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Recording and EQ’ing Rap Vocals

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So when recording Rap / Hip Hop / RnB vocals, there’s a different technique then rock vocals. Rap is usually more of a spoken word type of singing, which gives a different set of  qualities that you have to plan for. As it’s not as pronounced as opera singing, where the vocalist is belting out a range of notes with a full voice.

Most rapping is done at normal speaking volume which means you need to have more of gain on the mic which leads to more noise, hiss and EQ inconsistencies, which need to be evened out. When recording rap vocals, I like to keep the gain down a bit so that the voice peaks around -15db to -10db. You can always raise the volume but you can’t remove clipping once it’s recorded.

Once the main track is recorded, I like to re-record it at least one or two more times so that I can do any editing needed, or pan the backing tracks hard left and right with the volume down just a bit to give depth and range without duplicating the master track.

After having the tracks recorded, I have a setup that I normally run for all vocals. Basically start the mastering with compression, I always start with compression to even out any volume changes that happened during recording.  After evening out the track, I add just a bit of EQ to help cut off some of the bass frequencies, for mixing in the future. Depending on the voice, I may cut out some mids and boost the highs to add some presence and shimmer. I then like to use a plugin I found that processes the sound as tho it’s going thru a tube amplifier, which helps to fatten the sound and give it more of a natural harmonic balance, which I feel you just don’t get from digital audio.

The final touch I add is just a bit of reverb, just enough to give it some “space” so that you can only tell its on when the vocal track is soloed but not when the vocals are added to the beat, I feel that it gives “life” to the voice and makes it feel like it’s in the room with you instead of in your face jutting out of the speakers.

From what I’ve been playing with, this gives me an even tone that I can add the vocals to the underlying beat and then master further to even everything out sonicly.

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