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Author Topic: Vocals in my face  (Read 6994 times)

jc-muscleshoals

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Vocals in my face
« on: March 31, 2010, 09:34:27 am »

I mixed a song for a client to the best of my ability and he was happy with it, but an engineer friend was in town and wanted to take a stab at it. His specialty is mixing, where mine is more recording. (I've been trying to learn to mix better so I can offer both services.) The levels were pretty much the same as what I'd done, but when the vocals came in, Oh Wow-there was the difference! I closed my eye and the vocal was sitting right in front of my face between me and the monitors. How is this achieved? If this is part of the art that I just need to learn on my own, I can appreciate that and I'm trying. But if this is some easy, well known part of the task that I just haven't been taught, then I'm all ears-please someone teach me.
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grantis

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Re: Vocals in my face
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2010, 10:34:39 am »

there are probably two factors involved in that mixers' vocal prowess.

IME, one of the best ways to get a lead vocal to smack you in the face is to smash the living gobbuldyguk out of it.  If I had my choice of hardware....1176LN into VacRac does nicely, but ITB, the EMI Abbey Road Limiter (1969 on 'limit') into 117LN (taking off unmeasurable DB's) with fast attack/slow release.

He probably also had some magic going on in his 2buss chain...say for instance...vocals going to a different place than the music.  

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Grant Craig
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jc-muscleshoals

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Re: Vocals in my face
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2010, 11:47:10 am »

I recall him using both the Neve and SSL plugins. It was all done ITB.
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meverylame

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Re: Vocals in my face
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2010, 12:07:36 pm »

Another thing to try is using two compressors multed on to two different channels. I work on a console so the way I do it is:

Vocal off PT -> Console mult
VOCAL Mult #1-> LA2a (mild GR like 3-5 db) -> Channel input
VOCAL Mult #2-> 1176 (SLAMMING Medium attack, Fast Release, pick your poison on the ratio)-> Channel input.

You can do the same thing in the box though on a console, remember not to get lazy and just send the vocal out two channels of Pro Tools. For whatever reason it always seems phasey (and this is on the several rigs I've tried this on). I don't know if thats right or not, but it does seem just the way it is.
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Adam Miller

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Re: Vocals in my face
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2010, 12:21:18 pm »

jc-muscleshoals wrote on Wed, 31 March 2010 14:34

I mixed a song for a client to the best of my ability and he was happy with it, but an engineer friend was in town and wanted to take a stab at it. His specialty is mixing, where mine is more recording. (I've been trying to learn to mix better so I can offer both services.) The levels were pretty much the same as what I'd done, but when the vocals came in, Oh Wow-there was the difference! I closed my eye and the vocal was sitting right in front of my face between me and the monitors. How is this achieved? If this is part of the art that I just need to learn on my own, I can appreciate that and I'm trying. But if this is some easy, well known part of the task that I just haven't been taught, then I'm all ears-please someone teach me.


Hard work! Most probably, anyway- as the vox are (usually) the most important single element of the mix, you need to dedicate an appropriate amount of time to them. As Grant says- heavy compression and limiting will get you some of the way there. It needs to be applied in the right way though, often guys duplicate the vocal channel and put different amounts/varieties of compression on each and blend them. ITB I always liked Waves Rcomp for vocals- often I found high ratios with a medium attack/fast release worked well for getting things upfront. Judicious amounts of hi boost on a decent eq will also make stuff 'pop' more. Sometimes boosting an EQ feeding into a compressor can be a vibe- helps to smooth out the spikiness that the eq adds.

The downside to heavy eq and compression is that a vocal becomes a more labour intensive business- chances are you'll need to ride breaths, mouth sounds and other fricative artefacts down a bit- either pre or post compression- to stop them from distracting from the track. Sibilance is another thing- sometimes a set and forget plugin can work, but often you'll need to get in there and manually automate stuff down, or automate eqs to duck down the problem freqs.

You'll need to ride the vocal level overall throughout the track as well, to keep it sitting there without ever sticking out too much or stepping on anything else. Try and listen quietly when you ride it, and make sure it's always audible, obviously! It can get really detailed (doesn't have to, but it can!)- riding the sustain of notes, accentuating attacks on certain words, automating around pitchy spots in a flattering manner etc...

You need to choose effects in a complimentary way too- short reverbs, subtle slapback or tempo-synced delays and pitchblender/chorus type effects let you put a vocal louder than you'd otherwise get away with by smoothing out the edges and putting a bit of space around the voice, but they shouldn't be massively audible in the context of the overall mix.

Often it can help to get a vocal sound up very early on in the mix, and then feed in the other instruments into the space around the vocal, rather than the other way around.

Hope some of that helps!

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j.hall

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Re: Vocals in my face
« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2010, 01:53:32 pm »

i use a slower attack and a fast release on my 1176 for vocals.  more aggressive sounding.

other then that, everything else has been said.
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jc-muscleshoals

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Re: Vocals in my face
« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2010, 02:00:34 pm »

Thanks everybody. I'll give it a go!
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grantis

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Re: Vocals in my face
« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2010, 08:24:50 pm »

j.hall wrote on Wed, 31 March 2010 12:53

i use a slower attack and a fast release on my 1176 for vocals.  more aggressive sounding.

other then that, everything else has been said.



??????

1ms attack is slow?
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Grant Craig
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j.hall

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Re: Vocals in my face
« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2010, 09:51:56 pm »

you know that the number "1" on the attack knob on an 1176 is the slowest setting, right?

for vocals i set attack to 3 and release to 5 almost every time.  put a de-esser behind that and it's good to go....
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grantis

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Re: Vocals in my face
« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2010, 10:25:41 pm »

yes...1 on the knob = 2ms.

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Grant Craig
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Jason Poff

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Re: Vocals in my face
« Reply #10 on: April 01, 2010, 03:38:14 pm »

I try to get the vocal as close as possible with no compression. LOTS of automation. Often this is all that's needed. If this doesn't get me there, I open the bag of tricks listed above. If I get the automation right, I rarely use more than one compressor.
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jonathan jetter

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Re: Vocals in my face
« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2010, 01:21:22 am »

1176 (or in my case Purple MC77) slammed during tracking.  or if i get someone else's tracks to mix then i'll patch it in during the mix.

lots of automation too.  

and making sure that we're hitting the 2-bus comp in a more or less consistent way most of the time, instead of random things taking over at random moments.
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compasspnt

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Re: Vocals in my face
« Reply #12 on: April 04, 2010, 08:35:29 am »

Balance.
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Nick Sevilla

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Re: Vocals in my face
« Reply #13 on: April 05, 2010, 10:36:09 pm »

compasspnt wrote on Sun, 04 April 2010 05:35

Balance.


What he said...
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bjornson

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Re: Vocals in my face
« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2010, 10:04:54 am »

In addition to the comments above, you might try this: Create a "whole mix except lead vox bus" and strap a transparent comp across it. Key it from the lead vocal. Med fast attack, fast release. Just an itty bit of GR. If you can hear it working it's too much.
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