Tracking Vocals Without Headphones

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ElliottheRussian
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Tracking Vocals Without Headphones

Post by ElliottheRussian » Sun Sep 20, 2015 11:57 pm

Hi,

I often record my own vocals, however I despise singing with heaphones on (even with only one ear covered)
I have quite severe tinnitus in my right ear and i find when wearing cans its nigh on impossible to find pitch.

I have heard stories of vocals being tracked in the control room - monitors blaring and nothing but a carefully placed cardoid to minimise/kill bleed.

Do you have any stories/tips/tricks you care to share that may help me find a solution?

Many Thanks

Elliot

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Post by vvv » Mon Sep 21, 2015 5:31 am

I've not tried it, but the theory is that you stand between two monitors, one phase-reversed, so that they cancel out.
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Post by Gregg Juke » Mon Sep 21, 2015 6:08 am

Yeah, what vvv said and a microphone with a nice null area. There was a Ronan's Recording Show episode featuring the technique (sorry I don't have a link right now). But look it up.

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Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Mon Sep 21, 2015 6:52 am

vvv wrote:I've not tried it, but the theory is that you stand between two monitors, one phase-reversed, so that they cancel out.
I've done this quite a bit. With active monitors put an in line polarity reverse dodad on the line of one monitor. If you're using passive speakers swap the + & - on one of the monitors. Or find a plug in that allows you to flip the polarity on one side of your master bus. MONITOR IN MONO. This only works if the same info is coming out of both speakers.
Once you've got it set up, put up your mic, hit record and then play a test tone through the speakers. Move the mic around until you find the spot where L & R cancel each other out most.
It never cancels 100% but should put things to reasonable levels. Deadening the area behind and around the mic also helps. You want to keep the sound from splashing off the back wall into the mic.
Another trick is to leave the vocal mic in place and record a track of the bleed. Apply all the same processing to the bleed track that you apply to the lead vocal but reverse the polarity on the bleed track. When mixed at the same level as the vocal it should cancel out another 10 or 20db of the bleed.

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Post by ElliottheRussian » Mon Sep 21, 2015 9:08 am

great thanks - I figure the easiest way to achieve this in my set up would be to apply a polarity invert to just one channel using reapers stock channel polarity control plugin.

However, if I then hit the MONO monitor button in Reaper, doesnt this make the whole 'one channel' thing redundant?

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Post by vvv » Mon Sep 21, 2015 9:36 am

No, it makes it work!

If it was stereo, the two channels, polarity aside, would have different info - stereo information.

In mono they have the same mono info, and thus when one side is inverted and the mic is exactly between, well, in theory they should cancel.

(Thanks to A.David.MacKinnon for pointing that out.)
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Post by floid » Mon Sep 21, 2015 11:29 am

If you try the "record a track of the bleed," maintain your singing position in front of the mic while doing so. Your head and body were acting as a meat gobo during the take, you don't want to remove them from the acoustic environment. It also helps to compare flipping speaker polarity to flipping mic polarity, they sometimes give different results.
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Post by ElliottheRussian » Mon Sep 21, 2015 11:55 am

great thanks

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Post by vvv » Mon Sep 21, 2015 12:12 pm

floid wrote: meat gobo
I'm thinkin' of naming my next band that. :twisted:
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Nick Sevilla
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Re: Tracking Vocals Without Headphones

Post by Nick Sevilla » Mon Sep 21, 2015 6:50 pm

ElliottheRussian wrote: I have heard stories of vocals being tracked in the control room - monitors blaring and nothing but a carefully placed cardoid to minimise/kill bleed.
Aerosmith's "I don't Want to Miss a Thing".

A friend recorded Tyler in the control room with an SM58, monitors blaring. He likes it like that.
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Post by Nick Sevilla » Mon Sep 21, 2015 7:02 pm

vvv wrote:I've not tried it, but the theory is that you stand between two monitors, one phase-reversed, so that they cancel out.
Kenny Loggins "It's about Time".

I recorded him on this one, using monitors instead of headphones, due to an earache that got very bad if he placed headphones on his head. Excruciatingly painful.

Here is how you do it technically speaking:

You set up a Stereo headphone cue, but send EVERYTHING except his vocals into this mix in MONO. All of it, center right down the middle, even if it is some "stereo" keyboard of whatever.

You will need a good tape measure, and a good sound pressure level meter to set up the speakers and the microphone, and you will need to be able to calibrate the level of the two speakers as close as possible.

For this, you set up the monitors at ear height of the artist, and make SURE they line up facing each other PERFECTLY, and also that they are EXACTLY the SAME distance away from the very CENTER of the microphone center, and that the diafragm of the microphone is EXACTLY perpendicular to the speakers.

Now, use a sine wave oscillator first without the artist present of course, to set the level of each speaker independently. the easy way to do this is to do it controlling the levels from your DAW to the speaker.

In Pro Tools for example, you can create two MONO sends, and keep everything MONO going to two MONO sends, each one feeding a different speaker. Then simply have a master aux fader send (aux channel) with which to control the overall level to the speaker.

Now, once your sine wave is set, try some pink noise as well, to fine tune the levels. Play it back from each speaker independently, and measure right at the center of the set up, i.e. right at the center of the mic diafragm.

Now, once the levels are set, take a "trim" plug in on BOTH sends (in case this introduces latency, which will phuck this up big time), and flip the phase on ONE side.

As you do this, do have the microphone channel on, and you listening to the input of the mic. When you reverse the phase on one channel, it should drop SIGNIFICANTLY. It will not cancel out perfectly, but boy will it turn it down. Enough so that you can actually edit the recorded voice with almost no issues of background noise.

The stuff that does not cancel out are the room reflections of the sound you are pumping in there. But, those are low enough to not be an issue. Unless you are in a tiny bathroom of course. When I did this with Kenny, we were using a giant live room in a professional studio, approximately 2400sq feet, with high ceilings, so the room reflections were so tiny as to be non noticeable. Your results may vary, according to your room size.

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Post by ElliottheRussian » Mon Sep 21, 2015 11:25 pm

See thats why I love tape-op and its community! An in depth, accurate response with real world examples to boot!
I have been an avid reader of the magazine for years (now an avid e-mag reader since print was stopped in the UK..) and dont know why I didnt pop up here sooner, thanks!

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Post by JGriffin » Mon Sep 21, 2015 11:55 pm

Other singers who have tracked vocals without headphones, using a speaker for reference:


Bono (with an SM58, on "Achtung Baby")
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr (using the "White Elephant" speaker - a speaker set to the side of the vocalist, in the null point of the fig-8 vocal mic)
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Post by vvv » Tue Sep 22, 2015 10:33 am

Iggy apparently does it a lot; the Funhouse sessions famously had him singing with a PA blaring: cite.

I mean, I know that's like way different, but it's such a great story! :twisted:

" "About 30 percent of the modulation on the vocal track is drum hash," says Inglot [re-master engineer]. "

But on point, "Rhinestone Cowboy".
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Post by drumsound » Tue Sep 22, 2015 11:09 am

Put the singer toward the back of the room and don't blast the monitors. One speaker out of phase for an entire day of tracking would drive me completely batty. I'd probably feel the need to go throw up. Garges or somebody once said "turn down the overheads, that's the only thing that will bleed and cause problems later." It's sometimes easier with a dynamic, but condensers can be fine.

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