How To Get A Big Fat Vocal Sound

Vocals are usually the focus of any song, so it’s important that you get a professional, larger than life sound to really captivate your listeners. ┬áLet’s focus on ways to attain that perfect vocal without needing a huge budget of recording gear.

1. Vocalist

Let’s start with basics. If you are working with a terrible vocalist, you probably won’t achieve a good sound considering how much editing and tuning you’ll have to do. So get someone who can actually sing to start.

Recording a big fat in your face vocal

2. Microphone

The microphone is probably the most important part in getting a big, fat and warm vocal sound. A cheap microphone will probably not get you pro results. Many newbie engineers might opt to purchase a cheap large diaphragm condenser microphone in the $100 range. This is probably a big mistake. It might give you an airy sound to your vocal, but more than likely, it will give you a brittle, thin and cheap vocal sound. If you are dead set on purchasing a large diaphragm condenser microphone, you’ll probably want to up your budget to the $600 and over range. For those on a tight budget, I would recommend you get a Shure Sm 57, Sm 58, or for a bit more money, you can get the incredible sounding Shure Sm7b. These mics, although they are dynamic microphones, can give you a very thick and neutral vocal that will sit well in your mix. My personal favourite is the SM7B. I really get a big, forward vocal sound from it, and often times, I’ll prefer it over an expensive Neumann M149 ($4000 microphone). If you have a big budget, obviously you can audition different microphones for different singers. But for the rest of us, it’s probably best to get one good neutral microphone that will sound great with most vocalists.

3. Microphone Placement And Room Treatment

It’s best to record in a treated room, or else you’ll get reflections and an unwanted room sound in your recording that you will not be able to fix in your mix. If you don’t have access to an acoustically treated vocal booth, use a dynamic microphone and sing within 1-2 inches away. The Shure SM7B is a great microphone for this situation. It has a proximity effect, so the closer you get to it, the more fuller and thicker the vocal sounds.

4. Mic Preamp

You should probably be able to get a good vocal sound using your built in preamp in your sound card. But if you have a budget, you can choose to get an external preamp to further give you a fatter, warmer tone to your vocal recordings. Popular models are Grace preamps for their clean, neutral sounds and recreations of the popular Neve 1073. If you are on a budget, a good choice is the Golden Age Pre73 (a bargain that will give you a nice vintage tone).

5. Compression

When it comes to mixing your vocal, really analyze what is going on in the song and what you have to do to make the vocal pop. If you have a great singer with fantastic microphone technique, you can probably lightly compress the vocal and get a good sound off the back. In most cases, you might want to compress the track a little more aggressively at a 4 to 1 ratio. Don’t over compress, because doing so can actually make your vocal sound smaller. For some songs, you can try parallel compression. Basically put the vocal on 2 tracks, on the main one, use a light amount of compression. Then, on the next track, heavily compress the vocals. Then you can mix the two signals ┬átogether and or bring out the compressed track out on certain parts or syllables in the track that you want to stand out.

6. EQ

With the right eq, you can really bring focus to your vocal. First listen to any problem areas and surgically fix that. Is there a nasty mid range frequency? If so, use a sharp Q factor and eq that down to smooth it out. Every vocalist is different, so use your ears. It’s generally a good idea to use a low cut filter to clean up the vocal and then bringing in son air in the 10k range. If you have sibilance problems, use a de-esser. No one likes to hear a piercing, sharp vocal.

7. Effects

Many home hobbyists reach for the reverb and crank it on a vocal. It’s usually a mistake, unless you are going for a dated 80s sound. Let me emphasize one thing: the vocal should sound good, dry, on it’s own. If it doesn’t, go back to the drawing board. Re-record it with a better singer and or tune it until it sounds like a good vocal without sounding artificial. For effects, it all depends on the song, style and track. If you want a big, forward sounding vocal, less is more. By putting more reverb on it, you are actually putting the vocal back in the mix. A lot of the times, you can just get away with putting a short slap back delay on the vocal track, and maybe a little chorus. If you want a little space, go ahead and try a room or plate reverb, but remember, less is more.

Comments are closed.