12 Creative and Unusual Vocal Recording Techniques

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Recording vocals is an art form that can be taken to the next level by thinking creatively. While standard microphone techniques like close miking are effective, trying out unconventional placements and approaches can capture unique vocal tones and deliver exceptional performances.

In this post, we will explore creative miking tricks, unconventional microphone choices, and innovative vocal recording methods to inspire you.

The key is to be open to breaking the rules and trying something new. Approaching vocals with an experimental mindset can lead to serendipitous discoveries and breathtaking sounds.

So, let go of your preconceived notions, unleash your creativity, and let’s create some vocal magic!

Mic Placement

One of the simplest ways to get creative with vocals is to experiment with microphone placement. Small changes can have a huge impact on the tone and character of the voice.

Hanging Mics Upside Down

You’ve probably seen photos of vintage tube mics hung upside down for vocals. While this was originally done for technical reasons, it can create a unique sound.

The upward angle encourages singers to lift their chin and open their throat for a bigger, more resonant tone. It also prevents plosives from going right into the mic. Give your next vocal track an old-school vibe by flipping that mic around!

Off-Axis Placement

Angling the mic off-axis is a great way to tame sibilance and plosives. But taking this to extremes, like facing the mic 90 degrees sideways, can add a cool lo-fi or telephone-like effect. Get creative with off-axis angles for a more colored, unique vocal sound.

Unconventional Distances

While close-miking around 6 inches is standard, very close or very distant miking can also work. Try positioning the mic only an inch away to emphasize the detail and proximity effect.

Or go the opposite route with a distance of 6 feet or more for a roomy, ambient vocal. The key is finding the sweet spot for your particular voice and song.

Microphone Choices

While large diaphragm condensers are the go-to for vocals, don’t be afraid to try some less conventional options. The microphone you use can dramatically influence the tone and vibe of the vocals.

Beyond Typical Vocal Mics

Ribbon mics are known for their smooth, warm sound that can add richness to vocals. Dynamic mics like the Shure SM7B have a tighter, more focused character that controls sibilance. Even vintage mics like the Neumann U47 can impart that retro tube magic.

Mics Not Meant for Vocals

Some of the best vocal sounds come from “misusing” mics. Try a dynamic guitar amp mic like the Shure SM57 for an aggressive rock sound.

A small diaphragm condenser drum overhead mic can provide air and detail. Getting creative with your mic selection can deliver exciting results.

Blending Multiple Mics

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You’re not limited to one mic – blend multiple models to take advantage of their different characteristics.

Pair a neutral condenser with a colored ribbon mic, or mix a dynamic with a condenser. With the right balance you can achieve the best of both worlds.

Performance Approaches

In addition to microphone tricks, encouraging singers to perform in unconventional ways can also yield exciting results. Getting vocalists out of the booth and into more interactive scenarios can bring out passionate performances.

Singing in Odd Spaces

Have singers perform in stairwells, hallways, bathrooms, or other odd acoustic spaces. The unique reverb and resonance can impart a cool tone or ambience. Just be sure to monitor the levels – standing waves in small spaces can cause clipping.

Layering Vocal Effects

Capture whispers, shouts, breathing, laughs – anything that adds human elements. Fly these in underneath the main vocal or blend them using automation for interest and dynamics.

Face-to-Face Singing

When recording harmonies or doubles, have the vocalists face each other rather than the mic. The intimacy can bring out emotion and character. You’ll capture some bleed, but that can enhance the blend.

The key is encouraging experimentation and not being afraid to try unusual things. You might stumble upon something magical!

Creative Effects

In addition to mics and performance, don’t overlook creative use of effects processing and vocal plugins when recording vocals. From reverbs to pitch shifters, some wild sound design can take things to the next level.

Interesting Reverb Spaces

Plate, spring, and chamber reverbs impart a retro vibe. More experimental spaces like tunnels, metal tanks, or stairwells offer unique resonances. Get creative with your reverb routing for atmosphere.

Pitch Shifting Doubles

Use pitch shift plugins like Antares Autotune to double vocals an octave up or down. You can also create vocal harmonies by setting specific intervals. This saves having to record separate takes.

Distortion, Filtering, Modulation

A bit of distortion or amp simulation can add grit and character. Slow filters opening up over time build energy. Chorus, flange and phase effects create movement and thickness.

The goal is to think beyond standard vocal processing like compression and EQ. Anything that elicits a “how did they do that?” reaction takes the listener on a journey.

Conclusion

There’s no need to play it safe when it comes to vocal recording. You can capture breathtaking vocal tones with an experimental mindset, creative mic placement, unusual microphone choices, and innovative effects.

The key points are to try new things, use unconventional techniques, and not be afraid to fail.

Embrace the happy accidents and channel your inner mad scientist. Who knows – you might create something extraordinary. So be bold, break some rules, and transform your vocal tracks from standard to spectacular.

The only limit is your imagination. Don’t be afraid to color outside the lines and watch your vocals come alive. Thinking outside the box can truly capture those amazing, one-of-a-kind vocal sounds.

Now get creative and see what you can dream up!

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