Today, with the popularity of social media as a tool for gaining fame, more and more singers feel encouraged to give song recording a go. Whether you are an aspiring singer or a seasoned vocalist, the thing that matters the most to you is producing a good song. And what is a good song without good vocals to go with it?
One of the most important yet overlooked pieces of equipment in a recording studio is the headphone. Headphones are essential in helping a singer record his/her vocals because it allows the singer to hear the song while recording. This is needed when recording because it guides you to stay in tune, be on time, and feel the music as a whole. Many may not realize how much the quality of vocals could be improved just by using the right headphones the right way.
There are two types of headphones used for recording: closed back headphones and open back headphones. Each has its pros and cons, so it’s important to know which kind suits your needs. Closed back headphones have a hard casing at the outer part of the headphones, which prohibits sound from passing through the earpiece. It keeps outside noise from being heard and keeps the track from bleeding into the microphone. This isolates the singer from the outside world and makes them more suitable for recording tracks and isolating just the vocals of the artist. The downside when using them is that the experience is more “in the head” and unrealistic for the artist. This is commonly used in professional studios to get a clean and isolated vocal track.
On the other hand, open back headphones don’t have a shell casing at the outer part of the headphones. This allows outside noise and air to be heard freely by the artist. The advantage of this is the music sounds more realistic to the artist. However, the problem is that outside noise could bleed into the microphone. This makes open back headphones suitable for mixing. This is suitable for beginners because you don’t need extra production for mixing other sounds.
If you are used to singing on a stage with a band or singing at home with your instruments, using closed back headphones could be uncomfortable and difficult. These headphones are more suitable for singers who are used to singing without having to hear themselves. If you are new to recording, it is recommended to use open back headphones because it would only seem like you were singing in a room with music playing. The song won’t blast through your ears, and you will be able to hear yourself sing.
A clever trick that most artists do with their headphones is taking one of the ear pieces off, so they could hear themselves in one ear and hear the mix in the other ear. This balances out the problems caused by the two types of headphones.
Another tip suitable for beginners is the use of bleed tracks. This involves playing the mix on speakers while the artist performs with a steady microphone. After that, another track is recorded wherein the same mix plays on speakers and the artist stands in the same position he/she performed earlier without singing. The second track is the bleed track which is used to cancel out the noise and isolate the vocals during editing.
Sometimes, mixes can be very complicated especially with the use of several instruments and layers of tracks that are not related to the melody of the vocals. The different sounds in the mix can be confusing to the artist. Another way to simplify recording is by stripping down the mix and leaving the essential tracks such as the percussion and harmonic rhythm tracks. The other tracks can be added after recording the artist’s vocals. However, it is important that the mix is not overly stripped down that it loses its energy because it might affect the way the artist sings.
Last but not the least, it is always important to make artists feel comfortable and free to do whatever helps them keep the melody in their minds. Some artists move their hands and feet, while some may tap their fingers while holding a microphone. Somehow, these body movements guide artists to perform in a recording studio even if they are used to performing live. This is useful if they can’t really hear themselves when using closed back headphones.