If you are trying to get a certain effect on your vocal track for your vocal recording such as a bull-horn should you use an actual bull-horn? Well, no you shouldn’t. You can but it would have to be used in a controlled recording environment. A bull-horn is used to address a crowd by police and public speakers in an effort to increase the volume of a persons natural voice level. If you were to use a bull-horn in a vocal recording you might damage the microphone or digital recording equipment if you don’t take certain precautions first.
There is an easier way to achieve this effect without using an actual bull-horn and risking damage to sensitive microphones and recording equipment and it is actually a lot easier to set up than setting up your system to use a bull-horn. A bull-horn is a portable amplification system and it can produce high levels of sound. These levels are projected from the horn within the mid-to-high range of frequencies and can easily be recreated using an equalizer and a roll off band pass filter.
Using an equalizer and band pass filter to recreate the bull-horn’s distinctive frequency range will save you a lot of trouble when recording this type of vocal effect because you will be able to control the sound level in decibels a lot more efficiently that if you simply used a bull-horn and a microphone to create this vocal effect. The problem is in the initial sound pressure and volume levels in the bull-horn. These levels can cause the diaphragm in the microphone to slam into it’s own housing and can cause a distorted or “blown out” sound. This can completely destroy the effect that you are trying to create and defeat the initial purpose of recording this way. One way to get around this problem is to have the bull-horn several feet away from the microphone in a completely sound proofed room large enough to allow the distance needed between the bull-horn and the microphone. This will work in some cases but the best technique to use is the following described below.
Record the vocal track as you normally would and capture the natural sound of the artists voice. Once you have this track saved you can modify several parameters by using your effects bin and changing the frequencies of the natural vocal track you have just captured. Use a bell curve on your equalizer and cut all of the frequencies below 300 to 400 MHz and also cut any frequencies higher than 2 KHz. Set the highest point of your bell curve around 1 KHz and this will produce a very close reproduction of a bull-horn. If you want to include even more realism then you can add a slight bit of distortion before the equalizer in the effects chain and a slight bit of plate re-verb after the distortion and equalizer in the effects chain.
At this point you should have a very realistic bull-horn sound that doesn’t blast your decibel meters into the red. This technique can also be used to create a telephone sound and an old AM Lo-Fi radio sound. This is also a very good way to save money while creating certain effects but if you have a budget to work with then you can always purchase a set of VST plugins that can create hundreds of different microphone, bull-horn and telephone sounds by simply dropping the VST plug-in into your effects bin and choosing the proper factory preset for the desired effect.
There are also a few other short articles about audio recording you can read listed below that might help you in other areas of home recording and audio production.
Getting the Perfect Sound: Multitracking
Home Studio Techniques: Audio Equalization
Home Studio Techniques: Audio Compression
Choosing a Sound Card for Recording
Getting the Perfect Sound
Getting the Perfect Sound, Part 2
Getting the Perfect Sound, Part 3
Getting the Perfect Sound, Part 4
If you have any tips or suggestions then feel free to put them in the comment section below. You can also include links for reference material as well. As always, make it sound great!