recording vocals

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kidboy
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recording vocals

Post by kidboy » Mon Dec 10, 2007 1:34 pm

I know this topic is probably done to death, but is indeed very important.

I'm doing a nice job at recording vocals when the singer is not belting. Everything sounds, crisp, clear, nice tone, good sound, etc...

My problem is recording when the singer is belting. Can anybody let me in on their technical skills in how to achieve a good, crisp clean tone when the vocalist is belting. I'm not going to put anything that I do at this point because I don't want to change anybody's ideas and thinking on recording belting vocals. The sound I'm going for is something similar to Kelly Clarkson's belting vocals.

Thanks!!!!
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Re: recording vocals

Post by fossiltooth » Mon Dec 10, 2007 1:51 pm

kidboy wrote: The sound I'm going for is something similar to Kelly Clarkson's belting vocals.
Funny that you mention the "belting" vocal sound on Kelly Clarkson's records. To me, they're kinda funny, because of the squashed-to-death nature of the mixes.

Often enough, there will be a sparse, "quiet" verse, and the vocal is enourmous. It's like her giant singing head takes up half the auditory landscape... I can see her face streteched out across the phantom center... then, the whole band kicks in, and he voice is this little angular, but clear ball of fury, and she appears like a miniture replica of a human being, a small, but distinct image, dwarfed by the huge wall of guitars, or whatever comes along to make the chorus sound massive.

It's not a mix aesthetic that I like. Don't ask me why I've heard enough Kelly Clarkson to come up with an opinion....

Anyway... getting to your question, how's your gain-staging? That's one place to look if the sound is good when it's quiet, and bad when it's loud.

If you're trying to get a level near 0dbfs on the loud sections on a digital meter, chances are you're distorting your preamp.

Good luck,

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Post by JohnDavisNYC » Mon Dec 10, 2007 1:53 pm

gain staging.... mic technique....

but first, you need to describe what is wrong with the 'belting' sound you are getting now... is it distorting? sounding thin?

what is your signal chain?

need to know more before I can try to help.... I could offer examples of how I would record a loud singer, but that isn't going to help you if you don't have a U87, a custom 500 series pre with a J. Hardy 990, and a modded Sta-Level, bla bla bla.... we need to know what you have and what isn't pleasing you about your results.

cheers,
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Post by kidboy » Mon Dec 10, 2007 2:39 pm

Thanks for getting back to me:

Ok, I'm using a Digi 002 with a Art Tube MP preamp (i know it's a cheap model, but still sounds better then the pres in the 002)

I'm recording on Pro Tools 7.4 through a Mac. I'm using an ADK Vienna LDC mic.

And yes, it's distorting when the singer is about 6 inches from the mic and the gain at about 5 and it's too thin sounding when she backs off the mic more with the gain at about 5. I hope that helps...please let me know if you have more questions before answereing!!!

Thanks
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Post by logancircle » Mon Dec 10, 2007 2:45 pm

Get them to step back from the mic, or turn away a little from the mic on the really loud notes (mic technique).
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Post by kidboy » Mon Dec 10, 2007 3:01 pm

I always felt when they backed away is sounded too distant and when i backed the gain off you can hear the difference in sound/tone....

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Post by JohnDavisNYC » Mon Dec 10, 2007 3:06 pm

ok... well, can you determine where the distortion is happening? i.e. are you clipping the preamp (i know my old tubeMP had a 3 color light to indicate level and clipping) or the mic?

there is a great thread somewhere in the bowels of the TOMB about gain staging and the oft-misunderstood concept of 'Ovu=-18dbfs'.... I will try to briefly summarize in a way that hopefully makes sense and helps you to start making better recordings.

with analog equipment (which your microphone, preamp, and 002 line amps are...) there is an agreed upon nominal operating level. this level is 0 dbVU. all analog gear is designed to perform the best when AVERAGE (RMS) levels are at or close to 0dbVU. However, what people usually do not understand is that while analog gear is designed with an optimal average level, it is capable of reproducing levels that are much much higher, since 0dbVU (which is representing AVERAGE) contains transients that go way beyond 0dbVU. For instance, it is not at all uncommon to record a snare drum on a tape machine and have the needle on the VU barely hit -3, but when looked at on a peak meter, it could be as high as +20... by the time the VU meter has responded to the snare sound, the snare has already stopped 'playing'....

this doesn't affect much in the analog world, since one just uses VU meters and ears to determine if things are an appropriate level... every piece of analog gear has a different ammount of headroom above 0dbVU, but I would say that most pieces are capable of between 12 and 20 decibels of signal above 0....

when combining analog and digital equipment, it is important to understand how the design of analog gear effects our use of digital gear. since there is a standard average level in the analog world, we must decide on a standard for how that relates to the digital world. digital level metering works in a subtractive manner.... 0dbfs is the absolute maximum level that any piece of gear is capable of.... the problem is that there is no specific analog equivalent for 0dbfs.

we must determine where 0dbVU lies by subtracting from the top... let's say that a good assumption is that few pieces of analog gear will put out transients more than +18... so, if we assume that +18 is our 'analog full scale', in order to determine where our 'digital 0dbVU' is we just count down... in order to allow for 18db of headroom in a digital environment, we have to adopt -18dbfs as our nominal operating level, our point at which our analog stages are performing optimally and allowing for natural transients and dynamics... our 'true 0dbVU' for digital. If the operator 'aims' for -18 as the average level when tracking, allows for transients as high as -3db or so, and doesn't let things get too rediculously quiet, all gear, both digital and analog, will be operating under ideal conditions, and produce better results.

so, hopefully that blather made some sense... try recording with average levels around -18dbfs in PT and see if you get a better sound. if it still sounds distorted, switch in the PAD on the mic, and re-set your levels.

hope that helps,
john
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Post by kidboy » Mon Dec 10, 2007 3:31 pm

Wow...alot of useful information...i'm to give it a go...thanks!!

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Post by JohnDavisNYC » Mon Dec 10, 2007 3:37 pm

oh, and also, try it with the onboard preamps... I wouldn't put money on the tubeMP actually sounding better... you might be suprised by the 002 pre's when you are recording at an appropriate level... the tubeMP can be uselful (i still have one wired up) but it isn't exactly 'good' as tube designs go.

john
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Post by phantom power » Mon Dec 10, 2007 3:42 pm

Toaster,

Very informative post. Thanks for sharing.

-AE

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Post by kidboy » Mon Dec 10, 2007 3:43 pm

That's another good point....I will definately try that out as well!!

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Post by MichaelAlan » Mon Dec 10, 2007 3:59 pm

I love Kelly.
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Post by JohnDavisNYC » Tue Dec 11, 2007 6:49 am

no problem... i have spent some time explaining it some friends lately... it is easier over beer or coffee than on a message board... hopefully i got everything right and it is easy to understand.

then more analog gear you have the easier it becomes to understand levels in digital. watching a 1khz tone coming off of a tape machine meter at 0 on the machine and -15 in digital, and then watching snare hits not even getting the vu up to -3 clip the converters is an enlightening experience. it is amazing how much better things sound and how much easier it is to mix when everything is tracked at 'proper' levels.

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Post by ??????? » Tue Dec 11, 2007 9:08 am

do you have access to an outboard compressor or even a mixer? It might be worth a shot to patch one in and see what it does. Most commercial recordings like the one you describe have a fair amount of compression on the vocals to help bring the soft, whispery bits to the front while keeping the loud bits in check. Even better is 'learning' the song and manually riding the fader on a mixer during tracking. Set the preamp to sound its best at the loud bits, and pull the fader up for the quiet parts and down for the loud parts.

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Post by kayagum » Tue Dec 11, 2007 9:18 am

Maybe it's too late for this session, but your singer probably needs to learn better mic technique- you know, backing off the mic on the loud parts, closer on the softer parts.

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