Finding the correct recording position for the microphone is a critical part of capturing the ideal sound. There are some go-to
placement techniques that one can follow, but the only way to find the best position is trial and error. People like us are at a disadvantage since we are playing the role of the engineer and the vocalist. Usually the engineer will place the singer and microphone in what they assume is the ideal spot. Then he will ask the singer to sing through some material. An experimental stage begins where the placement is adjusted slightly and the results are compared. Finally a decision is made and the vocal is recorded.
With our situation the experimentation is much more laborious. We have to do each perform each stage of the placement, singing, comparison and final decision. There is a great deal of running back and forth, changing this and that and making silly mistakes (because you are trying to wear every hat). By the time you are done you will probably be too exhausted to lay down a great vocal.
My solution was to dedicate a separate day to experimentation and finding the ideal position. I actually went into the studio and spent the entire session finding my placement. I know it sounds strange to spend a session in the studio and not accomplish any real recording, but we have to get out of the pro studio mindset. Most people don’t want to waist a session like this because they are paying by the hour. We own our studios, so that is not an issue. Plus we have the advantage of recording the same vocalist in the same room with the same microphone. This reduces the amount of recording variables drastically and allows us to achieve repeated results by mimicking past practices.
If you consider these benefits, spending a session to find your proper microphone placement will actually save you more time in future recording sessions than it costs for this one. Take your time during the experimentation and be precise.
Find what you feel is the best spot in the room and then mark your positions (standing and microphone stand spots). Then experiment with the placement of the microphone and your distance from it. Consider the general rules of proximity affect and room ambiance, but use your ears as the ultimate guide. Label each track you record specifically so that you will remember which placement it represents. You may even want to mark down placement details in a notebook so that you can bette replicate them.
I know this sounds like a great deal of work, but trust me it is worth it. In the end you will have a go-to microphone placement that is easy to replicate. You will be able to start you vocal recording sessions sooner and know that you are capturing the ideal sound. You will also grow as a recordin engineer after going through the process of finding the position.