Printing Vocals With EQ, Non-Computer Style/No Plug-ins

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Printing Vocals With EQ, Non-Computer Style/No Plug-ins

Post by CBA713 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 9:39 am

Hey friends.

I used to have a hard time understanding compression, and thought EQ was pretty simple. Now it's the total opposite, and I have some very general questions about EQ.

First off: I am recording lead vocals onto a BOSS BR-1600. I am singing through a Rode NT1000 LDC, and the signal is going through an ART MPA preamp and an ART VLA compressor. The MPA has a low cut filter on it, which I'm using, just maybe not to its fullest capacity. And by that I mean perhaps not in the best way.

Anyway, I don't plan on mixing any of this on a computer. I plan on doing the final mixes just on the BOSS, "keeping it real" as I'm naively thinking to myself, and I'm wondering a bit about EQing vocals on the way in. I AM able to EQ and compress any track after it's recorded on the BOSS, simple 3 band EQ.

The only EQ I have is a Joe Meek ThreeQ, which has Low, Mid sweep, Mid, and High. Here's a link:

I know it's not an AMAZING unit, but I've used the older model in the past and liked what I got. The thing is, the older unit didn't have the Mid-sweep, just Low, Mid, and High.

BASICALLY what I'm wondering is, for those of you that still print with a lot of outboard effects and don't necessarily print super-dry to a computer and then use plug-ins to alter the sound... what simple techniques do you use for adding slight EQ while recording vocals?

Do you even do it in the first place?

Should it be something that is applied only slightly, as I will have a chance to use minimal EQ after recording?

Are the frequencies affected by the ThreeQ useless?

I also use a TASCAM 424 mkII for the same kinds of straight-to-tape recording (as I kinda consider the BOSS to be, just digital).



p.s. I'm looking for a very "90s", Weezer-esque kind of silky yet dry vocal, but main influences are 60s pop records (just no reverb, here).

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Post by MASSIVE Mastering » Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:30 am

*IF* you're hearing more or less the context of the mix, a dB here and there of (whatever you're needing or have too much of) probably isn't going to hurt. Otherwise, I'd rather wait.

No big harm in HP'ing the incoming signal, but it's very easy to overshoot... Less is more IMO/E.
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Post by CBA713 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:31 pm

I think that's what I'm finding with pretty much everything I record, and I'm sure vocals are no exception. I feel like maybe I'm getting ahead of myself anyway... looking for the perfect vocal sound without even being done with everything. I DO have all the music recorded, it's just not really mixed yet. Still, the vocals just sound a little... dead to me. I know the songs really well, and I sing them alright, it's just that when I record them, they sound good, and then when I listen to them the next day "out of context" they sound pretty bland.

I know this is more of a "Just listen." kind of scenario, and I've learned a lot doing that over the last few years, but it was mostly with instruments. Perhaps it's because I'm recording my own voice... having a hard to knowing what sounds good!

I think I'll play it real simple and just fine-tune the HPF, then maybe do some very slight bass cutting with the Joe Meek.

It's just those mids... I know that no words are going to help me understand them... they're just so much more complicated than Highs and Lows.

Is recording vocals with EQ something that used to be done more often and is now not favored what with the use of easier EQing possibilities? I had a hard time moving from 4-track tape and early digital recorders because I didn't understand the method of recording a super-dry signal and then adding compression and EQ and effects AFTER recording.

Ok thanks!


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Post by KennyLusk » Wed Feb 27, 2013 2:19 pm

Personally I feel it's important to consider whether you like the sound of the ThreeQ in your signal path just flat.

Also, I'm with MM in being careful not to overdo it when HP'ing. If and when I use HP when tracking vocals I rarely go above 100Hz on it.

To add, having sweepable mids on my mixer is awesome when I need it and one of the reasons I chose the board I'm using now. I find in hardware, a very small amount of EQ goes a long way; again, when I do EQ. It depends on the sonic character of the instrument really, if the instrument is in obvious need of subtractive EQ. More and more lately I've found greater use for transparent EQ plugs to do a little surgical removal of unwanted/unpleasant freq's after tracking. If I could afford something as wonderful as a Massenburg box I'd prefer to go that route probably.
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Post by vvv » Wed Feb 27, 2013 3:20 pm

One way to approach it, and I did this when I used my VC3Q a lot, is to think of the EQ as a way of getting a sound, vs. as a EQ. By what I mean, I made it sound good going in in the context of how the full song was progressing. Then I did whatever corrective EQ was necessary in the mix.

Lemme note, and this is my current practice, other than pass-filters, I try to make EQ decisions by the mic's and their placement, as well as the hardware I'm recording through. For example, an SM58 will sound much different than yer Rode through the same recording chain.

To take that example further, I quite often merely change mic's for the backing vocals, leaving the pre and compressor in the chain set the same (inspired by something cgarges posted, altho' I'm not saying he does that).

All of that said, if yer vocals are consistently too dark, roll of some bottom, add a cuppla dB at 4kHz, etc.
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Post by chris harris » Wed Feb 27, 2013 10:48 pm

I say just go for it, man. If you're wanting to "keep it real" with a home recording vibe, and an "indie" aesthetic, there's simply no reason for you NOT to experiment. That's how you learn what works and what doesn't. Obviously it's worth something to ask for advice from people who do a wide range of different kinds of recording of different types of music. And, you're getting great advice here. But, you have the luxury of being able to try it and see if it works for you. You might stumble upon a technique that I would never even consider trying or suggesting that you try. Patience and insatiable curiosity are a pretty sure path to eventually being satisfied with your recordings.

If you're relatively new to recording, and don't have some corporation breathing down your neck about delivering a master, then try every single idea that you have. There are definitely things that work for me that some people think I'm crazy for doing. And, there are techniques that other people rave about that have never really worked out for me.

Playing it safe is for people who have paying clients and who are expected to efficiently deliver predictable, expected results. But, YOU should crank the EQ. See if it sounds good. If it doesn't, then do it again with less EQ. If you can make it sound awesome while you're tracking, mixing will be a breeze. I had a session recently where I was doing some mixes for a client who had recorded all of their songs themselves except for one that they recorded with me at the studio. It was kind of shocking to me how many fewer plugins were in use on the track that I recorded. The clients were shocked, too. And, it's partly because of those early years when I had an opportunity to endlessly experiment.

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Post by Nick Sevilla » Thu Feb 28, 2013 6:52 am


I try to keep the human voice as flat as possible, simply because it won't sound natural to the singer upon playback.

That said, when going to tape (real tape, mind you), I always found filtering out 50Hz and below, and boosting with a shelf eq all freq above 10K. Thus why I loved using Neve 1073, it has a fixed shelf at 10K, and a hipass filter starting at 50Hz. Done.

When recording to Pro Tools HD, I only do the hipass filter at 50. Unless it is a Barry White type of voice, then no hipass filter. I won't do the 10K shelf boost because it is not needed, since DAWs do not degrade any frequencies.
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Post by CBA713 » Thu Feb 28, 2013 12:44 pm

Thanks everyone for the tips.

It's odd for me, because I've been recording on different mediums since 2000, and I can usually find a pretty good setting for my own vocals. Older 60s pop demos that I've done sound great to my ears, and do some recordings I did for my bandmates.

It's just that this time around I'm having a hard time getting a sound that I want with this type of music. It's really fuzzy 90s pop, and I am simply not finding anything that sounds pleasing to me.

I did a ton of experimenting with echoes and reverbs and EQ on my earlier project (first paragraph), and it was all fun and sounded pretty much how I wanted it to sound.

These vocals I'm trying to get pretty straight-up... no echo, no reverb, occassional double-tracking on choruses.

I just found last night that my BOSS BR1600 has way more options for EQing than I thought it did; the manual is unclear, and sells itself short for what it can actually do after recording.

I'm going to try a combo of ears and numbers and see what happens. It's silly for me to say that I'm not sure how it's "supposed" to sound, but that's how it feels!



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Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Thu Feb 28, 2013 5:30 pm

vvv wrote:I try to make EQ decisions by the mic's and their placement
Don't assume that an EQ is the answer to your problem. Changing out the mic and playing with the positioning will have a way bigger impact on the sound than EQ will.
I went through the same trials as you when I first started recording my own singing. Part of the answer is getting over the sound of your own voice and trying to hear it objectively. Once you can get into that headspace you need to start trying out any and every mic you can lay your hands on until you find one that sounds good on your voice. Once you find a mic that fits the EQ will be way less of an issue.

To put it another way, you wouldn't expect to make your pants fit better by changing their colour. If the mic doesn't fit your voice EQ will not fix the problem.

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