Publication Date

2014-04-23

Availability

Open access

Embargo Period

2014-04-23

Degree Type

Doctoral Essay

Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)

Department

Studio Music and Jazz (Music)

Date of Defense

2014-03-17

First Committee Member

Rachel L. Lebon

Second Committee Member

Kathryn I. Reid

Third Committee Member

Larry Lapin

Fourth Committee Member

Reynaldo Sanchez

Abstract

In today’s recording studio environment, singers are standing behind some of the very same vintage microphones and using some of the same outboard gear as during the analog era. However, recording sessions are no longer being driven by analog multi-track recorders; instead, the session information is usually being saved onto a PCI computer card housed in a very fast computer. Processed through the analog vocal chain of microphone, pre-amplifier, compressor, and equalizer, the signal then passes through an A/D converter where the analog signal is transformed into digital information, a collection of samples represented mathematically by zeros and ones. During the recording stage, careful consideration must be made regarding microphone choice, studio set-up, gear choice and performance techniques for vocals, including vocal percussion. Vocal editing, vocal tuning, pre-mix preparation and reference mixing are not technically a part of the actual recording process, but will be briefly discussed as topics that need some amount of consideration since they all play a role in affecting the final performance of the recorded vocal. Recording in the digital platform is quite different from the analog platform used in decades of the past. The simplest explanation of those differences can be boiled down to analog recording representing a continuous picture of the sound as oppose to the snapshots that are taken in the digital platform. Obviously, with such a concept, some information within the audio being recorded has the potential of being left out or lost between “snapshots.” That said, the end goal of recording a vocal is to attempt to capture the vocal as accurately and pristinely as it exists acoustically in nature, there exists a multitude of ways that an engineer/producer can affect the actual performance of the recorded vocal. These range from the choice of equipment being selected as it is recorded or edited to the things that the engineer/producer might say to the singer in order to elicit the singers’ best performance. The purpose of this study is to identify and discuss techniques for recording the Voice within the modern digital studio environment. An attempt will be made to trace the process of recording the vocal from studio set-up up until, but not including, the formal mixing stage. In preparation for recording the solo vocal or vocal group, the audio engineer must also make some decisions about which microphone, microphone pre-amp, compressor, whether or not there is any need to use an equalizer, and proximity/positioning of the microphone. Recording vocal percussion is also a technique that can require a different set-up and skill set from the engineer depending on the technique of the performer. Several ideas and concepts for recording vocal percussion will also be considered. Last but not least, all the techniques discussed will be demonstrated in a recording so that one can discern sonic differences between use and non-use of a particular technique. The main theme of this discussion will be identifying and discovering strategies to improve the quality of recorded vocals in the digital domain.

Keywords

Vocal; Vocal Recording; Digital Recording; Microphones; Recording Techniques; Studio Performance

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