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Basics of a Good Vocal Track

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by Alexrkstr, Aug 28, 2006.

  1. Alexrkstr

    Alexrkstr Active Member

    Aug 28, 2006
    Hi guys,

    What are major guidelines (not rules) for vocal recording. This is what I am doing now:
    1. Recording the vocals twice (Even though I'm off sometimes the 2nd time).
    2. EQing Mids and Highs (440 and 6K for ex).
    3. Reversing the phase

    What other Fx or techniques do you use?

  2. corrupted

    corrupted Guest

    If you're doubling vocals, make sure they don't "fight" eachother. That's what I found is the key. On the second track, I roll the highs off a little so you don't notice any doubled enunciation... and then turn it way down. It adds to the vibe a little bit without fighting for space in the mix.

    With vocals, keeping it simple is the best way to go most of the times. Run them through a little compression to even them out (depending on the track). I've had good luck with the BLOCKFISH plugin, myself. It allows you to add a little bit of saturation and harmonic without sounding too digital. It's a great plugin, but read up and understand it all!

    (Dead Link Removed)
  3. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    There is no advantage to reversing the phase of the vocal microphone. For what reason do you believe you were doing that for? There are reasons for doing that where other microphones might be involved but there is no reason to do it just to do it. If you feel that it improves the sound of the vocal, you probably have your speakers in reverse polarity. Flip both on the back of the speakers and then you won't have to do it to the microphone which is probably doing more harm than good?

    Doubling your vocal all the time, is an effect and a poor excuse for bad vocal technique.

    One of the best things you can do while tracking a vocal is to track with a little bit of light compression, 3:1 with from 2 to 6 DB of gain reduction. Don't worry about not being able to undo that. Just don't abuse it.

    Adding a bump at 400 hertz and 6000 hertz can be avoided by simply using a Shure SM58 without any additional equalization.

    This advice comes from a multi-major award nominated person.
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  4. Alexrkstr

    Alexrkstr Active Member

    Aug 28, 2006
    So you are saying not to use anything other than compression on the vocals?

    There have to be more techniques or effects to make the voice sound better (some of the ones that all that Pop stars use like Enrique Iglesias who doesn't have a good voice).

    Advise? Thanks.
  5. MadTiger3000

    MadTiger3000 Active Member

    Nov 16, 2004
  6. Terr-orForm

    Terr-orForm Guest

    I have the worst voice this world has ever heard!! I'm betting I have the worst voice this world will ever hear... I use whatever effect I can to make it sit right in the song - and that's the point.

    Almost any professional recording by top artists use pitch correction (this is one thing that helps a lot) but the rest is unique. As the voice is the most dynamic instrument of all musical instruments, so also is the recording.

    My wife has a voice that is so natural and pure (and she smokes :) ) that I find that I am cutting almost every frequency and turning down the volume to almost nothing. Range and clarity certainly makes a difference and for live shows I don't have to add anything to her voice. Recording needs only compression and some major cuts in the mid, highs and lows. I have make sure the mid freq's are tuned just right and viola!!!!

    Myself (and please don't laugh, we are an industrial band and I did say my voice was bad):

    Slight Overdrive
    Heavy Chorus
    Cut on the lows
    Boost the highs
    Freq's at 1.5 hz
    100 hz cut out
    a small bit of Reverb
    a small bit of delay
    No reverse anything or doubling of the vocals

    That is average and I have done some wild things to get my voice to sound right. Like singing in a tube of paper wrapped around the mic, singing in the bathtub and the car, cotton balls stuffed in my upper and lower lips, and even sang into a cat cubby hole with the mic facing away from my voice.

    I suck but I find a way to make it work. I know that one day I'll either get the right voice or I will learn that I am so poorly trained at recording vocals that only a costly school might set me in the right direction.
  7. floydssound

    floydssound Guest

    Terr-orForm: I would like to thank you for your "wild things" paragraph. I am afraid I too have to resort to doing wild and crazy things to get my voice to sound even helf decent. I think I am going to try the cotton upper lip thing next. Any other things I should try?

    Alexrkstr: If I know one thing about vocal tracking it is this, mess around with everything that you think might help your vocals. Mic postion, pre amp settings, EQ levels, and what ever else you think might help. You know the sound you want more than anyone else. Try what the pros on here sugest, and then try the exact opposite.

    Also when you get discouraged, try reversing your last vocal take, see how many times you worship satan backwards. It might lift the the mood of the room a little bit . . . maybe. Mood is a big thing in my opinion. But hey I am not very good at recording vocals. So take this post for what it is worth. Just about nothing.
  8. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    If you have good technique and a bad voice, you have a good voice if you have good technique. One of my specialties IS recording the human voice. You are incorrect in thinking that all recordings use pitch correction on singers. I work with artists and not amateurs generally but when I do, I work them and coach them into results that generally surprise them. I have been raised by my mother who is a former Metropolitan Opera star and who has taught voice at home and for numerous major universities throughout my life, so I know a little something about the human voice. My Grammy nomination was for an operatic recording and not crappy popular music, although I do have a major award nomination for popular gospel as well. The term "artist" is often misused as most people aren't. It all comes down to the directions to Carnegie hall, Practice, Practice, Practice and one must not forget technique is everything. Even if you believe you have a bad voice, keep in mind that Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, Joe Cocker and many, many others have lousy voices. We don't try to disguise them or cover their lousy voices up. We put them front and center without studio trickery and turn them into unique performers who have been enjoyed and cherished through time, with their lousy voices. In fact I think that a "bad" voice can be a plus if you don't try to cover it up with stupid effects, bad equalization, etc.. But when it comes to popular music, a bad voice can create a unique sound personality. So I say revel in your lousy voice, it could be worth millions if you don't pour too much stuff over it.

    Oh Maggie May, where are you?
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  9. Terr-orForm

    Terr-orForm Guest

    Thanks Remy (and right you are, of course!!) ;)...

    I would like to make my disclaimer though - I said ALMOST any singer and meant more in the popular music sense (can you say madonna and the bubble gum music that came after??).

    My wife uses good technique and has learned over the years and, like I said, needs little or next to nothing both live and recording!! I also (another disclaimer) said I do what it takes to make it my voice sound right for my music. Truthfully, if I hated my voice that much, I wouldn't have pursued the avenues or spent the time I have with mine.

    Your advice is the same as my wifes - use what you have and build some personality with it. I guess, in a round about way, I kind of said that in my post. As usual, it takes a woman to make sense of a mans nonsense :)
  10. Alexrkstr

    Alexrkstr Active Member

    Aug 28, 2006

    I found this somewhere else and wanted to share it since I started the subject:
    Double the vocal track
    Shift the pitch of 1 track +.12 cents and the 2nd one -.12
    delay the second voice .25ms
    I can't remember if it called for panning 100% each one.

    that is one method the other one is
    EQ'ing like I mentioned above
    adding a double delay with 5% feedback and 6% wet and 1/4 of tempo of the song.

    Now, to the point of building your own style - I guess that is what saves artists that have been mentioned (Steward, Iglesias, Dylan). But there has to be something else to make them sound good, no?
  11. Alexrkstr

    Alexrkstr Active Member

    Aug 28, 2006
    Thanks Remy. Can you share some of these techniques? I am sure I have an average voice, I actually like some of my singing sometimes. I took singing lessons for a year so some things I do are warming up the voice, doing the ladder of fifths, going up and down on the octaves, the steps of 3, etc.

    Probably also mentioned here is the most important thing, posture and how you breathe, correct me if wrong.

    OK after all this what is next?
  12. Terr-orForm

    Terr-orForm Guest

    Read the sticky at the top of this forum - lot's of good stuff on technique!!
  13. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    Alexrkstr, as you surmised, posture, breathing and above all solid support. I've heard people say "support from the diaphragm" which is actually quite wrong. Singing requires the use of the whole body. You must support from your ass upward. Squeeze your cheeks together and breathe through your nose. Through your nose?? That's right. The reason you should breathe through your nose is that it humidifiers the breath that you take. While gulping air through your mouth helps to quickly dry out your throat. And most people rarely know how to "work a microphone". Even though most studios have dynamic range controllers, your voice will be perceived differently whether you're closer to or farther away from the microphone. That's a great tool to learn. I've actually had some morons go in tight on the microphone when they sing loudly and backup when they sing normally. Nothing sounds worse.

    If while you are recording yourself, you find that upon playback your intonation is poor, your headphone level may be too high or too low because your hearing causes you to perceive the pitch at a different pitch than what you are singing, depending on loudness level. Some singers will remove one earphone while they are cutting their vocal, so as to be able to hear themselves directly, acoustically, and adjust the headphone level accordingly for best pitch perception, in their single ear. People also have a tendency not to open their mouths wide enough and how important the use of your lips are. Your lips are analogous to the bell of a trumpet. Watch the top singers. Most good ones know how to use their mouths. If your lips are tight, sound will not bloom. If you modify your lips to mimic the flair of a trumpet bell, you will hear an enormous difference. Of course when your lips come together to enunciate words, that is not possible but on your more projected and sustained notes, you will be able to do so. People rarely take a full breath of air but rather half breaths. Learning how to breathe deeply will also provide for greater support and projection.

    The dynamics of how I work with a singer changes from person to person. You have to be a good psychologist, observer and realize what the artistry and capabilities the person has. I also frequently will speak with them about who their influences are and who they might like to emulate. Sometimes having CDs of these people for comparison makes for a good jumping off point. But great performances and great singers usually don't happen in a first recording experience. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don't. A true talent will have "musical intelligence". A rare bird. You know these people when you meet them, especially when you put the microphone in front of them. You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. You can only polish a turd only so much. It is at that point you want them to flaunt their own caricature of themselves, their personality will come forth that way. Emphasize that you will turn a negative into a positive, for them or yourself. All that matters is that you do the best you can with what you have to work with and never denigrate yourself, don't make excuses for your voice. Tell people that you are an artist and this is how you sound. Now work it!

    And remember, "you can't fix stupid".
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  14. skawful

    skawful Guest

    woow! very good tips!

    Would you have any advice on singing volume and emotion -- are they important??

    and a tip that really really helps you reach the next step (although easily overlooked) was what remy said about headphone volume and listening level.... it can mean the difference between a very weak take and a strong one.

    one thing tip i have (although don't take it as professional advice) is when you are previewing a take make sure it is at a low volume (such as what you should be mixing at) i also do this with guitar tracks as sometimes when you hear blaring vocals and guitars they can sound better than they will in the end....

    ....or dont

  15. Alexrkstr

    Alexrkstr Active Member

    Aug 28, 2006
    Thank you Remy. I agree with all that you are saying, especially making something out of nothing.

    Like I said I consider I have an average voice and good when its properly trained.

    So in conclusion. PRACTICE and dodnt try to fix stupid.

    Thanks again.
  16. JoeJoeMan

    JoeJoeMan Guest

    my 1 cent

    If I might add some of my experience to some good advice already given here.
    When I first recorded my voice I was much less than happy with what I heard. Listening back to the recordings I would try to discern just what was wrong. I would also listen intently to other good singers I liked.
    First off make sure you are hitting the notes you mean to hit, if you play piano or guitar, play the melody on it and sing along, it will sound stiff but you are just making sure you have the melody right, that even goes for blues song, which really do have melodies.
    Make sure your voice is interesting, don't hold notes with your voice as if you are playing an organ, but rather a violin having more expression, sliding into a note for example, notice how good singers many times just don't hit a note, but they will decend out of it, sliding their voice down thru a rapid array of notes, which you hardly even notice, or how they start a note, your voice can hit a note like a guitar does a hammer on, hit one note and imediately bounce to the main note. Lots of little nuances that make a voice interesting, pay carefull attention to good singers and try to pick up some tips and tricks. My recordings start sound much better once I started making my voice sound 'interesting'
    Then there is diction, how to say the words, speak/sing clearly even if the idea is to sound rough or lose do it clearly, for example if a word starts with a consenent, how far do you let your voice go before you start the vowel, you can choose to hold the note at the beginning of the vowel of further into the vowel to get a different sound. Sometimes you even need to mispronouce words to get them to sound right, do a take and listen back for words than don't sound right and figure out a way to make them sound better. Notice on good singers how they will sing some words of parts of the words very quickly, or start the word on a grace note or two, and how they finish the word. Pay attention to the initial attack you have at the beginning of words. Pay attention to all the little details. While listening to a band one time my friend whom had sung on broadway commented on how the lead singer had terrible diction....I said "What do you mean", I had never even thought about diction while singing until she mentioned it.
    How about rhythm, you voice should be in rhythm with the song, it's one of those subconscious things that is hard to tell when heard, but if you already don't, learn to feel the steady beat and pulse of the music and sing to it, with it, on it, in and around it, whatever just get a good sense of rhythm and phrasing in your vocal.
    Then there is always the quality of your actual voice, it's actual character and tone, clear, light, raspy, your accent, the whole character of your voice, a lot of singers 'put it on' when you hear them talk you go, darn they don't sound anything like they do when they sing.........yup they don't, I won't mention any names but there are more then a few famous people who built their whole act on imitating ray charles' voice, whom I love dearly. And a 'put it on' voice is really nothing bad, and can be great if you can get it to work for you. Myself, for the most part I just try to sing well and let the natural character of my voice come out. I will though sing more from my chest on bluesy stuff, verses more up in my throat and head for a folky country thing. Paul McCartney had a couple voices, nice and sweet on ballads, but real little richard-ish on the rhythm and blues rock stuff...great stuff
    Also you have to practice doing the things that make you sing and sound better, needless to say. Us singer/guitar players have a tendency to spend all of their practice time on new guitar licks.
    Anyway those are a couple things I picked up along the way, hope maybe it will help someone else out.

    PS: I'm still no great singer.....but better than I was
  17. reginald

    reginald Guest

    Doubling vocals

    I find this working for rap pann one track completely to the left and one track completely to the right.
  18. Well, I've been doing a lot of recording for the past 18 years, and there is no question that recording your OWN voice is the most difficult thing to do. I find it much easier to track someone elses voice and coach them along.

    Having said that, I still do record a lot of my own songs, sung by me, and I very seldom apply any fancy technique to get the sound I'm after.

    The genesis of it all begins with a really good performance. I will often solo the voice track, without any compression or verb to REALLY get a clear idea of the dynamics, pitch, emotion and feel of the vocal track. If that's good, it's just all mix engineering after that.

    My vocal tracks usually end up being a single track only, with warm compression, just a touch of delay, with just a hint of verb. That's it.

    A great performance seems to mix itself sometimes.


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