Come to your own conclusions about your mic chain but also listen to what others recommend – Rachel Lebon
This week, I asked my friend Dr. Kelly Garner – an award winning singer and a music engineer – to give VoiceCouncil readers her top tips on recording gear:
The Microphone, Mic Pre-amp and Compressor constitute the most important elements in the recording chain.
Here are some of my favorite pieces:
• Vocal Mics: A good affordable condenser microphone is the Rode NT1-A ($200). It can sound as good as some $8,000 mics (like the Neumann U-67) for some voices.
• Instrumental Mics: if you are doing your own recordings – you will need instrumental mics. A good one to have on hand is the Neumann KM 184 (a small diaphragm condenser) or a Royer 121 (ribbon mic).
• Mic Pre-amp: A good mic preamp that is relatively affordable is the Pacifica or the Shadow Hills Mono Gama.
• Compressor: In my opinion, the best compressor in the world is the Tube Tech CL-1b. Although a little pricey, it’s where I would spend my money.
Equalization is occasionally used “surgically” to fix a problem that arises. My favorite EQ is the (GML) George Massenburg 8200. Another somewhat pricey piece, but so worth the money!
Beyond the recording chain, the DAW software will take care of the rest.
You need to decide what size DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is going to best fit your needs.
Pro Tools LE or Logic are two small, affordable & very popular recording platforms. To run this software, only a laptop is necessary.
These components would get any studio off to a running start no matter what instrument is being recorded.
Dr. Kelly Garner is an award winning professional Jazz, Gospel and Studio Singer and a music engineer with her own recording studio. Kelly holds a DMA from the University of Miami and her Thesis is entitled Vocal Recording Techniques for the Modern Digital Studio. She is also currently a Commercial Music Faculty member at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. See Kelly’s LinkedIn profile.
My Reactions to This Week’s Peer Review Vids
Erin Geary – “Chandelier” (Cover)
Good versatility, exploring the gamut of repertoire from Rock to sensitive ballads to
Chandelier, to Fifth Harmony to Big Band. Fine sense of style within various idioms, in stacking harmonies and in the ability to self-accompany. Nice hardy voice. At times, sense that you push just a bit to project at times (All of Me; Bust Your Windows), which tends to be a reflex if you can’t hear yourself, the sound is dry, or when you self-accompany. Your coordination is natural and sound, so you don’t need to work so hard to project. Let the mike work for you, which is easier, of course, when you have monitors. Can also use the natural rhythm of the language a bit more (not every word in a sentence has equal stress) and let the ends of phrases taper off a bit. You seem to be a fine musician, have wonderful potential and you’re well on your way… Enjoyed listening to your performances.
Iraia – “Titianium” (Cover)
A difficult tune to sell in an understated manner, particularly in an understated way with a single instrument. The key to presentation is to have (or pretend to have) an attitude with the lyrics…sentiment which is also expressed in your eyes. Enunciating very deliberately, with feeling, as if the words are occurring to you in the moment, draws attention to YOUR take on the song. Otherwise, you can lose the listener, since they feel they can predict the performance if it sounds less individualized and a cop of the original. Otherwise, the delivery sounds automatic, rather than spontaneous, and listeners feel they can predict the result, and lose interest. You want to draw your listeners into your performance by the way that you deliver the words and phrases.
Hadleigh Ford – “Man in the Mirror” (Cover)
You have a really fine voice with good range. Your customized approach to the song and the guitar introduction and accompaniment works well to support the vocals, in the first verse and chorus. Presence and believability did not seem as strong in the second verse, seemed to go on autopilot a bit. Play with dynamic contrast and shifting attitudes within the inner phrases, buzzing important words. Can also adjust guitar accompaniment for variety. Otherwise, one can reach the peak of the song too early. Seemed to lose steam towards the end. Avoid lifting your chin to reach the high notes, as they were under pitch and not topping over in the final chorus, a sign of vocal fatigue. Really like your style! Keep it up!
Rachel L. Lebon, Ph.D. has been a professional vocalist and studio singer and is currently a professor at the University of Miami. She toured worldwide with Tops in Blue and has toured the Soviet Union and Portugal. Rachel is an author and lectures worldwide on vocal pedagogy and voice disorders. www.miami.edu.
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