Recording Vocals with Confidence

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Recording Vocals with Confidence

Post by GussyLoveridge » Mon Feb 09, 2015 5:58 am

Hey Folks -

Was in the studio recording vocals yesterday for a client who wanted to re-cut some vocals that were recorded in a rush before he left for a few months of touring this fall - but I had a whole lot of trouble with it. I just couldn't find confidence in what we were accomplishing.

Here's the method:

I generally set up a few mics to audition and choose the signal chain/mic that gets me closest to where I want to be, then change anything in that chain to get exactly where I want to be.

Track maybe 2-5 takes of the song - depending on the singer, whether they need more to warm up, or if they simply haven't gotten a decent take yet. I tend to find there is are diminishing returns on tracking heaps and heaps of takes. Sometimes I work with artists who want to nail a take with no edits - other times working with singers that prefer to edit the shit out of a vocal take. Different strokes for different blokes. Yesterday's client was somewhere in the middle - get a few decent takes, pick the best and make a few edits to clean up.

My problem yesterday was that I just didn't feel confident in anything. The sounds were okay, but nothing that blew me away - I tried a few different chains and settled on the best. The takes were good, but nothing blew me away. We edited a few small parts where the pitch was better in one take than another, but again - nothing really jumped out at me as being amazing.

I love the songs, I love the singer's voice, I'm confident in the studio where I work, the recording equipment, mic locker, everything is more than adequate.

Did I just have a shitty day in the studio? Does that happen to anyone else?

If so - what do you do when this happens? You can't exactly cancel the session right?

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Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Mon Feb 09, 2015 6:52 am

It happens all the time. Sometimes it me, sometimes it's the performer. Usually waiting a day and then listening back reveals that things are actually fine and way better than I thought they were at the time.

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Post by losthighway » Mon Feb 09, 2015 7:23 am

Usually even with a good signal chain and singer the "tone" of the track never really gets a wow factor for me until some compression gets involved and there's a little premixing. This is disappointing compared to plugging in the right mic in the right pre, putting it in front of a guitar amp and going "ohh mannnn!". This rarely happens to me with vocals. It's more of a slow reveal, mix stage kind of excitement.

I'm more looking for the mic that suits the persons voice, gain staging, and avoiding weirdness, pops, sibilance, harshness, weird peaks.

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Post by vvv » Mon Feb 09, 2015 12:40 pm

What they said.

And also, do be sure to not let your immediate impressions mess with the singer.

Besides, there's always Autotune. :twisted:
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Post by jgimbel » Tue Feb 10, 2015 12:20 am

Totally agree with A.David.MacKinnon and losthighway on both points they make. I have some sessions where I really feel like things are sounding incredible, things fit right into place. I have other sessions where I feel more like I'm on autopilot a bit, and it's not quite impacting me as much. I find in those cases I'm relying a bit more on recording knowledge than purely the creative side of things - I know what I'm going for and I can move a mic to get more toward what I'm looking to get, but it doesn't necessarily make me freak out when I get there.

And there have only been a few times that I've been blown away by vocals right at the recording like I often am with guitar and drum sounds. For me, like for losthighway, it's often a matter of honing in compression. I tend to track vocals with a little bit of compression, but not nearly as much as I'm most likely using in the final mix, but I don't want to commit to that sound until I've got the rest of the mix in a place where I feel confidently informed about where the vocal should be.

In either of these cases, 99% of the time when I come back to the recording the day later, or even later that day when everything has quieted down a bit, things are much better/more exciting than I might have felt at the time. Those are the moments for me that make me feel like I'm making progress as an engineer, when I can feel disconnected from a session and still produce work that meets self-imposed high standards later.
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Post by Trick Fall » Tue Feb 10, 2015 7:00 pm

How'd the vocalist feel about the sound? I'm not much of an engineer, but I am a vocalist and it's more about me being jazzed by the sound so I can give the best performance.

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