If you’re a musician that “plugs in,” then you know that the sound you hear coming out of your amp can either inspire you or make you want to hang up your guitar or bass in disgust. And yeah, this article is mainly written for electric guitarists and bassists because so much of these instruments’ sonic character is attained through amps, amp modeling and effects. You know what I’m talking about – there’s a thrill of getting that perfect tone – when it’s right, you just can’t stop playing. In this article, we will discus the pros and cons of recording live versus applying software plug-ins during post-production. And who knows, we might even discover a method that satisfies both sides of the aisle…
CAPTURING THE LIVE PERFORMANCE
We are so lucky now to be living in a time when amp modeling has really hit its stride and when digital effects are plentiful and cheap. In the 1980s, you’d be lucky to find an amp with anything more than spring reverb built in. Today many amp manufacturers like Vox, Fender and Line 6, just to name a few, include amp modeling circuitry and a host of digital effects like chorus, flange, echo, delay and reverb. Or you can use your favorite amp with a pedalboard to get virtually unlimited sounds. So the question that comes up all the time in the studio is: “Should I record with my effects or dry and add the effects later?”
PROS: Simple, easy to use, good effects selection.
Guitarists have long been able to use small pedals to alter/enhance their sound, while vocalists have been relegated to huge racks and systems that are expensive and difficult to control. TC Helicon’s Mic Mechanic brings analog control to advanced vocal processing.
The layout is simple. XLR connections mean this is meant for singers. The mic level control is placed on the side, keeping it out of the way from stray feet. A USB connection is there for software updates and helpful suggestions from TC’s VoiceSupport software. There is a mic control function on the side that enables remote control of the unit via TC’s MP-75 Mic (not included). The unit also works well with phantom mics – and since phantom power is always on, there’s no need for an enable/disable button. Continue reading →
The lead vocal – it’s arguably the most important track in most songs. It’s carrying the melody and message and overall tone of the song and it’s what most listeners lock onto over anything else. Try asking someone how they like a particular song and chances are their comments will be about some aspect of the lead vocals. So how do you record a great vocal part? Here are some tips we have found over the years that help the vocalist perform at their best. To read Part 1, check out our June issue.
Mic Technique: A good vocalist will know how to use the mic to maximize their performance – moving in closer for softer, breathy parts and backing up and turning slightly when they want to belt something out. We almost always use a pop filter to help eliminate plosives (say the word “pastrami” into your hand and you’ll feel what I mean). The pop filter is a good visual reference for singers and you can give them a little primer on moving in and out; but mark my words, if the singer is not already a pro at using mic distance, they will completely forget to do it during their performance, anyway. Continue reading →
The lead vocal – it’s arguably the most important track in most songs. It’s carrying the melody and message and overall tone of the song and it’s what most listeners lock onto over anything else. Try asking someone why they like a particular song and chances are their comments will be about some aspect of the lead vocals. So how do you record a great vocal part? Here are some tips we have found over the years that help the vocalist perform at their best.
Capture the best performance: First, it’s easy to forget (even for some vocalists) that a singer’s voice is their instrument. Try to schedule your vocal takes when the singer is at their peak. That means not scheduling a session right after a long weekend of gigs or even after a long day of work. Most vocalists have a time of day that they perform best. Have the vocalist warm up first. Some vocalists have a set routine; others don’t even know what you’re talking about when you ask about warm-ups. For the latter, a couple softer than usual warm up takes can help get them ready. Have plenty of room temperature water on hand in the booth for the talent and remind them frequently to keep their pipes hydrated. Continue reading →