After @Moso 's kind words on Donna and my song "Coyote" I simply have to respond to his request to talk about how the vocals and bridge were done. I don't pretend to be an expert in production (there are many with more knowledge than I on the Muse) but maybe others will get some ideas from my process and add them to their own.
First off you need to make a track with your background music, or at least enough of it to sing along to.
The arrangement should be decided before you track vox IMO.
I find you need instruments in the backing track that are close in frequency to your vocals - such as a piano or guitar. The surest way to sing out of tune is to sing to a bass track
Use a decent mic that suits your voice.
I use an old Shure 545 dynamic cartridge mic. My vocal is naturally "tinny" and needs some bottom end which this mic provides.
Use a screen pop filter
Gets rid of explosives caused by puffs of air.
I find a screen filter works better than a "foam" one which I find changes the EQ of the mic.
Distance from mic
I sing about 4-6 in from the pop screen which is about 2 in from the mic.
Use a mic preamp so that the input level is high enough that it doesn't clip, but has a high s/n (signal to noise) ratio so you don't get any hiss. Rather than spend $300, I use the mic preamp in my stereo audio system which is pretty clean.
This is a mistake I kept making in the past - I'm trying to rid myself of it.
I worried about every phrase, pronouncing every word, making each note pitch-perfect.
Don't think about "impressing" anyone with your singing - serve the song - that's the only one you need to impress.
Do multiple takes
You can then pick and choose best tuning/phrasing etc. from each track.
Copy/paste together to get a final raw track.
I use Audacity for recording and editing mainly because I'm familiar with it.
Effects/plug-ins are done in my DAW - either Acid Pro or Reaper currently.
Amplify/reduce words/phrases that seem too low or too high in the mix
This is a pre-compressor process for the really low/high stuff.
I also amplify soft consonants like an "s" or "f" at the ending of words as these are sometimes lost at the compression stage.
Silence regions where there are no vocals.
Apply compression on the raw track. I use Isotope's 3-band vocal compression plug-in.
This levels out the vocal so everything is heard clearly.
Create a new track for wet only reverb and create it by applying a decent reverb plug-in to the compressed track. I like to bring reverb up or down depending on parts of the song. For parts where there is less instrumentation, the vox need less reverb and vise versa. Edit the reverb track to change these levels where needed.
I don't typically double-track a lead vocal. I have done this in the past, but it makes the vox seem unnatural to me. I sometimes sing a track an octave down or up, or both to strengthen the lead vox if I feel it needs it.
The main thing I try to remember with harmonies is: Don't compete with the lead vox!
Sing these a bit further from mic
sing harmonies like a background singer would - don't compete!
EQ away from lead vox - sometimes I pull down low/mid freqs
compress 1st harm only - this keeps the level below lead vox consistent
space harms across stereo field - don't center them!
lower in mix than lead vox
avoid too many harmonies - you'll sound like a barbershop quartet!
use them to build the song - typically leave them out in the early stages.
don't put harms on every lead line - stay out of the barbershop!
give them more reverb than lead vox - makes them less distinct - less competitive
line up timing with lead vox
This is what I call any oooo's/aaahhh's or falsetto bg vox
mix them extreme left/right in the stereo field
give them the most reverb of all vox - almost like the audience is singing them
lower level in mix than harm
I usually end up with six mixed-down stereo vocal tracks:
- compressed lead vox
- lead vox reverb (based on compressed lead vox)
- harm bus (all harms that are not greek chorus)
- harm bus reverb
- greek chorus
- greek chorus reverb
Then I mix the song down to a stereo unmastered track.
Remember: "Lead vocal rules!" "He is King for all to serve!" - every other vocal and instrument is there to support him.
And of course, mastering the track will help the sound of your vocals - I use Isotope again for this. Their "Country" preset was used on Coyote.
I'll add another entry for the bridge development.
Hope I haven't bored you!