Picture this: you’re a major label artist on a global tour selling out arenas every night. Your last album has been sitting in the Billboard Hot 100 for nearly a year now and has received a handful of awards.
One night after a show, you think of a melody that would be the perfect hook for your next single. You don’t have studio time booked for a few months and it’s just a simple melody, so you’re worried you’ll forget it by then. You want to record it quickly but your laptop and mobile recording setup is back at the hotel. What do you do?
For several big artists, this situation is a common one. They don’t sweat it. They break out their iPhone, open a new Voice Memo, and record their idea.
Some of those even make it to the final studio session – using the built-in microphone. But how could you possibly get a good enough recording that way?
Voice Memo Vocals
Voice memos are a convenient way to quickly record something, especially when you’re in a situation where you don’t have access to a more robust option. But to get a good quality voice memo, there are still some precautions you should be taking.
First, don’t clip the microphone. People are used to getting their mouth right up to the phone to talk as they would on a call. We’ve been doing it that way for years – it’s a conditioned habit.
But for voice memos, backing away from the microphone or ever recording as if you were having a conversation on speakerphone is best.
The mic in your phone is super sensitive – it will capture your voice from a few feet away, especially in a quiet environment like a hotel room. Don’t feel as though you need to sing directly into it. This is especially true for those with louder voices.
As far as the frequency spectrum goes – the built-in mic on recent phones are incredibly balanced. Recent iPhones have a low-end roll-off below about 50 – 60 Hz and are smooth up through about 15 kHz, with the exception of the iPhone X, which starts dropping off a bit earlier (around 10 kHz).
Even without the higher frequencies as present, they’re super capable of capturing a clear and detailed vocal recording.
Stepping Up Your Quality
If your built-in mic isn’t cutting it, consider carrying a small mobile mic with you. There are a few pocket-sized options from companies like Rode, Shure & IK Multimedia that are perfect for keeping with you for when inspiration hits and you need a portable studio option.
While none of these mics will boast quite the same studio-quality results you’d get from their higher-end products, they’re surprisingly effective when recording into your phone.
You also have access to other vocal processing apps like GarageBand that allow you to do some post-processing and mixing of your vocals right on the phone itself. There are producers and musicians today making full productions right in these apps that are seeing huge success without ever stepping foot inside of a recording studio.
Using Mobile Vocals In Your Mixes
If you choose to use your mobile vocals in a final mix, there’s even more flexibility with them once they’re on your computer. Once you’ve gotten your mobile vocals into a full-feature DAW, you can use powerful dynamic processors and vocal chains to really dial them in.
Things like compression, EQ, and saturation are what make professionally recorded vocals sound so great and these same resources are available to mixers at any level using plugins.
You’ll be able to craft a more controlled, balanced vocal than you’d ever think possible with something that was recorded with your phone – just give it a shot.
Mobile vocals react to these processors the same way a studio-recorded vocal would. High-pass filters will still clean up any low-end rumble your microphone may have picked up and compressors will help balance out any dynamic peaks in the signal.
Vocal Production Resources
A great vocal is so much more than the recording itself. You need to understand the concepts that help accentuate lead vocals and help them reach their full potential.
For musicians & mixers who don’t have quite the same experience as a professional vocal producer, we’ve summed up many of the common practices and processes in our eBook, The Ultimate Vocal Producer’s Handbook.