Man Vs. Gear - Getting the Thom Yorke Vocal Sound | Microphone & Compressor Battle
Welcome to part one of my Man vs. Gear series, where I'll cover some of the techniques and equipment I used while trying to replicate the sound of legendary Radiohead frontman, Thom Yorke. I'd first like to say that I relied solely on information that I had read in articles and videos, so some of what I say may not be exactly what is used in an everyday Radiohead recording session, but pretty close i'm sure. There are many speculative forums all saying different things, and that's hard to follow if you aren't a complete gear head. In saying that, I've tried my best to put together something that gets close to the heart of a question I've wanted the answer to for some time. How do I get the Thom Yorke vocal sound?
Recording a good vocal can make or break you in many studio sessions, for example, none of these techniques or equipment will be useful unless the takes are great. Not good, great!. I like to start with the microphone as the first point of contact for that air leaving your body, it's important to take care at this point, because all decisions stem from here. In this session I decided to use the Electro-Voice RE-20 because of the internal shock mount and pop filter that works by capturing the up-close and intimate vocal sounds Thom Yorke is famous for. The way in which the microphone is used is as unique as the microphone itself. Yorke captures some pretty dynamic sounds through the movement of his head, but the most interesting part is the brightness that reflects from the roof of his mouth. As the head leans back to sing, the microphone captures the brightness in tone replacing the sibilance lost from the internal pop-filter of the RE-20.
Reason For Choosing This Mic for Main Vocals
I had seen Thom Yorke use this microphone in the live recording of 'In Rainbows' at the basement (Video Above)
I needed a mic that the singer could get close too without capturing too many plosives
It has an inner shock mount
Built in bass roll off switch
Humbucking coil for greater colour in the vocal
As a way to add some extra substance to the vocals I recorded with my singer, I used an AKG414 to add to the vocal dynamic and lift the song. The creative decision was made to add colour and texture to the underlying vocal harmonies, but is an excellent choice for vocals at any stage.
Frequency Response - Electro Voice RE-20
Reason I chose this mic for backing vocals
They are a very versatile mic
Even polar pattern, which would be good for additive EQ
Capture some sibilance in the vocal to create an effect later in them mix
One of my favorites for guitars and drum overheads
Ability to roll off low frequencies when needed