Tips & Tricks

 

Using a Wasaphone Lo-Fi Microphone to add depth and character to a vocal

 

Vocals...the centerpiece of most rock and pop productions. The instrument used to sell the song's main asset: the melody. Get it right and you can mercilessly ram home any emotion and reduce your listener to a quivering puddle of tears; get it wrong and you can bring an otherwise perfectly good production crashing down; get it alright and it'll sound just fine.

There is so much scope to add huge dollops of character to your track by mixing your process up a bit. Don't just settle for some standard EQ-ing, compression, reverb and/or delay. Think BIG! Go wild! Relatively subtle tweaks to the vocal sound can really elevate a production, sending it upwards and smashing the glass ceiling en route out of the building. Start to think beyond your comfort zone. One example could be sending your uncompressed lead vocal to an auxiliary (aux) bus, adding a gate so that only the loudest parts of the vocal comes through on the aux channel, and applying a crisp reverb focused on the higher-frequencies (3-10kHz and beyond). You could even think about 'riding' a delay on the aux channel to add further character to the signal from the aux channel. With the right singer, this technique is likely to set you on your way to achieving a vocal sound with a strong and authoritative foundation, and a floating and airy top-end, all the while preventing any reverby-artifacts from clogging up the slightly murkier low frequencies of the vocal. 

Now, maybe you've been fiddling for hours, days, weeks or months and you've still not found the sound. You been through your library of plugins, tried different combinations, and created and deleted numerous aux buses.  I'm pretty sure we've all been there. You can really start to question the purpose of existence...seasons have passed you by without notice...children you forgot you had have brought the neighbourhood whippersnappers round to gawp and heckle at the "craggy man in the shed". Looks like they've forgotten who you are too. More fool them...means you can agonise over this for as L-O-N-G as you want.

It's starting to occur to you that perhaps you won't get the sound you can hear in your increasingly fussy mind's ear just by using software plugins this time. You've felt the feeling creeping in, but you really don't want to have to get up and start having to fiddle with actual, real life equipment.

DO IT. Start to think about hardware and how that can take your sound to the next level. Apart from anything else, it's so much more fun and rewarding to chase the perfect sound using tangible, touchable things to get you to the top of the hill.

Where does a lo-fi microphone come into this?
 

Wasaphone microphones have a sonic focus on the 1-3kHz area of the frequency spectrum. This means that the character of the microphone is defined in a large way by those frequencies.

To liven up your vocal sound, try re-amping your main vocal take and re-record it with a Wasaphone microphone. The result will be a version of exactly the same take, but with an entirely different complexion. This can then be blended with the lead vocal and panned off to one side for added definition. This however, is just the entrance to a very long and enchanting rabbit hole. Look at the equipment you've got to hand - what can you make best use of? Think about what you're using to re-amp the original vocal. Could you add more character by using a distorted guitar amp instead of studio monitors and recording it with a Wasaphone set 3-6ft back from the amp's speaker cabinet? Could you re-amp the lead vocal through a cleaner guitar amp but soaked in spring reverb for a haunting ambience? Take the ambient version and try setting that back in the mix and spreading it across the stereo spectrum using a stereo widener like Soundtoys' incredible MicroShift. If you're feeling really adventurous, ask the singer to sing another version of the lead vocal using a Wasaphone lo-fi microphone as the main recording microphone. Be sure to play their original take to them through their headphones whilst they're recording the double. Again, add some reverb and set that back in the mix and take a listen.

The options are bountiful. Having a lo-fi microphone in your mic cupboard allows you to start thinking about new ways to build an interesting (and perhaps altogether unique) sound for your vocal. By dedicating such care and thought to the sound of the vocals, the production as a whole will shine brighter.