Recording Vocals

Pop Music
Popping happens when a vocalist hits the microphone with a strong "p" or "b". It must be avoided at the time of the recording, because fixing it, by suppressing the bass frequencies, is never totally successful.
There are two ways to solve this:
  1. get the singer to sing across the mic, rather than into it;
  2. Use a pop-shield. You can make this yourself by stretching a nylon stocking over a coat hanger, and hang it about 8 inches (20 cm) in front of the mic.

Headphone Mix
Head Room
Make sure the singer has the right sound in the headphones:
  • a good instrumental mix with strong rhythm and clear but not overpowering harmony (piano/guitar)
  • the right vocal volume so he or she sings freely, but not over the top; if you notice the singer holding back, they probably hear too much of themselves in the headphones.
  • reverb added to the headphone mix to help the singer relax and enjoy their own voice. You will not be recording the reverb; GarageBand records the input signal clean so you can always go back and change the reverb later.
Singing in tune
One Can
If you are the singer and you have trouble staying in tune with headphones on, remove one of the cans.
Some singers go a step further and put a finger in their ear.

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Enhance Tuning

Beefing up weak vocals
If the vocal track is a little weak, there are plenty of tricks in the book to beef them up a little. You are hardly the first sound engineer who has to come to the rescue of a weak singer (we won't name names here...), so there are plenty of known techniques to deal with it.
  • The first thing to do is to check if the singer is in tune. Honestly, most singers sing out of tune, to varying degrees - ranging from barely noticeable and charming & acceptable to unbearable.
    The good news is: GarageBand has built-in pitch correction. With a single slider control, you can fix a real audio track containing a vocal (or instrumental) melody line even if it was recorded out of tune. Really. Of course, this effect can't perform miracles, but the improvement in a vocal track can be quite dramatic.

  • Double the vocal track Press Command-D to duplicate the track, and option-drag the region into the new track to copy it. You now need to do something with the duplicate to hear a difference. You can:
    • Time-shift it a little. Uncheck "Snap to Grid" and move the copied vocal track just a little bit; a type of delay is the result
    • Apply different effects (like reverb, or different amounts of reverb) to each track and pan them left and right.
    • Make two duplicates. Apply chorus to each, pan them left and right but keep the original, without chorus, in the middle

  • Boost the weaker part of the singer's frequency range with the AUParametricEqualizer (double-click the track to bring up the Track Info window. Audio Unit effects are in the pull down menus under the Details....triangle)

  • Get the singer to sing the part several times. Now layer the tracks. This is by far the most common technique for pop vocals.

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