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How do i properly record Scream Vocals?

Asked 1988 day 17 h | Viewed 47962 times | Updated 1962 day 12 h |

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Gravatar photo guest

Hi there my name is Adrian and I write, produce, and play my own music for my band WeFightTheKnight. I'm still new to producing but have a lot of the proper equipment including Pro Tools, Reason, FL Studios, Cakewalk (but i prefer pro tools), condensor mics, m-audio ultra track, a mixer(with no usb port) etc etc.

The thing is my genre of music isnt the most looked upon by major producers that are willing to post video tips on youtube (at least for vocals)

So I was wonder what would be the best way to record scream vocals, making sure the pffs and shhhs dont effect the recording, and the words wont be mushed together.

For examples of my work (I hope you'll remember i'm still new at this: check out my friends band)

Civility -

WeFightTheKnight(my own band, no music yet) - 



21 Answers

  1. Answered: 1986 day 15 h (0) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoApe Trax

    Hey Adrian:

    As with anything in recording,  it depends on the kind of singer you're recording.  Most of the squeals, growls and 'screams' you hear are actually a careful application of mic techniques.  A high 'vocal fry' scream is actually pretty quiet unless sung into a microphone. Youtube search 'vocal fry' and you'll see what I'm talking about.  It's all back of the throat air that just gets boomier by singing ultra close to a mic.

    If you have a singer that's disciplined enough to use a condenser or tube mic on a stand, then great, but usually these singers have a hyperactively aggressive singing style and will want to hold a mic to fully capture their performance.  Again,  mess around with the mics you've got, even if it is just a regular 58,  but I've gotten good results off a 421 before,  and even an off-brand karaoke mic.  Plosives can be a problem with this technique.  The best thing to do is to tell the singer to be mindful of his p's and b's.  Otherwise,  you'll just have to edit them in the mix process.

    If the vocalists is doing actual yelling and screaming, (like if it sounds like he's trying to scream at people across the street) you may want to consider a room mic as well as a normal close mic.  Also:  make sure the singer takes frequent breaks.  Those kinds of vocals are tough on anybody's throat,  and you don't want the performances breaking down halfway through the session.

  2. Answered: 1988 day 7 h (0) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoGear Guy

    In my experience with hardcore vocals, you are going to tend to want to use a vocal microphone that doesn't emphasize the highend.  I tend to avoid using condenser mics as they are usually too sensitive for high SPL vocals.

    A Shure SM57 works great for screaming lyrics, just be sure the singer is placed far enough away from the microphone with a pop-screen so that you avoid any nastly plosives (the 'pffs' sound) or and clipping.

    Try finding the biggest piece-of-junk microphone you can find and experiment using that for the vocals.  Remember, your not looking for clear and transparent vocals here, you're looking for gritty, dirty, even distorted sounds that give the hardcore vocal some real balls!

    If you want a little extra grit, let the vocalist get real close to the mic as they end each phrase and you'll get all that extra throat nose. Just be carefull to cut back on the bass frequencies at mix time due to the microphone proximity effect.

  3. Answered: 1915 day 7 h (1) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photosydneygalbraith

    Production is key in all vocal recording. It's important to be able to coach the performance out of a singer/screamer.

    As far as mushed words go, I've found that some inexperienced singers needs to take time to develop proper mouth shapes, breathing, and delivery styles in order to get their vocals across clearly and effectively. It really is simply practice, but with the right techniques. I think everyone could benefit from a little classical vocal training, because it really teaches the mechanics of how we sing, and therefore how to sing well.

    All the mics everyone else has been mentioning are appropriate for what you're trying to record. Most of them have a very aggressive midrange that helps capture the attitude of some more aggressive vocals. Gear, to me, is ALWAYS about experimentation. You never know exactly what's going to work best for your given situation, but these types of internet resources will definitely point you in the right direction.

    Depending on your skill level and confidence when recording, you may be interested in compressing your vocal on the way in. This allows a certain degree of control over the impact of 'plosives on your recording level, and may even introduce pleasing harmonic distortion, depending on the compressor used. If this isn't your game at this point, there are many tools that can help out with 'plosives during recording as well as after, when mixing. A pop filter, for example, goes without saying on any vocal recording. Depending where the 'plosives are happening in the frequency spectrum, you may be able to filter them out using a high pass, or even a flexible de-esser, if set correctly. Often it's about knowing the frequency ranges these problems are occurring in and making the decision as to whether you can attenuate there without losing the vocal sound or performance.

    • Great post! There are some awesome concepts in there. Read-up people.

      Justin Vencel | Oct 30 at 12:10

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  4. Answered: 1813 day 15 h (0) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoGriffin_Ritze

    I also reccomend overdubbing segments of the vocal track, and experimenting with light applications of distortion on the vocal to give it some edge, especially in the upper mid-range frequencies.

    Eliminating volume differences during the recording process as Eric Dahl said will make the finished product much tighter when you add compression to the track.

    Guttural screams sound very awkward if a compressor is acting as volume control instead of a means of subtle dynamics balancing.

  5. Answered: 1965 day 15 h (1) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoIgor

    By my experience the best mic for screaming vocal would be Shure SM7.



    • I agree, the 57 or equivalent. I always viewed scream vocals the same way I view a guitar stack. You're not going for pristine, you're capturing the power and grit.

      Justin Vencel | Sep 09 at 11:09

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  6. Answered: 1950 day 18 h (0) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoBrian Zieske

    SM7 is the choice for screaming

  7. Answered: 1922 day 18 h (2) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoEric Dahl

    try keeping the mic a hair off-axis so that you sing past it, not into it.

    • So many times people forget how powerful off axis coloration can be. Good call.

      Liquid Vibe | Oct 23 at 10:10

    • I wasnt event thinking about coloration, but good point. I was thinking more about avoiding pops, and volume differences.

      Eric Dahl | Oct 24 at 08:10

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  8. Answered: 1777 day 5 h (1) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoChris Hollis

    I've just finished recording a screamy hardcore band in the UK, and I used a Rode K2 valve condenser quite heavily buffered so there was no room verb and with a decent pop shield. I recorded two versions of all vocals - one with a nice standard vocal sound and another take with the gain on the preamp really cranked so it was really hot and dirty sounding. It picked up a lot of the real gritty stuff / breaths and sounded great.

    Productionwise, I compressed and limited the hell out of it and even added a touch of clip distortion. Amidst a torrent of chuggy guitars you'd be surprised how much distortion you can add to a screamed vocal and it not even be noticable as an effect - just makes it sound way more attacking and raw!

    • I hear ya. I like to split the main vocal and add distortion to one track and mix it back in with the clean track. This way I can vary the amount of distortion, I like to add extra distortion to the chorus in my tracks.

      Justin Vencel | Mar 17 at 11:03

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  9. Answered: 1777 day 3 h (0) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoguest

    I just tried recording screaming/metal vocals yesterday with a shure beta 58 and for lack of better words, it fucking sucked. The vocals sounded way too bright and trebly, absolutely no bottom end what so ever. I was surprised considering its the most widely used dynamic vocal mic... so my advice would be to not use a 58. I have heard great things about the shure SM7 though. Specifically from a fellow aspiring studio engineer that has recorded some very impressive, tasteful sounding hardcore and metal bands(Violation, Downpresser), he said vocals like this are best done with a SM7. The down side is I read that you need a preamp for this particular mic, audio-interface preamps are quite enough power.

  10. Answered: 1207 day 17 h (0) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoguest

    Get a mic similar to one that would be used at a radio station, because it's a cardioid dynamic microphone, you'll get a good boost behind the vocals, low OR high, and you'll get a nice space behind the voice, and it'll be simple to EQ. I do it professionally, and that's about the way that you'll have to, unless you have a lot of money. The mic should cost around $350 or so.

    As for the vocalist, for lows, don't cup the mic, just be closer to it, and stand about a foot away for mids/highs. [that is if they're a real vocalist, and not a fry vocalist.]


    Hope this helps.

  11. Answered: 1202 day 13 h (0) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoguest

    Hello there fellow Producers, Engineers and Mixers!

    My name is Matt, I am a screamer, I've done work personally for solo projects, my band, and other bands. I provide professional studio sounding quality tracks for anyone in need. The topic is vocals, so let me just give you my advice too get the best quality Vocal recordings you can get.

    MICROPHONES: some microphones I would reccomend to give you the best quality possible include: the SM7b, And Microphone made by Blue), The reason the SM7b and Blue Microphones are such good microphones, is because it provides sound for both the Left Speaker and Right Speaker (L&R) which really makes all screams/growls sound alot better, however keeping in mind that these microphones tend to run a little pricey, there are alternatives to getting the same concept that these microphones provide. When I record music I just created myself, I record my screams right next to my computer, not using my SM7b or Blue Bluebird Microphone. This is going too probably sound very "ghetto", what I did was take two rock band (usb) mics, put them both together on a Shockmount Microphone stand (it is a tight squeeze, which is what you want) even them out, and plug them in. The software I use to record my personal tracks is Mixcraft 5, which alows you to record as many tracks at a time using various pieces of equipment, so I put one of the microphones to the left side and the other too the right, and you have the same concept as a SM7b would give you.

    RECORDING SPACE: When I record my vocals I have a closet thats just big enough for 3 people in it, however theres only going to be one person it, a mic stand, a microphone and lots of sound proof foam (See Alternatives to foam below), the sound proof foam dampens the sound of the room your recording in so you lose the reverb, you do not want reverb on the raw tracks you record, it adds bad quality, and computarized plug-ins for reverb sound alot better. 


    FOAM ALTS: As I said previously, foam dampens the sound so reduce or take away the natural reverb in the room your recording in. You can usually go to guitar center and purchase foam panels that measurements are around (not exact) 32"x60" for about 35$, however thats alot of money if you new to recording, or not doing anything overly professional considering you're going to have to buy like At least 5+ of them too fill up where you record (room sizes vary). However what I have done in the past was take Egg Cartons, tons of them, saved them up and nailed them into where I record vocals, not only can you use Egg Cartons, you can also use the foam/cardboard drink holders you get from McDonalds etc. when you purchase something too go, if you go in to fast food reasturants that have those, just ask for a few of them, and they'll give you some, it'll probably sound kind of weird, but if you told them what its for, I'm sure they'd think your pretty cool. But as I was saying, just nail them in the wall, in a pattern and It will probably not look that good when you haven't filled up all the walls,  but once you do it will look fine. A good way to test if it works (This only works for small spaced rooms, closets, etc.) is go in the room, just yell one word, hold it for 5 seconds, and do that every 20 seconds, and move around a little, if you start too get sweaty, you've created an effective sound proofed room.

    CLEAN VOCALS: There is not much to recording clean vocals but my recomendations for clean vocals are first of all, have a singer, a microphone, and a small spaced room for vocals. (The following varys on what program you use) Some recording softwares include pre-programed plug-ins, and if that is how your software is, look in the list and see if there is anything called Pitch Correction or Auto Tune, if not, there are various plug-ins you can download for free off the internet, however if you are trying to be professional and looking to spend a good amount of money, I reccomend the VST Plug-in, Antares Auto Tune, it runs for cheapest $89.00 however it is worth the money. I'm sure you could find a trial online somewhere to see if its something you'd be interested into. Before I go on I want to clear something up, alot of people say that Auto Tune is for people who cannot sing on key, sound good singing, or just sing in general, all though in some cases that is true, however, EVERYONE wants great quality tracks and Auto Tune was created to get the best sound out of the clean vocals track possible, and all though some people go way over the top with it, a good balance of too get the vocals perfect is the way to go. It's very fun too play around with, but be sure too watch some tutorials on Youtube, etc. too learn how to properly operate whichever plug-in it is that you are using.


    SCREAMING/GROWLS/YELLING VOCALS: This will most likely be my longest one considering I have the most expierience with this over all the others. I included yelling in that because there are some cases where yelling is most of what screamers do (ie. Oliver Sykes - Bring Me the Horizon, Sam Carter - Architects). So this applies too all the metal, hardcore, metal core, post-hardcore, death metal, techno-core, math-core, core-core, death-core, anything you record with that brootal break down you long to hear in a Chelsea Grin song (or old A Day To Remember if your not into death core).  The SM7b is definitley my number 1 recomended microphone for screams, great quality, gives you both (L&R) into mono tracks in whatever program you use to record. To record the best screams possible for the track you are recording, your going to need a few things, a good quality microphone (Any microphone works, but I do highly reccomend the SM7b), a screamer, headphones for the screamer (screamers tend to be really loud if they're not fry screamers so hearing threw speakers might become problematic), a semi-small, closed room with foam, and whatever else you prefer. First of all, be a nice producer, and give the screamer some water, because screaming will hurt over a while and water will improve there screams, especially if they are recording a whole 21 track album in one hour. Screamers often need to warm up, so I tell them too even if they don't want too, because you don't want them to warm up on the first track of the album sounding like a dying tiger and start progressivley sounding like Craig Mabbit. So it's best too have them warm up so every track sounds as good as possible. What I'm about to say is the most important thing about recording screams, read it five or six times so you can remember this for your whole life as a studio producer, tell the screamer too scream as loud as he can, and make sure you sound check the microphone he is screaming into so he doesn't peak the limiter (go too loud), make them scream as loud as they can, do that for every scream, on every track, the louder the scream the better quality it will be, and the better sound you can get out of there screams. Screamers need breaks, other wise there screams will most likely sound worse and worse song after song, so what I normally do is if they are recording an EP/Full Album, have them record two tracks, take a break, mix the track a little and tell them too get back too work. Some good advice for recording screams, if you only have one microphone that is not the SM7b, do what is called "Double Taking" which means they will scream one line of a track once (left side), and they will scream the same line of the track exactly as they did before with the same pitch (right side), that will make their screams sound more full. You want to have seperate tracks for each pitch of screams as well, because each pitch of screams will have different EQ, which we will talk about in a little bit. But back to Double Taking, normally you should only do double taking for lows, however you can do it for highs too, I prefer not too. There is something you can do for highs though if you are taking my advice exactly as I am giving it. This works perfect if a song starts of with only a scream and no instruments (ie. Revenant by Chelsea Grin), have the screamer scream whatever he screams in his Highest scream (Every screamer has a different range), have that be a stereo track (Records to both Left and Right sides) and once he does that, have him scream the same line he just screamed, but have him do the same scream just a pitch slightly below what he previously did (Even if its a Mid Scream) and once again, have the mid scream be on a stereo track, and make sure they match up perfectly. It may only sound right for certain screamers, keep that in mind, mess around with it, see what sounds good. Another amazing thing too do with screams, is also called Double Taking, but its High and Low double taking, you've most likely heard it in at least one song you've listened too before. The way it works; Record a high scream on a stereo track, and record a low scream on a stereo track both saying the same exact line in the same exact way, you will get a product that sounds like a demonic lion, but really it compliments a break down in the tightest way, but you have to limit yourself on how much you do it, because it will get annoying after a while. Thats really all my advice for screams.


    EQ FOR VOCALS: EQ is short for Equalizer, you've probably seen this everywhere, especially on PAs or on old car stereos. The three knobs on a PA that say "High", "Mid", and "Low", that is the EQ, and you need this for screams mainly, sometimes they can be used for clean vocals, but its very rare that I would use them for clean vocals. In the screams section above, I said have seperate tracks for each pitch scream, The Highs, the Mids and the Lows or mid-highs (I have a scream thats in between highs and mids and most screamers do too, they just don't know it). Well if you haven't guessed what too do with EQ for screams yet, which you probably should have, but if you didn't your about to find out. (This varies on the plug-in/equipment you are using), The High Screams, you want too turn up the High EQ 3/4ths the way, and leave the mid and low 1/4ths up, just to balance it out nicely, This is what I do for highs, and adding gain makes all pitched screams sound so much better, so add a little, don't add too much. Mid Screams, are a little different, put the Mid EQ 3/4ths up, and the High EQ and Low EQ half way up, giving an even balance of EQ but using mainly the main EQ. The Low screams are the different of them all, put the Low EQ Up all the way, the Mid EQ half the way, and the High EQ All the way, once again, giving an even balance of EQ. This process will then lead you to mixing. Changing the EQ and Gain will most likely have added a boost too the volume on the screams. 


    QUICK ADVICE FOR MIXING: When mixing, keep in mind that you want all the instruments too be heard. The Rythm guitars (Which should have a Left and Right track) should be evened out, and varying on effects, the lead should be turned up a little. For drums you always want to be able to hear the Snare, and bass (especially for double bass), for best sound, you want more snare and bass drum over toms and cymbals. As for the vocals, that will vary on the vocalist and what effects you used.


    Well this wraps up my Vocal Advice, everything you see here is all in my own words and came from my knowledge of recording. If you have any questions, about anything musically (Recording Vocals/Instruments, Instrument Advice, etc.), feel free too contact me at my email (see below). Thank you for taking the time too read my advice. And I am aware there are spelling errors. Happy recording!



  12. Answered: 1155 day 7 h (0) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoguest

    "The reason the SM7b and Blue Microphones are such good microphones, is because it provides sound for both the Left Speaker and Right Speaker (L&R)"

    Um, SM7B provides vocals in stereo? Um, no.....

  13. Answered: 1153 day 12 h (0) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoguest

    Hahaha what is Matt on about? Clearly knows very little on the subject! The bluebird and sm7 are both mono microphones and when it comes to recording vocals, a good quality preamp with musical gain saturation is one of the most vital prices of gear, as well as compressing the comped tracks. SM7 would be a first choice - used by Every Time I Die on their last album. Or go for something a little more unusual to fit around the vocalist. The Blue baby bottle and shure sm87a are favourite condensers of mine for vocals and are similarly priced to the sm7.

  14. Answered: 1135 day 12 h (0) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoAstral Plane Studios

    6 inches away from an SM7B going through an 1176 or a stock comp with 4:1-6:1 and have a blast tweaking. :)

    You'll want to use a DeEsser for the sibilance as well. Probably shaving off between 3-6dB of Essing.

  15. Answered: 1100 day 18 h (0) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoguest

    Pahaha....Matt is smoking crack!

  16. Answered: 922 day 17 h (0) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoguest

    Judging by the lack of unrelated material... Matt obviously wants to be a music/recording teacher.

  17. Answered: 640 day 8 h (0) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoguest

    You scream in a microphone and don't suck.

  18. Answered: 416 day 17 h (0) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoguest

    you scream into a suck and dont microphone.


  19. Answered: 416 day 17 h (0) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoguest

    or you microphone into a scream and suck!


  20. Answered: 416 day 17 h (0) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoguest

    or you take a BFH and smash the hell out of all the gear, spray zippo on your guitar and record it burning with a sm7b23456791 wit a cherry on top, and then fart into the flames creating a new medium screamofarto legato, and take the industry by storm while simultaniously solving world hunger and reviving madonnas career, and you will become the apha, the omega, and will eat tacos ortega! or you could just scream into a microphone gently and have happy puppies and stuff with warm fuzzy bunnies!

  21. Answered: 416 day 17 h (0) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoguest

    I have it wispero, wispering screamo with all nice things said and stories of warm fuzzy bunnies and fresh little candies!

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