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Basically, whenever I produce a song, I tend to record two simultaneous lines of vocals, with some distortion added. This sounds pretty good, but I really don't know how to make a single line of vocals without distortion sound good in a mix.

I always hear songs with a single line of vocals, with this crisp, clear sound, and I just don't know how to do that without distortion and/or a second line of vocals.

I use Logic Pro X. How can I get the crisp, clear sound with a single line of vocals that I hear in most songs today? Keep in mind, I'm okay with still using distortion.

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    We'd probably need at least a gear list, but the other consideration is you're suffering a bit of John Lennon-ism… he hated the sound of his own voice, which is why it's always doubled or echoed or in a 2-part. – Tetsujin Oct 21 '20 at 14:08
  • @Tetsujin IMPO, the gear doesn't matter very much. – Todd Wilcox Oct 21 '20 at 14:09
  • If I had the patience or inclination, I could drop you a track simultaneously recorded on my Neewer BM700 & my Neumann U87, so you could compare :P [You know, I ought to actually do that so I've got a permanent reference… not the worst idea…] I have actually done perfectly useable vox on an SM58, so I kind of agree with you. – Tetsujin Oct 21 '20 at 14:10
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    @Tetsujin Since the vocals for the best-selling album of all time (Thriller) were recorded on an SM-7, and two multiplatinum albums from Alanis Morissette were recorded on 16 bit and 20 bit ADAT (Jagged Little Pill and Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, respectively), I feel like the songs and the production work always are more important than the gear. Personally, my best recordings and mixes have not been the result of my using the best gear, but by my recording the best musicians with the most knowledge and experience and creativity. – Todd Wilcox Oct 21 '20 at 14:23
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    If you are comfortable uploading a raw vocal take with no backing tracks that doesn't sound the way you want it to, that would help us better understand your challenges. – Todd Wilcox Oct 21 '20 at 20:00
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Of course you could copy the track and add distortion to the copy and now you have a distorted copy. Personally I would not use the words "crisp" and "clear" to describe vocals that have any distortion on them.

As with most things, the best way to get a great vocal mix is to start with a great vocal recording. When pro tracks have clarity and transparency and high quality sound for a part, that's usually because of the recording engineer and the recording quality, not because of the mix.

The most popular way to mix vocals (and therefore what you're probably hearing) is to EQ the vocals to flatter them, use one or two stages of light compression, and then automate the volume levels to keep the vocals in the right place in the mix. Some non-pros might try finding a compression that prevents the need to automate, but there really is no substitute for fader automation on vocals.

Oh yeah, don't be afraid to aggressively high-pass vocals. Depending on the mix you might even get away with a high pass at 300 Hz. Just listen for the body of the voice and make sure you don't cut that out.

Depending on the song, some vocals may be hyper-compressed to get that very up-front sound. Even with that, automation is often still necessary to keep the vocals sitting right.

Even on tracks where I'm using a single reverb for all the instruments, I find giving the lead vocals their own reverb send helps keep the vocals on top of the mix. Pre-delay greater than 50 ms usually helps keep the vocals from being stuck in the back of the room by reverb, as well as making sure you don't wet them down too much. After that it depends on the track in terms of the right kind and amount of reverb.

As I mentioned at the top, none of that is likely to clarify a muddy recording. If the original recording isn't popping, it's going to be very hard to make it something it's not.


If you want to know how to record clear vocals, then having a very quiet room and getting the right mic position are probably the two biggest ingredients. Also the singer and their voice and tone and articulation are important here. A few singers I've worked with have always sounded muffled - I never figured out why that was or if there was anything they could change about how they sang to fix that.

Regarding mic position, definitely know your polar pickup pattern and make sure the mic is being addressed properly. Pointing the mic at the nose (for a brighter sound) or at the throat (for a deeper sound) can work better than right at the mouth in some cases.

It helps to know/assess the singer and also think forward toward the whole production to get an effective vocal recording. But if there's one track in most songs that all the other tracks have to play along with, it's the vocals. By that, I mean you can take a lot of artistic license with recording vocals, especially if you record everything else so that it works well with the way you recorded the vocals.

Don't place the mic too close or too far from the singer. Using your ears and experience is the best guide here, but closer than 6" should be rare, and farther than 24" would also be a bit unusual. If you're making muffled recordings, you might have the mic too close to the singer.

I almost always have the bass roll-off (high pass) turned on at the mic and/or preamp for voice. Even supposedly "deep" voices don't need those low frequencies.

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  • I think this is a great anwere. I especially agree on the point that a good recording will have the most influence on the quality. I always say that with all that mixing you can only make the good sounding side of the audio stand out and make the bad sounding side become less noticeable, but you can not really turn bad sounding to good sounding. As you already mentioned in the comments, an example recording of OP would help to give more specific help and adress the specific problems OP is having. – Olli Oct 22 '20 at 10:40

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