vocal recording

A quick guide to recording and exporting vocals by Phat Suspekt


Today it's easy to record your vocals at home. What you basically need is a computer with a sequencer, an interface, a microphone and closed headphones. But you have to pay attention to several factors to get decently recorded vocals that are ready for mixing.


Audio gear

  • Use closed headphones for recording, so you dont hear the backing track on the vocals.
  • Treat your room or use a mic shield. Empty walls will cause a lot of reflections that make your vocals blurry.
  • Record with a large diaphragm microphone. This will give you the best results in most cases.
  • Use an interface that allows zero latency monitoring.


Mic techniques

  • Place a pop shield about 10cm in front of your mic to avoid popping sounds.
  • Keep in the same position while recording and focus on the microphone.
  • Move your head a bit away from the mic if your vocals are exceeding the average level.
  • Set your preamp to a level where your loudest vocals are on the edge to clipping. Then reduce the gain by 6db to have enough headroom.


Headphone mix

  • Make a good sounding headphone mix for the vocalist.
  • You can influence the performance of the vocalist with the headphone mix.
  • Apply effects like delay and reverb to the vocals and route them to the headphone mix.
  • Autotune rappers should hear the effect on their headphones in realtime while recording.


vocal layering

  • To get big sounding vocals, you will have to layer several takes of the same verse or hook.
  • Try to get the different takes very tight. Keep the same timing and pitch.
  • Record doubles to emphasize rhyme words or other important parts.
  • Adlibs will help to make your song more interesting and diversified.


Exporting vocals

  • Make sure the vocals are not clipping.
  • Name every track, so the mixing engineer will not hate you.
  • Consolidate every track and make it start at 0:00:00.
  • Export every track as a 24Bit WAV or AIFF file. Your tracks can be imported in every sequencer now.


It makes sense to playback your vocal takes with processing like compression and EQ during the tracking session. So it's easy to spot unwanted ambient noises and impact sounds and eliminate them.

    This list should not be considered as complete, but gives a basic overview. Apart from the technical stuff, make sure to record in a nice atmosphere without distraction or time pressure. Also, you can improve your performance by learning the lyrics by heart, so you don't have to read it from a screen or note.

    Move on to my /vocal-mixing guide.

    /contact me if you have any further questions concerning vocal recording, mixing and mastering.