So, you've got a mic set up, the vocalist has been rehearsing and everything seems fine, yet you feel that the results still could be better. Here are a couple of things you could want to consider.
TRY OUT DIFFERENT MICS
It's dead simple - there is no guarantee that your “best” mic will always work for every singer and every style of music. Sometimes a less expensive mic will actually do a better job.
When warming up, set up a few different microphones that you think may work for the singer and test them out. There will definitely be times when a large diaphragm condenser will be the obvious choice, but sometimes you'll find that dynamic mic suits the vocalist and the song better, especially if it's a heavier rock song and a more abrasive vocalist.
Be sure to show the vocalist the differences in the tone and choose the best sounding mic together. The vocalist will have the best idea of how their voice should sound and which microphone works best for the project.
SET THE ROOM TEMPERATURE
Room temperature is a very important factor when recording. If the room is too cold, the vocalist will tend to get more tense and will not be able to relax as much as necessary.
If the room is too hot, it will become hard to concentrate and it will also make it harder to breathe, which will, in turn, diminish the performance as well. Try to get the tracking room up to optimal temperature before the session so that it does not change during tracking, which may also result in a poor performance.
If the tracking room has air conditioning, make sure that it's not turned up very high, as it dries the air and makes it harder for the singer to keep the throat hydrated.
When you're starting the session, ask the vocalist if the room temperature is good and adjust as necessary. A vocalist that feels good will deliver tracks that sound good.
KEEP THE VOCALIST HYDRATED
Hydration is vocalist’s best ally. Make sure that you have water, or even better, tea available in the studio. Musicians will often forget to bring water to vocal sessions, so you have to think ahead of them.
Tea is good for more than just drinking - it makes steam that can be inhaled to directly moisturize the vocal cords and revitalize the voice very effectively.
Make sure to keep vocalists away from drinking anything with sugar or dairy to keep the voice clear of any unnecessary mucus that will make the voice sound weird and not clear.
TRY TO GET LONGER TAKES
This is super important - unless totally necessary, try to record longer takes and not punch in every line separately. Longer takes will preserve the feel of the vocals a lot better than a heavily compiled take.
It's also easier for the singer to not get caught up on a specific word or phrase when redoing a tiny section of the par a bunch of times. It's much harder for a singer to punch in a specific phrase and retain the same emotional content they have when singing the song as a whole.
Keep recording longer takes and compile later, if needed. If you still feel that you need to punch in a couple of spots, do it after the main vocal tracks are laid down and you know exactly what you need.
Also, when punching in, start recording earlier to get the vocalist already singing before the punch-in for a cleaner take that will glue with the rest of the performance. This will also help to keep words at the necessary length, as punching in separately might lead to some words being too long if the next line is not taken into consideration.
DON'T PLAY BACK THE RAW TRACKS
Vocalists rarely like to hear their voice unprocessed, as it makes them feel very exposed - almost everyone feels weird hearing their voice coming from somewhere else other than their mouth.
Have at least some compression and vocal sweetening going on when you play back the recorded vocals, like delay or reverb. Also make sure that the levels are good so that the vocals sit well with the music.
If you have the skill or technical ability, use pitch-correction software to smooth out the biggest pitch deviations if there are any. Be quick though, don't make the vocalist wait on you - this has to be seamless. Hearing back a smooth vocal track that sounds good will give the vocalist a lot more confidence rather than hearing a dry, uncompressed vocal that magnifies all of their flaws.
Vocals are a very emotional part of the recording process and the human body is a very complex system. Using these quick tips will help you deal with the less obvious problems you might encounter when recording vocals. Sometimes these things impact the performance and the outcome way more than having a great signal chain.