Inside the Box with Joe Albano: Monitoring for Vocal Recording
Hello all, and welcome to our new column, where each month we’ll take a look at a different topic related to DAW-based audio/music production. Since the theme of this issue is vocal recording, I’ll start things off with a discussion of monitoring considerations when recording vocals in your favorite DAW.
At the most basic level, recording vocals in a DAW is pretty straightforward—once the best mic is selected and set up, the DAW metering for the vocal channel strip is set to Input Monitoring (to make sure it reflects the actual incoming level from the vocal mic before any software processing), and the level is set to peak at around -6dBFS—then you’re ready to hit Record, and let the vocalist have a go at it.
But of course, the devil is in the details. One of those details is the monitor mix the performer hears in their headphones while recording or overdubbing. The vocalist’s monitor mix (the ‘cue mix’) is of critical importance—after all, every note sung and every subtle aspect of the performance is based on what the vocalist hears in the headphones while recording—yet the monitor/cue mix is often given short shrift in the hustle and bustle of setting up for a vocal session. With the proper attention, a good cue mix can make a significant difference in the resulting recording.