Recording/Mixing FAQ

All songs in this blog are recorded at home using a very simple setup. Almost all songs are mixed by me as well, at home.  Some of listeners of this blog asked me at various times to share my experiences and findings on recording and mixing. I have put together this FAQ, totally based on my experience and opinions.  My hope is that it will benefit those singers interested in this subject.
1.      What is the best time of the day to record?
Any time of the day when we are relaxed and have quiet time,  free of any distractions or disturbances is best for recording.  In the day time, the voice is much more fresh and free of any fatigue. If the singer is tired, it will show in the final output.
2.      Does drinking hot water help voice?
No. It is not good to drink hot or cold drinks before singing. It is important though, to keep drinking a lot of water to help the voice from becoming dry.

3.      What are karaoke tracks and how do you get them?
Karaoke tracks are music tracks remade with original music as reference.  There are some that are made available online, free of cost, while others are not. There are several companies and online websites that sell these like makemykaraoke.com and totalkannada.com.

4.      How to prepare for recording?
On the day of recording drink lots of water. It is important that your voice is not dry while you sing. Water helps keep your voice more fluid.  Also, do some basic voice exercises, stretch voice and sing a few akarams covering all ranges and octaves. Do not overstrain the voice. Sing some of the difficult portions of the song a few times before actually recording. This will build your confidence.
Listen to the song enough times and learn it before recording. Learning the song as we record will cause unnecessary strain in voice and also the flow will be compromised.
5.      Do you use any software for recording?
I use latest version of Audacity (free) for recording and Audacity and Adobe Audition 3.0 and 6.0  for mixing my songs. Audacity interface is easy to use but Adobe Audition has more powerful set of features when it comes to mixing. Although it needs experience and training to make use of its full potential it is still worth it.
6.      How to record using recording software?
To record your music with good quality record voice separately (voice track), apply effects and then mix with the music track. While karaoke music is being played in one track within Audacity, you can record voice in a separate track while listening to the music via headphones.
7.      What is mixing ?
Simply put, applying effects to voice and then mixing it with the music to have an overall balanced output is mixing.  Best mix will have the volume levels balanced between music and vocals and is without any sharp/harsh sounds, noise or distortion. The mix should be clear and pleasant to the ears.
8.      What are basic steps in mixing/ post-recording processing?
Following are the basic steps to mix songs.
1)      Always record voice file separately. 
 

2)      First always capture the room noise in a separate file. This room noise will be different for every sitting.

3)      A sample rate of  44 – 48 KHz is good for recording.
4)      Make sure voice is aligned properly with music before saving/exporting the voice file. Export voice into a wave format file.
Tip:  With some software,  for example Audacity, if we export to mp3, a very small time lag occurs and this is noticed during mixing which then needs to be corrected by moving the voice track to the left by a few milliseconds. If we export to wav format, this time lag also called latency can be avoided.
5)      Import the voice and karaoke track into a project in the mixing software. This can be Audacity or AA.
6)      Open the voice track and remove the noise in the entire file by referring to the recorded room noise as a noise profile.  Remove any other unwanted noises in the file.
7)      Normalize the voice. Always normalize to anywhere from -3 db to -6 db.
8)      If you recorded mono, now make it stereo.
9)      Apply compression, equalization, reverb and echo effects.  Simply use the available presets in the mixing software to see what sounds best.  Your ears will tell which presets to use for each one of the above, because these settings can be different for each voice.
10)      Finally export the project into mp3 or wav.

9.   What kind of microphone is best, dynamic or condenser?
Condenser microphone is preferred for recording studios, dynamic microphones for stage performances because condenser microphones are very good at capturing every detail in the voice. But they can also capture other unwanted noises if you are not in a quiet studio setting. Dynamic microphones only capture the sounds that are directly in front of them. All my songs are recorded using an SM58 dynamic mic.
10.   What is the ideal distance between POP filter, microphone and singer?
A POP filter is required to be used, especially with condenser microphones.  The distance varies with the microphone and the voice of the singer. 
11.   Is a USB condenser mic enough or a mixer with XLR output required?
A mixer is not required,  all you need is an audio interface.  Connect the audio interface to your laptop/computer via USB port.  Headphones and microphone (XLR) go into the audio interface and their volume levels can be set there.  Configure  your recording software (for eg: Audacity) to point to the USB port for input (mic) and output (headphones).  Initially, adjust the audio interface settings  so that your recorded waveform is of optimal length from crest to trough. This is called metering.
12.  How is the recording room setup?
For the recording room, choose a room that does not have natural echo.  Hang some blankets on the walls to dampen. Or use a large sponge pad behind the microphone. 

1 comment:

sateesh gowda said...

Hello madam - Thanks a lot for your valuable inputs