Hello, I've been having trouble getting what I want vocal wise. Sometimes certain parts of the vocals are too loud or too soft or sound too far away. I should definately invest in some kind of mic stand because right now I'm just holding the mic in my hand and this is why the vocals sound different each time I record. I know compression is the way to go for something like this too, but how do you use it? For instance what settings? I have Sonar 4 Producer Edition. Also, what kind of reverbs do you recomend? There are so many kinds. I'm trying to get the vocals to sound kind of ominous....spooky.
get a stand and a pop filter, as mentioned. you should also consider a portable vocal booth like the realtraps PVB or the SE reflexion filter. this, in combination with not moving your vocal mic stand or the position of your mic, will help immensely with getting the tone of your vocals more consistent from take to take. especially in an untreated room, a movement of inches can noticeably change the tone of your sound. your vocals will sound "far away" in an untreated room as well - the portable vocal booth will help with this, as will treating your room with bass traps.
besides filtering plosives (b's and p's), a pop filter can help you stay a consistent distance from the mic. get (or build) one big enough so you can put your nose just touching it. that way, you will at least be in the same position when tracking that you were last time.
train yourself to be aware of the dynamics in your voice. when singing, we tend to be louder at the start of a phrase than at the end. so you may want to tilt your head back at the beginning of a phrase and move it forward slowly as you get to the end. if you are really going to belt it out, lean back some, and if you are going to whisper, lean forward. soon you will develop a feel for where your head should be distance-wise from the mic in relation to how loud you are singing. it takes concentration and practice but you'll get it.
you can sing straight into the mic but i prefer to do it off-axis (indirect). this keeps the air coming out of your mouth from hitting the mic directly and helps a lot with sibilance ("ssss" sounds), clicking ("k"-sounds) and plosives (b's and p's). indirect tracking is less sensitive to dynamic changes, although it's harder to get an "in your face" sound.
you will be amazed at how much time mic technique will save you later during mixing. i used to spend lots of time with clip gain envelopes, now i just have to do a word here or there and handle the rest with compression.
on that note, it is preferable to get consistent volume before you do compression. a compressor is not a fix for dynamics that fluctuate over the length of a track. compressors are designed to even out dynamics over a short interval, not a long one. if you are unintentionally loud and then quiet over the length of a phrase (say a couple measures), compression will help some but it won't be anywhere near as transparent as actually fixing the signal level of the track through clip gain envelopes. and you want to use clip gain envelopes, not track volume envelopes, because they are first in the signal chain, before pre-FX and the volume slider.
for EQ, you will want to roll off the lows. how far is up to you, and how dense the mix is. the more dense the mix, the more you will want to roll off. i've gone as high as 300hz HPF with a 0.7q, or 250hz with a 1.0q. and you can go higher than that, depends on how you add back some warmth in the vocal at 200hz or so. you will want to find the fundamental and resonant frequencies of your voice for that particular song (depends on range) - you can do this with a spectrum analyzer like voxengo's SPAN, and they will be pretty obvious. typically they will be around 100hz and 800hz, but could be anywhere from 80-150hz and 600hz-1k. these frequencies you will want to cut with a vengeance. they will be the most dynamic, will sound the worst and will hide the rest of the tone of your voice.
your rolloff/cut EQ should be done before compressing the vocal, so you aren't triggering the compressor on stuff you want to get rid of anyway - and the compression will be applied more consistently. if you want to mess with the mids or highs then it's not as important whether it's ahead or behind the compressor.
vocals are almost always doubled. there are many ways to do it, but typically you clone the vocal track and delay it very short, and mix it in low. i use a crossing delay with very short delays (2 and 4ms) for a wide spread. another thing i've started doing lately is doubling myself an octave lower on the chorus and bringing that in low as well - gives a bit of depth to the chorus vocal which helps to set it apart from the verse. some people double an octave higher using a pitch shifter plugin. another method is to clone the vocal track, cut everything but the mids (centered between 2-3k), compress the daylights out of it and mix it in low. it will provide consistency, definition and edge to your vocals without the harsh, boxy sound that you would get from simply boosting 2.5k.
speaking of that frequency, i usually cut a small notch into my other tracks between 2-3k to let the vocals out a little more in the mix. it takes some experimentation to find out what frequency works best for your voice for this, you just have to listen closely. if the vocals are the focus of your song, then you will want to notch out some presence (5k) on the other tracks so they come through even more. a little notch on every other track can go a long way.
the most important thing though, is to make sure you can hear yourself when you are tracking vocals. hearing yourself gives you the confidence you need to lay down a great track. a lot of singers will have some reverb in the monitors just so they sound awesome to themselves (and it also does wonders for pitch) and it works great, although if you aren't doing input echo through sonar it can be hard to set up.