So my brothers band is going into the studio in a months time at studio 6 to record their 2nd EP. I'm going round my brothers tomorrow to help him with the pre-production for his vocal tracks.
All I was going to bring was my mixer and laptop, mic and XLR lead and a couple of pairs of headphones, should I need anything more?
Haven't recorded vocals before as of yet, is there anything more I should need to do other than add a bit of compression, reverb and duck the mids in the mix to make room for his vocals?
Bearing in mind it's just scratch stuff to get ideas down.
This is their soundcloud by the way should anyway care to check them out:
...has embedding soundcloud always been impossible on here by the way lol? Everyone seems to be able to do it but me
I mean, HUGE can of worms here. I'd counter that NOTHING in mixing is as simple as "just add X, Y, X, and do W to the rest of the mix."
I'm going to go with the assumption that, while this is just for scratch track demo work, you DO care how the results come out; if you don't, then don't worry about it, just focus on capturing the melody lines and arrangements and whatnot and worry about getting them to sound great in the studio. But, assuming you want them to come out at least semi-polished....
- "plosives" are a big problem while recording - "p" sounds tend to really "pop" and kind of blow up in the mic. You generally record through a pop filter to eliminate this, which stops the sharp exhalation of air from hitting the mic diaphram and causing it to kind of, well, "pop" in sound. If you have one, great; if not, do a net search and there's a ton of DIY plans to make pop filters out of clothes hangers and panty hose.
- spend some time experimenting before you track. Are you familiar with "proximity effect"? Basically, most mics that exhibit proximity effect (and most do, other than ribbon mics) get a more pronounced bass and low end as they get closer to the source - say, in the closest two inches. Depending on the source you're recording (it can be awesome for guitar cabs, for instance) this can really help, but yuour vocalist will likely sound different within an inch or so of the mic than they will if they're singing from 4-5" away. Try them both, see what sits better, and look at mic proximity as a source of tone shaping.
- also experiment with location within the room. More likely than not, if your room has a long axis, you're going to want your singer singing down the length of the room. Try maybe 1/3 of the way from the closest wall, facing down the remaining 2/3. This will help with phase cancellation from reflections in the room. That said, experiment. Sometimes, something "wrong" can sound absolutely awesome and add some cool color.
I'm not gonna try to bullet point this, but in general, think about the problems you're trying to solve. A vocal performance, unless your singer has KILLER mic technique, is likely going to be incredibly dynamically uneven. You can try to fix this with compression, but you might be better off using volume automation pre-compressor. There are also plugins that do this for you - Waves' "Vocal Rider," for one. A pre-FX fader envelope to fix the worst of the problems, then a limiter to take off any extreme peaks, can do a lot to "shape" the vocals into something a little more steady-state.
After that, philosophically, I've always thought the human voice is the one thing you have to handle with baby mittens while mixing. Very few people have ever been in a room with a guitar amp, or a live drum kit, or a bass guitar, and heard it in isolation in its natural element, if you will. EVERYONE has heard someone sing, and knows what a voice sounds like. If you're going to do anything to fundamentally change a voice, you've gotta be pretty damned sure you're really adding something and it's an effect you can get away with.
There's a couple different things you can try on compression - you'll almost certainly need to compress, given the fact that the vocals will almost certainly be dynamically uneven even after some automation, and it may help "fatten" up the sound of the voice. I'd try either a soft "opto" style compressor with a relatively low threshold - these tend to sound very transparent - or possibly try parallel compression, having two (identical) tracks of vocals, one with audible compression and one with little to none, and then blend the two to taste, so you get a balance of dynamics and transients but also "sustain" and presence in the mix.
After that... I mean, it's just like mixing anything else. Listen for EQ conflicts, and adjust the vocals and the other instrumentation to get everything to sit together. You may want some 'verb, but you may not - reverb adds distance and ambience, which you may not want much of in a heavy mix, and you'll be recording in a relatively "live" sounding, untreated room, I suspect, so you may have TOO much ambience. And nothing is as simple as just cutting some midrange from everything else to make something else sit; a high pass used subtly to lop off the low end may help the vocals sit better, but over and above that I wouldn't make any other EQ decisions until you've heard what's working and what's not.
For now, if you're serious about trying to get a "decent" sounding recording, just spend a lot of time during tracking, and expect to have to do some volume automation and REALLY careful compression. If you're not and just want to get ideas down, then don't overthink it, and maybe just throw an opto compressor on a limiter setting at them in the mix, to get them pretty steady state, simply so they balance more consistently against the instrumentation.