Do you hate the sound of your recorded voice? Does your singing or speaking voice seem like nails on a chalkboard to you? Don’t lose hope! This article covers some of the basics that have helped singers the world over get better results. Even if you’ve never held a microphone before or set foot in a recording studio, you will find these tips, tricks, and app suggestions tremendously helpful.
Why does your voice sound so bad on recordings?
Before we go into how you can make your voice sound better in recordings, it might be helpful to figure out how and why you perceive your voice the way you do.
It is fairly common for people to think that their voice sounds strange or unpleasant when hearing it from a recording. Many people hate the sound of their voice when played back from a speaker or a smartphone.
The reason for this is that we aren’t accustomed to hearing our voices the way it actually sounds. When you hear a person singing or talking, the sound travels through the air, causing your eardrums to vibrate. Your brain then deciphers these vibrations as a sound that you can understand.
When you sing or talk, you pick up these external vibrations with your ears as well. However, you also pick up the vibrations of your vocal cords, throat, and the bones and muscles in your face. These vibrations mingle to produce the sound that you perceive as your voice.
When you hear your voice on a recording, you aren’t hearing the internal vibrations at the same time. You will, therefore, hear your voice a lot differently than if you hear it while singing.
So how do you get over the sound of your voice on a recording? You can get your voice closer to how you want it by practicing and employing effective singing techniques. You could also utilize a wide range of tools and equipment available in a recording setup. Ultimately, however, you will have to accept that your recorded voice and how you hear it while singing are two different things.
How do you prepare for a vocal recording?
Before you even think about employing vocal techniques and audio equipment, it will be helpful to know how to prepare for a vocal recording.
Warming up your voice before vocal takes is always a good idea. It is especially important to warm up before a crucial recording, although it would also be beneficial to get your voice prepped before laying down a demo vocal.
Try to set the temperature to a comfortable level if you have the option to do so. Setting the thermostat so that the external temperature is at a neutral level will enable you to get the best performance possible.
Most people find that a temperature of about 26° F works best, although you could set it higher or lower depending on your preferences. However, avoid lowering the temperature too much, as extreme cold can prevent you from singing as long as you would otherwise be able.
Keep some water–preferably room temperature–close by before you go for a take. This will help keep you hydrated and prevent your throat and mouth from drying out.
Should you sit or stand while recording vocals?
The question of whether to sing sitting down or standing up often comes up when discussing vocal technique. There are certainly pros and cons to each approach, although most professionals opt to stand while singing.
A good rule of thumb is to stand when going for an energetic vocal performance. Frequently, sitting down results in a more subdued performance that prevents you from giving a piece your all.
Sitting down is usually preferable if you are after a more intimate delivery. This is not to say that you can’t sit down while delivering a more energetic performance. However, you should make sure that your position doesn’t prevent you from channeling your voice from your diaphragm, which often produces the best results.
Ultimately, the choice of whether to sit or stand for a recording is up to you. Try out both methods and see how it affects the outcome. Don’t hesitate to switch between both approaches as the situation calls for it, even within the same recording.
What equipment will make your voice sound better?
Nowadays, you don’t even have to go into a professional recording facility to get amazing-sounding vocal recordings. A lot of equipment that was previously available only to recording professionals is now available to home recording practitioners and even hobbyists.
Of course, a professional facility will always have higher-end equipment. But even with a modest home studio and a shoestring budget, you would be surprised at how many tools you have at your disposal to create amazing recordings.
The microphone is the first and most crucial part of your vocal chain. Most singers swear by condenser microphones, which are excellent for reproducing the details of your vocal performance. Some singers do use dynamic microphones with outstanding results. These are generally able to handle higher volumes, so if you are a loud singer, consider going for a dynamic mic.
You will need to plug your mic into a preamp so that the signal can be amplified to a level that is suitable for recording. Many audio interfaces come with built-in preamps that will do an adequate job of boosting your mic level for recording. As you get better and your ear becomes more discerning, you may want to move up to a more expensive preamp.
The built-in mics and onboard soundcards that come with most laptops and desktop computers aren’t suitable for critical recordings. Investing in a mic and a good audio interface to go along with it are the two most important upgrades you can do to improve your vocal recordings.
Even with all the tools and recording equipment at your disposal, it is essential to get the fundamentals down pat before you attempt to lay down a serious recording. Remember that all the tools and tricks in the world can’t take the place of a performance borne of adequate preparation and practice. Get the fundamentals down and practice as much as possible, and the equipment you have access to will serve you even better.
How can you improve your vocals after it is recorded?
Even after you have your vocals recorded to hard disk, there is still a lot you can do to make it sound as impressive as possible. You can process your vocals extensively in a dedicated audio editor, or even within your digital audio workstation (DAW).
The most common tweak you can perform on your vocal is equalization. This is the process of boosting or reducing different frequencies of the audio to alter their tonal character. In some cases, EQ is used to make a dull vocal sound brighter or an overly harsh vocal sound mellower. Some recording engineers apply EQ creatively to make it sound more distinctive or unusual.
Another common tweak is to apply compression. This refers to the process of limiting the loudest parts of an audio signal and boosting the softer parts. The result is a smoother and more consistent sound. Compression may also be used to make the vocals sound punchier, which makes it cut through a dense mix more effectively.
Again, all the studio tricks and wizardry shouldn’t take the place of a solid vocal performance. Get your basics down and use the available tools for judicious sweetening, and you will be much more likely to get a great sounding vocal track.
Getting great sounding vocals can be challenging, but it is by no means impossible. No matter what level you are as a singer, you will notice a marked improvement by following the tips outlined above.