recording vocals

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Post by JWL » Tue Dec 11, 2007 12:39 pm

I agree that mic technique is the best bet. Set the gain so that they can sing softly right up on the mic (6" away or whatever works), and when they belt they can move back the appropriate distance. Often a foot or two back works well for beltage. But teach them how this works, preferably so that they can see the meter while they're learning the technique. If you're going to work with the singer for more than one session a half-hour or so of explaining and practicing this is a good investment in time, as it's probably the best way to deal.

Another solution is to set up 2 mics, preferably identical mics through an identical signal chain, with appropriate gain staging for each situation (ie, belt/non-belt). You can also move the "belt" mic back a bit from the soft mic.

The problem with the tone not being the same can be mitigated in 2 ways, first use an omnidirectional pattern on the mic (no proximity effect), second record in a dead vocal booth or use something like the Portable Vocal Booth to help reduce the impact of the room sound.

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Post by JohnDavisNYC » Tue Dec 11, 2007 1:08 pm

well... mic technique could help if the original poster didn't already say that he doesn't like the tone when the singer is far from the mic.... having sufficient headroom and compressing and/or automating heavily can get it to sit in a consistent place without the timbre shift from varying distances.

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Post by kidboy » Wed Dec 12, 2007 3:09 pm

thanks everyone for your help...I am recording again this weekend and will be trying different technicues. Also...I'm just a small time at home hobyist....I know if I had a comppresor of some sorts that would help. Now I do have compression plugins for pro tools, but wouldn't I get better results if I used an actual compressor that comes before the mic in the chain rather then the other way around???

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Post by JohnDavisNYC » Wed Dec 12, 2007 3:55 pm

yes and no.... if you record with enough headroom (paying attention to average levels, etc) and have the vocalist work the distance from the mic ever so slightly, you should be able to capture the full dynamic range of the singer and compress after the fact... compressing after the fact gives you more options, but does not allow you to use the character of a certain compressor to affect the performance.

good luck, and let us know how it goes.

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Post by dynomike » Thu Dec 13, 2007 10:01 am

get to know the song on the first couple takes and gently ride the vocal gain so that the difference in level is less drastic from section to section (not so the loud and quiet parts are the SAME)... then use some kind of opto compressor plugin to pump the shit out of it. 'modern female pop rock' vocals are incredibly compressed.

i wouldn't be suggesting mic technique in this specific example, since moving around will change the tone, and in this style you want to achieve basically everything with processing, not performance .. you don't want more of the room sound on the louder parts, like you would get by moving away from the mic. buying a ART pro vla would probably help you even things out a bit before it hits the computer. I'm not a big fan of the tone of those comps, you seem to lose a lot of tone even with no gain reduction, but for a long time it was my only outboard comp and for singers who are all over the dynamic map, it can save the day.

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Post by eeldip » Thu Dec 13, 2007 11:08 am

just to add on...

one thing to look at too is where you are recording the vocals. at 6" the room matters very little to the finished project.

at 3 feet, its very important.

so if have problems with stepping back and belting, your room treatment might be an issue. reflections could be causing the "thin" thing.

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Post by qball » Thu Dec 13, 2007 11:30 am

In this situation (a vocalist with lack of mic technique), I set up a 2nd mic about 12-18" with a limiter to catch the wild peaks. I just swap in the "belting" parts from that mic. This way you don't need to move mics around and the singer can just concentrate on performance.
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Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Thu Dec 13, 2007 1:20 pm

Two things -
#1 - It might be that the singers voice naturally gets thinner and harsher sounding when she belts it out. Mine does. When I sing at moderate levels my voice sounds warm and a little bassy. When i push really hard I turn into Bon Scott (but not in a good way), all nasally and thin. Have her try not pushing as hard in the loud parts.
#2 - is there a pad on the mic? She might be clipping the mic itself if she's screaming her head off 3" away from it.

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Post by drumsound » Thu Dec 13, 2007 5:49 pm

Everything said is good. I was going to mention the singer's timbre when singing hard but Junkshop beat me to it.

You might also cut the 2 sections separately. Do all of the softer singing then do a pass with the gain adjusted for the louder parts.

Here's another cool thing I've done and works pretty well especially if the singer isn't super studio or compressor savvy. Split the signal before the compressor. Send the uncompressed signal to the headphones and the compressed one to the recorder. Sometimes, as the gain reduction kicks in, the singer will sing louder, because it didn't get louder as they expected, so the sing harder, making more gain reduction, so they sing harder, so there's more gain reduction, so they sing harder..............

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Post by 8th_note » Fri Dec 14, 2007 1:57 pm

I record at levels where my preamps hit about 0 on the loudest belts. This makes the quiet passages pretty far down in volume. I use compression but usually I don't want to slam the vocal so I manipulate the volume envelope of the vocal during mixing to bring everything to an acceptable level. I tell the singer to pretty much lock their head about a couple inches from the spit screen which is about 3 to 4" from the mic. I definitely don't like the sound of a singer pulling back a foot or two from the mic but maybe that's because I'm recording in a treated room that's fairly dead.

I haven't used the Vienna but I'm using budget mics (GT 55, MXL 3000, Octava 319) and I haven't had them sound bad on the loudest passages. I record at 24 bits and I just quit worrying about the quiet passages being so far down in volume. It doesn't seem to hurt anything and it makes the vocal sound more consistent when I raise the gain of the quiet parts during mixing.

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Post by A-Barr » Fri Dec 14, 2007 3:04 pm

kidboy wrote:I always felt ... when i backed the gain off you can hear the difference in sound/tone....
Just a thought - this is sort of an auditory illusion. Lower volumes tend to hit us as sounding weak or thin. It may seem that the mic pre has a better tone at a higher gain, but often the tone will be the same, but the increased volume will give you the impression that it sounds better.

So don't be afraid to record at a low gain setting, my bet is that if you do that and then boost the volume back up on playback, using a comp. plug-in so you don't clip at the belting parts, your tone will be back where you think it should be.

This isn't always the case, there is definitely gear that has sweet spots at different gain settings, just something to keep in mind, fwiw.

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Post by tenchijin2. » Fri Dec 14, 2007 3:11 pm

If the Vienna is anything like my Hamburg (and it is in fact quite similar, I believe), then the problem is that the mic distorts quite easily.

Get the singer to back off. I've sung leads into my Hamburg from 3' away OR MORE. The proximity effects on these mics are very strong and the tonal characteristics do change from close in to far away.

But, again, I have a feeling that the problem is the mic itself distorting, not the preamp or some other gain stage.

Now, if you're catching your meters in the red then I'm completely wrong...

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Post by kidboy » Sat Dec 15, 2007 8:22 am

actually the vieanna does distort quite easily like the that I'm thinking about it....perhaps I should use the mic pad on it??

Now...i will be recording this weekend so I will let everybody know how it went...but should I buy a compressor such as the Art one recommended in this thread...or are the pro tool plugins ok??

thanks..... I will keep you all posted!

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