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R/E/P => R/E/P Archives => Terry Manning => Topic started by: Curve Dominant on February 03, 2005, 11:11:29 pm

Title: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: Curve Dominant on February 03, 2005, 11:11:29 pm
Terry,

First off, thanks for guest-hosting this forum! I was really happy to see you begin posting here at REP recently. In addition to the knowledge and experience you bring, I also enjoy your upbeat and positive tone (no doubt a factor in your success!).

OK. It seems now more than ever (or perhaps always), vocal production makes or breaks a song recording. And it's a particular interest for me since I'm making a specialty of producing vocalists.

So, I was hoping you could discuss with us your philosophies, techniques and antecdotes regarding vocal recording, editing and mixing...mic placement, signal chains, compression approaches, EQ, getting the lead vocal "present," etc.

As well as the "non-gear" factors such as arrangement, performance coaching, and the like.

Thanks in advance! ...and looking forward to a fun and informative month (nasty Philadelphia winter weather is going to keep me in front of the computer a lot!).
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: compasspnt on February 06, 2005, 03:15:45 am
Hi Eric,

Thanks for your questions.

I imagine that almost anything I can say about vocal recording is being done by many others as well, but I will try to at least give my viewpoint about the process, and provide some details.

I think that vocal recording and production is the single most important ingredient in music making.  You can have the greatest track, the tightest feel, and the best sounds ever, but without a great vocal to which the listener can relate, you really don't have much.  Unless it's an instrumental, where the vocal is much less important.

The primary concern is the relationship between the producer and/or engineer and the vocalist.  I find that I must develop a good rapport with the singer, and try to understand his/her needs, moods, and motivations.  A good knowledge of music theory and of singing mechanics is very helpful, also.  I like to start by discussing the lyrics in the control room; I want to understand (especially if the singer is also the author) what is actually being said, and why.  This helps me to guide the vocalist through the process, where that guidance is necessary.  (Of course, there are those few special singers who need no help or guidance.)  If small changes are necessary for timing, alliteration, etc., this is a good time to figure those things out.

I like to build a special area for the singer, moving tall baffles into a "squared-off U shape" behind and to the sides of the singing area, not only for the purpose of controlling unwanted reflections, but also to provide a "cocoon" space in which the singer can feel comfortable.  I usually put a small table inside this area for their lozenges, kleenex, tea, or whatever.  I use a music stand with a light, covered on the face by special acoustic cloth, so that the stand doesn't become an undesirable 'reverb source.'  I hang tube/valve condenser mics with the capsule at the bottom, so that any heat from the tube itself doesn't radiate upwards onto the capsule.  Having said all of this, when you look at photos of The Beatles in AR2, they are standing right in the middle of that huge room, with no baffles, and the mic hung the other way...and they did just fine.  I have recently been using the Stedman pop screen, but have found that in some cases of extreme air output, I have to put a second nylon one behind it.

When doing an entire album, one of my main concerns is always to use the one microphone suited to any one song, or even to any part of one song.  I hate to just set up one mic, in one spot, and do every song that same way.  On the album I'm working on right now, we've just finished the 14th song's vocal tonight, and we've already used 8 or 9 different mics, just on lead vocal.

I have used many different mics for vocals over the years.  Of course, I love the sound of an LDC (who doesn't?)  I still have one U48 which I like [my OTHER U48, which I used extensively for lead vocals over many years, was stolen from my studio a while back; please see the Klaus Heyne mic forum for details.  Klaus has very kindly locked the relevant post and placed it at the top!  Thanks, Klaus!], and also several 87's, 47fet's, Soundelux 251, Gefell UM-92's, two early Neumann M-49's, an AKG C12VR, etc., etc.  I recently added a couple of R
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: RMoore on February 06, 2005, 05:34:54 am
compasspnt wrote on Sun, 06 February 2005 09:15

 

Stories....? .....  Well, Bj
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: compasspnt on February 06, 2005, 09:52:05 am
Ryan Moore wrote on Sun, 06 February 2005 05:34


Hmm, not much different than anyone else? Smile
Can't say I've heard of too many ocean splash or bat vibe sessions...
Whatever it takes - classic!
I am <loving> all the info and anecdotes in this forum - thanks Terry!
RM




Hi Ryan,

I feel a little strange here...this idea was Bj
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: Curve Dominant on February 06, 2005, 01:29:45 pm
Quote:

posted by Terry Manning:
Ever notice how often they "get sick" just when it's time to sing?


So it's not just ME who they do that to??!!!

Thanks for sharing all that, Terry!  Can I ask one more question?

About headphone mixes, and the general subject of how vocalists monitor their performance: I was wondering how you generally approach this aspect, and if there are certain things you find consistently work well (or cause problems)?

(BTW: I'm also a big fan of the Stedman, been using it for years.)

Thanks!
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: compasspnt on February 10, 2005, 02:23:50 am
Eric Vincent wrote on Sun, 06 February 2005 13:29

 

About headphone mixes, and the general subject of how vocalists monitor their performance: I was wondering how you generally approach this aspect, and if there are certain things you find consistently work well (or cause problems)?



Man, do I hate headphones!  If there were any other way, I would do it in a flash.  I often sing myself, so I see it from both sides, the bad side and the bad side.  I hate the Sony headphones, they are so brittle.  The ones I have found that I like are the Fostex T-120 (I think that's the number, T-something.)

I find that it works for me, and I often tell the vocalist, to move one earpiece off of the ear itself, so they can hear themselves more naturally.  This seems to help pitch.

I find that most vocalists want themselves insanely loud in their mix.

Our cans systems here are transformer balanced, which seems to help general sound quality and loudness without bass overload; also helps with impedence matching, if there are two different brands of phones being used.

I sometimes send the artist the stereo mix, but more often use a stereo cue send with everything in "pre," just in case I move a fader which would upset them.  All of this is probably very common practice, though.

I've tried to use speakers instead, and put two together out of phase, so that the live sound would more or less cancel out at the mic.  Worked OK, but most find it strange.

I often sing in the control room, and just listen with the Genelec monitors instead of headphones.  But there is always that bleed, and you can't really get it loud enough to hear phrasing and pitch properly.

Thanks!

TM
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: Bob Olhsson on February 10, 2005, 11:04:43 am
I once talked a great vocal coach into co-teaching a vocal recording class with me. (How else could someone like me who can't sing learn?)

Something I had always wanted to do is to give beginners the experience of singing to both a screwed up track and a really good one. (I've worked with too many singers whose confidence had been destroyed by inept production or engineering.) As part of this exercise, we compared singing with both phones on, one phone on and each way both with and without the vocal mike in the cans. To my surprise the pitch was best by far with both phones on and no vocal mike in the phones! These were beginners with no preconceived notions about how vocal recording should be done.

I've never been able to talk anybody experienced into trying it but it's been great food for thought.
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: ted nightshade on February 10, 2005, 11:18:58 am
compasspnt wrote on Wed, 09 February 2005 23:23

 

Man, do I hate headphones!  If there were any other way, I would do it in a flash.  


Well, you *could* track the vocalist with a live band in the same room! Now that's my idea of a good time.
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: compasspnt on February 10, 2005, 11:28:22 am
Bob Olhsson wrote on Thu, 10 February 2005 11:04

...To my surprise the pitch was best by far with both phones on and no vocal mike in the phones! These were beginners with no preconceived notions about how vocal recording should be done.

I've never been able to talk anybody experienced into trying it but it's been great food for thought.



Hi Bob,

I will try this tonight!  Let you know...

T
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: mitgong on February 10, 2005, 03:03:08 pm
Rolfer!!  That's great!!

Not to nag, but would you happen to remember which tunes Bjork sang in which location?

You are royalty.  Thanks for sharing.
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: Bill Mueller on February 10, 2005, 10:01:00 pm
Rolfer huh? I had a Rolfer in the studio once.

This guy was an acoustic guitarist who sang real soft. I had two mics close up on his guitar and a vocal mic pointed up at his face, and for some reason I had the Urie monitors cranked up loud. All of a sudden, he SCREAMS AAAAAAGGGGGG!!!!!! AT THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS RIGHT INTO THE MIC!!!!!!!! I was literally knocked off my chair. The crossover lights on the Uries lit up like strobe lights. I think my assistant wet herself. She ran out of the room and never came back.

The entire office staff came running into the control room, thinking that someone was being killed. (They didn't want to miss it, of course.)

Turns out that in addition to being a Rolfer, he also practiced PRIMAL SCREAM THERAPY. His playing sucked.

Best Regards,

Bill
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: compasspnt on February 10, 2005, 10:38:34 pm
Awesome story, Bill!

Hopefully, a once in a lifetime event.

Thanks for sharing it.

TM
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: Etch-A-Sketch on February 11, 2005, 09:30:08 pm
Bob Olhsson wrote on Thu, 10 February 2005 08:04

 As part of this exercise, we compared singing with both phones on, one phone on and each way both with and without the vocal mike in the cans. To my surprise the pitch was best by far with both phones on and no vocal mike in the phones! These were beginners with no preconceived notions about how vocal recording should be done.



That is very interesting, I'm going to try that one.  There's two things I do all the time that seem to help singers.  First, I never put any reverb or delay into the cans.  For some reason, reverb always seem to skew their sense of pitch.  Second, when doing harmony/background parts, I never play any of the other vocal tracks in the cans, just the one they are singing at the moment.  Sometimes the rhythm is a little out, but the pitch is dramatically better.  Like Terry said, these are things most people probably do anyway...I'm just throwing them out there just in case someone has never tried it.

One question I have for Terry, you mention slightly overdriving each piece of gear in the vocal chain.  Do you do this often?  I've always liked that type of distortion Lenny uses on his vocals, Like in the PreChorus for "Live" and to a lesser extent the sound of the vocals on "Can we find a reason".  I've never been able to fully get that same sounding distortion and had always wondered how it was achieved.  Every time I overdrive a preamp it sounds too harsh.  I have a Manley, an Avalon and a Neve 1073 reissue that I use a lot for vocals.  But I've never been able to get that pleasing yet subtle distortion.  I've tried putting a tape delay on the vocal to see if that, in conjunction with the distortion from the preamp, would get the sound but it hasn't worked for me.  Do you think very lightly overdriving each piece of gear in the chain is the key?

And by the way, while I'm here posting...THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BEING A GUEST MODERATOR!!!!  I must say, I find myself sitting infront of the computer, waiting anxiously for your replies to all the questions being asked in this forum.  Thanks again for all the time and expertise you've shared with all of us.
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: compasspnt on February 11, 2005, 10:23:55 pm
Etch-A-Sketch wrote on Fri, 11 February 2005 21:30

First, I never put any reverb or delay into the cans.  For some reason, reverb always seem to skew their sense of pitch......

..... I've never been able to fully get that same sounding distortion and had always wondered how it was achieved.  Every time I overdrive a preamp it sounds too harsh.  I have a Manley, an Avalon and a Neve 1073 reissue that I use a lot for vocals.  But I've never been able to get that pleasing yet subtle distortion.  I've tried putting a tape delay on the vocal to see if that, in conjunction with the distortion from the preamp, would get the sound but it hasn't worked for me.  Do you think very lightly overdriving each piece of gear in the chain is the key?




Thanks for the kind words Derek.

I agree about the 'verb in the cans, but every time I try, the artst always asks immediately for reverb.  I try to explain, but usually there is no point in arguing with them.  I just try to put it in, then back it out slowly once they're used to it (please don't tell them this, I'll never get away with it again!)

The only pre I have found that does the vocal distortion I like is the API 512 (at least of the ones I have, or have tried).  I always said I would never  give away any 'trade secrets,' but anyway, if I want max voc overdrive, I will run the mic into the first API pre, then actually go line-out into mic-in of a second one, which sends it into orbit (be careful!), then do the overdriving slightly of each subsequent piece as mentioned before.

But if course this is only a rare thing when needed for effect; most of my vocal recording is totally normal!

Thanks,

Terry
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: Lee Flier on February 11, 2005, 10:39:50 pm
compasspnt wrote on Fri, 11 February 2005 22:23


I agree about the 'verb in the cans, but every time I try, the artst always asks immediately for reverb.  I try to explain, but usually there is no point in arguing with them.  I just try to put it in, then back it out slowly once they're used to it (please don't tell them this, I'll never get away with it again!)


LOL... I often have the same experience.  But then too there are some singers who DO have better pitch with a bit of verb because they can tell if they're off pitch with the verb tail.  I put a goodly amount of predelay on the verb and if they're singing right on with it, they know.  And if they can't, they can tell that too. It's the really "washy" reverb - long tail and little predelay - that seems to throw them off.  A little bit of plate or room verb with a lot of predelay makes them happy AND helps with the pitch, at least in my experience.

FWIW, I recorded a number of metal singers in the 80's who sang without any of their voice in the cans as Bob described.  Mind you these guys were LOUD singers, and not hearing themselves in the cans would force them to sing stronger and louder and push their voices more - which they liked.  Singers who like to hear a lot of nuance, wouldn't like it I suppose.

Awesome stories once again Terry!
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: Curve Dominant on February 12, 2005, 12:16:06 am
compasspnt wrote on Thu, 10 February 2005 07:23

Eric Vincent wrote on Sun, 06 February 2005 13:29

About headphone mixes, and the general subject of how vocalists monitor their performance: I was wondering how you generally approach this aspect, and if there are certain things you find consistently work well (or cause problems)?


Man, do I hate headphones!  If there were any other way, I would do it in a flash.  I often sing myself, so I see it from both sides, the bad side and the bad side.  I hate the Sony headphones, they are so brittle.  The ones I have found that I like are the Fostex T-120 (I think that's the number, T-something.)


Terry,

I've been using Audio Technica ATH-M40 flat response headphones, both for myself and clients (mostly singers and guitarists). They're flat-response, and have a smooth easy sound to them that's not the least fatiguing IMHO.

RE: Reverb in cans...

Ya know, the nice thing about working with non-famous vocalists is, you can tell them something like, "I'm not putting reverb in your headphones, because you'll sing better without it," and they say, "Oh, OK!" Other than that, I really coddle them when it comes to getting a headphone mix they feel comfortable with.

........

***OK, another question!***

Do you often find the very best vocal takes, are the very first ones they sing?

This happens to me a lot: I casually say to the vocalist, "Just run through the song to warm up, no pressure or anything," not telling them I'm actually recording it. Later when I'm summing all the takes, I find 80% of the ones I use for the final vocal, were from that take!
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: RedRawSore on February 13, 2005, 01:48:17 pm
Hey Bob,

I'm glad to hear that someone else undrstands the value of cutting the vox out of the mix in the cans.  I'm not coming from an enigeering perspective here, but from a singer who is wayyyyy  more comfortable not hearing his own voice.   When I hear it in playback, I try to "adjust" to make it sound the way I want to hear it in my head, whereas if I don't hre anything I just open my mouth and sing. . .sortof.  I still have some issues with redlight syndrome,  but it's worlds better without my own voice distracting me.

I've been wonering for a while if anyone else was better without themselves. . and now I know  Thanks

-Chris
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: Bob Olhsson on February 13, 2005, 02:39:03 pm
I always found REAL reverb in the cans to help. Lexicons and a number of other digital reverb units shift the pitches around and really throw singers off.
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: RMoore on February 13, 2005, 03:12:25 pm
compasspnt wrote on Sun, 06 February 2005 15:52

Ryan Moore wrote on Sun, 06 February 2005 05:34


Hmm, not much different than anyone else? Smile
Can't say I've heard of too many ocean splash or bat vibe sessions...
Whatever it takes - classic!
I am <loving> all the info and anecdotes in this forum - thanks Terry!
RM




Hi Ryan,

I feel a little strange here...this idea was Bj
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: compasspnt on February 13, 2005, 03:20:36 pm
Bob Olhsson wrote on Thu, 10 February 2005 11:04

...To my surprise the pitch was best by far with both phones on and no vocal mike in the phones!...
I've never been able to talk anybody experienced into trying it but it's been great food for thought.

Hey Bob,

I tried this on myself overdubbing last night, and I guess I've done it one way so long, I couldn't seem to get the feel for it.  Maybe it takes some practice, or one should start out this way...
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: Bob Olhsson on February 14, 2005, 12:29:29 am
It makes sense that it would be a drastic change.

As I said, it completely took me by surprise and was the only method I had never seen done previously. The vocal coach had sung on Broadway during the early '60s and told us about never being able to hear himself on stage yet some recordings made from he audience had shown him to be perfectly in tune.
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: maxdimario on February 14, 2005, 05:35:42 am
maybe I'm crazy, but I find that a bandwidth-limited sound in the headphones (cheap headphones with no high end) can help the singer sing more naturally. this doesn't apply to someone who specifically needs the full-range sound to feel at ease.

Sometimes a real hi-fi sound in the cans can exaggerate the already exaggerated high end of condenser mics (especially my u47) to the point that the singer backs off on the body and fundamental of the tone of the voice, and concentrates his/her vocal consciousness on the high frequency lip/nose sounds.
in other words the voice is not as full and more restrained if the singer hears themselves in hi-fi cans.

if you think about it the vocal recordings done in the days before cans and proper monitoring have a fuller voice overall.

in fact, I think that the evolution of monitor systems for both studio and live work, have spoiled singers.

the beatles, just like most of their rock peers, grew up singing at full voice for hours in clubs where the pa was probably less than 100w and was used only for the vocals.

cab callaway could sing over the orchestra with no mic if he needed to.

really makes you sing when you have to shout, be in tune, and not sound harsh and thin over a band without the help of a full monitor system.
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: Bob Olhsson on February 14, 2005, 04:28:13 pm
They also had to have their microphone technique almost perfect just to communicate with the audience. Prior to the mid '50s the PA often consisted of no more than a guitar amp with a mike plugged into it.
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: Etch-A-Sketch on February 17, 2005, 04:05:06 pm
Quote:

 title=compasspnt wrote on Fri, 11 February 2005 19:23
The only pre I have found that does the vocal distortion I like is the API 512 (at least of the ones I have, or have tried).  I always said I would never  give away any 'trade secrets,' but anyway, if I want max voc overdrive, I will run the mic into the first API pre, then actually go line-out into mic-in of a second one, which sends it into orbit (be careful!), then do the overdriving slightly of each subsequent piece as mentioned before.



Terry,

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!  You are a gentleman and a scholar!

I've used API 312s in the past for Vocals, Bass, and Drums but didn't really care for them on vocals.  So I never bothered to try any APIs on vocals since then.  I'll have to try and get my hands on some 512s and play around with them.  

Oh, and no worries about giving out trade secrets.  One thing I've noticed over the years about giving out trade secrets/signature sounds...just because someone knows what they are, doesn't mean they have the ears to know when and how to use them.  I think your secrets are still safe with you.  

Thanks again and take care,

-Derek
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: Jason Phair on February 17, 2005, 07:42:07 pm
The best vocal production lesson I've ever heard was from Bob Olhsson - breathe with the singer.  I do it live, and it's such a difference - while I love crushing vocals with compression in the studio, I like a very light touch live, and just use the fader and this idea to compensate.  A world of difference it makes.

Edited to spell Bob's name right Wink
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: rush909 on February 18, 2005, 09:14:08 am
Hey Terry...  I have question regarding getting a Thick vocal sound...  the kind of sound that you can put up in the mix and it can support the entire record.    I have a pretty good chain a Tracy Korby KAT2 system with Elam251 capsule.. going into UA 6176 (610 pre & 1176 comp) into a Apogee Rosetta 800... While I get a good sonic sound from this setup...  I can't seem to get the kind of sound where it feels like the singer is right in the middle of speaker "talking to you" where you can reach out an touch them.   Not all recordings I hear seem to have that quality...  my recordings much like many still seem to be lacking some "pin point focus".    how do you achive that?  is my room too live?  is it that I'm not compressing enough to make my vocal recording thick enough thus sounding more present?  or is it some other trade secret Smile

BTW your comment about using multiple microphones for a single recording really opened my eyes to different possibilities...  

any suggestions are greatly appreciated...

r.  
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: compasspnt on February 18, 2005, 05:30:05 pm
rush909 wrote on Fri, 18 February 2005 09:14

...  I have question regarding getting a Thick vocal sound... I have a pretty good chain a Tracy Korby KAT2 system with Elam251 capsule.. going into UA 6176 ... While I get a good sonic sound from this setup...  I can't seem to get the kind of sound where it feels like the singer is right in the middle of the speaker "talking to you" where you can reach out an touch them.   Not all recordings I hear seem to have that quality...  my recordings much like many still seem to be lacking some "pin point focus".    how do you achieve that?  is my room too live?  is it that I'm not compressing enough to make my vocal recording thick enough thus sounding more present?  or is it some other trade secret...



Interesting question...

I think this quality absolutely emanates from the singer first and foremost.  There are obviously mics better suited to a particular vocalist than others, with a more usable proximity effect, as well as limiters better for the purpose at hand, and so on, but if the singer doesn't have that "pin-point focus," coupled with an immediacy in the delivery, it will be harder to achieve this.  First, I always try to narrow down the singer's mental outlook, to get them to explain what they are singing about.  This is not only so that I can help in getting that meaning translated "to tape" (as if, ha ha), but also so that the vocalist will thusly be examining the issues for themself at  that critical moment.

Technically, I haven't used the KAT2, so I can't comment on it in specifics.  But I certainly know Tracy and his proclivities for excellent microphone knowledge, so I imagine it is quite good.  Likewise, I have not used the new UA series.  I do know that I would not reach first for an 1176 as vocal limiter, however.  As mentioned in other posts, I always used to use the old tube/valve UA 176 compressor, which is quite a different animal than the 1176 type.  The method of achieving gain reduction is totally different in the two.  Today, I almost always use my custom Lucas Limiting Amplifier, which is tube, and loosly based on the 176 concept.  The gain reduction here occurs inside the tube itself (somewhat like the old Fairchild method also), so it is sonically different than other types.  The smoothness, I believe, allows for use of greater compression amounts, without degrading the sonics, or sounding over-compressed.  This can force the vocal out front a bit more.

Another factor is of course what else in the track is around the vocal.  George Martin used to say that he would carefully tailor the instrumentation in The Beatles' recordings so that there weren't too many instruments in any one frequency range; thus  the vocals didn't have to "fight" too much to be heard.  I think this is true.  In some cases, equalisation of the things in a mix OTHER than the vocal will affect its apparent immediacy as much, if not more, than equalisation of the vocal itself.

You mention the liveness of the room; of course I don't know how live your room is, but I do think that the room should not be terribly live.  I will "wall off" part of my room with soft-sided baffles around three sides of the singer, and put some tall ASC tubetraps (with the 30 ms reflective side facing towards the mic) within a few feet of the front of the vocal performance.  30 ms or less of relection or repeat is perceived by the human ear  as being part of the original performance, so this can just so slightly "beef up" the performance.  However, as seen in myriad photographs of said Beatles, as well as Sinatra, Dean Martin, and many others, many great vocals were done right in the middle of a large studio room, with no baffling, no pop screen, no headphones; just a U47 and a singer!  But these, I notice, almost always were in quite large rooms, with no walls close to the singer, so that there weren't any short-to-medium, early reflections.

I don't know if any of this is helpful; again, it's probably the same things most people are doing.  But I would reiterate that I believe it starts with the vocalist!

Thanks for the question!

Terry
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: rush909 on February 18, 2005, 05:58:03 pm
wow! thanks for the quick repsonse...  thanks for the answer... I will take some of your ideas/suggestions and experiment and report back...  more than it looks like from your answer that I am missing some "industry strength" vocal limiting as well as vocal booth tuning to avoid reflects smearing the vocal sound..

thanks again!  

rachid.
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: Adam Tal on February 19, 2005, 09:13:01 am
Hi Terry!
I would really like to know -
when you record those great vocalists, how many  
takes does it usually take to get the "right one"?
Do you stack up lots of takes, and then spend hours choosing the best parts? or do you only keep 1-2 (or 3-4) takes that you think would be good?
Also - do you deal with a lot of bad takes (pitch\rhythm\other problems), or does the vocalist get it right from the first time, and just try to get better takes?

[first post here... Hi all...Smile]
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: WhyKooper on February 19, 2005, 12:16:43 pm
I've run into singers who do outstanding performances ..but only when singing to monitor speakers.  They can't nail it with headphones no matter what I try.  Which doesn't work most of the time because of the leakage.  Have you ever run into this?  How do you handle it?
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: Bob Olhsson on February 19, 2005, 02:19:49 pm
Why try?

Seriously, there's never any point to performances that are less than outstanding. Great recording engineering is all about solving these kinds of problems and ALWAYS keeping the recording process out of the way of an outstanding performance.
Title: Airy/Breath Sound of Vocals.
Post by: rush909 on February 19, 2005, 03:32:35 pm
I've been looking for an answer to this for a while:

how can you get that air/breath sound consistantly that's on a lot of R+B vocal Hits- where there is this constant high frequency breath sound whenever the vocal is heard?
It almost sounds like someone is triggering a constant breath sound to turn on when the vocals are on. It's on most R+B vocal group hits- but I hear it on pop/rock records as well... it sound like white noise is coming out of the singer's mouth... For the longest time I thought it was the Never 1073 pre adding that color, but I then heard some productions done with the 1073 that did not have that...

not sure if you know what I mean... but I thought I'd take a shot...

best

r.
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: compasspnt on February 19, 2005, 06:41:57 pm
Adam Tal wrote on Sat, 19 February 2005 09:13

Hi ...
when you record those great vocalists, how many  
takes does it usually take to get the "right one"?
Do you stack up lots of takes, and then spend hours choosing the best parts? or do you only keep 1-2 (or 3-4) takes that you think would be good?
Also - do you deal with a lot of bad takes (pitch\rhythm\other problems), or does the vocalist get it right from the first time, and just try to get better takes?


This will vary greatly from any one vocalist to another.  I have worked with some who can sing the song almost perfectly the first time, or any number of times after that.  In those cases, I would usually just do 2 or 3 takes, and only make a composite track where an obvious "best" bit occurred on one of the takes.

Others are equally great vocalists, in that although they might not be technically perfect at hitting the notes, or even in timing, they are able to convey the emotion to the listener.  In a case like that, there might be several more takes performed, and a more rigorous comping job ahead.  Always this would be done with a sense of the "big picture" and the emotional meaning of the song.

Then there are those who really aren't so great, but can be made to appear so (almost, perhaps), by multiple takes and/or punches, and massive comping and tuning.  But, do whatever one has to do to get the best recording possible.



WhyKooper wrote on Sat, 19 February 2005 12:16

I've run into singers who do outstanding performances ..but only when singing to monitor speakers.  They can't nail it with headphones no matter what I try.  Which doesn't work most of the time because of the leakage.  Have you ever run into this?  How do you handle it?


I agree with Bob...nothing should get in the way of a great performance.  If there has to be bleed, then so be it.  I mentioned in another post that I have, on occasion, used two small monitor speakers in the studio in front of the vocalist, and had the two wired out of phase.  The theory here is that the speakers' sound reaching the mic would roughly cancel itself out, and you could get a fairly low level of bleed along with the vocal.  Of course, the sound reaching the vocalists' ears might also be more or less out of phase, so that could possibly affect them adversly.

I work a lot with an artist that I think is a great singer, but we never overdub vocal only.  He sings the best when playing his acoustic guitar while singing.  Of course, this means there is bleed in both the guitar mic and the vocal mic, and it mitigates the possibility of tuning notes or adding certain effects.  BUT, the performance is much better this way, and that's the important thing.

TM
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: Bob Olhsson on February 19, 2005, 09:57:33 pm
I once chased a singer into the bathroom at Motown! He cracked up and came back and sung his heart out. I also gave up and did the lead vocals and two passes of backgrounds on Rare Earth's "I Just Want To Celebrate" using a single hand-held Shure SM53 in the control room with a pair of 604s running at ear-splitting volume with lots of EMT on the vocal mike.
Title: Re: Airy/Breath Sound of Vocals.
Post by: Curve Dominant on February 20, 2005, 01:26:57 am
rush909 wrote on Sat, 19 February 2005 20:32

I've been looking for an answer to this for a while:

how can you get that air/breath sound consistantly that's on a lot of R+B vocal Hits- where there is this constant high frequency breath sound whenever the vocal is heard?
It almost sounds like someone is triggering a constant breath sound to turn on when the vocals are on. It's on most R+B vocal group hits- but I hear it on pop/rock records as well... it sound like white noise is coming out of the singer's mouth...


Try this:

1) Make a duplicate track of the lead vocal.
2) Run the dup through a hipass filter set to 7KHz
3) Compress that, a lot. Crush it.
4) Now, very carefully blend that track into the mix.

I learned that trick from Mike Shipley, and have since been using it a lot to satisfying effect. That track becomes like a "presence" knob on the original vocal which you can raise or lower depending on the need for the vocal to stand out in the mix.
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: howlback on February 20, 2005, 05:45:57 am
compasspnt wrote on Thu, 10 February 2005 02:23


I've tried to use speakers instead, and put two together out of phase, so that the live sound would more or less cancel out at the mic.  Worked OK, but most find it strange.

TM


Hi Terry,

Thanks for sharing so much on this forum.

I have heard that a good solution to the problem above is to record vocal passes with the loudspeakers in polarity, then record a "bleed track" with the singer in place (not singing). Subsequently, reversing the polarity on the "bleed track" gets rid of almost all the leakage, due in part to including the reflections from the singer's face.

I have never done this, but I know of at least one platinum selling Canadian signer who likes to have her vocals recorded in this way.  

Best wishes,

Kent
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: Andy Simpson on February 20, 2005, 07:11:11 am
With regards to 'white noise' on the singer, I would say that it's a close-mic'd by product of the husky, experienced (tired) voices of the old school singers. Those guys sung (screamed) long (smokey club) shows every night of the week, which if you try yourself, you'll find to give you a husky, textured vocal sound (even if you don't want it!).

The same 'effect' is present on alot of earlier beatles records, where they tracked the whole album in a day or two....very tired voices with pleasing husky sound....

Wink

Andy
Title: Re: Airy/Breath Sound of Vocals.
Post by: Etch-A-Sketch on February 20, 2005, 04:03:32 pm
rush909 wrote on Sat, 19 February 2005 12:32

I've been looking for an answer to this for a while:

how can you get that air/breath sound consistantly that's on a lot of R+B vocal Hits- where there is this constant high frequency breath sound whenever the vocal is heard?
It almost sounds like someone is triggering a constant breath sound to turn on when the vocals are on. It's on most R+B vocal group hits- but I hear it on pop/rock records as well... it sound like white noise is coming out of the singer's mouth... For the longest time I thought it was the Never 1073 pre adding that color, but I then heard some productions done with the 1073 that did not have that...

not sure if you know what I mean... but I thought I'd take a shot...

best

r.



i've had to engineer some stuff that had this sound on it.  What the producer made me do is this...

Have the singer go back after the lead part is comp'd and do a "Whisper track".  The singer has to be really good at doubling himself, but if they can pull it off, they whisper-sing the whole track in unison with the comp'd lead.  

I didn't mix it so I'm not sure how the mixing engineer would handle it.  I'd image you'd pull out  from around 300Hz up to about  2KHz (too keep it out of the way of the lead vox) and then maybe boost a hair at around 8KHz and up to bring out the airy-ness in the whisper.  Then you blend it in the background.

Just dup'ing the track and running  a high pass set at 7K can create some phase shifting (depending on the EQ you use) and may make the vocal brittle instead of brilliant.  

The Whisper track did the trick perfectly.  I guess you could use vocalign if the singer can't double him/herself that well.  But after tracking that, I now notice it a lot in Hihop/R&B tunes.  I'm not sure if that's what they are doing, but it's the same sound we got by doing the whisper track.

Try it and see if it gives you what you're looking for.
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: rush909 on February 20, 2005, 05:59:12 pm
cool... I've been doing the whisper trick for a many years now, but never really went all out with it... I almost always have it in the choruses to thicken and make the chorus special but never really went all out and done it on the verses... hm...  I think a good combination of the two techniques - whisper & careful EQing could be the trick...

thanks for the idea...

r.
Title: Re: Airy/Breath Sound of Vocals.
Post by: jwhynot on March 12, 2005, 09:41:16 pm
Many moons ago Eric Vincent hath inscribed



Try this:

1) Make a duplicate track of the lead vocal.
2) Run the dup through a hipass filter set to 7KHz
3) Compress that, a lot. Crush it.
4) Now, very carefully blend that track into the mix.



It's worth adding here that setting the hi-pass a little lower works very well too - as does using a bandpass filter such as the GRM tools one.

JW
Title: Re: Airy/Breath Sound of Vocals.
Post by: Curve Dominant on March 12, 2005, 09:59:46 pm
jwhynot wrote on Sun, 13 March 2005 02:41

Many moons ago Eric Vincent hath inscribed



Try this:

1) Make a duplicate track of the lead vocal.
2) Run the dup through a hipass filter set to 7KHz
3) Compress that, a lot. Crush it.
4) Now, very carefully blend that track into the mix.



It's worth adding here that setting the hi-pass a little lower works very well too - as does using a bandpass filter such as the GRM tools one.

JW


Thanks, John, I'll experiment with that.

The 7KHz was something Mike Shipley mentioned, and I just ran with that. Depending on the voice, one could indeed vary that.
Title: Re: Airy/Breath Sound of Vocals.
Post by: jwhynot on March 12, 2005, 11:22:46 pm
yeah of course it's an idea on which to build...

I found just now that setting the hi pass at 3500 felt more human, and at 7k the effect was more of a process, more "metallic".  Definitely depends on the voice I guess...

BTW multing signals out like that is something that can work on lots of different things, including the whole mix.

JW
Title: Re: Airy/Breath Sound of Vocals.
Post by: Tomás Mulcahy on March 13, 2005, 10:24:26 am
I HATE that whispery sound Smile ! I hear it on almost all LD condensers, without any processing, so I must be a freak.

Very interesting thread though, thanks to all.
Title: Re: Airy/Breath Sound of Vocals.
Post by: Curve Dominant on March 13, 2005, 11:07:48 pm
jwhynot wrote on Sun, 13 March 2005 04:22

I found just now that setting the hi pass at 3500 felt more human, and at 7k the effect was more of a process, more "metallic".  Definitely depends on the voice I guess...


There are some nuances to consider when using this technique:

Title: Re: Airy/Breath Sound of Vocals.
Post by: Bill Mueller on March 19, 2005, 10:02:02 am
Eric,

I have used this trick for years. It will allow you to use less compression on the main vocal as well because as it falls in gain it gets brighter and more distinct. The whispery parts get even more whispery without gettting harsh. This also keeps the track from getting harsh when louder. Mike Shipley gave you a real gift with this one.

Lucky guy,

Best Regards,

Bill
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: rush909 on March 19, 2005, 10:43:12 am
this is great stuff... vocals are still my favorite thing to mix, but still the most challanging...   I kinda saw it mentioned in this thread a bit..  are there any microphone/pre-amp combinations that get you to that sound without having to do the filter/compress/add underneath trick?

There are SO many records that have that sound I find it a little hard to believe that the engineers on every one of those records went through this detailed process on every line of the vocals and backgrounds...  not saying that some don't, as I am sure they do... but all these records with that sound???  

r.  
Title: Re: Airy/Breath Sound of Vocals.
Post by: Curve Dominant on March 20, 2005, 12:38:09 am
Bill Mueller wrote on Sat, 19 March 2005 15:02

Eric,

I have used this trick for years. It will allow you to use less compression on the main vocal as well because as it falls in gain it gets brighter and more distinct. The whispery parts get even more whispery without gettting harsh. This also keeps the track from getting harsh when louder. Mike Shipley gave you a real gift with this one.

Lucky guy,

Best Regards,

Bill


Bill,

I agree that Mike was generous in sharing this gift, but it wasn't just me he shared it with: He actually posted it on Gearslutz when he was a guest-moderator there.

I study these forums closely, and when I find a "gem" like that one, I copy it to a file, print it and stick in a 3-ring binder. And I've been building up something of a library of these binders of audio "gems."

Sometimes I see someone post something to the effect that "You can't learn audio from the internet," and I have to disagree with that. Yes, you have to practice it to perfect it, but you can learn plenty here in cyberspace, and this is only one example.

I love these forums and lurk on them religiously for that reason. I have tremendous respect for all the audio greats who share knowledge like this, and treat these forums like it's a university...to the point where I often come off like the pesky and irritating student who raises his hand and speaks out too much. But I learn faster that way.
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: Greg Dixon on March 20, 2005, 01:11:44 am
I think it was Terry, who mentioned recording a guy who couldn't sing without playing. Years ago I was recording a demo for a band, where each member sang one song. It came to the guitarists vocal and it was terrible. Really really bad. After the take he said something about not being able to sing without his guitar. I told him to grab his electric guitar and play it while he sang, figuring that if we heard it, it would just add a bit of sheen to the sound (a bit like the vocal techniques mentioned). The next take was perfect. I don't think we even did any fixes and I think he ended up just holding the guitar and not playing it.

On a similar note, I was doing 2 albums a couple of years back, with singer/pianists. They both had a couple of vocals they had tried a few times, but couldn't quite get. One of them mentioned the thing about it being strange singing without playing and I suggested sitting at the piano and fingering the notes, without striking them. It worked brilliantly, but more than that, they realized that they didn't need the keyboard, just to be sitting down. They were worried about sitting, as standing is the correct way to sing, but it makes complete sense. They do all of there singing at the piano and while that is technicaly not the best way to sing, it's the most natural way for them. I got the other singer to try it and they had equal success.
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: Curve Dominant on March 20, 2005, 01:44:38 am
rush909 wrote on Sat, 19 March 2005 15:43

this is great stuff... vocals are still my favorite thing to mix, but still the most challanging...   I kinda saw it mentioned in this thread a bit..  are there any microphone/pre-amp combinations that get you to that sound without having to do the filter/compress/add underneath trick?


I don't always feel the need to use that trick, even though I always use the same mic/preamp combo for all my vocalists.

Sometimes, the vocalist, the song, the way they sang, the distance from the mic, the mix itself...the raw vocal just sits right and doesn't need any "tricks" to help it.

Sometimes I go to all the work of executing that trick, apply it...then delete it, realizing it just wasn't needed in the first place. Don't look at that as a waste of time, but rather an exercise in exploring all the possibilties.

Quote:

There are SO many records that have that sound I find it a little hard to believe that the engineers on every one of those records went through this detailed process on every line of the vocals and backgrounds...  not saying that some don't, as I am sure they do... but all these records with that sound???


You don't really know what was done on those records you're listening to...and that shouldn't matter.

It should be all about what you think is right, from one song to the next, from one vocal performance to the next. Do what YOU think needs to be done on the song you're working on, within the parameters at your disposal (time / expense / resources).

My concept of producing vocals, is:
1) Not all of the vocalist's charisma will be picked up by the microphone,
2) Not all that gets through the vocalist's signal chain will stand up in the mix,
3) Not all that stands up in the mix will translate to the end-user's delivery system.

That is the "extreme vocal production" approach, and you follow that only IF your production is focussed on the vocal being the focal point of your production. You hear your production on an iPod, then follow a path back to coaching your singer to deliver maximum charisma...and do whatever you have to do between those two vertexes to realize your desired result.

It all starts with getting your singer to open his/her heart, and singing like they're not really singing, but LIVING. I always tell my vocalists: "Don't SING the lyric, LIVE the story ABOUT the lyric!" Because once you've got that, the audio "tricks" aren't so important...they're easy actually, because what you've got to work with will inform them, and if you need them, and which ones and by how much, if at all.
Title: Re: Terry: About Vocal Production
Post by: rush909 on March 21, 2005, 08:03:54 am
Thanks Eric...  I agree it's not about the tricks it's about the song, the performance, the story...   since the music I produce and record is a little unconventional, I try to include certain "tricks" that give me more of the "on the radio" comercial sound to bring the balances to the middle more...  speaking of this "sound".   I just recieved protool files from a prominant Jamaican artist.   and all the vocals have that whispery sound but as I can see in the session files there are no "tricks" perse...  

I don't know the chain used to record the vocals, all I know that it was recorded in the back of a VAN!  

As I said before I usually like to keep my arsenal stocked with tricks that help me get where I want to get faster, leaving me more time and room to twist the rules in other areas...

r.