Vocal tracks are often the loudest, most prominent part of your mix.

They’re the one element in music production that artists of all genres agree deserves special care and attention.

But what really makes a great vocal track? The singer and performance are crucial, but there’s another key factor that goes into all great vocal recordings.

Here’s my hard truth for today: there’s no substitute for the right mic—especially when recording vocals.

Good microphone choice often means the difference between a smooth mix process and a frustrating struggle.

It sounds tough, but it’s not meant to be discouraging. If you know what’s at stake and the issues that matter most, you’ll never worry about mic choice again.

Vocal recording is demanding on your gear

Getting the biggest, clearest and most powerful vocal sound puts a lot of pressure on your gear.

In a pro studio you’ll be singing inside an acoustically treated vocal booth. If you’re recording at home you’ll be using the DIY version.

This type of environment ensures that your vocal tracks don’t have any extra noise or boomy room sound to distract from the singer.

Getting the biggest, clearest and most powerful vocal sound puts a lot of pressure on your gear.

And if you want that larger-than-life studio sound, you’ll want to take advantage of the proximity effect by singing up close to the mic.

Under those conditions, there’s nothing between you and your microphone to alter your sound.

When you’re recording an instrument or a synth you can easily change the tone you use or the position of the microphone to get a different sound.

But when it comes to vocals the only tools you have are your own voice and the natural tone of your mic.

If the mic you choose doesn’t compliment your sound, it’ll be obvious right away as you listen under the microscope.

Unfortunately, those negative effects only get worse during your mix.

Mixing tools only go so far

You might think compression and EQ plugins are all you need to rescue a bad vocal recording.

But relying on these methods instead of fixing the root of the problem will add hours to your workflow.

It’s true that you can improve the sound of a raw vocal with EQ and compression—especially when it comes to making it fit into the mix.

But you can never completely change the fundamental features that come from the tone of the singer’s voice, the environment where you recorded, and the qualities of your microphone.

Music production tech is getting more sophisticated by the day. Problems that used to be considered impossible are easy to overcome for modern producers.

But even when these advanced solutions can help, getting it right the first time always sounds better and more musical.

You can’t go back in time to change the microphone

After a great performance from a great vocalist, the biggest factor in a good vocal sound is the microphone.

Each mic has a unique character that can compliment a singer’s voice when chosen well—or cause problems when it’s not the right fit.

Think of the sonic differences between a dynamic mic, a ribbon mic and a large diaphragm condenser. Engineers use each microphone type in different situations to get the best results.

The same concept applies to vocal microphones.

Matching the microphone to the singer is one of the most important jobs in vocal production. But getting it right is easier said than done.

Matching the microphone to the singer is one of the most important jobs in vocal production.

It’s too hard to predict how any vocalist will sound until you get them in front of a microphone. When you record your own voice, it’s even more difficult.

The only way to really know is through trial and error. But you can hone in on the right choice by narrowing down your options.

Here’s a helpful quiz from Shure that takes some of the guesswork out of microphone choice.

The right mic makes mixing easy

A great vocal shouldn’t need dozens of inserts to work in a track.

In fact, a well recorded vocal will let the natural sound of your voice speak in the mix—all you should do during vocal mixing is help it along.

Try to imagine how you want your vocals to sound, and what qualities you might need to emphasize in your mix.

With all the unique characteristics that come from your choice of microphone, you can cut your work in half by starting off with the right sound.

The trick is to start thinking about your mix before the vocal recording session even starts.

Try to imagine how you want your vocals to sound, and what qualities you might need to emphasize in your mix.

For example, a bright soaring pop vocal naturally needs lots of high end, while an intimate folk song might call for a warmer, woodier tone.

If you know what you need for your end result you’ll have a much easier time picking the right mic.

Good microphone choice

Too many producers have to learn the hard way when it comes to microphone choice.

If you’ve ever struggled with a vocal that just won’t sit right, you know how important it is to start with good raw materials.

With a little foresight and a solid grip on the basics you can make educated mic choices for a better vocal sound.

Audio LANDR