I have a feeling that I'm recording my vocals wrong. They always seem to come out cheap sounding and staticy. I simply use my SM58 on a stand plugged into my USB interface, but I watched some videos where they have dishes and things attached to the microphones and was wondering if there's a better way to record.
You're not doing it wrong per say, but it's not how you'd normally do it. Most studios'd use a LDC and cut it down if it was too big of a vocal sound. With the 58 you're limiting yourself a bit. Also since the 58 is normally a live use mic I think there's a bit of pop protection in there anyway *note I could be making that up completely*
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Last edited by ChemicalFire at Mar 10, 2012,
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Also since the 58 is normally a live use mic I think there's a bit of pop protection in there anyway *note I could be making that up completely*

the grill on the sm58 protects against saliva but not really against plosives so you are kinda right
LDCs aren't strictly necessary, but if you're using a dynamic, it should be one with a wider frequency response, like an Electro-Voice RE20, Shure SM7B or Heil PR-40. The SM58 is a really terrible mic for recording.
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You know how in higher-end restaurants, they will have a collection of wines, and the maitre d' will be able to tell you which wines will go best with which meals?

Mic selection works the same way. Some singers - not many, mind you - will sound fantastic with an SM58 thrown in front of them. I've only experienced that once. My 58 is honestly my last-resort mic - even after my Behringer ECM8000's. Most singers - not all, mind you - will sound fantastic (or as fantastic as they're going to sound) when you throw a U87 in front of them. I don't know sh!t about wine, but I'm guessing that would be the equivalent of saying that you can serve Dom Perignon with anything. That's one of the reasons that, like that bottle of Dom, the U87 is so expensive. (not even close to a Sony c800G, but the last time I spent that kind of money on anything, I drove it home...)

This is not to suggest that you need an expensive mic. My Rode NT1 did me for ten years. But I am suggesting that different mics will flatter different voices more than other mics, regardless of price range.

Another factor is the quality of your preamp. A cheap preamp will make even that Sony microphone sound... well, it won't sound cheap, but it won't sound like an $8000 mic. A cheap preamp won't do any favours to an SM58. You mention a USB interface, but that could mean anything. What exactly are you plugging the mic into in order to get it into your computer?

Another factor is something called "gain staging." This is, effectively, finding the best balance between how hard to drive the mic with how hard to drive the preamp, and this ratio will vary with every combination of mic and preamp. Some mics, like an SM7 want a TON of gain on the preamp before they really start to flower. Others will go all clippy even at moderate levels. A tube preamp will generally like to work when given lots of gain - kinda like a tube amp. (a good preamp, btw, will not introduce distortion with gain until you start clipping it, which you don't want to do, probably). Solid State preamps, particularly quiet ones, do just fine with low gain levels. You can always turn that track up in the mix, right?

Where gain-staging becomes tricky is when you have something that wants lots of gain like an SM7 matched with a solid state preamp that performs better at low gain levels. Solution = muck with it until you find a good sound. Static is usually either a bad cable, or something being clipped somewhere in the chain - the mic, the preamp, the converters, etc.

Another factor is diaphragm size. Larger diaphragms will offer that larger than life sound and will typically be described as having more "character." Smaller diaphragms will be more accurate. Don't be swayed by "flat response" and things like that. You look at a frequency response curve for some of the most expensive mics, and they are NOT flat. That "not flat"-ness is the character they impart, and it is that character that people are willing to spend big bucks on. You don't pay big money for a Les Paul because it has a good balance of tone across the frequency range - you buy it because it sounds like a f**king Les Paul! Same thing with mics. (and preamps!) By comparison, the most accurate mics in my collection are a pair of Behringer ECM8000's. Their frequency response curve is more accurate than any other mic on the market until you start hitting the $3000 range. They are small-diaphragm condensers (no surprise). They were about $40/ea. I rarely use them, but even though I have better choices, I'm reluctant to part with them. They may well, because of their accuracy, be just the right wine for the right meal at some point.

Microphone types make a difference, but not as much as you might think. The SM7 is a dynamic mic with a large diaphragm. It was used to record the lead vocals on the Thriller album. It's a wonderful sounding vocal mic - but remember, not for every singer. However, a condenser mic is a more "standard" choice for vocals. They tend to more airy and open sounding, and are more sensitive to transients and dynamics. Dynamic mics introduce a little bit of natural compression to what you're recording, (a function of the physics that determine how they operate) which may or may not be desirable.

Placement makes a difference. You know how if you take a small speaker, like a headphone speaker and put it up close to your ear, you can hear more bass? This is called proximity effect, and the same thing happens with many microphones - particularly dynamic microphones. The closer you get to them, the more the lower frequencies get boosted. This is why most radio stations use large diaphragm dynamic mics and have their DJ's get up close. That's how they get that "big radio announcer" voice - a combination of proximity effect and a large-diaphragm dynamic mic.

Moving back from the mic means you will hear more of your room. For most people, that's not a positive, because they haven't treated their rooms with acoustic treatment. So, for most people, they will get up nice and close to their mic, but not too close. (especially on a dynamic mic)

Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

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