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Record and Mix Pro-Sounding Vocals with Spire Studio

by Charley Ruddell, iZotope Contributor July 31, 2019
Record vocals easily with Spire Studio

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The difference between a good vocal take and a great vocal take is a subtle dose of magic. Not only do singers have to sweat the technical stuff—pitch, breathing, nailing rhythms—but they also have to convince the listener of the story they’re trying to tell. 

Confidence matters, and it can impact your voice

A simple way to set yourself up for an awesome vocal session is to approach it with confidence. 

Coming in confident will not only provide you with a session full of energy, but it will physically open up your chest and throat when you sing. It’s also vital not to beat yourself up when you’re not getting the take you want. Embrace the repetition and believe the story you’re trying to tell.

When doing a DIY vocal recording, or in this case a Spire Studio recording, there are some important engineering aspects to consider. First, a lead vocal should be strong and centered in the mix, while background vocals should be panned and wet––think more effected or ambient, like reverb, delay, or chorus effects. You’ll also want a solid mix amongst your instruments before you begin your vocal production. 

Recording great vocals with Spire Studio is as simple as plugging in your mic and pressing record. However, there are a couple of things you’ll need for standard vocal production: a good mic, a pop filter (or a crafty alternative), and the appropriate cables. With all of your gear set up and a comfortable space to be creative, let’s break down a best practice for making your vocals sound awesome in Spire Studio.

Vocals matter, but don't forget your instruments!

1. Mix your instruments

To ensure a comfortable and confident vocal session, start by getting a solid instrumental mix. Make sure the rhythm section feels tight and balanced, and try to leave space between your guitars, synths, or other instruments so as not to crowd the center lead vocal. 

Let’s follow the example below all the way down the line. 

In this mix, the bass and drums are nearly centered. The two rhythm guitar parts are panned both right and left, and the third guitar is panned right of center. 

Instrumental mix in the Spire App’s Visual Mixer

2. Capture lead vocal

Next, you’ll want to try to capture your lead vocal. Set up your mic and pop filter, and try to find a noise-contained environment. 

An ideal lead vocal EQ has the deep low end rolled off, a nice crispy high end, and a sturdy mid-low end. Because there are no EQ settings outside of the Spire Recording Effects on Spire Studio, most of the EQ will be controlled by the mic you’re using and its placement. You’ll also want a touch of reverb for the vocal to sit comfortably in the mix. Try using one of the Spaces; Warm Voice is a top choice for lead vocals. If you’re searching for a totally dry vocal sound, try using the Bass Amp simulator. Dry vocals in a mix can use a touch of saturation or drive to fatten up their sound.

Take a breath: Remember that patience is key in this step; if you find yourself getting frustrated, just take a few breaths, or step away for a minute. Repetition and confidence will get you the take you want.

When you find the take you want, place it in the center of the mix. Adjust accordingly to your instruments. You’ll want it to sit just above the drums in the volume spectrum.

Vocal mix in the Spire App’s Visual Mixer

3. Record background vocals

Background vocals are the secret sauce in making your lead vocal pop. You’ll want your background vocals to be wet, panned, and with slightly less high end than your lead; approaching backgrounds with an offset EQ from your lead is usually a best practice in vocal production. 

The Acoustic Shaper Space is great for backgrounds because of its ample space and softer high end. Try recording two different background tracks using the Acoustic Shaper and pan each vocal on either side and slightly below the volume threshold of your lead vocal.

Pro tip: Find isolated phrases in your lead that you feel are important and have your backgrounds either double or harmonize the phrase. In a more beefy section, simple “oo’s” and “ah’s” work like a keyboard to fill up space.

Listen in the example below to how the backgrounds complement the lead. Notice their placement as well.

Conclusion

Confidence, repetition, and mix balance are all vital to making your vocals sound awesome in Spire Studio. Remember when mixing to get a solid instrumental mix first, then add your lead vocal, and then layer in your backgrounds. Use Spire’s Spaces as a tool to make your vocals wet and comfortably EQ’d. Happy writing.  

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