9 Pro Tips for Recording Rap Vocals

9 Pro Tips for Recording Rap Vocals 9 Pro Tips for Recording Rap Vocals

Every musician should understand the basics behind how to record vocals , but the truth is that there is a lot of variation in the recording process when moving from one genre to the next. Capturing hip hop or rap vocals comes with its own specialized set of considerations due to the nature of any spoken word performance.

Are you hoping to put together some standout rap vocal recordings but don't know where to start? Not to worry! In this guide, we'll share 9 proven tips designed to help you learn how to record rap vocals.

What Do I Need to Record Rap Vocals?

Before diving into the recording process, there are a couple of essential pieces of gear you'll need to have on hand. The main components include recording software, otherwise known as a DAW, on your computer, an audio interface, and a microphone with all the essential accessories. Your dynamic mic or condenser microphone will sit on a microphone stand connected to the audio interface in a typical recording studio setup.

Dynamic microphones tend to work well for rap vocalists since they are highly durable and well-suited for performances packed with changes in volume, tone, and power. Depending on your vocalist's style of rap, you might also opt for a condenser mic instead of a dynamic microphone to capture more detail. Just note that condenser microphones will require Phantom power, though this is usually built into your audio interface.

It's worth noting that every engineer will have their own perspective and recording flow, but we'll outline some of the most vital pieces of knowledge below. You can take in additional tips from creators like Doubt Me Tech , and in time, you'll find you bring your own perspective to the tracking process:

How to Record Rap Vocals: 9 Essential Strategies

Start tracking and mixing rap vocals in your creations with these basic steps:

Cultivating Your Rap Voice

Before you head into the recording studio, you'll want to make sure you have a good idea of your rap voice and your points of delivery throughout the course of your song. You don't want to be reading your lyrics in the studio - a reference sheet is fine, but you should come prepared as though you won't have it, since relying on written raps can distract from your performance.

Make sure to write out ideas for ad libs, points for emphasis, and any other shifts in your tone throughout the piece.

Make Sure the Beat is Catered to Your Voice

Be sure to practice rapping to the instrumental or beat long before you record rap vocals. Even if you're purely rapping and not singing, your rapping voice has some level of tonality. Make sure your voice isn't clashing with the beat and individual components like the lead instruments or drum pattern. Rap music tends to have somewhat sparse production, which means curating a clean mix is that much more important.

Selecting Your Microphone

When you record rap vocals, you're typically choosing between dynamic microphones or condenser microphones. Condenser microphones are the golden studio standard for most if not all types of music, due to their impressive level of clarity.

However, they are highly sensitive and have a bright sound profile. Dynamic microphones by contrast are very sturdy, though you may miss out on some detail you would get with a condenser mic setup.

Find the Right Room

Unwanted noise can easily ruin a recording, so it's important to cultivate the right environment for recording rap vocals. Ideally, you'll want to record in a room that doesn't have many reflective surfaces, like windows or tall walls. There shouldn't be any natural "echo" when you speak in your recording room.

You'll also want to be mindful of outside noise - you wouldn't want to record in an office next to a busy street, for instance. Turn off any air conditioners or noisemaking objects in your desired space. If your space does have windows, using thick curtains can help protect and isolate the ambiance of your recording environment.

Getting the Takes You Need

If possible, try to record your takes the entire way through, even if you mess up a word or two. It's easier to comp entire performances, rather than just sections of a rap. Plus, it's great practice for future live performances. After you get at least three takes you're satisfied with, you might want to try experimenting with a different inflection as an alternative option.

Ad Libs and Alternates

With rap music, it's all about the lyrical content! Ad libs and background vocals help make rap vocals shine out, so be sure to record as many as you can! It's always better to have more than you think you might need. When in doubt, track the vocal and worst case, you can delete it during the mixing stage if it's unnecessary.

Take It Easy on the Plosives

Plosives are those harsh consonant sounds like "S"s, "P"s and "T"s that can sound harsh on a vocal recording. These sounds can be particularly present in a rap mix, so it's certainly something to be mindful of during your performance. You can use tools like a pop filter to help cut back on these sounds. Certain tools like EQs or De-essers can also cut back on this harsh sound, but it's best to reduce them as much as possible during the recording stage.

Effective Vocal Comping

While you might have one particularly stellar take in mind when comping vocals, you'll still want to get three or four decent takes of both the main vocals and any important backing or ad libs before ending a recording session. From there, it's time to comp vocals or stitch together the best parts of individual tracks to get the strongest vocal track for your mix.

Listen to a phrase or a couple of seconds of each take and then move to listen to the same section using the other takes, comping as you move through the entirety of the song. This method ensures that you're able to evaluate each section of the performance properly - moving too fast or listening through sections that are too large can make it challenging to remember your choice selections:

Moving to the Mix

Mixing rap vocals is an entirely separate creative process, so there will be lots of variation here when it comes to approach. Generally speaking, it's best to keep the main rap vocals fairly dry and centered so that listeners can easily pick up on the lyrics throughout any point of the song. Before doing any sort of additive processing, it's important to clean up your vocal tracks with tools like EQs and de-essers.

From there, you can use compression to help create a more consistent dynamic range and glue the main track together. You might find yourself using a bit of delay or reverb on the main rap vocal, but use this sparingly (unless you're going for a specific effect) to keep things clear.

Ad libs are an entirely different domain that can sound great with effects, in direct contrast to the main vocal. Every vocal mix will be different, but keeping these general principles in mind will help inform a well-balanced track:

How to Record Rap Vocals FAQ

Do you find yourself struggling through the recording process? Consider these commonly asked questions and answers to help you breeze through your next tracking session:

How do you process vocals for rap?

Vocal processing for rap can vary greatly based on creative perspective, but in most cases, you'll use some level of EQ and compression to start, then moving onto more creative effects. Rap vocals are known for having several layers and it's common for ad libs to have different processing than the main vocal tracks.

How can I get my rap voice?

Your rap voice is unique to you - the best way to uncover it is to start rapping your own lyrics, trying out different styles until you find something that speaks to you. This process can take several iterations, so don't get discouraged if it takes longer than you might expect.

How do you record rap vocals?

Typically, a dynamic microphone should be positioned about two fists or so apart from the mouth of the vocalist, angled towards the diaphragm of the mic. The vocal tracking can be triggered on or off through an audio interface.

What equipment do I need to record rap?

Generally speaking, you'll need a dynamic microphone, audio interface, computer, and recording software for recording rap vocals. For a complete guide on how to record rap vocals properly, consult the strategies listed above.

How do I start making raps?

The best way to start making raps is to get started! It can be daunting to start songwriting , but even our favorite artists have to start somewhere. Actively listen and dissect your favorite songs to uncover the structure and technique behind your top raps.

Whenever you sit down to record vocals, keep these key points in mind to produce the best tracks possible. Rap vocal recording techniques can take some time to nail down, but these strategies will become second nature with enough time and practice. Have fun putting these practical tips to good use!

Bring your songs to life with professional quality mastering, in seconds!