Ah, compression. It can be a great tool, and it can be easily overdone. However, I can’t imagine mixing a song without using compression on the lead vocal. It both tightens up the vocal and helps it fit into the mix.

If you’re not all that clear on what compression does and how it works, I’d recommend watching my Intro to Compression video first. It’s a pretty succinct overview of compression in general.

Alright, assuming you have a basic understanding of compression, let’s look at how it applies to vocals.

Determine what you’re goal is with compression.

Take some time to listen to the dry vocal in the mix. What is it lacking? What does it need? You know what compression can do, how can you use that to your benefit? Be patient. You need to have a plan before you start turning compressor knobs. Otherwise, you’ll end up knee-deep in compression that doesn’t make sense or even sound right.
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Once I’ve recorded, edited, and tuned the vocal, my next step is to reach for an EQ. Some may go for compression, and that’s fine, but my preference is to EQ the vocal first.

If you haven’t already, you should watch my video Intro to EQ. In it, I explain the basics of EQ. As you can surmise from the video, I don’t like to use EQ as an effect. I view it as a shaping tool. If you need to use drastic EQ on a track, chances are it wasn’t recorded very well.

Here are some quick tips to try out when you EQ your next vocal.
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Do you know where you were when you first heard Auto-Tune in action? I do. Kitchen table. Cher came on the radio. My first thought was, “Hey, that’s neat!” Years later, I don’t think it’s so neat anymore. The word “overused” comes to mind.

Cher, T-Pain, and the like have certainly exploited the hyper-tuning capabilities of Auto-Tune, but that’s not the purpose of this article. Yes, you can use Auto-Tune as an over-the-top effect, but what about using it as an engineering tool? Is it cheating?

I’d love to know your opinion. Be sure to leave a comment below. I’ve thought through this a lot over the years and talked with many an engineer, and I’ve formed my own opinions on the matter, so here’s what I think.
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Vox Edit

Yesterday I gave you some tips for getting a good vocal recording. So what’s the next step after you’ve recorded the vocal?

Some folks may jump right in to mixing, throwing up a bunch of EQs, compressors, reverbs, etc. Mixing is certainly exciting, but don’t leave out the all-important step of comping and editing.

Comping

If you follow my advice in the previous article, then you should have 3-5 takes of the lead vocal. This may seem like a foreign concept to some, but one of the benefits of digital recording is that you can, much like in a text document, copy and paste different sections together. Having the singer sing through the song a few times allows you to have options once the singer goes home.

Here’s what I mean. Let’s say that the vocal session goes insanely well. The singer is “feelin’ it,” and he delivers an amazing performance on the first take. He nailed it. End of vocal session.

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Lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions on processing vocals. Folks are asking for a step-by-step guide for getting a good vocal sound — from actually recording the vocal all the way to the finished mix.

This is a great topic. After all, for most music styles the vocal is the focal point of the entire song. Who cares if the drums, bass, and guitars sound amazing if the vocals are lame, right?

So…I think it’s time for a little series of articles on vocals!

Recording the Vocal

Before jumping into EQ settings and effects plugins, we need to take a step back and make sure we get a good vocal recording to begin with. There’s this annoying tendency among a lot of recording engineers to just capture the audio as quickly and thoughtlessly as possible, then say, “I’ll just fix it later with plugins.”

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Hey everybody. If you’ve been following along, then you’ve seen that I haven’t posted a lot in the last two weeks. Between moving and figuring out my new gig I have been swamped. So, I’ve needed to redirect some of my time and energy away from HSC for a few weeks to focus on all the other things going on.

However, after two weeks, I think I’m getting back into the swing of things. Thanks for sticking around. Tune in next week, and we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming. 🙂

I leave you with a shot of my new crib:

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packed studioIf you follow me on Twitter or read my latest post about Sweetwater, then you know that my wife and I recently moved back down to Tennessee from Indiana. Over the next few weeks and months I’ll clue you in as to what I’ll be doing down here (it’s actually really exciting and has a lot to do with Home Studio Corner).

Today, however, I want to talk about moving. If you’ve ever had to move your home studio, you know how stressful it can be. All your precious gear will be at the mercy of the road.

Packing studio equipment isn’t all that different from packing anything else valuable, so I won’t bore you with the obvious, like using towels, pads, bubble-wrap, etc. to protect the gear.

There are two pieces of advice I can give that will hopefully save you a bit of headache on your next move.

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580x80_sweetwater
Many of you know that for the last three years I have been a Sales Engineer at Sweetwater Sound. However, last Thursday was my final day at Sweetwater. (My wife and I have moved back down to Tennessee. I left the company on great terms. I’m actually pursuing a cool new opportunity…more on that to come in future posts.)

It has been a great three years. Sweetwater is a stellar company, and I feel that it is only appropriate that I post my thoughts on Sweetwater right here on Home Studio Corner.

My opinion of Sweetwater is obviously a biased one. However, being on the inside for three years has given me a very good look at the makeup of this company. If I didn’t like the company, I certainly wouldn’t post a review of it.

What makes Sweetwater different?

Anybody can sell music equipment, right? What makes Sweetwater any different from Musicians’ Friend or Zzounds? Aren’t they all just big box stores?

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