly.

The last step is to mix them all together. I find at this point, with all of my previous mixing there is not much mixing that has to be done. You should be pretty close to the sound you are looking for without the need to do to much more frequencies changes and what not.

I think this works the best because it's usually the baseline that needs the least amount of work in terms of eq and effects. In-fact, most of the time the only thing I make changes for is the clash between the kick and the base. As long as the volume is where it's supposed to be, I find that the base needs very little work, thus making it easier to work with all of the other tracks first and then smooth in the base.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Guitar Tip: Record Different Microphones From Difference Distances

While attending school at the Recording Institute of Detroit, I found that one of the major focuses was microphone placement. And since getting the perfect sound from a guitar can sometimes be so difficult, instructors often emphasized guitar microphone placement more than other sections of recording.

One of the things we always talked about and practiced was the process of using multiple microphones efficiently at and around the sound source to improve your chances of achieving the perfect sound.

The rule of thumb we were taught was: Why put all your eggs in one basket, meaning why just use one microphone?

If you can take three or more different microphones and set them in different places such as: two up nice-and-close, about 1-5 inches away picking up sound from both sides of the source, another one about 3 to 5 feet away, one in the distance, maybe ten feet maybe further and others placed about the room depending on preference -- you will have a broad line of guitar tracks that can be useful during mix-down.

With this process, when your done recording, you should have enough sound sources that even if a couple of them did not turn out the way you wanted them to, you should still be able to find something that fits your needs. Weather it's just one track you decide on using or you decide to use more than one together with each other, you should be able to avoid the need to go back in the recording room and re-record the track.

This process may also allow you to cut back on plug-ins such as reverb or delay. You can try to mix in some of the room mics to emulate those plug-ins, and lets face it, the less you use your plug-ins the more natural the sound source sounds.

Important Tip: Make sure that each separate track sounds perfect while playing by itself, worry about how they sound playing together later during mix down.

From course-to-verse from song-to-song, the options of having a different texture of sound from the same guitar without the need of leaving the control room to change things around can be extremely convenient for a recording engineer and producer.

Although this tip is pretty amateur, it can still be often forgotten when going through the motions of setting up for a recording. But if you have a guitarist and or a band that's not sure exactly how they want the guitar to sound throughout a track or an album, than this is a great way to give them a couple of track options with one recording section.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Recording Engineering Tip: Protect Your Ears

I remember back when I was a youngster, the thought of things like race cars, a great sounding sound systems, gun shots, air planes, concerts etc. were all awesome and the louder the better. Ear plugs were not an option, listing to music or playing video games at normal listening levels were not an option.

But if you plan on working in music or any type of audio recording than you need to treat your ears like you want them to last for a while. It's bad enough as we get older are bodies get older and get tired, and your ears are no different.

Although you can't stop your ears from getting older you can help them last longer by avoiding unneeded punishment. Knowing your surroundings and using your common since should let you know if something is to loud for your open ears to listen to.

Even though it might seem like the manly thing to do, listen to things with out your ears protected at full volume, but as manly as it may seem, how manly is wearing a hearing aid for the last thrity years of your life.

My grandfather worked in a factory for 30 years, OSHA was not a factor and ear plugs were not required. My whole life my Grandfather has had to wear a hearing aid and respond to every question with, "ha, what, can you repeat yourself."

For each 3 dB (decibels) you increase the sound, you need to cut the time your ears are exposed to those loud sounds in half. Here's a chart to help you figure out if what you expose your ears to is to much.
85 dB 8 hrs
88 dB 4 hrs
91 dB 2 hrs
94 dB 1 hr
97 dB 30 min
100 dB 15 min
103 dB 8 min
106 dB 4 min
109 dB 2 min
111 dB 1 min
114 dB 30 sec
117 dB 15 sec
120 dB 8 sec
123 dB 4 sec
126 dB 2 sec
129 dB 1 sec

A db test is not too expensive and can be bought in many places about the Internet. But again, I would have to say that common since should tell you what is to loud for your ears. If you want to be recording music past the age of 60, then you need to be protecting your ears now. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Three Quick Tips for Excessive Cymbal Noise

Drums are an important part of just about every song, like the guitar and bass, almost every song will have these components. As an audio engineer , one of the biggest problems you will face when recording drums, which you won't have when recording a bass or a guitar, is too much cymbal action and too much high frequency. Basically all this means is the sound of the cymbal hit is just too loud and last longer than what is wanted or needed for the action.

Since there is no volume knob for a cymbal and asking the drummer to take it easier on the cymbals is probably not going to be an option, here are three things as an engineer you can try to fix this problem.

Try a De-esser Plug-in. Yes, in most cases this is supposed to be used for a vocal, but I haven't seen that written in stone anywhere. This plug-in might just take away that high frequency and on-going ringing that you need to tame down the unwanted sound without affecting the initial sound too much.

Use a Compressor. Using a compressor plug-in might help keep some of those tones in check. A 10:1 ratio with a threshold of -10 might give you some amazing results. In fact, a slight compression after the De-esser program might really give you a sound that sounds great without using a whole lot of EQ.
Remove the Overhead Mics. If your drummer is hitting the cymbals so hard that the sound is too over powering, it might be time to rethink your microphone set-up. For most drum mic set-ups, you will have a left and right overhead mic. But if your drummer is hitting the cymbals hard enough to ditch the overhead mics, you should do just that. If this is the case, you can possibly just get away with using the individual mics that you are using to pic up the other components, or if you still need a good overall sound from your drum kit, you can try setting up a room mic to capture the drum kit at a whole.

I know as an engineer myself, it's easy to say I don't completely like the way those cymbals sound but I will fix the problem later during mix down. This is a big no-no. What happens if you record five or six songs with the set-up the way it is, later the band packs up and goes home and then when you get ready to mix these songs, you find out that the cymbals just are not fixable without re-recording the drum tracks again, how do you explain yourself? Remember, one of the most important rules in recoding is doing it right the first time.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Launching a Recording Engineer Career

Rocky Starts
Becoming a recording engineer in the music industry is not as easy as some people may hope. There are very few salary based jobs out there for a recording engineer. The only real way to break into the industry of recording music is to become a freelance audio engineer. The hardest part about being a freelance audio engineer is getting your first couple of clients and getting them to come back. It's not uncommon for someone to spend 1 to 5 years in search of a steady clientele that can bring in some source of steady income that can put food on the table, pay the bills, pay for health insurance and pay for any equipment you need to keep your business up and running.

Finding Clients
The reason why the first couple of steady clients are so hard to find is because it is hard to get someone to shell out some hard-earned cash for your recording services when they have no idea what kind of work you will do for them. Even with an education in the recording arts field, you will find that it does not mean very much. It may relieve some worries of potential clients but not enough to make a big difference. In fact, most of the real successful recording engineers never even attended school. Of course this does not mean that someone should skip out on getting educated before trying to jump-start a career in the recording arts field. If you need the education and even if you don't, if you can afford it, it can't hurt.

Another reason why it is hard to find those first couple of good clients to start-up a steady clientele is that even a somewhat part-time established band or an artist probably already has a recording engineer and a studio that they use on a regular basis. Even if they are not completely satisfied with their current recording situation, it would still be hard to convince someone, who as a beginner, you could do a better job. If a potential client knows you're just starting out as a beginner, they would be taking a huge risk that your recording services could still be extremely amateur. If your recording services were not up to quality standards then (in theory) a band or an artist would still have to pay you, but they would also have to go back to their old recording services and then pay them to either fix what you've done or even have the whole project rerecorded, which is a waste of time, money and also a huge hassle.

Don't Forget the Contract
Here's a little hint! Make sure a contract is signed before work begins. If you were wondering, this is how you will guarantee that you get paid. Like with anything, even if your skills are not yet professional and you're still in the learning process, if you did your best and put the time into it, you will still want to get paid. And with a contract you will. It's up to the client to ask and understand about your credentials and up to you to do the same with your client. If both parties tell the truth, both parties will go into the project with the right expectation.Determination, Networking and Motivation
If you feel like you have the skills and determination to take on this career and make it work for you, then by all means you should follow what you know is best for yourself. Determination, networking and staying motivated when work is not coming in so steadily are the three tools you really need to get a career lunched and keep it going. The most important tool a person needs to utilize is networking. Network with people who have the same ambitions of making it in the music industry as you do. You can have a thousand friends, but if the only thing they know about the music industry is how to pop a in CD of their favorite band or artist and hit play, they will not help you very much when trying to achieve your goal. Anyone you can get to know who plays, records, produces or promotes music are good people to become friends with and stay friends with. You never know when an opportunity not directed to you or for you might come along and one of your friends is in the right place at the right time but can't do the job but can vouch for you and say, "Hey, I have a good friend that may be able to help you out," and sometimes that's all it takes.

Another option of networking you can utilize is advertising. I personally finished school at the Recording Institute of Detroit, and I bought some advertising to see what kind of potential clientele would come my way. Unfortunately, I don't have much good to say about this process. I advertised with networking websites, fliers and business cards, the little response I did get were usually from somewhat corky individuals with completely unrealistic expectations. In fact, I never picked up one of my clients from advertising. I'm not saying that someone else might not find success in this process, but this is just my personal experience. Depending on your location and how much effort you put into advertising, someone else might find different success than I did.

When I finished school for recording engineering in Michigan, I went on a search for an internship. I contacted over 100 studios about an internship and only received a couple of responses back. The responses I received all pretty much had the same answer. The answers were, they do not use interns at all or some responses were they did not use unsolicited interns. Solicited internships would mean you would have to know someone or pay someone or a company to get you one. Now, there is a possibility that other states have better intern opportunities. But for me I never even checked out-of-state because I did not have the money to relocate to another state for an unpaid internship. I was, however, given advice from two different studio owners/engineers that graciously took some time out of their day to talk to me. Both of their advice was pretty much the same and pretty simple, "In a state like this where almost all musical recording engineers are freelancers, forget the internships and just get out there and get started. An internship would just be wasting a lot of time."

Last Words of Wisdom
I should note that if you are looking for those salary jobs, you will increase your chances dramatically if you were willing to move to places where music is extremely huge, such as New York, California, Nashville Las Vegas etc.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Get Serious About Your Studio: Create a Patch Bay

If you have a Home Studio and you are running a lot of outboard equipment, then you need to invest in a patch bay. Think of the trouble you probably go through unplugging one piece of equipment and snaking out the cord and then running it to another piece of equipment. Think of the spaghetti mess of cords and knots that you have to fight with and trip over on a consistent basic.

With a patch bay this could all be avoided. Quick and easy access to all of your equipment will help take the stress off of you as the engineer and can help you and your studio look professional.

You will also find that if you have a signal flow problem, finding where the problem is at will be a lot easier with a patch bay. With one patch wire, you can stand or sit in the same place and check everything one plug at a time, it's that simple.

Unfortunately, I wish I could tell you this project is cheap, but I can't. I would say you should expect to pay about a minimum of 200 hundred dollars. The bay itself will cost money and the chords will not be cheap either, but in my opinion money well spent.

So basically, you can keep wasting your time on your hands and knees under your studio desk trying to blindly connect to the back of each component, or you can set up a patch bay and run everything one time and one time only.

Head over to this site for great patch bay advice "patch bay"


Saturday, March 16, 2013

M-S Miking for a Change of Pace

Have you ever been in that position when you record an instrument or a vocal and it seems to sound like just what you want when recording but during play back you just can't seem to get that sound back? Then maybe it is time to try a different Miking technique.

Mid-Side miking (M-S) is a great way to try to pick up a good sound from all the way around the sound source. Even better, after you have recorded, you will be able to in theory change the way the microphones are picking up the sound without rerecording it. This could really help when your stressed for time and going back into the studio just can't be accommodated; this miking technique can really help open up some options.

Now, you do need two particular type of microphones for mid-side miking. A cardioid pattern microphone and a microphone set at a bi-directional pattern. The Cardioid will be facing straight at the source capturing the direct sound, and the bi-directional microphone will be placed perpendicular to the diaphragm of the cardioid microphone. This should give you a nice stereo sound with options to play with later when mixing.

Obviously, everyone is going to have their own opinion and not everyone is going to like this miking method. But (M-S) miking is the oldest form of stereo miking technique you can use. The best thing to me about this system is if you do not get the sound you are looking for, it shouldn't be a big deal, it's not like it takes 5 hours to set it up, five minutes is more like it, and if it does not work it takes five minutes to take down. But if it does work, that is five minutes well spent time.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

9 Quick Tips to Improve Your Vocal Tracks

Since vocals are usually the most important part to a song, they are obviously the most frustrating tracks to mix because you do not want to fall short on quality. You can spend a long time fixing and mixing and just simply not getting the sound that you really want. Here are 10 tips that might help make your life a little easier when recording and mixing vocals.

1. Boosting the EQ around the upper mid range (around 3-4 kHz) can add some more explosiveness, but be modest as this can go a long way.

2. This is the easiest way to help your vocals out. Place the vocalist in the right place. Unlike an instrument, instead of moving the mic around, you can just have the vocalist move forward, backward and side-to-side. Have them lay down some sample tracks with them positioned differently and use the position that sounds best. This is an easy process for getting great vocals. The better the initial recorded sound, the less effects will have to be applied later.

3. When deciding if you need to use a hard knee or a soft knee compressor, you really need to listen to how the singer is singing. If the singer is really powerful on the mic, you want to use a hard knee so that the vocal can be compressed right away. If the vocalist is a little less explosive, by all means use the soft knee to let the vocalist's vocals build up before it is compressed.

4. Check out your gain reduction meter. By almost all accounts, you do not want more than -6 db of reduction on the vocals. If there is more than -6 db of gain reduction, change some of the other parameters to help you get closer to this target number.

5. Unnatural sounding vocals can be caused by too much compression. If this is the case, what you want to do is to lower the compression ratio to (1.2:1 to 3:1).

6. Here is another great way to try to do some tricky stuff. Doubling up on vocals is a great way to bring some debt to the track, but what if the vocalist is not there? You can make a duplicate track and use a pitch shift plug-in. About a -15 to -30 percent pitch shift mixed properly with the main vocal could give you that fat vocal sound you are looking for.


7. If you are looking to clamp down on the peaks of the vocals, but you're not really looking to affect the rest of the vocal dynamics, here are some compression parameters you should go with. Choose a high ratio -  something close to 10:1 or higher and a somewhat high threshold - somewhere around -1 to -6 db. This should help you clamp any peaks, but it should be high enough not to affect the average level of the vocals and dynamics.

8. If you have a noise problem due to a noises pre-amp, which can happen, try this little trick to help prevent it. Try using a gate program with a fast attack and a modest decay. But don't do too much of this for it can cause an unnatural sound to the vocals, you want just enough to keep the buzz away when there is not a lot going on in the mix. And make sure you use the bypass function to make sure you're not affecting the vocals in any way.

9. One last thing a lot of engineers may have to ponder: Should they use a popper in front of the mic? There is only one way to answer this question and that is simply just listen to the artist perform and make a decision from there, if you need it, you need it, if you don't, even better.

Using effects to help make vocals sound better is a great way to help an engineer get a great sounding vocal for their clients. But remember, when it comes to compression, reverb, delay, etc., it can make a vocal sound great or it can squeeze the life out of it, and there is nothing worse than an uneventful or an unnatural sounding vocal.