Rappers & singers! This one's for you!
Record QUIET, but not too quiet!
We're gonna start off with a big one. Mixing is the process of putting all the song's parts and pieces into the right frequency spaces so that you hear everything you want to hear, and you don't hear what you don't want to hear. Therefore, it's important that a mixing engineer has vocal recordings that are not so loud that they cannot be made louder without hurting the vocal. They also should not be recorded so quietly that the background noise and room noise is just as loud (or even comparably loud) as the vocal.
So artists, just because the vocal sounds loud and clear in your recording does not mean it will sound great in a mix! Practice recording your vocals so that your peaks are hitting around -9db. Of course you want to record in a quiet space so that your vocal stands out from any background noise that may be present.
In the mix, those vocals get compressed and limited so that they are audible and in front, and they get EQs so that the bad frequencies are pulled away. What will be left should be a solid lead vocal.
Gain vs Level
Going hand in hand with the point above, you need to understand exactly what you're adjusting to get that -9db. We're talking about an input level, which will almost always be referring to gain. Think of gain as the amount of signal being received by the recording device. In this case, that would be your microphone, and the signal would be YOU.
A level, however, is the output, the sound you hear. That can be adjusted independently of the gain. A level is what you normally see as a slider on your channel strip or sound board.
Very important that you understand that adjusting your level does NOTHING for your gain. If you record too loudly, your vocals will push your interface too it's max reception level and it will distort the loudest parts of your vocals. This is called clipping, and there's no way to fix this other than redoing the recording. Many people think you can just turn the level down and the issue goes away, but in reality, all you're doing by reducing the level is allowing a more quiet version of this same clipping vocal. On the other hand, if your vocal is recorded well and your level drives it so loud that it is clipped by your DAW's limiter, all you would need to do is pull the level down.
Combat that with the danger of recording too quietly, and all the lip smacks, breaths, AC noise, refrigerator sounds, and even traffic noise outside will become a part of your vocal recording that are very very difficult to remove without damaging the vocal itself.
Long Story Short
There are a lot of ways to achieve loudness in a recording. Recording loudly is not one of them. Leave the loudness to your engineer and do everyone a favor by presenting a recording of adequate volume. Three bears theory: not too loud, not too quiet, just right.
Ready to get your song mixed? Well don't hesitate, contact me now and let's get going!
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