How ‘Not’ To Record Rap Vocals (Tutorial)
Whatup. Yo straight up, one thing that turns me off is when an artist gives me their new mixtape, EP, album or whatever, and the vocals sound like straight garbage, can’t stand it, quickest way to get tossed out of the
window. And not hating on the performance or talent, shout-out to them, but the quality of the recording is were I’m talking about. It’s tragic to me when an artist clearly has
a shot at winning but regardless their production quality keeps them from being
taken seriously. Now we’ve seen clips of the big stars in the studio, with all the
high-tech million dollar equipment and all the fancy stuff and the silver spoons.
But it doesn’t take a million dollars to get their major label quality if you know what you’re doing. People are all into getting home studios now and it’s all about the equipment and the plugins
and which software is right to use and is it ok for me to mix in Fruity Loops? But
one of the most important issues that people neglect is sound treatment and
that’s why their mixtape sounds like trash but I’ma help y’all out today by
addressing the science behind getting good vocal recording which is not really
all that complicated once you understand what’s going on. You always hear rappers
talking about being in the booth so people home try to make booths out of walk-in
closets, showers, tubs… But I’ma tell you a space that small is about the worst
place in which you can record. Here’s why. Alright, sound travels at about one
thousand one hundred thirty feet per second. That’s about as long as three football
fields. It takes 1 second for a sound to reach from one end to the other. hat breaks down to about 1 foot per millisecond. A millisecond is a thousandth of a second.
The millisecond is a standard unit in audio production, many pieces of equipment have dials
measured in milliseconds for various reasons. So being a thousandth of a second, that means that If you’re in a room that’s 30 feet long, takes about 30 ms for a sound to get from one end to the other. Now, in your recording space you wanna have enough distance between the mic and the performer from the surrounding walls. At least 8 ft of distance is good to prevent a nasty effect called “comb filtering” that happens when you stand too close to walls. If you’re less than about 7ft from a wall, you can get comb filtering, which makes the voice sound boxy and thin. What’s happening is the voice and its mirror reflection off the wall both go into the mike at less than 7ms apart from each other and since they’re so
close together, virtually on top of each other they cancel each other out because
they’re like polar opposites. Like 1 + -1=0. Hearing my voice right now, I’m simulating what comb filtering sounds like, and its making my voice sound boxy, thin and phasey. This is how it would sound if I were standing 2 or 3 feet away from a wall… or glass. Concrete is the worst. The harder the surface, the worse the problem will be because of more resistance. The same goes for “modal ringing” which I’ll talk about in a few. Back to without comb filtering. To fix this problem, engineers cover the walls with absorbing material, usually studio foam or rigid fiberglass, aka bass traps. I like rigid fiberglass myself, Owens Corning 703 or 705 work well. You can find this stuff at building supply warehouses or online, like eBay. Here in Atlanta I got mine from a place called Trident Distribution off Candler Road at like $7 a panel, a 2 by 4 ft panel, umm..about 2 inches thick. But, the point of these panels is to absorb sound, just like a sponge absorbs water. What sound goes in the panels, stays in the panels. So it’s the same is if there were no walls, just pure sound, and the comb filtering disappears. And let me clear this up real quick, drink cartons, mattress pads, egg crates, carpet, curtains, bookshelves, none of it really works well. I know that’s like urban legend, but real talk, none of it absorbs down to the low bass range where it makes a real difference, so instead it just makes everything sound muddy by absorbing only the treble of the voice but not the bass of the voice, so it still leaves the comb filtering…..[clears throat]..What’s going on mane?…. Comb filtering isn’t the only issue. Next I’m gonna also talk about modal ringing, another problem in getting a good sound. On a side note, you can find lot of good do-it-yourself tutorials on building bass traps on youtube. I built my own, and the difference is crazy haven’t looked back since. And the material to build them is pretty cheap. Word of caution. Use gloves, wear sleeves, goggles, and a mask when handling fiberglass. You must wrap it up with some thick material. It’s fiberglass, it makes you itch and you don’t want to breath it in. Just be careful when you’re handling it. Now, what is modal ringing? Modal ringing is a room’s resonant frequencies or to simplify, it’s a room’s pitch. You know how you blow across a bottle and get a pitch? Well the same thing happens in rooms with parallel walls, including the floor and ceiling. With the room though you have a pitch
for the three dimensions of the room, the When you speak or sing in the room, the pitch of the room is stimulated causing for kind of glowing, pitchy effect on the voice, like you hear now. I’ve heard many a student’s projects where they record in a closet at home and I hear pitchy, comb filtered vocals. As a matter of fact, let me add in some comb filtering. Okay, this is what it sounds like to record in a closet or hallway, or even a small room. It might not sound as bad as this depending on how much absorbent material you have in there like clothes, carpet and furniture. But the bottom line is you don’t need it in your sound at all. Can pro tools, logic or some type of plugin fix this? Nope. Bass traps will fix it though. Once again, No walls, no modal ringing. You can try to eq out some of the pitch, but the vocals are affected by that. And no matter what, there is no current computer technology I know of that removes comb filtering or modal ringing. So, once you record it that way, you’re stuck with it. So look into getting treatment, because it’s gonna eliminate those reflections and give you that dry, crispy vocal sound. Also, on the market now you see a lot of reflection filters, which are barriers around the microphone to help cut down on reflections. Be aware they don’t solve all your problems, putting up bass traps to really soak up sound is the best way to cut out comb filtering and modal ringing. And the smaller the room, like 8 x 8 feet or smaller, u need as many bass traps as u can get hope this helps. My cousin The E.R, and I have some bangers up on the channel, be sure to check them out. Hit me in the comment box, like or subscribe, If you have and requests for tutorials let me know in the comment section, I’m out!